Note this forthcoming D4 seminar on Tuesday, June 26 at 10am, room A008.
Individuals Explained Away
As a linguist wading into philosophical waters I begin with two semantic observations concerning some intensional common nouns and their modifiers. I provide them with a minimal semantic analysis whose justification is twofold. One, it is linguistically enlightening: it points out some semantic generalizations about English and provides a formally explicit analysis of the relevant entailment patterns. Two, it generalizes standard extensional model theory without adding novel entities such as possible worlds or propositions. Such entities may facilitate the semantic analysis of modal adverbs and propositional attitude verbs, but are not needed for the intensional expressions we study here. Our analysis is explanatory in that it characterizes what we are trying to understand only using notions we already understand, not novel ones we don’t. Our analysis may also have some consequences for Direct Reference Theory (see Almog 2012, Bianchi 2012, Kaplan 1989, Napoli 1995, Wettstein 2004). Among them is that it eliminates from our naive ontology a universe of objects we think of singular terms as denoting and unbound pronouns and individual variables in logic as ranging over. It also establishes some boundary points limiting the purview of Direct Reference Theory. And, if nothing else, it may serve a “bad example” function – “Just look at what happens if you do not adopt a direct reference stance”. As well, our use of judgments of entailment is more at home in a Fregean setting than a Direct Reference one (Capuano 2012).