Abstracts of Presentations on the Workshop on Language and Mind
On The Alleged Gap Between Semantic Content and Objects of Assertion
Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University (USA)
There are various reasons one might think that the semantic content of occurrences of sentences does not coincide with assertoric content – content of belief and assertion – corresponding to those sentences. But if a semantic theory exploiting such distinction is to play a role in explaining communication, there needs to be a tight connection between the two types of content. Drawing upon the considerations of McDowell (1991) and Evans (1979; 1982) concerning rigidity, Stanley (1997a, b, 2002) proposes to extend Lewis’ (1980) argument for the distinction between the two types of content – an argument concerning behavior of certain English language operators – to argue that modals do not operate on assertoric, but merely on semantic contents of sentences they embed. I argue that the Dummett-Evans-Stanley line of argument fails due to its inability to explain the connection between semantic and assertoric content. Unable to provide a plausible way of recovering assertoric content from semantic content, the theory renders successful communication mysterious. The moral of its failure is far-reaching – any theory that appeals to the distinction between these two types of content remains less than fully satisfactory unless the challenge of accounting for their connection is met.
Deontic modals, Expressivism, and Knowledge Attributions
In recent work, Allan Gibbard, Seth Yalcin, and Sarah Moss have developed a new style of ‘expressivist’ semantics, on which truth is relativized to other parameters than times or worlds. In this talk, I’ll extend this style of semantics to handle knowledge ascriptions for deontic modals, as in: Mary knows, that John ought to give money to charity. First, I’ll formulate reliability, safety, sensitivity, and strength conditions for knowledge that are relativized to worlds and planning states. Then I’ll consider how to extend a Bayesian framework for updating from probability functions over worlds to probability functions over world-plan combinations.
A fun ambiguity
In this talk, I'll identify an ambiguity in adjectives like fun and tasty, describe the distribution of the two readings, and propose a semantic theory that explains the distribution. The observation is that these adjectives have an overlooked non-dispositional reading meaning something like "caused fun" or "caused gustatory pleasure". The interesting distributional fact is that this ambiguity closely parallels the habitual/episodic ambiguity of eventive verbs: in habitual- friendly environments fun adjectives get the dispositional reading, and in episodic-friendly environments, the non-dispositional reading. Following the standard approach to habituals, I'll assume the primitive lexical meaning of fun adjectives is non-dispositional, and derive the dispositional meaning with a covert generic quantifier. I'll also discuss some philosophical implications for so-called "predicates of personal taste". In particular, I'll suggest that there is no coherent semantic paradigm deserving of the term: the encoding of evaluativity and perspective in English is multifarious.
True Indexicals and Pure Demonstratives
In Kaplan’s Demonstratives he distinguishes between two kinds of indexical expressions: pure indexicals (e.g., ‘I’, ‘here’, ‘now’) and true demonstratives(e.g., ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘he’/’she’ used demonstratively). These expressions differ, Kaplan argues, in that the linguistic rules governing use of the former fully determine the referent for each context, while for the latter something more is required. Kaplan famously gives two different accounts of this supplementation required for true demonstratives. In Demonstratives Kaplan’s view is that a demonstration (e.g., pointing gesture) is criterial for determining the referent of a demonstrative. However in subsequent work he changes his mind and claims that it is the speaker’s intention that is criterial. It is still debated which of these views (or some combination of them) is correct. In this talk, I argue that all such views lead to problems. Because of this, we should start by reconsidering Kaplan’s original distinction: rather than focusing on how demonstratives differ from other indexical expressions, we should look at what they have in common. Approaching things in this way suggests a unified analysis of the expressions ‘here’, ’now’, and Kaplan’s true demonstratives.
Naming and Intention
Along the tradition line of accounting an expression's meaning, such as a proper name, Frege and Russell both held the view that in order to grasp a proper name's meaning if and only if we can grasp a reference-fixing criterion, whether a sense in terms of Frege or a definite description in terms of Russell, associated by speaker with this name that can be used to determine which object is designated by it. The reference-fixing criterion plays two critical roles in accounting that very proper name's meaning. I will tag Frege and Russell's view as the Indirect Reference Theory of Proper Names (IRT for short) in the rest of the paper.
Perception and Non-conceptual Content
One of the most interesting issues about the content of perceptual experience is whether perceptual experience has or has not conceptual content. Conceptualists maintain that perceptual experience has only conceptual content. Non-conceptualists generally hold that perceptual experience actually has non-conceptual content. The Reasons for non-conceptualism include the fineness of perceptual experience and animal’s perceptual experience，the separation between experience and belief. Reversely, conceptualists maintain that perceptual experience has only conceptual content. There are two main reasons for conceptualism. One comes from Kant’s transcendental psychology, the other from epistemology. I will argue here that the conceptualism is failure from their philosophical task to be completed. Then give my argument for the non-conceptualism. Non-conceptualism is not a strong position compare with conceptualism. So non-conceptualism think it is reasonable that perceptual experience has both conceptual and non-conceptual content. I will make it clear that this view can nicely explain two sorts of know ledge, that is, reflective knowledge and animal knowledge.
General Form of Metalinguistic Operation
The distinction between object-language and meta-language is a great contribution made by the modern logic to language study. The distinction not only provides an approach to solve the paradox of language, but also reveals that the characteristics of language is that language can explain itself. But the self-explanation of language is impossibly complete. Since meta-language is not an independent language, one explanation still requires another explanation. As a part of the language activities, meta-language is just a kind of operation and a linguistic phenomenon. There is no speech outside of language games, and where there is the speech, there is the generation of meaning. So metalinguistic operation reveals another trait of language, namely, meaning itself can not be said, and the meaning which can be said derives from language practice, from practicability and operability. Metalinguistic operation connects with the external world and the language world. It is not only a question in the deepest level of linguistics, but also a question in the deepest level of philosophy of language. The study of meta-language will necessarily promote the development of semantics and philosophy of language. Through the research on general form of metalinguistic operation, ‘ A is B’, this article attempts to point out that how the equivalent relation between A and B is different from the necessary deduction from A to B in traditional predicate logic; on the other hand, I want to reveal the internal mechanism of metalinguistic operation with linguistics theory, and touncover the mechanism of the generation of meaning. What’s more, I want to provide a possiblility and operational method for the objective study of meaning.
The Debate of Ming and Shih: The Language Problem in classical Chinese Philosopher
In this talk, I will give you a brief introduction about the Debate of Ming and Shih, which is an interesting issue in Classical Chinese Philosophy. Ming refers to names and Shih refers to actualities. Confucianism, Mohism, Taoism and the School of Names participated in the discussion, reflecting the relation of language to the society, as well as the relation of language to knowledge. And then, I will introduce the rectification-of-name program opened by Confucius. He believed that the confusion with Ming and Shih was a bad social omen. It was not only a language problem, but also a symbol of the deep crisis within society and politics. Besides, I will discuss how Mohists accepted Confucius’ proposal but claimed it in a different way. Their aim was giving appropriate names to actualities, breaking down the barriers of communication，and spreading knowledge，rather than correct the social order. At last, I will consider Tsun Tzu’s synthesis of Confucius and Mohists’ thinking. As a Confucian, he insisted on the rectification of names in another way. On this basis, not only did he clarify different kinds of Ming, but also talked about Ming’s origin.