In March, I’ll be talking at Spencer Breiner‘s workshop on Applied Category Theory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I’ll be giving a joint talk with John Foley about our work using operads to design networks. …
Davidson’s well-known language skepticism—the claim that there is no such a thing as a language—has recognizably Gricean underpinnings, some of which also underlie his continuity skepticism—the claim that there can be no philosophically illuminating account of the emergence of language and thought. My first aim in this paper is to highlight aspects of the complicated relationship between central Davidsonian and Gricean ideas concerning language. After a brief review of Davidson’s two skeptical claims and their Gricean underpinnings, I provide my own take on how Davidson’s continuity skepticism can be resisted consistently with his rejection of the Gricean priority claim, yet without giving up some of Grice’s own insights regarding the origins of meaning.
It is often said that ‘what it is like’-knowledge cannot be acquired by consulting testimony or reading books [Lewis 1998; Paul 2014; 2015a]. However, people also routinely consult books like What It Is Like to Go to War [Marlantes 2014], and countless ‘what it is like’ articles and youtube videos, in the apparent hope of gaining knowledge about what it is like to have experiences they have not had themselves. This article examines this puzzle and tries to solve it by appealing to recent work on knowing-wh ascriptions. In closing I indicate the wider significance of these ideas by showing how they can help us to evaluate prominent arguments by Paul [2014; 2015a] concerning transformative experiences.
The internet has made it easier than ever to speak to others. It has empowered individuals to publish our opinions without first convincing a media company of their commercial value; to find and share others' views without the fuss of photocopying and mailing newspaper clippings; and to respond to those views without the limitations of a newspaper letter page. …
This essay is an opinionated exploration of the constraints that modal discourse imposes on the theory of assertion. Primary focus is on the question whether modal discourse challenges the traditional view that all assertions have propositional content. This question is tackled largely with reference to discourse involving epistemic modals, although connections with other flavors of modality are noted along the way.
Now students in the Applied Category Theory 2018 school are reading about categories applied to linguistics. Read the blog article here for more:
• Jade Master and Cory Griffith, Linguistics using category theory, The n-Category Café, 6 February 2018. …
[Editor's Note: The following new entry by Ana María
Mora-Márquez replaces the
on this topic by the previous author.] Simon of Faversham († 1306) was a thirteenth-century scholar,
mainly known as a commentator on Aristotle’s logic and natural
philosophy. He is considered a modist, among other things because of
his use of the notions of modi praedicandi and modi
essendi in his commentary on Aristotle’s
Categories (cf. Marmo 1999). Simon’s work as an
Aristotelian commentator heavily relies on Albert the Great’s
paraphrases on the Aristotelian corpus. Simon’s
question-commentaries often portray key medieval discussions in a
somewhat undeveloped state.
There is an ambiguity in the fundamental concept of deductive logic that went unnoticed until the middle of the 20th Century. Sorting it out has led to profound mathematical investigations with applications in complexity theory and computer science. The origins of this ambiguity and the history of its resolution deserve philosophical attention, because our understanding of logic stands to benefit from an appreciation of their details.
I argue for a theory of the optimal function of the speech act of referring, called the edenic theory. First, the act of singular reference is defined directly in terms of Gricean communicative intentions. Secondly, I propose a doxastic constraint on the optimal performance of such acts, stating, roughly, that the speaker must not have any relevant false beliefs about the identity or distinctness of the intended object. In uttering a singular term on an occasion, on this theory, one represents oneself as not having any confused beliefs about the object to which one intends to refer. This paves the way for an intentionalist theory of reference that circumvents well known problems, which have not been adequately addressed before in the literature.
Buchanan (2014) argues for a Gricean solution to well-known counterexamples to direct reference theories of content. Peet ( ) develops a way to change the counterexample so that it seems to speak against Buchanan’s own proposal. I argue that both theorists fail to notice a significant distinction between the kinds of cases at issue. Those appearing to count against direct reference theory must be described such that speakers have false beliefs about the identity of the object to which they intend to refer, beliefs that appear relevant to the determination of what constitutes communicative success. This suggests, further, that cases of this sort do not provide a basis for robust generalizations about singular reference.
I discuss the problem of whether true contradictions of the form “x is P and not P ” might be the expression of an implicit relativization to distinct respects of application of one and the same predicate P . Priest rightly claims that one should not mistake true contradictions for an expression of lexical ambiguity. However, he primarily targets cases of homophony for which lexical meanings do not overlap. There exist more subtle forms of equivocation, such as the relation of privative opposition singled out by Zwicky and Sadock in their study of ambiguity. I argue that this relation, which is basically a relation of general to more specific, underlies the logical form of true contradictions. The generalization appears to be that all true contradictions really mean “x is P in some respects/to some extent, but not in all respects/not to all extent”. I relate this to the strict-tolerant account of vague predicates and outline a variant of the account to cover one-dimensional and multi-dimensional predicates.
Constantin Brancusi. Socrates
Image © The Museum of Modern Art;
Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY
©2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York/ADAGP, Paris
reproduced with permission
of the Brancusi Estate
The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his
B.C.E. ),[ 1 ]
an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written
nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever
changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information
about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his
trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless
the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his
influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every
What is it that confers a meaning to a sign? This is no easy question, but quite a number of philosophers seem to concur that the key concept here is that of rule-following. But what is it to follow a rule? This is, once again, no easy question. What is worse, in the literature there is a well-known argument that purports to show that, in fact, there is no such thing. The argument in question is often referred to as “Kripkenstein’s Paradox” for while most commentators believe that Kripke was the first to discuss the argument, Kripke has maintained that its paternity must be ascribed to Wittgenstein. Maybe the argument is Kripke’s, maybe it is Wittgenstein’s, maybe there is also a sense in which it is nobody’s argument: after all, Kripke’s attitude towards it is ambivalent, and among those who agree with him in ascribing its paternity to Wittgenstein some think that though the Austrian philosopher actually discussed the argument, he did not believe it sound. Be that as it may, Kripkenstein’s conclusion has seemed unacceptable to most philosophers, and his attempt to show that the notion that there is no such thing as following a rule should not be regarded as paradoxical, his “skeptical solution”, has not found many followers. My two cents is that while the pars destruens of Kripkenstein’s view (that is: the paradox) is basically right, its pars construens (that is: the skeptical solution) needs revision. The main goal of this paper is to provide such a revision.
I’ve been way too distracted by actual research lately from my primary career as a nerd blogger—that’s what happens when you’re on sabbatical. But now I’m sick, and in no condition to be thinking about research. …
Proof-theoretic semantics is an alternative to truth-condition
semantics. It is based on the fundamental assumption that the central
notion in terms of which meanings are assigned to certain expressions
of our language, in particular to logical constants, is that of
proof rather than truth. In this sense
proof-theoretic semantics is semantics in terms of proof . Proof-theoretic semantics also means the semantics of proofs,
i.e., the semantics of entities which describe how we arrive at certain
assertions given certain assumptions. Both aspects of proof-theoretic
semantics can be intertwined, i.e.
There is a fundamental disagreement about which norm regulates assertion. Proponents of factive accounts argue that only true propositions are assertable, whereas proponents of nonfactive accounts insist that at least some false propositions are. Puzzlingly, both views are supported by equally plausible (but apparently incompatible) linguistic data. This paper delineates an alternative solution: to understand truth as the aim of assertion, and pair this view with a non-factive rule. The resulting account is able to explain all the relevant linguistic data, and finds independent support from general considerations about the differences between rules and aims.
Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Mathematics is undoubtedly
the most unknown and under-appreciated part of his philosophical opus. Indeed, more than half of Wittgenstein’s writings from 1929
through 1944 are devoted to mathematics, a fact that Wittgenstein
himself emphasized in 1944 by writing that his “chief
contribution has been in the philosophy of mathematics” (Monk
1990: 466). The core of Wittgenstein’s conception of mathematics is very
much set by the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922;
hereafter Tractatus), where his main aim is to work out the
language-reality connection by determining what is required for
language, or language usage, to be about the world.
Ifs and cans
Posted on Saturday, 27 Jan 2018
Is 'can' information-sensitive in an interesting way, like 'ought'? An example of uninteresting information-sensitivity is (1):
(1) If you can lift this backpack, then you can also lift that bag. …
On grammatical accounts, this indicates a relation between two arguments that ensures their coreference, for any assignment of values to variables. PRO in (1c), for example, would be related in this way to an argument that is linked to the role of trader in either (1a) or (1b). Such accounts have good motives, sketched in §3. But in this paper we make two objections, one syntactic and one semantic. The syntactic objection comes from remote control, as in (2). We can use (2) just like (1c), again to mean (1d) (Higgins 1973, Dowty 1989, Sag & Pollard 1991, Williams 2015). Yet in this case, we will argue in §4, there can be no local binder for PRO, when there isn’t one audible.
In this paper I study an epistemic alternating offers game with a termination option, in which each rational and self-interested player expresses strategic caution – assigns positive probability to the event of opponent choosing the termination option – and internally coherent concession proportional beliefs – expects the opponent to be more likely to terminate the game after being offered a division of resource associated with a larger personal utility concession than after being offered a division of resource associated with a smaller personal utility concession. I define the epistemic conditions under which the players expressing concession proportional beliefs converge on a subjective equilibrium, as well as conditions under which the subjective equilibrium will yield an egalitarian distribution of bargaining gains .
Plural definites (PDs) display two well-known properties: Non-maximality and Homogeneity. Non-maximality refers to the fact the the quantificational force of plural definites is variable across contexts. While they tend to have universal quantificational force, they easily ‘allow for exceptions’. For instance, if there are many windows in a building and if I was asked to make sure that some fresh air enters the building, (1a) below can be judged true if I opened all of the windows but two or three. If the quantifier all is added, as in (1b), this is no longer the case.
The paper discusses two types of quantifier particles in Hungarian that both partici‐ pate in reiterated constructions. One type follows and the other precedes its host, which makes it easy to compare them. The particles that follow their hosts are argued to be heads on the clausal spines of independent propositions. Host+particle does, but need not, occur in reitera‐ tions, and the particles do not build quantifier words. In contrast, the particles that precede their hosts are argued to be quantifier‐phrase internal. Particle+host must occur in reiterations, and the particles also build quantifier words. The two types of reiterated constructions also dif‐ fer in having their own distinct internal “connectives” and in forming strict vs. non‐strict nega‐ tive concord expressions. The paper focuses on syntax, with some attention to semantics. It ar‐ gues for propositional coordination for both types, and propositional quantification for the sec‐ ond type. Constituent‐size reiterations are derivable via ellipsis, raising the question whether they must be so derived. The discussion is supplemented with a small survey of cross‐linguistic data (to be added).
An axiomatic theory of truth is a deductive theory of truth as a
primitive undefined predicate. Because of the liar and other
paradoxes, the axioms and rules have to be chosen carefully in order
to avoid inconsistency. Many axiom systems for the truth predicate
have been discussed in the literature and their respective properties
been analysed. Several philosophers, including many deflationists, have endorsed axiomatic theories of truth in their
accounts of truth. The logical properties of the formal theories are
relevant to various philosophical questions, such as questions about
the ontological status of properties, Gödel’s theorems,
truth-theoretic deflationism, eliminability of semantic notions and
the theory of meaning.
In this paper, we provide a Bayesian analysis of the well-known surprise exam paradox. Central to our analysis is a probabilistic account of what it means for the student to accept the teacher’s announcement that he will receive a surprise exam. According to this account, the student can be said to have accepted the teacher’s announcement provided he adopts a subjective probability distribution relative to which he expects to receive the exam on a day on which he expects not to receive it. We show that as long as expectation is not equated with subjective certainty there will be contexts in which it is possible for the student to accept the teacher’s announcement, in this sense. In addition, we show how a Bayesian modeling of the scenario can yield plausible explanations of the following three intuitive claims: (1) the teacher’s announcement becomes easier to accept the more days there are in class; (2) a strict interpretation of the teacher’s announcement does not provide the student with any categorical information as to the date of the exam; and (3) the teacher’s announcement contains less information about the date of the exam the more days there are in class. To conclude, we show how the surprise exam paradox can be seen as one among the larger class of paradoxes of doxastic fallibilism, foremost among which is the paradox of the preface.
Utterances within the context of telling fictional tales that appear to be assertions are nevertheless not to be taken at face value. The present paper attempts to explain exactly what such ‘pseudo-assertions’ are, and how they behave. Many pseudo-assertions can take on multiple roles, both within fictions and in what I call ‘participatory criticism’ of a fiction, especially when they occur discourse-initially. This fact, taken together with problems for replacement accounts of pseudo-assertion based on the implicit prefixing of an ‘in the fiction’ operator, suggest that pseudo-assertion is best understood as a kind of make-believe. This proposal is elaborated and defended, and some applications to fictionalism are tentatively explored.
An influential tradition holds that thoughts are public: different thinkers share many of their thoughts, and the same applies to a single subject at different times. This ‘publicity principle’ has recently come under attack. Arguments by Mark Crimmins, Richard Heck and Brian Loar seem to show that publicity is inconsistent with the widely accepted principle that someone who is ignorant or mistaken about certain identity facts will have distinct thoughts about the relevant object—for instance, the astronomer who does not know that Hesperus is Phosphorus will have two distinct thoughts Hesperus is bright and Phosphorus is bright. In this paper, I argue that publicity can be defended if we adopt a relational account on which thoughts are individuated by their mutual relations. I then go on to develop a specific relational theory—the ‘linking account’—and contrast it with other relational views.
. Stephen Senn
Head of Competence Center
for Methodology and Statistics (CCMS)
Luxembourg Institute of Health
Being a statistician means never having to say you are certain
A recent discussion of randomised controlled trials by Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright (D&C) contains much interesting analysis but also, in my opinion, does not escape rehashing some of the invalid criticisms of randomisation with which the literatures seems to be littered. …
Consider the principle that for a given agent S, and any proposition p, it is metaphysically possible that S is thinking p, and p alone, at time t. According to philosophical folklore, this principle cannot be true, despite its initial appeal, because there are more propositions than possible worlds: the principle would require a different possible world to witness the thinking of each proposition, and there simply aren’t enough possible worlds to go around. Some theorists have taken comfort in the thought that, when taken in conjunction with facts about human psychology, the principle was not on particularly firm footing to begin with: most propositions are far too complicated for any human to grasp, much less think uniquely.
According to a highly natural, orthodox view, epistemic modals like might and must are contextually variable, allowing us to express different propositions in different contexts of utterance. This view (contextualism about epistemic modals) is the orthodox one because the only other ways of making sense of how epistemic expressions are sensitive to information (views like relativism, expressivism, and dynamicism) carry such unorthodox commitments. Yet it has faced more than its share of challenges. In this paper, I will argue that two important challenges for contextualism about epistemic modals receive the very same solution: one problem about disagreement, and one problem about the reasonableness of our epistemic beliefs. The first of these challenges is very familiar, and the second less so, but equally important.
The foundational claim underlying nearly all narrative theory is that a distinction can be made between the story and its telling. Indeed, Jonathan Culler calls this the “indispensable premise of narratology.” The general distinction has been labeled in a variety of different ways, such as ‘histoire’ and ‘discours,’ ‘histoire’ and ‘r ´ecite,’ ‘narrative’ and ‘narration,’ ‘story’ and ‘discourse,’ and even ‘plot’ and ‘story.’ Most influentially, to mark the distinction, the Russian formalists supplied the labels fabula (story) and sjuzet (discourse).