What words we use, and what meanings they have, is important. We shouldn't use slurs; we should use 'rape' to include spousal rape (for centuries we didn’t); we should have a word which picks out the sexual harassment suffered by people in the workplace and elsewhere (for centuries we didn’t). Sometimes we need to change the word-meaning pairs in circulation, either by getting rid of the pair completely (slurs), changing the meaning (as we did with 'rape'), or adding brand new (...) word-meaning pairs (as with 'sexual harassment'). A problem, though, is how to do this. One might worry that any attempt to change language in this way will lead to widespread miscommunication and confusion. I argue that this is indeed so, but that's a feature, not a bug of attempting to change word-meaning pairs. The miscommunications and confusion such changes cause can lead us, via a process I call transformative communicative disruption, to reflect on our language and its use, and this can be further, rather than hinder, our goal of improving language. (shrink)
The term "fake news" ascended rapidly to prominence in 2016 and has become a fixture in academic and public discussions, as well as in political mud-slinging. In the flurry of discussion, the term has been applied so broadly as to threaten to render it meaningless. In an effort to rescue our ability to discuss—and combat—the underlying phenomenon that triggered the present use of the term, some philosophers have tried to characterize it more precisely. A common theme in this nascent philosophical (...) discussion is that contemporary fake news is not a new kind of phenomenon, but just the latest iteration of a broader kind of phenomenon that has played out in different ways across the history of human information-dissemination technologies. While we agree with this, we argue that newer sorts of fake news reveal substantial flaws in earlier understandings of this notion. In particular, we argue that no deceptive intentions are necessary for fake news to arise; rather, fake news arises when stories which were not produced via standard journalistic practice are treated as though they had been. Importantly, this revisionary understanding of fake news allows us to accommodate and understand the way that fake news is plausibly generated and spread in a contemporary setting, as much by non-human actors as by ordinary human beings. (shrink)
In this paper, we consider how the notion of metalinguistic negotiation interacts with various theories of generics. The notion of metalinguistic negotiation we discuss stems from previous work from two of us (Plunkett and Sundell). Metalinguistic negotiations are disputes in which speakers disagree about normative issues concerning language, such as issues about what a given word should mean in the relevant context, or which of a range of related concepts a word should express. In a metalinguistic negotiation, speakers argue about (...) such issues implicitly, via competing “metalinguistic” usages of terms. Here, we argue that some disputes involving generics are best thought of as metalinguistic negotiations, and that these cases can be illuminating for our more general theorizing about generics. Specifically, we argue that the “contextualist” theory of generics that one of us (Sterken) has developed in other work is best equipped to account for these metalinguistic negotiations, relative to other leading views of generics. We thus argue for a “package deal” view of generics: a view that combines Plunkett and Sundell’s account of metalinguistic negotiation with Sterken’s contextualist view of generics. (shrink)
This paper offers three objections to Leslie’s recent and already influential theory of generics :375–403, 2007a, Philos Rev 117:1–47, 2008): her proposed metaphysical truth-conditions are subject to systematic counter-examples, the proposed disquotational semantics fails, and there is evidence that generics do not express cognitively primitive generalisations.
This article discusses recent theories of the meaning of generics. The discussion is centred on how the theories differ in their approach to addressing the primary difficulty in providing a theory of generic meaning: The notoriously complex ways in which the truth conditions of generics seem to vary. In addition, the article summarizes considerations for and against each theory.
In response to Habgood-Coote (2019) and a growing number of scholars who argue that academics and journalists should stop talking about fake news and abandon the term, we argue that the reasons which have been offered for eschewing the term 'fake news' are not sufficient to justify such abandonment. Prima facie, then, we take ourselves and others to be justified in continuing to talk about fake news.
The standard view amongst philosophers of language and linguists is that the logical form of generics is quantificational and contains a covert, unpronounced quantifier expression Gen. Recently, some theorists have begun to question the standard view and rekindle the competing proposal, that generics are a species of kind-predication. These theorists offer some forceful objections to the standard view, and new strategies for dealing with the abundance of linguistic evidence in favour of the standard view. I respond to these objections and (...) show that their strategies fail. I offer a novel argument in favour of the standard view that I call the binder argument. The upshot of this argument is that if one rejects the existence of Gen, then one is committed to rejecting the existence of covert structure in general. (shrink)
Recent years have seen renewed interest in the semantics of generics. And a relatively mainstream view in this work is that the semantics of generics must appeal to kinds. But what are kinds? Can we learn anything about their nature by looking at how semantic theories of generics appeal to them? In this article, we overview recent work on the semantics of generics and consider their consequences for our understanding of the metaphysics of kinds.
In addition to ordinary conversations among relatively small numbers of individuals, human societies have public conversations. These are diffuse, ongoing discussions about various topics, which are largely sustained by journalistic activities. They are conversations about news – what is happening now – that members of various groups (such as the residents of a certain country, a certain town, or practitioners of a certain profession) need to know about in their capacity as members of those groups, and about how to react (...) to the news. Our topic in this chapter is a type of resistance to evidence that can arise at the level of these public conversations, rather than at the level of individual agents. We call it “relevance-based resistance to evidence”. A public conversation exhibits this kind of evidence resistance when it becomes overly focused on topics that members of the group that the conversation concerns do not in fact need to know about qua members of the group – topics which are, in a word, irrelevant. We argue that the risks of such relevance-based knowledge resistance are significantly amplified by certain structural features of online discourse. (shrink)
In a recent paper (Haslanger 2016), Sally Haslanger argues for the importance of structural explanation. Roughly, a structural explana- tion of the behaviour of a given object appeals to features of the struc- tures—physical, social, or otherwise—the object is embedded in. It is opposed to individualistic explanations, where what is appealed to is just the object and its properties. For example, an individualistic explanation of why someone got the grade they did might appeal to features of the essay they wrote—its (...) being well-written, answering the set question, etc. But if the class is graded on a curve, then a better explanation will appeal to features of the class—of the social structure in which the student is embedded. That she wrote a better paper than 90% of the class explains better than that she wrote a well-argued paper. In this paper, I get clear as to various candidate concepts of structure that we might appeal to in structural explanations, argue that Haslanger’s preferred account is lacking, and present an alterna- tive that is more conducive to social structural explanation. (shrink)
The aim of this chapter is to explore various ways of thinking about the concept of manipulation in order to capture both current and potentially future instances of machine manipulation, manipulation on the part of everything from the Facebook advertising algorithm to super-intelligent AGI. Three views are considered: a conservative one, which slightly tweaks extant influence-based theories of manipulation; a dismissive view according to which it doesn't matter much if machines are literally manipulative, provided we can classify them as so (...) doing to make sense of our interactions with them; and an ameliorative analysis, according to which we should change our concept of manipulation better to make sense of machine manipulation. We tentatively favor the latter. (shrink)