149 research outputs found

    Quasi Indexicals

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    I argue that not all context dependent expressions are alike. Pure (or ordinary) indexicals behave more or less as Kaplan thought. But quasi indexicals behave in some ways like indexicals and in other ways not like indexicals. A quasi indexical sentence φ allows for cases in which one party utters φ and the other its negation, and neither party’s claim has to be false. In this sense, quasi indexicals are like pure indexicals (think: “I am a doctor”/“I am not a doctor” as uttered by different individuals). In such cases involving a pure indexical sentence, it is not appropriate for the two parties to reject each other’s claims by saying, “No.” However, in such cases involving a quasi indexical sentence, it is appropriate for the par- ties to reject each other’s claims. In this sense, quasi indexicals are not like pure indexicals. Drawing on experimental evidence, I argue that gradable adjectives like “rich” are quasi indexicals in this sense. e existence of quasi indexicals raises trouble for many existing theories of context dependence, including standard contextualist and relativist theories. I propose an alternative semantic and pragmatic theory of quasi indexicals, negotiated contextualism, that combines insights from Kaplan 1989 and Lewis 1979. On my theory, rejection is licensed with quasi indexicals (even when neither of the claims involved has to be false) because the two utterances involve conflicting proposals about how to update the conversational score. I also adduce evidence that conflicting truth value assessments of a single quasi indexical utterance exhibit the same behavior. I argue that negotiated contextualism can account for this puzzling property of quasi indexicals as well

    Disjunctive antecedent conditionals

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    Disjunctive antecedent conditionals —conditionals of the form if A or B, C—sometimes seem to entail both of their simplifications and sometimes seem not to. I argue that this behavior reveals a genuine ambiguity in DACs. Along the way, I discuss a new observation about the role of focal stress in distinguishing the two interpretations of DACs. I propose a new theory, according to which the surface form of a DAC underdetermines its logical form: on one possible logical form, if A or B, C does entail both of its simplifications, while on the other, it does not

    New Horizons for a Theory of Epistemic Modals

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    ABSTRACTRecent debate over the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic modals has focused on intuitions about cross-contextual truth-value assessments. In this paper, we advocate a different approach to evaluating theories of epistemic modals. Our strategy focuses on judgments of the incompatibility of two different epistemic possibility claims, or two different truth value assessments of a single epistemic possibility claim. We subject the predictions of existing theories to empirical scrutiny, and argue that existing contextualist and relativist theories are unable to account for the full pattern of observed judgments. As a way of illustrating the theoretical upshot of these results, we conclude by developing a novel theory of epistemic modals that is able to predict the results

    Against Preservation

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    Bradley offers a quick and convincing argument that no Boolean semantic theory for conditionals can validate a very natural principle concerning the relationship between credences and conditionals. We argue that Bradley’s principle, Preservation, is, in fact, invalid; its appeal arises from the validity of a nearby, but distinct, principle, which we call Local Preservation, and which Boolean semantic theories can non-trivially validate

    Modal Disagreements

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    It is often assumed that when one party felicitously rejects an assertion made by an- other party, the first party thinks that the proposition asserted by the second is false. This assumption underlies various disagreement arguments used to challenge contex- tualism about some class of expressions. As such, many contextualists have resisted these arguments on the grounds that the disagreements in question may not be over the proposition literally asserted. The result appears to be a dialectical stalemate, with no independent method of determining whether any particular instance of disagreement is over the proposition literally asserted. In this paper, I propose an independent method for assessing whether a disagreement is about what’s literally asserted. Focusing on epistemic modals throughout, I argue that this method provides evidence that some epistemic modal disagreements are in fact not over the proposition literally asserted by the utterance of the epistemic modal sentence. This method provides a way to break the stalemate, and reveals a new data point for theories of epistemic modals to predict—that is, how there can be such modal disagreements. In the rest of the paper, I motivate a general theory of how to predict these kinds of disagreements, and then offer some brief remarks about how contextualist, relativist, and expressivist theories of epistemic modals might accommodate this new data point

    On Indicative and Subjunctive Conditionals

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    At the center of the literature on conditionals lies the division between indicative and subjunctive conditionals, and Ernest Adams’ famous minimal pair: (1) If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, someone else did. (2) If Oswald hadn’t shot Kennedy, someone else would have. While a lot of attention is paid to figuring out what these different kinds of conditionals mean, significantly less attention has been paid to the question of why their grammatical differences give rise to their semantic differences. In this paper, I articulate and defend an answer to this question that illuminates and unifies the meanings of both kinds of conditionals. The basic idea is that epistemic and metaphysical possibilities differ with respect to their interaction with time, such that there can be present epistemic possibilities with different pasts, while present metaphysical possibilities share the same past. The interpretation of conditionals is subject to a pragmatic constraint that rules out interpretations in which their consequents are directly settled by information used to build their domains. The past + future morphology on subjunctives, but not indicatives, is what allows them to receive a metaphysical interpretation in light of this pragmatic constraint. The resulting theory predicts several surprising features of indicatives and subjunctives, which I argue are correct

    Code Words in Political Discourse

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    I argue that code words like “inner city” do not semantically encode hidden or implicit meanings, and offer an account of how they nonetheless manage to bring about the surprising effects discussed in Mendelberg 2001, White 2007, and Stanley 2015 (among others)

    Backtracking Counterfactuals Revisited

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    I discuss three observations about backtracking counterfactuals not predicted by existing theories, and then motivate a theory of counterfactuals that does predict them. On my theory, counterfactuals quantify over a suitably restricted set of historical possibilities from some contextually relevant past time. I motivate each feature of the theory relevant to predicting our three observations about backtracking counterfactuals. The paper concludes with replies to three potential objections

    Coordinating Ifs

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    Abstract Accounting for the behavior of conjoined and disjoined if-clauses is not easy for standard theories of conditionals that treat if as either an operator or restrictor. In this paper, I discuss four observations about coordinated if-clauses, and motivate a semantics for conditionals that reorients the compositional structure of the restrictor theory. On my proposal, if-clauses provide restrictions on modal domains, but they do so by way of a higher type intermediary—a set of propositions—that is collapsed by the modal. I argue that combining this view with an independently plausible type-shifting operation applied to or and and predicts the range of data we find for conditionals with coordinated if-clauses.</jats:p

    Epistemicism without metalinguistic safety

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    Epistemicists claim that vague predicates have precise but unknow- able cutoffs. I argue against against the standard, Williamsonian, answer, that appeals to metalinguistic safety: we can know that p even if our true belief that p is metalinguistically lucky. I then propose that epistemicists should be diagonalized epistemicists and show how this alternative formulation of the view avoids the chal- lenge. However, in an M. Night Shyamalan-style twist, I then argue we should not be diagonalized epistemicists either
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