Kaplan (1989) famously claimed that monsters--operators that shift the context--do not exist in English and "could not be added to it". Several recent theorists have pointed out a range of data that seem to refute Kaplan's claim, but others (most explicitly Stalnaker 2014) have offered a principled argument that monsters are impossible. This paper interprets and resolves the dispute. Contra appearances, this is no dry, technical matter: it cuts to the heart of a deep disagreement about the fundamental structure of (...) a semantic theory. We argue that: (i) the interesting notion of a monster is not an operator that shifts some formal parameter, but rather an operator that shifts parameters that play a certain theoretical role; (ii) one cannot determine whether a given semantic theory allows monsters simply by looking at the formal semantics; (iii) theories which forbid shifting the formal "context" parameter are perfectly compatible with the existence of monsters (in the interesting sense). We explain and defend these claims by contrasting two kinds of semantic theory--Kaplan's (1989) and Lewis's (1980). (shrink)
It has long been widely agreed that some concepts can be possessed only by those who have undergone a certain type of phenomenal experience. Orthodoxy among contemporary philosophers of mind has it that these phenomenal concepts provide the key to understanding many disputes between physicalists and their opponents, and in particular offer an explanation of Mary’s predicament in the situation exploited by Frank Jackson's knowledge argument. I reject the orthodox view; I deny that there are phenomenal concepts. My arguments exploit (...) the sort of considerations that are typically used to motivate externalism about mental content. Although physicalists often appeal to phenomenal concepts to defend their view against the knowledge argument, I argue that this is a mistake. The knowledge argument depends on phenomenal concepts; if there are no phenomenal concepts, then the knowledge argument fails. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Contemporary relativists often see their view as contributing to a semantic/post-semantic account of linguistic data about disagreement and retraction. I offer an independently motivated metasemantic account of the same data, that also handles a number of cases and empirical results that are problematic for the relativist. The key idea is that the content of assertions and beliefs is determined in part by facts about other times, including times after the assertion is made or the belief is formed. On this (...) temporal externalist view, speaker behaviours such as retraction of previous assertions play a role in making it the case that a past utterance has a given meaning. (shrink)
The idea that experts (especially scientific experts) play a privileged role in determining the meanings of our words and the contents of our concepts has become commonplace since the work of Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and others in the 1970s. But if experts have the power to determine what our words mean, they can do so responsibly or irresponsibly, from good motivations or bad, justly or unjustly, with good or bad effects. This paper distinguishes three families of metasemantic views based (...) on their attitudes towards bad behaviour by meaning-fixing experts, and draws a series of distinctions relevant for the normative evaluation of meaning-determining actions. (shrink)
Physicalists about the mind are committed to claims about property identities. Following Kripke's well-known discussion, modal arguments have emerged as major threats to such claims. This paper argues that modal arguments can be resisted by adopting a counterpart theoretic account of modal claims, and in particular modal claims involving properties. Thus physicalists have a powerful motive to adopt non-Kripkean accounts of the metaphysics of modality and the semantics of modal expressions.
By creating certain marks on paper, or by making certain sounds-breathing past a moving tongue-or by articulation of hands and bodies, language users can give expression to their mental lives. With language we command, assert, query, emote, insult, and inspire. Language has meaning. This fact can be quite mystifying, yet a science of linguistic meaning-semantics-has emerged at the intersection of a variety of disciplines: philosophy, linguistics, computer science, and psychology. Semantics is the study of meaning. But what exactly is "meaning"? (...) What is the exact target of semantic theory? Much of the early work in natural language semantics was accompanied by extensive reflection on the aims of semantic theory, and the form a theory must take to meet those aims. But this meta-theoretical reflection has not kept pace with recent theoretical innovations. This volume re-addresses these questions concerning the foundations of natural language semantics in light of the current state-of-the-art in semantic theorising. (shrink)
Francois Recanati’s Mental Files presents a picture of the mind on which mental representations are indexical and transparent. I dispute this picture: there is no clear case for regarding mental representations as indexical, and there are counterexamples to transparency.
The purpose of this paper is to draw out a little noticed, but correct and important, consequence of David Lewis’s theory of how the values of contextual parameters are determined. According to Lewis, these values are often determined at least in part by accommodation; to a first approximation, the idea is that contextual parameters tend to take on the values they need to have in order for our utterances to be true. The little-noticed consequence of Lewis’s way of developing these (...) ideas is that what we say is determined in part by the way the conversation unfolds after our utterance. That is, Lewisian accommodation entails a non-standard form of externalism, according to which what we say is determined not only by factors internal to us at the time of our utterance, nor even by truths about our physical or social environment at the time of utterance or by our history, but also by truths about our future—truths about times after the time of our utterance. Seeing this consequence clearly lets us refine and improve upon Lewis’s account of when accommodation can occur. (shrink)
Torin Alter (2013) attempts to rescue phenomenal concepts and the knowledge argument from the critique of Ball 2009 by appealing to conceptual mastery. I show that Alter’s appeal fails, and describe general features of conceptual mastery that suggest that no such appeal could succeed.
The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss a puzzle involving accommodation. The puzzle is based on three assumptions. The first assumption is that accommodation takes place after an utterance. The second assumption is that accommodation can make a difference to the truth-value of an utterance even if the utterance is not about the future. The third assumption is that something that takes place after an utterance cannot make a difference to the truth-value of the utterance unless the (...) utterance is about the future. Since these assumptions are jointly inconsistent, one of them must be false. The question is which one we ought to reject. The majority of the discussion is devoted to discussing each of the options, and the tentative conclusion is that the most plausible strategy is to reject the third thesis. That amounts to saying that something that takes place after an utterance can make a difference to the truth-value of the utterance even if the utterance is not about the future. (shrink)
Millians about proper names typically claim that it is knowable apriori that Hesperus is Phosphorus. We argue that they should claim instead that it is knowable only aposteriori that Hesperus is Hesperus, since the Kripke-Putnam epistemic arguments against descriptivism are special cases of Quinean arguments that nothing is knowable apriori, and Millians have no resources to resist the more general Quinean arguments.
It is widely believed that Twin-Earth-style thought experiments show that the contents of a person's thoughts fail to supervene on her intrinsic properties. Several recent philosophers have made the further claim that Twin-Earth-style thought experiments produce metaphysically necessary conditions for the possession of certain concepts. I argue that the latter view is false, and produce counterexamples to several proposed conditions. My thesis is of particular interest because it undermines some attempts to show that externalism is incompatible with privileged access.
The main aim of this paper is to highlight the need to address the conceptual problem of “implicit knowledge” or “implicit cognition” —a notion especially important in the study of the nonverbal minds of animals and infants. We review some uses of the term ‘implicit’ in psychology and allied disciplines,and conclude that conceptual clarification of this notion is not only lacking, but largely avoided and reduced to a methodological problem. We propose that this elusive notion is central in the study (...) not only of animal and infant minds, but also the human adult mind. Some promising approaches in developmental and evolutionary psychology towards innovative conceptualisation of implicit knowledge remain conceptually underdeveloped and in need of reconsideration and re-elaboration. We conclude by suggesting that the challenge of implicit cognition and nonverbal minds will only be solved through a concerted interdisciplinary approach between psychology and other disciplines. (shrink)
This paper develops and critiques the two-dimensionalist account of mental content developed by David Chalmers. I first explain Chalmers's account and show that it resists some popular criticisms. I then argue that the main interest of two-dimensionalism lies in its accounts of cognitive significance and of the connection between conceivability and possibility. These accounts hinge on the claim that some thoughts have a primary intension that is necessarily true. In this respect, they are Carnapian, and subject to broadly Quinean attack. (...) The remainder of the paper advances such an attack. I argue that there are possible thinkers who are willing to revise their beliefs in response to expert testimony, and that such thinkers will have no thoughts with necessary primary intensions. I even suggest that many actual humans may well be such thinkers. I go on to argue that these possible thinkers show that the two-dimensionalist accounts fail. (shrink)
Critical notice of Derk Pereboom's "Consciousness and the Prospects of Physicalism". Discusses Pereboom's idea that conscious states might be misrepresented in introspection, and his idea that instantiations of mental properties are composed of instantiations of physical properties.
The hard problem of consciousness is to explain why certain physical states are conscious: why do they feel the way they do, rather than some other way or no way at all? Arthur Reber claims to solve the hard problem. But he does not: even if we grant that amoebae are conscious, we can ask why such organisms feel the way they do, and Reber’s theory provides no answer. Still, Reber’s theory may be methodologically useful: we do not yet have (...) a satisfactory theory of consciousness, but perhaps the study of simple minds is a way to go about finding one. (shrink)