Game Theory and Demonstratives

Erkenntnis:1-20 (forthcoming)
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This paper argues, based on Lewis’ claim that communication is a coordination game (Lewis in Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp 3–35, 1975), that we can account for the communicative function of demonstratives without assuming that they semantically refer. The appeal of such a game theoretical version of the case for non-referentialism is that the communicative role of demonstratives can be accounted for without entering thecul de sacof trying to construct conventions of ever-increasing complexity. Instead communicationviademonstratives is explained with reference to the general, non-domain specific ability of human beings to solve games of coordination. Furthermore, there is empirical support for such a view. Judgments concerning demonstrative reference have been shown to be sensitive to judgments concerningcommon ground(Clark et al. in J Verb Learn Verb Behav 22:245–258, 1983), which is exactly what the non-referentialist account would predict. The game theoretical account also allows for an intuitively plausible, non-referentialist treatment of Speaks’ ‘trumping argument’ (Speaks in Philos Stud 174:709–734, 2017), as well as the Carnap/Agnew puzzle (Kaplan in Syntax Semant 9:221–43, 1970).



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J. P. Smit
University of Stellenbosch

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References found in this work

Meaning.Herbert Paul Grice - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference.Saul Kripke - 1977 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2 (1):255-276.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Lewis - 1969 - Synthese 26 (1):153-157.
Minimal semantics.Emma Borg - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Common ground.Robert Stalnaker - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):701-721.

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