The Ideal Worlds Account of Desire says that S wants p just in case all of S’s most highly preferred doxastic possibilities make p true. The account predicts that a desire report ⌜S wants p⌝ should be true so long as there is some doxastic p-possibility that is most preferred. But we present a novel argument showing that this prediction is incorrect. More positively, we take our examples to support alternative analyses of desire, and close by briefly considering what our (...) cases suggest about the logic of desire. (shrink)
The analysis of desire ascriptions has been a central topic of research for philosophers of language and mind. This work has mostly focused on providing a theory of want reports, that is, sentences of the form ‘S wants p’. In this paper, we turn from want reports to a closely related but relatively understudied construction, namely hope reports, that is, sentences of the form ‘S hopes p’. We present two contrasts involving hope reports and show that existing approaches to desire (...) fail to explain these contrasts. We then develop a novel account that combines some of the central insights in the literature. We argue that our theory provides an elegant account of our contrasts and yields a promising analysis of hoping. (shrink)
In this paper, we present two puzzles involving desire reports concerning series of events. What does a person want to happen in the first event – is it the event with the highest expected return, or the event that is the initial part of the best series? We show that existing approaches fail to resolve the puzzles around this question and develop a novel account of our own. Our semantics is built around three ideas. First, we propose that desire ascriptions (...) are evaluated relative to a contextually supplied set of propositions, or alternatives. The semantic value of an ascription ‘S wants p’ is determined by S's preference ordering over these alternatives. Second, we propose that desire reports carry a requirement to the effect that the prejacent of the ascription must be suitably related to the background set of alternatives. Finally, we suggest that desire reports carry a dominance condition concerning the subject's ranking of the alternatives. Overall, we argue that our theory provides us with an elegant resolution of our puzzles, and yields a promising approach to desire. (shrink)
This paper presents a puzzle involving embedded attitude reports. We resolve the puzzle by arguing that attitude verbs take restricted readings: in some environments the denotation of attitude verbs can be restricted by a given proposition. For example, when these verbs are embedded in the consequent of a conditional, they can be restricted by the proposition expressed by the conditional’s antecedent. We formulate and motivate two conditions on the availability of verb restrictions: a constraint that ties the content of restrictions (...) to the “dynamic effects” of sentential connectives and a constraint that limits the availability of restriction effects to present tense verbs with first-person subjects. However, we also present some cases that make trouble for these conditions, and outline some possible ways of modifying the view to account for the recalcitrant data. We conclude with a brief discussion of some of the connections between our semantics for attitude verbs and issues concerning epistemic modals and theories of knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I raise a problem for standard precisifications of the Relational Analysis of attitude reports. The problem I raise involves counterfactual attitude verbs. such as ‘wish’. In short, the trouble is this: there are true attitude reports ‘ S wishes that P ’ but there is no suitable referent for the term ‘that P ’. The problematic reports illustrate that the content of a subject’s wish is intimately related to the content of their beliefs. I capture this fact (...) by moving to a framework in which ‘wish’ relates subjects to sets of pairs of worlds, or paired propositions, rather than—as is standardly assumed—sets of worlds. Although other types of counterfactual attitude reports, for example those involving ‘imagine’, may be similarly problematic, at this stage it is unclear whether they can be handled the same way. (shrink)
In this paper, we propose a novel account of desire reports, i.e. sentences of the form 'S wants p'. Our theory is partly motivated by Phillips-Brown's (2021) observation that subjects can desire things even if those things aren't best by the subject's lights. That is, being best isn't necessary for being desired. We compare our proposal to existing theories, and show that it provides a neat account of the central phenomenon.
In this paper, I draw attention to comparative preference claims, i.e. sentences of the form \S prefers p to q\. I show that preference claims exhibit interesting patterns, and try to develop a semantics that captures them. Then I use my account of preference to provide an analysis of desire. The resulting entry for desire ascriptions is independently motivated, and finds support from a wide range of phenomena.
Inheritance is the principle that deontic `ought' is closed under entailment. This paper is about a tension that arises in connection with Inheritance. More specifically, it is about two observations that pull in opposite directions. One of them raises questions about the validity of Inheritance, while the other appears to provide strong support for it. We argue that existing approaches to deontic modals fail to provide us with an adequate resolution of this tension. In response, we develop a positive analysis, (...) and show that this proposal provides a satisfying account of our intuitions. (shrink)
Several theorists have observed that attitude reports have what we call “revisionist” uses. For example, even if Pete has never met Ann and has no idea that she exists, Jane can still say to Jim ‘Pete believes Ann can learn to play tennis in ten lessons’ if Pete believes all 6-year-olds can learn to play tennis in ten lessons and it is part of Jane and Jim’s background knowledge that Ann is a 6-year-old. Jane’s assertion seems acceptable because the claim (...) she reports Pete as believing is entailed by Pete’s beliefs if they are revised in light of Jane and Jim’s background knowledge. We provide a semantic theory of revisionist reports based on this idea. We observe that the admissible “revisions” are limited in a striking way. Jane cannot say ‘Pete thinks Ann is a 6-year-old and can play tennis in ten lessons’ in the same context that she can say ‘Pete believes Ann can learn to play tennis ten lessons’, even though this too follows from Jane and Jim’s background knowledge together with what Pete believes. Our theory predicts the infelicity of these latter reports. It also has the resources to predict the truth of “exported” attitude reports and casts the relationship between these reports and “singular thought” in a new light. We conclude by discussing how revisionist reports make trouble for a simplistic view of the connection between the relations expressed by attitude verbs in natural language and the relations of most interest to philosophers of mind and cognitive science. (shrink)
In some sentences, demonstratives can be substituted with definite descriptions without any change in meaning. In light of this, many have maintained that demonstratives are just a type of definite description. However, several theorists have drawn attention to a range of cases where definite descriptions are acceptable, but their demonstrative counterparts are not. Some have tried to account for this data by appealing to presupposition. I argue that such presuppositional approaches are problematic, and present a pragmatic account of the target (...) contrasts. On this approach, demonstratives take two arguments and generally require that the first, covert argument is non-redundant with respect to the second, overt argument. I derive this condition through an economy principle discussed by Schlenker (2005). (shrink)
Although much has been written about the truth-conditions of de re attitude reports, little attention has been paid to certain ‘ultra-liberal’ uses of those reports. We believe that if these uses are legitimate, then a number of interesting consequences for various theses in philosophical semantics follow. The majority of the paper involves describing these consequences. In short, we argue that, if true, ultra-liberal reports: bring counterexamples to a popular approach to de re attitude ascriptions, which we will call ‘descriptivism’; and (...) combine with independently plausible principles about the logic of belief to imply that subjects can achieve omniscience about what exists from the armchair. Although we are not committed to the view that ultra-liberal reports are false, in the final part of the paper we discuss the prospects of pursuing a line according to which the acceptability of such reports ought not be taken at face value. We conclude by arguing that those who are sympathetic with this move might have reason to doubt the truth of an even broader class of acceptable de re attitude reports, namely those that have been taken to undermine orthodox accounts of de re attitude ascriptions. (shrink)
This paper is about two requirements on wish reports whose interaction motivates a novel semantics for these ascriptions. The first requirement concerns the ambiguities that arise when determiner phrases, such as definite descriptions, interact with ‘wish’. More specifically, several theorists have recently argued that attitude ascriptions featuring counterfactual attitude verbs license interpretations on which the determiner phrase is interpreted relative to the subject’s beliefs. The second requirement involves the fact that desire reports in general require decision-theoretic notions for their analysis. (...) The current study is motivated by the fact that no existing account captures both of these aspects of wishing. I develop a semantics for wish reports that makes available belief-relative readings but also allows decision-theoretic notions to play a role in shaping the truth conditions of these ascriptions. The general idea is that we can analyze wishing in terms of a two-dimensional notion of expected utility. (shrink)
One of the central topics in semantic theory over the last few decades concerns the nature of local contexts. Recently, theorists have tried to develop general, non-stipulative accounts of local contexts (Schlenker, 2009; Ingason, 2016; Mandelkern & Romoli, 2017a). In this paper, we contribute to this literature by drawing attention to the local contexts of subclausal expressions. More specifically, we focus on the local contexts of quantificational determiners, e.g. `all', `both', etc. Our central tool for probing the local contexts of (...) subclausal elements is the principle Maximize Presupposition! (Percus, 2006; Singh, 2011). The empirical basis of our investigation concerns some data discussed by Anvari (2018b), e.g. the fact that sentences such as `All of the two presidential candidates are crooked' are unacceptable. In order to explain this, we suggest that the local context of determiners needs to contain the information carried by their restrictor. However, no existing non-stipulative account predicts this. Consequently, we think that the local contexts of subclausal expressions will likely have to be stipulated. This result has important consequences for debates in semantics and pragmatics, e.g. those around the so-called "explanatory problem" for dynamic semantics (Soames, 1982; Heim, 1990; Schlenker, 2009). (shrink)
Schlenker (Semant Pragmat 2(3):1–78, 2009; Philos Stud 151(1):115–142, 2010a; Mind 119(474):377–391, 2010b) provides an algorithm for deriving the presupposition projection properties of an expression from that expression’s classical semantics. In this paper, we consider the predictions of Schlenker’s algorithm as applied to attitude verbs. More specifically, we compare Schlenker’s theory with a prominent view which maintains that attitudes exhibit belief projection, so that presupposition triggers in their scope imply that the attitude holder believes the presupposition (Karttunen in Theor Linguist 34(1):181, (...) 1974; Heim in J Semant 9(3):183–221, 1992; Sudo in The art and craft of semantics: a festschrift for Irene Heim, MIT Press, 2014). We show that Schlenker’s theory does not predict belief projection, and discuss several consequences of this result. (shrink)
This paper is about conjunctions and disjunctions in the scope of non-doxastic atti- tude verbs. These constructions generate a certain type of ignorance implicature. I argue that the best way to account for these implicatures is by appealing to a notion of contex- tual redundancy (Schlenker, 2008; Fox, 2008; Mayr and Romoli, 2016). This pragmatic approach to ignorance implicatures is contrasted with a semantic account of disjunctions under `wonder' that appeals to exhausti cation (Roelofsen and Uegaki, 2016). I argue that (...) exhausti cation-based theories cannot handle embedded conjunctions, so a pragmatic account of ignorance implicatures is superior. (shrink)
In this paper, I outline a novel approach to the semantics of natural language pronouns. On this account, which I call 'demonstrativism', pronouns are semantically equivalent to demonstratives. I begin by presenting some contrasts that provide support for demonstrativism. Then I try to explain these contrasts by developing a particular demonstrativist proposal. I build on the "hidden argument" theory of demonstratives. On this theory, demonstratives are semantically similar to definite descriptions, with one important difference: demonstratives take two arguments, rather than (...) one. Using these ideas, I propose that pronouns also take two (covert) arguments, and that the second argument needs to be sufficiently salient to members of the conversation in order for the use of a pronoun to be felicitous. As for the first argument, I maintain that its content is constrained by the process of noun-phrase deletion. Taken together, I argue that these constraints provide us with a satisfying account of the uses to which pronouns are put. (shrink)