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Bar-On, Dorit and Matthew Chrisman, , . Ethical Neo-Expressivism
2009, In Shafter-Landau, R. (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 4: 132-64. New York: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as having their semantic content constituted by the motivational attitudes they express (noncognitivism). In this paper, we argue that there is another option, which can be recognized once we see that there is no need to build the expression relation between ethical claims and motivational states of mind into the semantic content of ethical claims.

Comment: This is a different way of incorporating what seems attractive about expressivism without losing the semantic advantages of cognitivism. It draws upon resources from the philosophy of language.

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Fara, Delia Graff, , . Desires, Scope, and Tense
2003, Philosophical Perspectives 17(1): 141-163.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: According to James McCawley (1981) and Richard Larson and Gabriel Segal (1995), the following sentence is three-ways ambiguous: -/- Harry wants to be the mayor of Kenai. -/- According to them also, the three-way ambiguity cannot be accommodated on the Russellian view that definite descriptions are quantified noun phrases. In order to capture the three-way ambiguity of the sentence, these authors propose that definite descriptions must be ambiguous: sometimes they are predicate expressions; sometimes they are Russellian quantified noun phrases. After explaining why the McCawley-Larson-Segal solution contains an obvious flaw, I discuss how an effort to correct the flaw brings to light certain puzzles about the individuation of desires, about quantifying in, and about the disambiguation of desire ascriptions.

Comment: An interesting paper about the semantics of desire. Would be suitable in a philosophy of language course.

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Fara, Delia Graff, , . Specifying Desires
2013, Noûs 47(2): 250-272.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: A report of a person’s desire can be true even if its embedded clause underspecifies the content of the desire that makes the report true. It is true that Fiona wants to catch a fish even if she has no desire that is satisfied if she catches a poisoned minnow. Her desire is satisfied only if she catches an edible, meal-sized fish. The content of her desire is more specific than the propositional content of the embedded clause in our true report of her desires. Standard semantic accounts of belief reports require, however, that the embedded clause of a true belief report specify precisely the content of the belief that makes it true. Such accounts of belief reports therefore face what I call “the problem of underspecification” if they are extended to desire reports. Such standard accounts are sometimes refined by requiring that a belief report can be true not only if its subject has a belief with precisely the propositional content specified by its embedded clause, but also only if its subject grasps that content in a particular way. Such refinements do not, however, help to address the problem of underspecification for desire reports.

Comment: Perfect for a beliefs and desires element of a philosophy of language course. Very clear and contains many discussion points – e.g. could ask students to give their own examples of cases where the content of one’s desire is underspecified – and test whether they agree with Graff Fara that the desire can still be true.

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Hom, Christopher, , . The Semantics of Racial Epithets
2008, Journal of Philosophy 105 (8):416-440.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: Racial epithets are derogatory expressions, understood to convey contempt toward their targets. But what do they actually mean, if anything? While the prevailing view is that epithets are to be explained pragmatically, I argue that a careful consideration of the data strongly supports a particular semantic theory. I call this view Combinatorial Externalism. CE holds that epithets express complex properties that are determined by the discriminatory practices and stereotypes of their corresponding racist institutions. Depending on the character of the institution, the complex semantic value can be composed of a variety of components. The account has significant implications on theoretical, as well as, practical dimensions, providing new arguments against radical contextualism, and for the exclusion of certain epithets from First Amendment speech protection

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Russell, Gillian, , Fara, Delia Graff. Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language
2013, Routledge.
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Added by: Berta Grimau, Contributed by:

Abstract: Philosophy of language is the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of meaning, the relationship of language to reality, and the ways in which we use, learn, and understand language. This companion provides a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the field, charting its key ideas and movements, and addressing contemporary research and enduring questions in the philosophy of language. Unique to this companion is clear coverage of research from the related disciplines of formal logic and linguistics, and discussion of the applications in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and philosophy of mind. The book is divided into seven sections: Core Topics; Foundations of Semantics; Parts of Speech; Methodology; Logic for Philosophers of Language; Philosophy of Language for the Rest of Philosophy; and Historical Perspectives.

Comment: The first part of this book (‘Core Topics’) can be used as background reading for a general course in philosophy of language. The rest of the book includes more specialised articles, which can be used as background reading for specialized courses. Chapter 6, ‘Philosophy of Language for the Rest of Philosophy’, could be the core reading for a final section in a philosophy of language course focusing on the applicability of the philosophy of language for other areas of philosophy.

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Saul, Jennifer M., , . What is said and psychological reality; Grice’s project and relevance theorists’ criticisms
2002, Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (3):347-372.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: One of the most important aspects of Grice’s theory of conversation is the drawing of a borderline between what is said and what is implicated. Grice’s views concerning this borderline have been strongly and influentially criticised by relevance theorists. In particular, it has become increasingly widely accepted that Grice’s notion of what is said is too limited, and that pragmatics has a far larger role to play in determining what is said than Grice would have allowed. (See for example Bezuidenhuit 1996; Blakemore 1987; Carston 1991; Recanati 1991, 1993, 2001; Sperber and Wilson 1986; Wilson and Sperber 1981.) In this paper, I argue that the rejection of Grice has moved too swiftly, as a key line of objection which has led to this rejection is flawed. The flaw, we will see, is that relevance theorists rely on a misunderstanding of Grice’s project in his theory of conversation. I am not arguing that Grice’s versions of saying and implicating are right in all details, but simply that certain widespread reasons for rejecting his theory are based on misconceptions.1Relevance theorists, I will suggest, systematically misunderstand Grice by taking him to be engaged in the same project that they are: making sense of the psychological processes by which we interpret utterances. Notions involved with this project will need to be ones that are relevant to the psychology of utterance interpretation. Thus, it is only reasonable that relevance theorists will require that what is said and what is implicated should be psychologically real to the audience. (We will see that this requirement plays a crucial role in their arguments against Grice.) Grice, I will argue, was not pursuing this project. Rather, I will suggest that he was trying to make sense of quite a different notion of what is said: one on which both speaker and audience may be wrong about what is said. On this sort of notion, psychological reality is not a requirement. So objections to Grice based on a requirement of psychological reality will fail. Once Grice’s project and that of relevance theorists are seen as distinct, it will be clear that they can happily coexist.2They are simply discussing different subject matters. One may start to wonder, however, about who is really discussing what is said, a topic that both camps claim. I will not attempt a conclusive answer to this question. But I will suggest that Grice’s view, despite certain shortcomings, has advantages which seem all too often to have gone unnoticed.

Comment: It would make sense to read Grice before engaging with modern reception of his work
[This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Taylor, Kenneth A., , . Narrow content functionalism and the mind-body problem
1989, Noûs 23(3): 355-72.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: Narrow content functionalism claims that the contents of beliefs are determined by their causal profile. If two belief tokens are of the same causal type, they are of the same semantic type. However, Taylor argues that de dicto semantic types do not supervene on causal types, due to multiple realizability. He establishes this with the thought experiment of “fraternal twin earth”, where things are functionally identical but molecularily different.

Comment: This paper shows how Putnam’s “twin earth” thought experiment needs to be modified to address narrow content functionalism. Suited to higher-level mind and language courses. Best taught after some more introductory readings on the topic, as those not already familiar with some of the elements may become lost.

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Taylor, Kenneth A., , . Truth and Meaning: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language
1998, Oxford: Blackwell.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: This lucid and wide-ranging volume constitutes a self-contained introduction to the elements and key issues of the philosophy of language. In particular, it focuses on the philosophical foundations of semantics, including the main challenges to and prospects for a truth conditional semantics. Since the book is neither single-mindedly philosophical, nor single-mindedly technical, it is an accessible introduction to the philosophical foundations of semantics, and will provide the ideal basis for a first course in the philosophy of language and philosophical logic.

Comment: This book offers a good introduction to theories of meaning, and includes some good, clear presentations of specialised systems of logic used in philosophy of language, giving students a good example of the existence and practical usefulness of logic beyond first-order. Chapter 3, on Tarski’s formal theory of truth, is one of the better treatments of that subject available. Suitable for undergraduate and graduate teaching.

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