Some contextually sensitive expressions are such that their context independent conventional meanings need to be in some way supplemented in context for the expressions to secure semantic values in those contexts. As we’ll see, it is not clear that there is a paradigm here, but ‘he’ used demonstratively is a clear example of such an expression. Call expressions of this sort supplementives in order to highlight the fact that their context independent meanings need to be supplemented in context for them (...) to have semantic values relative to the context. Many philosophers and linguists think that there is a lot of contextual sensitivity in natural language that goes well beyond the pure indexicals and supplementives like ‘he’. Constructions/expressions that are good candidates for being contextually sensitive include: quantifiers, gradable adjectives including “predicates of personal taste”, modals, conditionals, possessives and relational expressions taking implicit arguments. It would appear that in none of these cases does the expression/construction in question have a context independent meaning that when placed in context suffices to secure a semantic value for the expression/construction in the context. In each case, some sort of supplementation is required to do this. Hence, all these expressions are supplementives in my sense. For a given supplementive, the question arises as to what the mechanism is for supplementing its conventional meanings in context so as to secure a semantic value for it in context. That is, what form does the supplementation take? The question also arises as to whether different supplementives require different kinds of supplementation. Let us call an account of what, in addition to its conventional meaning, secures a semantic value for a supplementive in context a metasemantics for that supplementive. So we can put our two questions thus: what is the proper metasemantics for a given supplementive; and do all supplementives have the same metasemantics? In the present work, I sketch the metasemantics I formulated for demonstratives in earlier work. Next, I briefly consider a number of other supplementives that I think the metasemantics I propose plausibly applies to and explain why I think that. Finally, I consider the prospects for extending the account to all supplementives. In so doing, I take up arguments due to Michael Glanzberg to the effect that supplementives are governed by two different metasemantics and attempt to respond to them. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop a metasemantics for relaxed moral realism. More precisely, I argue that relaxed realists should be inferentialists about meaning and explain that the role of evaluative moral vocabulary is to organise and structure language exit transitions, much as the role of theoretical vocabulary is to organise and structure language entry transitions.
Epistemic contextualism in the style of Lewis (1996) maintains that ascriptions of knowledge to a subject vary in truth with the alternatives that can be eliminated by the subject’s evidence in a context. Schaffer (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2015), Schaffer and Knobe (2012), and Schaffer and Szabo ́ (2014) hold that the question under discussion or QUD always determines these alternatives in a context. This paper shows that the QUD does not perform such a role for "know" and uses this (...) result to draw a few lessons about the metasemantics of context- sensitivity. (shrink)
Metasemantics is the metaphysics of semantic endowment: it asks how expressions become endowed with their semantic significance. Assuming that semantics is of the usual truth-conditional sort, metasemantics asks after the determinants of expressions’ distinctive contributions to truth-conditions. There are two widely divergent general approaches to the metasemantic project. Some theories – “productivist” ones such as causal theories or intention-based theories – emphasize conditions of production or employment of the items semantically endowed. Other metasemantic theories – “interpretationist” ones – (...) emphasize conditions of interpretive consumption or reception of such items. The book aims to articulate a set of considerations that favour metasemantic productivism over metasemantic interpretationism, to reconcile a general productivist metasemantic approach with contemporary truth-conditional semantics, and to apply the approach to more specialized case studies in the philosophy of language broadly construed. Finally, a major concern in contemporary philosophy of language after Quine is semantic indeterminacy, the worry that there is no fact of the matter as to the semantic significance of our words. The book articulates a distinctly metasemantic strategy to counter the worry. It is shown how the present approach delivers a more successful response to semantic indeterminacy than extant alternatives, a response that emphasizes the priority of reference over truth, which is both intuitively compelling and theoretically motivated. (shrink)
I consider two competing approaches to metasemantics: productivism, whereby endowment with semantic significance emerges directly from conditions surrounding the production or employment of the items semantically endowed; and interpretationism, whereby endowment with semantic significance emerges directly from conditions surrounding the interpretive consumption of such items. Focusing on the version of interpretationism developed by Lewis and his followers, I present a novel argument to the conclusion that such an approach cannot secure determinacy for singular reference. I then draw a larger (...) moral for metasemantics and its relation to truth-conditional semantics. (shrink)
Metasemantics comprises new work on the philosophical foundations of linguistic semantics, by a diverse group of established and emerging experts in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, and the theory of content. The science of semantics aspires to systematically specify the meanings of linguistic expressions in context. The paradigmatic metasemantic question is accordingly: what more basic or fundamental features of the world metaphysically determine these semantic facts? Efforts to answer this question inevitably raise others, including: where are the boundaries of (...) semantics?; what is the essence of the meaning relation?; which framework should we use for semantic theorizing?; and what are the intrinsic natures of semantic values? Metasemantic inquiry has long been recognized as a central part of the philosophy of language, but recent developments in metaphysics and semantics itself now allow us to approach these classic questions with an unprecedented degree of precision. The essays collected here provide promising new perspectives on old problems, pose questions that suggest novel research projects, and taken together, greatly sharpen our understanding of linguistic representation. (shrink)
Complete information dispositional metasemantics says that our expressions get their meaning in virtue of what our dispositions to apply those terms would be given complete information. The view has recently been advanced and argued to have a number of attractive features. I argue that that it threatens to make the meanings of our words indeterminate and doesn’t do what it was that made a dispositional view attractive in the first place.
Michael Ridge argues that metaethical expressivism can avoid its most worrisome problems by going ‘Ecumenical’. Ridge emphasizes that he aims to develop expressivism at the level of metasemantics rather than at the level of semantics. This is supposed to allow him to avoid a mentalist semantics of attitudes and instead offer an orthodox, truth-conditional or propositional semantics. However, I argue that Ridge's theory remains committed to mentalist semantics, and that his move to go metasemantic doesn't bring any clear advantages (...) to the debate between expressivism and its opponents. (shrink)
According to intentionalism, a demonstrative d refers to an object o only if the speaker intends d to refer to o. Intentionalism is a popular view in metasemantics, but Gauker has recently argued that it is circular. We defend intentionalism against this objection, by showing that Gauker’s argument rests on a misconstrual of the aim of metasemantics. We then introduce two related, but distinct circularity objections: the worry that intentionalism is uninformative, and the problem of intentional bootstrapping, according (...) to which it is impossible to have referential intentions. We also show how intentionalists could respond to these new objections. (shrink)
In previous work we proposed a sketch of a disposition-based metasemantictheory, which has recently been criticized by James Andow. Andow claims, first, that our dispositionalmetasemantics threatens to render the meanings of our words indeterminate, and second, that our viewrisks a 'semantic apocalypse' according to which most of our terms fail to refer. We respond to Andow'scriticism by modifying and expanding our orignial, underspecified view. In particular, we propose that a viewthat appeals to actual dispositions rather than counterfactual dispositions avoids many (...) difficulties that might confront a disposition-based metasemantics - issues even beyond those that Andow raises. (shrink)
In Sven Bernecker’s excellent new book, Memory, he proposes an account of what we might call the “metasemantics” of memory: the conditions that determine the contents of the mental representations employed in memory. Bernecker endorses a “pastist externalist” view, according to which the content of a memory-constituting representation is fixed, in part, by the “external” conditions prevalent at the time of the tokening of the original representation. Bernecker argues that the best version of a pastist externalism about memory contents (...) will have the result that there can be semantically-induced memory losses in cases involving unwitting “world-switching”. The burden of this paper is to show that Bernecker’s argument for this conclusion does not succeed. My arguments on this score have implications for our picture of mind-world relations, as these are reflected in a subject’s attempts to recall her past thoughts. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider the relationship between Matthew Kramer’s moral realism as a moral doctrine and expressivism, understood as a distinctly non-representationalist metasemantic theory of moral vocabulary. More precisely, I will argue that Kramer is right in stating that moral realism as a moral doctrine does not stand in conflict with expressivism. But I will also go further, by submitting that advocates of moral realism as a moral doctrine must adopt theories such as expressivism in some shape or form. (...) Accordingly, if you do not want to accept positions such as expressivism, you cannot defend moral realism as a moral doctrine. Similarly, if you want moral realism to compete with expressivism, you cannot accept Kramer’s take on moral realism either. Hence, moral realism as a moral doctrine stands and falls with theories such as expressivism, or so I shall argue. (shrink)
There is a familiar disagreement between Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court and Ronald Dworkin over whether the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution could be plausibly interpreted so as to prohibit capital punishment. The dispute reflects a deep divergence in approach to statutory interpretation. I explore this divergence by paying particularly close attention to its metasemantic background. I then argue that the metasemantic orientation clearly vindicates the Dworkinian side.
It is shown that the most plausible metasemantics for a typical common noun provides materials for a transcendental argument for objectivity: the very possibility that a typical common noun should have its significance requires that there be an objective measure of similarity among instances of the relevant kind.
Conceptual engineering is now a central topic in contemporary philosophy. Just 4-5 years ago it wasn’t. People were then engaged in the engineering of various philosophical concepts (in various sub-disciplines), but typically not self-consciously so. Qua philosophical method, conceptual engineering was under-explored, often ignored, and poorly understood. In my lifetime, I have never seen interest in a philosophical topic grow with such explosive intensity. The sociology behind this is fascinating and no doubt immensely complex (and an excellent case study for (...) those interested in the dynamics of academic disciplines). That topic, however, will have to wait for another occasion. Suffice it to say that if Fixing Language (FL) contributed even a little bit to this change of focus in philosophical methodology, it would have achieved one of its central goals. In that connection, it is encouraging that the papers in this symposium are in fundamental agreement about the significance and centrality of conceptual engineering to philosophy. That said, the goal of FL was not only to advocate for a topic, but also to defend a particular approach to it: The Austerity Framework. These replies have helped me see clearer the limitations of that view and points where my presentation was suboptimal. The responses below are in part a reconstruction of what I had in mind while writing the book and in part an effort to ameliorate. I’m grateful to the symposiasts for helping me get a better grip on these very hard issues. (shrink)
A paradigmatic case of rigidity for singular terms is that of proper names. And it would seem that a paradigmatic case of rigidity for general terms is that of natural kind terms. However, many philosophers think that rigidity cannot be extended from singular terms to general terms. The reason for this is that rigidity appears to become trivial when such terms are considered: natural kind terms come out as rigid, but so do all other general terms, and in particular all (...) descriptive general terms. This paper offers an account of rigidity for natural kind terms which does not trivialise in this way. On this account, natural kind terms are de jure obstinately rigid designators and other general terms, such as descriptive general terms, are not. (shrink)
The paper discusses in detail John Perry's important article “Davidson's Sentences and Wittgenstein's Builders“. Perry argues, on the basis of Wittgenstein's famous block/slab language, that words make direct metasemantic contact with the world. The present paper urges that, while Perry's conclusions are correct and important, the arguments provided for them, in his 1994 article, ignore essential features of genuine words in natural language. A more empirically-oriented alternative tactic for supporting the same philosophical conclusions is then provided, and its advantages and (...) disadvantages are weighed. (shrink)
Every theory of pure quotation embraces in some form or another the intuitively obvious thesis that pure quotations refer to their quoted expressions. However, they all remain vague about the nature of these latter. This paper proposes to take seriously the fact that quoted items are semantic, not syntactic objects, and to develop therefrom a semantics for pure quotation that retains the basic intuitions and at the same time circumvents standard problems.
Some moral debunkers such as Sharon Street argue that evolutionary debunking arguments favor a response-dependent or subjectivist metaethics over more realist metaethical accounts. I argue that this thought conflates meta-semantics with semantics by running together mind-dependent content determination relations with mind-dependent content. Insofar as reference is broadly an epistemic relation, evolutionary debunking arguments would cause trouble for mind-independent theories of reference and content determination, since there would be no guarantee that reference would track epistemic access. But a firmly realist theory (...) of content is consistent with a mind-dependent theory of reference. I use David Hilbert's theory of color to illustrate. (shrink)
This book offers a semantic and metasemantic inquiry into the representation of meaning in linguistic interaction. Kasia Jaszczolt offers a new contextualist take on the semantics/pragmatics boundary, and argues that this is the only promising stance on meaning. This approach allows the selection of the cognitively plausible object of enquiry - namely the intended, primary meaning - and its adoption as a unit of semantic analysis despite the varying provenance of the contributing information. The analysis transcends the said/implicated distinction and (...) heavily relies on the dynamic construction of meaning in discourse, using truth conditions as a tool and at the same time conforming to pragmatic compositionality. Meaning in Linguistic Interaction builds on the author's earlier work on Default Semantics, and adds new arguments in favour of radical contextualism, particularly with regard to the role of salience, the dynamic nature of the unit that forms a basis of the interpretation process, and the flexibility of word meaning. It is illustrated with examples from a variety of languages and offers formal representations of meaning in the metalanguage of Default Semantics. (shrink)
Rationalism offers an account of moral properties as a subset of the properties which serve to rationalize right actions, and these properties are fit to be the referents of our moral terms. That fitness can be exploited in constructing an externalist theory of reference determination for these terms. The resulting externalist theory draws support from standard responses to Moral Twin-Earth scenarios. The relevance of these responses to moral semantics has recently beenvigorously challenged by Dowell and by Schroeter and Schroeter. The (...) social character of meaning relations, which can explain the openness of questions about an analysis, may thereby also make Twin-Earth judgements beside the point. But the resources available to translators go beyond semantic competence and it is these resources that nonetheless make the Moral Twin-Earth responses relevant. (shrink)
One of the most important and, at the same time, most controversial issues in metasemantics is the question of what semantics is, and what distinguishes semantic elements (features, properties, phenomena, mechanisms, processes, or whatever) from the rest. The issue is tightly linked with the debate over the semantics-pragmatics distinction, which has been vibrant for a decade or two, but seems to be reaching an impasse. I suggest that this impasse may be due to the failure to recognize a distinct (...) realm that should not be subsumed either under semantics or pragmatics, but may be labeled "prepragmatics". My ultimate goal is to put forward and defend a novel picture of our language architecture, according to which: semantic content is strictly poorer than the lexically encoded content (and therefore does not involve any contextually determined material - not even the reference of demonstratives); pragmatic mechanisms require being able to reason about one's beliefs and intentions and do not affect truth-conditions or truth-value; and, finally, there is a distinct prepragmatic level, which takes into account various kinds of contextual information and makes it possible to evaluate a sentence (as used on a particular occasion) for a truth value. I shall take as a case study, one of the "stumbling stones" in the semantics-pragmatics literature: the case of demonstrative reference. The upshot will be to show that if there is indeed room for a family of linguistic phenomena that are neither semantic nor yet fully pragmatic, the resolution of demonstrative reference is a candidate par excellence to belong there. (shrink)
This paper offers a simple response to the Moral Twin Earth (MTE) objection to Naturalist Moral Realism (NMR). NMR typically relies on an externalist metasemantics such as a causal theory of reference. The MTE objection is that such a theory predicts that terms like ‘good’ and ‘right’ have a different reference in certain twin communities where it’s intuitively clear that the twins are talking about the same thing when using ‘good’. I argue that Boyd’s causal regulation theory, the original (...) target of the MTE objection, was never vulnerable to this objection. The theory contains an epistemic constraint on reference which implies that either the property that causally regulates uses of ‘good’ isn’t different for the twin communities or, in scenarios where the reference is different, the communities diverge in ways where it’s not intuitively clear that ‘good’ has the same reference for them. (shrink)
Existing metasemantic projects presuppose that word- (or sentence-) types are part of the non-semantic base. We propose a new strategy: an endogenous account of word types, that is, one where word types are fixed as part of the metasemantics. On this view, it is the conventions of truthfulness and trust that ground not only the meaning of the words (meaning by convention) but also what the word type is of each particular token utterance (words by convention). The same treatment (...) extends to identifying the populations through which the conventions prevail. We consider whether this proposal leads to new underdetermination challenges for metasemantics, and make a case that it does not. (shrink)
Some philosophers are metaphilosophical deflationists for metasemantic reasons. These theorists take standard philosophical assertions to be defective in some manner. There are various versions of metasemantic metaphilosophical deflationism, but a trap awaits any global version of it: metasemantics itself is a part of philosophy, so in deflating philosophy these theorists have thereby deflated the foundation of their deflationism. The present article discusses this issue and the prospects for an adequate response to the trap. Contrary to most historical responses, the (...) article argues that the best response to the trap is to adopt a local but still pervasive metasemantic deflationism. Such a response might seem ad hoc, but the article argues that the human activity of philosophy isn't a natural kind, and that a heterogeneous metaphilosophy of the appropriate kind is well motivated. (shrink)
This paper attempts to revive a once-lively program in the philosophy of language—that of reducing linguistic phenomena to facts about mental states and actions. I argue that recent skepticism toward this project is generated by features of traditional implementations of the project, rather than the project itself. A picture of language as essentially a mechanism for cooperative information exchange attracted theorists to metasemantic accounts grounding language use in illocutionary action (roughly, using an utterance to elicit a propositional attitude). When this (...) picture is rejected, a metasemantics grounding language in locutionary action (using an utterance to direct attention) emerges as a more viable proposal, dissolving an intractable issue for traditional theories: The metasemantics of subsentential expressions. (shrink)
According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...) get selected in the challenge cases. (shrink)
It is increasingly common for philosophers to rely on the notion of an idealised listener when explaining how the semantic values of context-sensitive expressions are determined. Some have identified the semantic values of such expressions, as used on particular occasions, with whatever an appropriately idealised listener would take them to be. Others have argued that, for something to count as the semantic value, an appropriately idealised listener should be able to recover it. Our aim here is to explore the range (...) of ways that such idealisation might be worked out, and then to argue that none of these results in a very plausible theory. We conclude by reflecting on what this negative result reveals about the nature of meaning and responsibility. (shrink)
This paper defends the use-based metasemantic project against the problem of meaning without use, which allegedly shows the predictions of use-based metasemantic accounts to be indeterminate with respect to unusably long or complex expressions. This criticism is commonly taken to be decisive, prompting various retreats and contributing to the project’s eventual decline. Using metasemantic conventionalism as a case study, I argue the following: either such expressions do not belong to used languages or their meanings are uniquely determined by use. Thus, (...) the alleged problem of meaning without use offers no challenge to the use-based metasemantic project generally, nor to conventionalism in particular. (shrink)
First-order normative theories concerning what’s right and wrong, good and bad, etc. and metanormative theories concerning the nature of first-order normative thought and talk are widely regarded as independent theoretical enterprises. This paper argues that several debates in metanormative theory involve views that have first-order normative implications, even as the implications in question may not be immediately recognizable as normative. I first make my claim more precise by outlining a general recipe for generating this result. I then apply this recipe (...) to three debates in metaethics: the modal status of basic normative principles, normative vagueness and indeterminacy, and the determination of reference for normative predicates. In each case I argue that certain views on each issue carry first-order normative commitments, in accordance with my recipe. (shrink)
1. Introduction 2. Reward-Guided Decision Making 3. Content in the Model 4. How to Deflate a Metarepresentational Reading Proust and Carruthers on metacognitive feelings 5. A Deflationary Treatment of RPEs? 5.1 Dispensing with prediction errors 5.2 What is use of the RPE focused on? 5.3 Alternative explanations—worldly correlates 5.4 Contrast cases 6. Conclusion Appendix: Temporal Difference Learning Algorithms.
Externalism is the thesis that the contents of intentional states and speech acts are not determined by the way the subjects of those states or acts are internally. It is a widely accepted but not entirely uncontroversial thesis. Among such theses in philosophy, externalism is notable for owing the assent it commands almost entirely to thought experiments, especially to variants of Hilary Putnam's famous Twin Earth scenario. This paper presents a thought experiment-free argument for externalism. It shows that externalism is (...) a deductive consequence of a pair of widely accepted principles whose relevance to the issue has hitherto gone unnoticed. (shrink)
The object of this paper is to sketch an approach to propositions, meaning and names. The key ingredients are a Twin-Earth-inspired distinction between internal and external meaning, and a middle-Wittgenstein-inspired conception of internal meaning as role in language system. I show how the approach offers a promising solution to the problem of the meaning of proper names. This is a plea for a neglected way of thinking about these topics.
Externalism is widely endorsed within contemporary philosophy of mind and language. Despite this, it is far from clear how the externalist thesis should be construed and, indeed, why we should accept it. In this entry I distinguish and examine three central types of externalism: what I call foundational externalism, externalist semantics, and psychological externalism. I suggest that the most plausible version of externalism is not in fact a very radical thesis and does not have any terribly interesting implications for philosophy (...) of mind, whereas the more radical and interesting versions of externalism are quite difficult to support. (shrink)
Intuitions is presented as a counterpart of Rethinking Intuition ( DePaul and Ramsey 1998 ). 1 After 16 years, it revisits the topic of the place of intuitions in philosophy in light of two developments...
Some philosophers have argued that putative logical disagreements aren't really disagreements at all since when you change your logic you thereby change the meanings of your logical constants. According to this picture classical logicians and intuitionists don't really disagree, they just mean different things by terms like “not” and “or”. Quine gave an infamous “translation argument” for this view. Here I clarify the change of logic, change of meaning (CLCM) thesis, examine and find fault with Quine's translation argument for the (...) thesis, offer a modified translation argument in its stead, defend my modified argument from a crucial objection, discuss where the CLCM thesis leaves logical disputes, and discuss if and how the thesis coheres with Quine's influential view of logic. (shrink)
This paper investigates the determinacy of mathematics. We begin by clarifying how we are understanding the notion of determinacy before turning to the questions of whether and how famous independence results bear on issues of determinacy in mathematics. From there, we pose a metasemantic challenge for those who believe that mathematical language is determinate, motivate two important constraints on attempts to meet our challenge, and then use these constraints to develop an argument against determinacy and discuss a particularly popular approach (...) to resolving indeterminacy, before offering some brief closing reflections. We believe our discussion poses a serious challenge for most philosophical theories of mathematics, since it puts considerable pressure on all views that accept a non-trivial amount of determinacy for even basic arithmetic. (shrink)
Metaethical realists disagree about the nature of normative properties. Naturalists think that they are ordinary natural properties: causally efficacious, a posteriori knowable, and usable in the best explanations of natural and social sciences. Non-naturalist realists, in contrast, argue that they are sui generis: causally inert, a priori knowable and not a part of the subject matter of sciences. It has been assumed so far that naturalists can explain causally how the normative predicates manage to refer to normative properties, whereas non-naturalists (...) are unable to provide equally satisfactory metasemantic explanations. This article first describes how the previous non-naturalist accounts of reference fail to tell us how the normative predicates could have come to refer to the non-natural properties rather than to the natural ones. I will then use the so-called qua-problem to show how the causal theories of reference of naturalists also fail to fix the reference of normative predicates to unique natural properties. Finally, I will suggest that, just as naturalists need to rely on the non-causal mechanism of reference magnetism to solve the previous problem, non-naturalists, too, can rely on the very same idea to respond to the pressing metasemantic challenges that they face concerning reference. (shrink)