_Insensitive Semantics_ is an overview of and contribution to the debates about how to accommodate context sensitivity within a theory of human communication, investigating the effects of context on communicative interaction and, as a corollary, what a context of utterance is and what it is to be in one. Provides detailed and wide-ranging overviews of the central positions and arguments surrounding contextualism Addresses broad and varied aspects of the distinction between the semantic and non-semantic content of language Defends a distinctive (...) and explanatorily powerful combination of semantic minimalism and speech act pluralism Confronts core problems which not only run to the heart of philosophy of language and linguistics, but which arise in epistemology, metaphysics, and moral philosophy as well. (shrink)
Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig present the definitive critical exposition of the philosophical system of Donald Davidson. Davidson 's ideas had a deep and broad influence in the central areas of philosophy; he presented them in brilliant essays over four decades, but never set out explicitly the overarching scheme in which they all have their place. Lepore's and Ludwig's book will therefore be the key work, besides Davidson 's own, for understanding one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century.
The work of Donald Davidson (1917-2003) transformed the study of meaning. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on Davidson's work, present the definitive study of his widely admired and influential program of truth-theoretic semantics for natural languages, giving an exposition and critical examination of its foundations and applications.
This is the first book devoted to the question of how language can be used to talk about language. Cappelen and Lepore examine the semantics, the pragmatics, and the syntax of linguistic devices that can be used in this way, and present a new account of our use of quotation in a variety of different contexts.
It's an achievement of the last couple of decades that people who work in linguistic semantics and people who work in the philosophy of language have arrived at a friendly, de facto agreement as to their respective job descriptions. The terms of this agreement are that the semanticists do the work and the philosophers do the worrying. The semanticists try to construct actual theories of meaning (or truth theories, or model theories, or whatever) for one or another kind of expression (...) in one or another natural language; for example, they try to figure out how the temperature could be rising compatibly with the substitutivity of identicals. The philosophers, by contrast, keep an eye on the large, foundational issues, such as: what's the relation between sense and denotation; what's the relation between thought and language; whether translation is determinate; and whether life is like a fountain. Every now and then the philosophers and the semanticists are supposed to get together and compare notes on their respective progress. Or lack thereof. (shrink)
Complex demonstratives, expressions of the form 'That F', 'These Fs', etc., have traditionally been taken to be referring terms. Yet they exhibit many of the features of quantified noun phrases. This has led some philosophers to suggest that demonstrative determiners are a special kind of quantifier, which can be paraphrased using a context sensitive definite description. Both these views contain elements of the truth, though each is mistaken. We advance a novel account of the semantic form of complex demonstratives that (...) shows how to reconcile the view that they function like quantified noun phrases with the view that simple demonstratives function as context sensitive referring terms wherever they occur. If we are right, previous accounts of complex demonstratives have misconceived their semantic role; and philosophers relying on the majority view in employing complex demonstratives in analysis have proceeded on a false assumption. (shrink)
1 There is a Standard Objection to the idea that concepts might be prototypes (or exemplars, or stereotypes): Because they are productive, concepts must be compositional. Prototypes aren't compositional, so concepts can't be prototypes (see, e.g., Margolis, 1994).2 However, two recent papers (Osherson and Smith, 1988; Kamp and Partee, 1995) reconsider this consensus. They suggest that, although the Standard Objection is probably right in the long run, the cases where prototypes fail to exhibit compositionality are relatively exotic and involve phenomena (...) which any account of compositionality is likely to find hard to deal with; for example, the effects of quantifiers, indexicals, contextual constraints, etc. KP are even prepared to indulge a guarded optimism: "... when a suitably rich compositional theory... is developed, prototypes will be seen ... as one property among many which only when taken altogether can support a compositional theory of combination" (p.56). In this paper, we argue that the Standard Objection to prototype theory was right after all: The problems about compositionality are insuperable in even the most trivial sorts of examples; it is therefore as near to certain as anything in cognitive science ever gets that the structure of concepts is not statistical. Theories of categorization, concept acquisition, lexical meaning and the like, which assume the contrary simply don't work. We commence with a general discussion of the constraints that an account of concepts must meet if their compositionality is to explain their productivity. We'll then turn to a criticism of proposals that OS2 and KP make for coping with some specific cases. (shrink)
Language Turned on Itself examines what happens when language becomes self-reflexive; when language is used to talk about language. Those who think, talk, and write about language are habitual users of various metalinguistic devices, but reliance on these devices begins early: kids are told, 'That's called a "rabbit"'. It's not implausible that a primitive capacity for the meta-linguistic kicks in at the beginning stages of language acquisition. But no matter when or how frequently these devices are invoked, one thing is (...) clear: they present theorists of language with a complex data pattern. Herman Cappelen and Ernest Lepore show that the study of these devices and patterns not only represents an interesting and neglected project in the philosophy of language, but also carries important consequences for other parts of philosophy. Part I is devoted to presenting data about various aspects of our metalinguistic practices. In Part II, the authors examine and reject the four leading metalinguistic theories, and offer a new account of our use of quotation in a variety of different contexts. But the primary goal of this book is not to promote one theory over another. Rather, it is to present a deeply puzzling set of problems and explain their significance. (shrink)
The commonplace view about metaphorical interpretation is that it can be characterized in traditional semantic and pragmatic terms, thereby assimilating metaphor to other familiar uses of language. We will reject this view, and propose in its place the view that, though metaphors can issue in distinctive cognitive and discourse effects, they do so without issuing in metaphorical meaning and truth, and so, without metaphorical communication. Our inspiration derives from Donald Davidson’s critical arguments against metaphorical meaning and Richard Rorty’s exploration of (...) the diverse uses of language. But unlike these authors we ground our discussion squarely in distinctions about causal mechanisms in cooperative activity developed by H.P. Grice and others. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbooks series is a major new initiative in academic publishing. Each volume offers an authoritative and up-to-date survey of original research in a particular subject area. Specially commissioned essays from leading figures in the discipline give critical examinations of the progress and direction of debates. Oxford Handbooks provide scholars and graduate students with compelling new perspectives upon a wide range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. Ernie Lepore and Barry Smith present the definitive reference work for (...) this diverse and fertile field of philosophy. A superb international team contribute more than forty brand-new essays covering topics from the nature of language to meaning, truth, and reference, and the interfaces of philosophy of language with linguistics, psychology, logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. It will be an essential resource for anyone working in the central areas of philosophy, for linguists interested in syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, and for psychologists and cognitive scientists working on language. (shrink)
For more than three decades John Searle has been developing and elaborating a unified theory of language and mind. What has emerged is an impressive and detailed account of intentionality embracing both mental states and linguistic behaviour. Though the developing theory has been presented in a steady stream of books and articles over the last thirty years, two items stand out as major landmarks: the publication of Speech Acts in 1969 and of Intentionality in 1983. Both of these seminal books (...) offer structural theories; that is, they analyze the items within their domains as having a structure which allows for variation along a number of parameters. John Searle and His Critics proceeds from an analysis of the importance and influence of these two works to an overall assessment of Searle's impact in the philosophy of language, of mind, of social explanation, and of reference and intentionality. Each of the chapters has been newly commissioned from a leading scholar in the relevant field and each section concludes with a summary and response from Searle himself. (shrink)
Our aim in the present paper is to investigate, from the standpoint of truth-theoretic semantics, English tense, temporal designators and quantifiers, and other expressions we use to relate ourselves and other things to the temporal order. Truth-theoretic semantics provides a particularly illuminating standpoint from which to discuss issues about the semantics of tense, and their relation to thoughts at, and about, times. Tense, and temporal modifiers, contribute systematically to conditions under which sentences we utter are true or false. A Tarski-style (...) truth-theoretic semantics, by requiring explicitly represented truth conditions, helps to sharpen questions about the function of tense, and to deepen our insight into the contribution the tenses and temporal modifiers make to what we say by using them. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell, in the second of his 1914 Lowell lectures, Our Knowledge of the External World, asserted famously that ‘every philosophical problem, when it is subjected to the necessary analysis and purification, is found either to be not really philosophical at all, or else to be, in the sense in which we are using the word, logical’ (Russell 1993, p. 42). He went on to characterize that portion of logic that concerned the study of forms of propositions, or, as he (...) called them, ‘logical forms’. This portion of logic he called ‘philosophical logic’. Russell asserted that ... some kind of knowledge of logical forms, though with most people it is not explicit, is involved in all understanding of discourse. It is the business of philosophical logic to extract this knowledge from its concrete integuments, and to render it explicit and pure. (p. 53) Perhaps no one still endorses quite this grand a view of the role of logic and the investigation of logical form in philosophy. But talk of logical form retains a central role in analytic philosophy. Given its widespread use in philosophy and linguistics, it is rather surprising that the concept of logical form has not received more attention by philosophers than it has. The concern of this paper is to say something about what talk of logical form comes to, in a tradition that stretches back to (and arguably beyond) Russell’s use of that expression. This will not be exactly Russell’s conception. For we do not endorse Russell’s view that propositions are the bearers of logical form, or that appeal to propositions adds anything to our understanding of what talk of logical form comes to. But we will be concerned to provide an account responsive to the interests expressed by Russell in the above quotations, though one clarified of extraneous elements, and expressed precisely. For this purpose, it is important to note that the concern expressed by Russell in the above passages, as the surrounding text makes clear, is a concern not just with logic conceived narrowly as the study of logical terms, but with propositional form more generally, which includes, e.g., such features as those that correspond to the number of argument places in a propositional function, and the categories of objects which propositional.... (shrink)
Starting with Frege, the semantics (and pragmatics) of quotation has received a steady flow of attention over the last one hundred years. It has not, however, been subject to the same kind of intense debate and scrutiny as, for example, both the semantics of definite descriptions and propositional attitude verbs. Many philosophers probably share Davidson's experience: ‘When I was initiated into the mysteries of logic and semantics, quotation was usually introduced as a somewhat shady device, and the introduction was accompanied (...) by a stern sermon on the sin of confusing the use and mention of expressions’ (Davidson 1979, p. 79). Those who leave it at that, however, miss out on one of the most difficult and interesting topics in the philosophy of language. (shrink)
A general and fundamental tension surrounds our concept of what is said. On the one hand, what is said (asserted, claimed, stated, etc.) by utterances of a significant range of sentences is highly context sensitive. More specifically, (Observation 1 (O1)), what these sentences can be used to say depends on their contexts of utterance. On the other hand, speakers face no difficulty whatsoever in using many of these sentences to say (or make) the exact same claim, assertion, etc., across a (...) wide array of contexts. More specifically, (Observation 2 (O2)), many of the sentences in support of (O1) can be used to express the same thought, the same proposition, across a wide range of different contexts. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor and Ernie Lepore have produced a series of original and controversial essays on issues relating to compositionality in language and mind; they have now revised them all for publication together in this volume. Compositionality is the following aspect of a system of representation: the complex symbols in the system inherit their syntactic and semantic properties from the primitive symbols of the system. Fodor and Lepore argue that compositionality determines what view we must take of the nature of concepts. (...) Anyone trying to figure out how language and mind work must take account of this challenging work by two leading figures in the field. (shrink)
The idea that quotidian, middle-level concepts typically have internal structure-definitional, statistical, or whatever—plays a central role in practically every current approach to cognition. Correspondingly, the idea that words that express quotidian, middle-level concepts have complex representations "at the semantic level" is recurrent in linguistics; it is the defining thesis of what is often called "lexical semantics," and it unites the generative and interpretive traditions of grammatical analysis. Hale and Keyser (HK) (1993) have endorsed a version of lexical decomposition according to (...) which "denominal" verbs are typically derived from phrases containing the corresponding nouns: ‘singvtr’ is supposed to come from something like DO A SONG; ‘saddlevtr’ is supposed to come from something like PUT A SADDLE ON; ‘shelvevtr’ is supposed to come from something like PUT ON A SHELF; and so forth.1 Their case for these claims revives a form of argument, the "impossible-word" argument, which has for some time been in eclipse. In this article we will claim that, whatever the right account of lexical decomposition eventually turns out to be, impossible-word arguments are infirm and should be discounted. We will use HK's paper as a text for this critique. (shrink)
A Companion to Donald Davidson presents newly commissioned essays by leading figures within contemporary philosophy. Taken together, they provide a comprehensive overview of Davidson’s work across its full range, and an assessment of his many contributions to philosophy. -/- -Highlights the breadth of Davidson's work across philosophy -Demonstrates the continuing influence his work has on the philosophical community -Includes newly commissioned contributions from leading figures in contemporary philosophy -Provides an in-depth exposition and analysis of Davidson's work across the range of (...) areas to which he contributed, including philosophy of action, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. (shrink)
This book is an examination of the foundations and applications of the program of truth-theoretic semantics for natural languages introduced in 1967 by Donald Davidson in his classic paper “Truth and Meaning.” This is the second of two books on Donald Davidson’s central philosophical project. The first, Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language and Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), dealt with the basic framework of Davidson’s truth-theoretic approach to providing a meaning theory for a natural language, and then with his (...) development of his general project in the philosophy of language and theory of meaning by way of the analysis of the empirical confirmation of a meaning theory for a speaker, from the stance of the radial interpreter, that is, the interpreter who starts out without any detailed knowledge of the speakers’ meanings or attitudes. This book turns to the development of details of Davidson’s semantic program, specifically, the pursuit of the project of providing a compositional semantic theory for natural languages by making strategic use of an appropriately adapted Tarski-style axiomatic truth theory. Such a theory aims to provide a specification of the truth conditions of any felicitous utterance of a natural language sentence which serves to interpret it, and exhibits in the proof of the theorem that gives the truth conditions the compositional structure of the sentence and how its truth depends on its context of utterance. The book develops the basic framework, applies it to quantifiers, proper names, indexicals, simple and complex demonstratives, quotation, adjectives and adverbs, simple tenses of state and event verbs, temporal adverbs and quantifiers, tense in sentential complements and perfect tenses, opaque contexts, especially indirect discourse and attitude sentences, non-declarative sentences, semantic structure and logical form, and discusses the relation of the framework the metaphysics of truth. (shrink)
Meaning and Argument shifts introductory logic from the traditional emphasis on proofs to the symbolization of arguments. Another distinctive feature of this book is that it shows how the need for expressive power and for drawing distinctions forces formal language development. This revised edition includes expanded sections, additional exercises, and an updated bibliography. Updated and revised edition includes extended sections, additional exercises, and an updated bibliography. Distinctive approach in that this text is a philosophical, rather than mathematical introduction to logic. (...) Concentrates on symbolization and does all the technical logic simply with truth tables and no derivations at all. Contains numerous exercises and a corresponding answer key. Extensive appendix which allows the reader to explore subjects that go beyond what is usually covered in an introductory logic course. Features accompanying website at www.meaningargument.com. (shrink)
Contributors from different disciplines and schools of thought cover topics such as meaning, truth, form of a semantic theory, and natural logic in this book, providing a comparative evaluation of the major new approaches to semantics for natural language. The contributors discuss the different theories and attempt to justify or criticize them, disagreements and points of contact with others, problem areas, and suggestions for future development.
Philosophers in general are uncomfortable, if not downright skeptical, about attributing semantic knowledge, particularly of a semantic theory, to ordinary speakers. 2 Those who do not feel the pinch often adopt a two-pronged defense: they rebut skeptics with an array of distinctions (and hedges), contending that the skeptics' confusions arise because they ignore such..
Now I may not be an educated man . . . But it seems to me to go against common sense to ask what the poet is ‘trying to say’. The poem isn’t a code for something easily understood. The poem is what he is trying to say.
This paper advances a general argument, inspired by some remarks of Davidson, to show that appeal to meanings as entities in the theory of meaning is neither necessary nor sufficient for carrying out the tasks of the theory of meaning. The crucial point is that appeal to meaning as entities fails to provide us with an understanding of any expression of a language except insofar as we pick it out with an expression we understand which we tacitly recognize to be (...) a translation of the term whose meaning we want to illuminate by the appeal to assigning to it a meaning. The meaning drops out as irrelevant: the work is done, and can only be done, by matching terms already understood with terms they translate. (shrink)