The sense and role of defaults in the semantics/pragmatics landscape
is changing swiftly and dynamically. First, it is changing due to the
progression in the debates concerning the delimitation of explicit
content (Jaszczolt 2009a, 2016a). Second, it is propelled by the
debates concerning the literal/nonliteral vis-à-vis salient/nonsalient
distinction (Giora & Givoni 2015; Ariel 2016). Next, it is
influenced by computational linguistics that develops statistical
models for learning compositional meaning using ‘big data’
(Jurafsky & Martin 2017 [Other Internet Resources]; Liang &
Language gives structure to our thoughts. When I say “I saw that bird”, I convey a different thought than when I say “that bird saw me”. The different order of the words enables me to express the different roles of the players in these similar thoughts. What we see is a tight connection between linguistic ordering of words and mental life. This connection between form and meaning is present in the most common sentences that we use every day. In this way, language helps us to express important parts of our mental life and convey them to others.
In Our Knowledge of the Internal World, Robert Stalnaker describes two opposed perspectives on the relation between the internal and the external. According to one, the internal world is taken as given and the external world as problematic, and according to the other, the external world is taken as given and the internal world as problematic. Analytic philosophy moved from the former to the latter, from problems of world-construction to problems of self-locating beliefs. I argue in this paper that these problems are equivalent: both arise because experience and objective, external facts jointly underdetermine their relation. Both can be seen as a problem of expressive completeness; of the internal language in the former case, and of the non-indexical language in the second.
Symposium on Del Pinal and Spaulding, “Conceptual Centrality and Implicit Bias” Robert Briscoe April 23, 2018 Mind & Language Symposia / Philosophy of Mind / Psychology / Social CognitionI’m very glad to announce our latest Mind & Language symposium on Guillermo Del Pinal and Shannon Spaulding’s “Conceptual Centrality and Implicit Bias” from the journal’s February 2018 issue. …
I consider a problem from pragmatics for the radical interpretation project, relying on the principle of charity. If a speaker X in a context c manifests the attitude of holding a sentence s true, this might be because of believing, not the content of s in c, but what results from a pragmatic enrichment of that content. In this case, the connection between the holding-true attitude and the meaning of s might be too loose for charity to confirm the correct interpretation hypothesis. To solve this problem, I apply the coherence raising account of pragmatic enrichment developed in Pagin 2014. The result is that in upward entailing linguistic contexts, the enriched content entails the prior content, and so charity prevails: the speaker also believes the prior content. In downward entailing contexts this would not hold, but I argue that enrichments tend not to occur in downward entailing contexts.
Theories of truth can hardly avoid taking into account how truth is expressed in natural language. Existing theories of truth have generally focused on true occurring with that- clauses. This paper takes a closer look at predicates of truth (and related notions) when they apply to objects as the referents of referential noun phrases, focusing on what I call the ‘core’ of language. It argues that truth predicates and their variants, predicates of correctness, satisfaction and validity, do not apply to propositions (not even with that-clauses), but to a range of attitudinal and modal objects, objects we refer to as ‘claims’, ‘beliefs’, ‘judgments’, ‘demands’, ‘promises, ‘obligations’ etc. As such natural language reflects a notion of truth that is primarily a normative notion conveyed by correct. This normative notion, however, is not action-guiding, but rather constitutive of representational objects (in the sense of Jarvis 2012), independently of any actions that may go along with them. The paper furthermore argues that the predicate true is part of a larger class of satisfaction predicates (satisfied, realized, taken up, etc). The semantic differences among different satisfaction predicates, the paper will argue, are best accounted for in terms of a truthmaker theory along the lines of Fine’s (to appear) truthmaker semantics. Truthmaker semantics also provides a notion of partial content applicable to attitudinal and modal objects, which may exhibit partial correctness, partial satisfaction, and partial validity.
This paper defends a challenge, inspired by arguments drawn from contemporary ordinary language philosophy and grounded in experimental data, to certain forms of standard philosophical practice. There has been a resurgence of philosophers who describe themselves as practicing “ordinary language philosophy”. The resurgence can be divided into constructive and critical approaches. The critical approach to neo-ordinary language philosophy has been forcefully developed by Baz (2012a,b, 2014, 2015, 2016, forthcoming), who attempts to show that a substantial chunk of contemporary philosophy is fundamentally misguided. I describe Baz’s project and argue that while there is reason to be skeptical of its radical conclusion, it conveys an important truth about discontinuities between ordinary uses of philosophically significant expressions (“know”, e.g.) and their use in philosophical thought experiments. I discuss some evidence from experimental psychology and behavioral economics indicating that there is a risk of overlooking important aspects of meaning or misinterpreting experimental results by focusing only on abstract experimental scenarios, rather than employing more diverse and more ecologically valid experimental designs. I conclude by presenting a revised version of the critical argument from ordinary language.
It seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity should help one find the truth, since scientific theorizing is guided by such a bias. But it also seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity cannot indicate or point at the truth, since an indicator has to be sensitive to what it indicates. I argue that both views are correct. It is demonstrated, for a broad range of cases, that the Ockham strategy of favoring the simplest hypothesis, together with the strategy of never dropping the simplest hypothesis until it is no longer simplest, uniquely minimizes reversals of opinion and the times at which the reversals occur prior to convergence to the truth. Thus, simplicity guides one down the straightest path to the truth, even though that path may involve twists and turns along the way. The proof does not appeal to prior probabilities biased toward simplicity. Instead, it is based upon minimization of worst-case cost bounds over complexity classes of possibilities.
In the framework of Brans—Dicke theory, a cosmological model regarding the expanding universe has been formulated by considering an inter—conversion of matter and dark energy. A function of time has been incorporated into the expression of the density of matter to account for the non—conservation of the matter content of the universe. This function is proportional to the matter content of the universe. Its functional form is determined by using empirical expressions of the scale factor and the scalar field in field equations. This scale factor has been chosen to generate a signature flip of the deceleration parameter with time. The matter content is found to decrease with time monotonically, indicating a conversion of matter into dark energy. This study leads us to the expressions of the proportions of matter and dark energy of the universe. Dependence of various cosmological parameters upon the matter content has been explored.
An approach to frame semantics is built on a conception of frames as finite automata, observed through the strings they accept. An institution (in the sense of Goguen and Burstall) is formed where these strings can be refined or coarsened to picture processes at various bounded granularities, with transitions given by Brzozowski derivatives.
Beall and Murzi (J Philos 110(3):143–165, 2013) introduce an object-linguistic predicate for naïve validity, governed by intuitive principles that are inconsistent with the classical structural rules (over sufficiently expressive base theories). As a consequence, they suggest that revisionary approaches to semantic paradox must be substructural. In response to Beall and Murzi, Field (Notre Dame J Form Log 58(1):1–19, 2017) has argued that naïve validity principles do not admit of a coherent reading and that, for this reason, a non-classical solution to the semantic paradoxes need not be substructural. The aim of this paper is to respond to Field’s objections and to point to a coherent notion of validity which underwrites a coherent reading of Beall and Murzi’s principles: grounded validity. The notion, first introduced by Nicolai and Rossi (J Philos Log. doi:10.1007/s10992-017-9438-x, 2017), is a generalisation of Kripke’s notion of grounded truth (J Philos 72:690–716, 1975), and yields an irreflexive logic. While we do not advocate the adoption of a substructural logic (nor, more generally, of a revisionary approach to semantic paradox), we take the notion of naïve
The question whether Frege’s theory of indirect reference enforces an infinite hierarchy of senses has been hotly debated in the secondary literature. Perhaps the most influential treatment of the issue is that of Burge (1979), who offers an argument for the hierarchy from rather minimal Fregean assumptions. I argue that this argument, endorsed by many, does not itself enforce an infinite hierarchy of senses. I conclude that whether or not the theory of indirect reference can avail itself of only finitely many senses is pending further theoretical development.
Grice’s (1975) epochal factorization of what is communicated by an utterance (in context) into the sub-components of what is semantically expressed and what is pragmatically implicated prompts the question of how exactly to distinguish between semantic content and pragmatic implicature. There are vibrant debates on this question, and this paper picks up and further develops one strand among them. Specifically, it is focused on one of Grice’s (1975) proposed criteria – namely, cancellability.
Discussions of whether perceptual states have nonconceptual content typically define the issue in a way that is bound to be confusing to anyone entering the debate for the first time—they conflate questions about the nature of contents per se with questions about the requirements on perceivers if they are to be in states with those contents. My principal aim in what follows is to provide a more perspicuous way of setting up the issue, building on work by Speaks, Byrne, and Crowther. My secondary aim is to sharpen and endorse one of the arguments for the nonconceptuality of perceptual states— the argument from experience as a source of concepts.
It is commonly held that retraction data, if we accept them, show that assessment relativism is to be preferred over non-indexical relativism (a.k.a. non-indexical contextualism). I will argue that this is not the case. Whether retraction data have the suggested probative force depends on substantive questions about the proper treatment of tense and location. One’s preferred account in these domains should determine which form of relativism one prefers.
Taking literally the concept of emotional truth requires breaking the monopoly on truth of belief-like states. To this end, I look to perceptions for a model of non-propositional states that might be true or false, and to desires for a model of propositional attitudes the norm of which is other than the semantic satisfaction of their propositional object. Those models inspire a conception of generic truth, which can admit of degrees for analogue representations such as emotions; belief-like states, by contrast, are digital representations. I argue that the gravest problem—objectivity—is not insurmountable.
It is now commonly acknowledged that much early theorising concerning modal notions suffered from various confusions and conflations. A major advance, at least in twentieth century philosophy, was Kripke’s work, which brought great clarity too the nature of—and varieties of—modality (e.g.
There is wide agreement that a term is vague to the extent that it has
borderline cases. This makes the notion of a borderline case crucial
in accounts of vagueness. I shall concentrate on an historical
characterization of borderline cases that most commentators would
accept. Vagueness will then be contrasted with ambiguity and
generality. This will clarify the nature of the philosophical
challenge posed by vagueness. I will then discuss some rival theories
of vagueness with an emphasis on many-valued logic, supervaluationism
and contextualism. I will conclude with the issue of whether all
vagueness is linguistic.
Russell (1919), writing in prison, made the following now famous
declaration of the importance of definite descriptions, and in
particular the definite determiner ‘the’:
… in this chapter we shall consider the word the in
the singular, and in the next chapter we shall consider the word
the in the plural. It may be thought excessive to devote two
chapters to one word, but to the philosophical mathematician it is a
word of very great importance: like Browning’s grammarian with the
enclitic δε, I would give the doctrine of this
word if I were “dead from the waist down” and not merely
It’s no secret that there are many competing views on the semantics of conditionals. One of the tools of the trade is that of any experimental scientist: put the object of study in various environments and see what happens.
1. scope Russell’s suggestion for “I thought your yacht was larger than it is”, often thought to be wrong but a variant is defended by Keshet 2011. 2. indexical access to w@ Assume a two-dimensional system where one has access to both the evaluation world and the utterance world. Posit a (possibly covert) actually operator that indexically picks up the utterance world.
What does ‘might’ mean? One hypothesis is that ‘It might be raining’ is essentially an avowal of ignorance like ‘For all I know, it’s raining’. But it turns out these two constructions embed in different ways—in particular as parts of larger constructions like Wittgenstein (1953)’s ‘It might be raining and it’s not’ and Moore (1942)’s ‘It’s raining and I don’t know it’, respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for those differences. All approaches agree that both Moore sentences and Wittgenstein sentences are classically consistent. In this paper I argue against this consensus. I adduce a variety of new data which I argue can best be accounted for if we treat Wittgenstein sentences as being classically inconsistent. This creates a puzzle, since there is decisive reason to think that pMight pq is consistent with pNot pq. How can it also be that pMight p and not pq and pNot p and might pq are inconsistent? To make sense of this situation, I propose a new theory of epistemic modals and their interaction with embedding operators. This account makes sense of the subtle embedding behavior of epistemic modals, shedding new light on their meaning and, more broadly, the dynamics of information in natural language.
I was fascinated recently to discover something I hadn’t realized about relative interpretability in set theory, and I’d like to share it here. Namely,
Different set theories extending ZF are never bi-interpretable! …
What is the right way of thinking about the metalanguage in which natural language semantics takes place? I will eventually get to the idea that the best way of understanding the role of this language involves seeing natural language semantics as a model-based science (using ‘model’ in the general sense of a scientific model, not in the technical sense of model theory). To get there, I will first critique some standard ways of thinking about how the metalanguage of semantics is to be understood.
The sorites paradox originated in an ancient puzzle that appears to be
generated by vague terms, viz., terms with unclear
(“blurred” or “fuzzy”) boundaries of
application. ‘Bald’, ‘heap’,
‘tall’, ‘old’, and ‘blue’ are
prime examples of vague terms: no clear line divides people who are
bald from people who are not, or blue objects from green (hence not
blue), or old people from middle-aged (hence not old). Because the
predicate ‘heap’ has unclear boundaries, it seems that no
single grain of wheat can make the difference between a number of
grains that does, and a number that does not, make a heap.
Three studies provided evidence that syntax influences intentionality judgments. In Experiment 1, participants made either speeded or unspeeded intentionality judgments about ambiguously intentional subjects or objects. Participants were more likely to judge grammatical subjects as acting intentionally in the speeded relative to the reflective condition (thus showing an intentionality bias), but grammatical objects revealed the opposite pattern of results (thus showing an unintentionality bias). In Experiment 2, participants made an intentionality judgment about one of the two actors in a partially symmetric sentence (e.g., ‘‘John exchanged products with Susan’’). The results revealed a tendency to treat the grammatical subject as acting more intentionally than the grammatical object. In Experiment 3 participants were encouraged to think about the events that such sentences typically refer to, and the tendency was significantly reduced. These results suggest a privileged relationship between language and central theory-of-mind concepts. More specifically, there may be two ways of determining intentionality judgments: (1) an automatic verbal bias to treat grammatical subjects (but not objects) as intentional (2) a deeper, more careful consideration of the events typically described by a sentence.
It just became a lot easier to learn about applied category theory, thanks to this free book:
• Brendan Fong and David Spivak, Seven Sketches in Compositionality: An Invitation to Applied Category Theory. …
Jeff Horty has written a very good book: Horty 2012. I like more of it than I don’t and agree with more in it than I disagree with. That would seem to make for an uninteresting critic and I can’t really dispute that. But I’ll press on. My focus here will be on the accounts of obligation — all-things-consideredoughts — based on underlying default theories. Two related caveats.
Python `dict` objects now preserve insertion order in the reference CPython implementation — but relying on that property is risky. Until recently, Python dictionaries did not preserve the order in which items were added to them. …
Gratitude is a positive emotion, typically classified with joy, pride, happiness and hope. But unlike those emotions, gratitude often comes with normative strings attached—the so-called “debt of gratitude.” Beneficence gives rise to gratitude, but also, potentially, to accusations of ingratitude. The other positive emotions lack a precise counterpart to “ingratitude”: to say that someone is without joy or hopeless or bereft of pride is not (necessarily) to thereby accuse her of a failing. It is, of course, possible to respond inadequately to what should make one joyful, proud or hopeful, but in the case of gratitude this danger seems to be foregrounded in the emotion itself, in the form of the ‘debt of gratitude’.