LINGUIST List 21.3145|
Mon Aug 02 2010
Review: Philosophy of Language: Lepore and Smith (2006)
Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay
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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
Message 1: The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
From: Anne Reboul <reboulisc.cnrs.fr>
Subject: The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
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EDITORS: Lepore, Ernest; Smith, Barry C.
TITLE: The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
PUBLISHER: Clarendon Press
Anne Reboul, L2C2 CNRS-UMR5230, Institute for Cognitive Sciences, Lyons, France,
The book is divided into 8 unequal parts, on historical context, the nature of
language, the nature of meaning, the nature of reference, semantic theory,
linguistic phenomena, varieties of speech acts and the epistemology and
metaphysics of language.
The editors defend their approach (i.e., presenting the philosophical debates
concerning language by asking the protagonists themselves to express their
views) and outline the book organization in a brief ''Preface''. The first part,
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, opens with a chapter (by Heck and May) devoted to
''Frege's contribution to philosophy of language''. The authors point out Frege's
innovations, beginning with the ''notions of scope and binding and how they are
used to represent generality'' (4) in his logicist program, with its emphasis on
compositionality and on the strong relation between logic and truth. This
highlights compositionality not only between predicates and arguments, but
between truth-functional (sentential) operators and the truth-values of the
sentences on which they apply (the referents of the sentences for Frege). Thus,
reference itself is ''essentially compositional'' (19). This leads to the
distinction between sense and reference as a Fregean, ''a distinction within
content'' (23), sense being taken by Frege to determine reference. This is the
main point of contention between Fregeanism and contemporary philosophy of
language, few contemporary philosophers accepting that sense determines reference.
Chapter 2, by Beaney, deals with ''Wittgenstein on language: from simples to
samples''. The famous ''linguistic turn'' of the first half of the twentieth
century can be traced back to Wittgenstein and the Tractatus
Logico-Philosophicus. While Wittgenstein first held (in the Tractatus) that the
meaningfulness of language is grounded in the existence of simple objects, he
came to hold that it rests in fact in use. Propositions are organized in systems
(e.g., 'A is green/red/yellow/etc.'), only one of them being usable in a given
situation. Thus, the meaning of a word is not its bearer, but its use in
different language-games and Wittgenstein extends his conception of language
from logic to grammar. A rule is not an ordinary proposition or sentence but a
tautological proposition lacking sense. Beaney concludes with a distinction
permanently held by Wittgenstein, despite his intellectual evolution, between
meaningful propositions and logical propositions (= tautologies).
Chapter 3, ''Philosophy of language in the twentieth century'', by Baldwin, deals
with the central place language has occupied in philosophy during the twentieth
century, largely replacing epistemology, which had been central since Descartes.
Baldwin traces the history of philosophy of language through Frege (emphasis on
a ''logically reconstructed language''), Wittgenstein's Tractatus and Russell's
theory of description, logical empiricism (Carnap's ''logical syntax of
language''), Quine's ''indeterminacy of translation'', Davidson's principle of
charity and anomalous monism, and the later Wittgenstein, and his contention
that most, if not all, philosophical problems stem from ''misunderstandings of
our everyday language'' (87), ultimately leading to Austin's speech act theory,
Strawson's notion of presupposition, and Grice's non-natural meaning and logic
of conversation. Baldwin then turns to recent times, and to the possibility,
proposed by Chomsky, that natural language does not have a semantics, but only a
syntax and a pragmatics, a position Baldwin links to contemporary post-Gricean
pragmatics, such as Relevance Theory.
Part II, ''THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE'', opens with chapter 4: ''Psychologism'', by
Travis, relating the accusation of ''psychologism'' (a negative word in philosophy
since Frege) to a concern with ''answerability'', which, in the end, translates to
a concern with ''truth''. The correctness of a judgment has to depend on the way
things are, INDEPENDENTLY of any thinker. This leads Travis to what he calls
''The Martian Principle'', according to which ''No thinker, or stance, could be
answerable to anything to which any other thinker, in principle, could not be''
(114). However, some logical laws may apply to some thoughts but not to others.
This leads Travis to the conclusion that ''Frege's picture of logic is a very
subtle form of psychology'' (126).
Bezuidenhout, in the 5th chapter, speaks about ''Language as internal'', defining
Chomsky's internalist view of language as the idea that ''languages are
properties of the mind/brains of individuals and supervene entirely on the
internal states of these mind/brains'' (127). Bezuidenhout then reminds us that
Chomsky's anti-externalist crusade has two targets, which she dubs ''language
externalism'' (denying that languages supervene on mind/brain states) and
''semantic externalism'' (where reference of mental representations depends on the
physical environment and not on the brain states of language users). Finally,
Bezuidenhout shows that Chomsky's internalism is linked to his scientific
individualism (his insistence on the primacy of the individual and his or her
idiolect and rejection of the very notion of ''languages'' as socially shared
constructs). Idiolects are the only possible objects of scientific investigations.
Higginbotham, in chapter 6 (''Languages and their idiolects: their language and
ours''), pursues the same topics, outlining a dialectic between the fact that
language is a social phenomenon, subject to variations across space, time and
individuals, and the individualist view, emphasizing the individual and his/her
idiolect, independently of his/her social surroundings. The social view does not
have to deny the existence of idiolects in a given social environment, or the
conventionality of language. That, however, does not mean that these social
aspects of language are relevant to a scientific investigation of language.
Part III, THE NATURE OF MEANING, opens with a chapter by Wilson on
''Rule-following, meaning, and normativity''. It thus turns back to Wittgenstein
and the notion of rule in applying a word, formulating the Wittgensteinian
problem as a paradox: ''The paradox says that, since any action can be
interpreted as being either in accord or conflict with the rule, it makes no
sense to suppose of any action that it is in accord or conflict with the rule,
i.e., either the expression of the rule or the substantive rule that is meant to
determine the instances of accord and conflict'' (152). This is of course a
skeptical argument and Wilson outlines different ways it can be understood.
However, non-factualism about meaning can be seen as self-defeating and any
account of meaning should ''validate our intuitive conception of the objectivity
of judgment'' (168). Anti-realist accounts may fail to satisfy that constraint,
though Wilson argues that this basically boils down to the fundamental
philosophical dissensions about the notion of ''truth''.
Papineau centers the 8th chapter on the currently very influential ''Naturalist
theories of meaning''. These theories try to account for representations in a
naturalist framework (as defined by the natural sciences), usually taking
linguistic representations as derivative on (basic) mental representations, thus
usually subscribing to some version of the language of thought hypothesis.
Basically, the naturalist program is based on the possibility of reducing
representation to other scientific categories. One approach is ''inferential role
semantics'', where representational content of a concept is taken to be its
inferential role. This approach meets with several problems and Papineau then
turns to causal theories, accounting for the content of mental states in terms
of what causes them, and outlines Millikan's teleosemantics. This bottom-up
view distinguishes between mechanisms which produce representations from those
which ''consume'' them, thereby linking behaviour to pursuit of biological
functions, where biological functions are defined in historical terms (of either
phylogenetic or ontogenic evolution).
Segal, in the 9th chapter, turns to ''Truth and meaning'', beginning, inevitably,
with Frege's establishing an indefeasible link between truth and logic. Tarski
introduced a semantics in terms of truth definitions, along the line of
Convention T (''s'' is true iff p), using the notion of translation in that the
consequent of the conditional is a translation of its antecedent (''s'').
Davidson drew from Quine the notion that there may be several equally good
translations for a given expression, but eschewed drawing skeptical conclusions
from that. He developed a truth theory from Tarski's T-theory (based on
Convention T), adding to it an instrumentalist (and social) approach to
reference, based on assent and dissent. As Segal points out, this is
contradictory with the (highly non-social) linguistic theory developed by
Chomsky, and Segal goes on to develop a cognitivist perspective on Davidsonian
semantics, approaching the problem of reference from the Chomskian distinction
between competence and performance. Finally, Segal defends such a semantic
approach against a possible objection based on the context relativity of word
meaning (e.g., color words), advocating an indexical account supplementary to
Chapter 10, by Pagin, is devoted to ''Meaning holism'', the view that the meaning
of a given linguistic expression depends on its relations with the meanings of
other linguistic expressions in the same language, and possibly with the
meanings of all the expressions in that language. Pagin traces the origins of
meaning holism to logical empirism (notably to its verificationism) and its
aftermath, noting the central roles in later times of Quine, Sellars and
Davidson, in the emergence of various types of meaning holism, inferential role
semantics, and belief holism. Pagin then turns to counter-arguments to meaning
holism, before giving arguments in its favor.
Chapter 11, by Weir, is devoted to Quine's well-known notion of “Indeterminacy
of translation”. Quine sees language as a social art, and indeterminacy of
translation is the conclusion of an argument which begins with the thought
experiment of ''radical translation'' (i.e., the ''gavagai'' thought experiment).
Basically Quine's argument is that two behaviourally equivalent sentences
(produced in the same situations) can be intuitively non-synonymous and indeed
distinct in truth-value, extending the idea to the ontological relativity or
inscrutability of reference for names and predicates. Weir points out that
Quine's position, in the end, is a relativist and anti-realist one, in
contradiction to his endorsement of realism.
In chapter 12, Borg discusses ''Intention-based semantics'' and begins by
distinguishing a mild form of intention-based semantics, which acknowledges the
fact that semantics is based on both intention and conventions, dubbed ''A-style
intention-based semantics'' and a much stronger form according to which
intentional speakers play an active role in determining semantics in that
meaning depends on their current state of mind, dubbed ''B-style intention-based
semantics''. The main difference, according to Borg, between A-style and B-style
semantics is that B-style semantics takes interpretation arrived at without
taking into account the speaker's current intentions as yielding
non-propositional or non-truth-evaluable items, i.e., propositional schemas or
incomplete logical forms. Borg criticizes B-style semantics precisely on the
ground that it considers that a theory of literal truth-conditional meaning
should be ''simply subsumed within a theory of communication'' (260). She defends
the specificity of linguistic meaning on the basis of linguistic convention
(i.e., the codic nature of language) and promotes sentences as the bearers of
In chapter 13, Schiffer discusses ''Propositional content'', beginning with an
approximate definition of propositional content as what that-clauses contribute
to what is ascribed in such sentences as ''Ralph believes/says/etc. that Tony
Curtis is alive''. Face-value approaches of belief reports (A believes that S)
take them to be true when A stands in the belief relation to S and considers
that that-clauses (''S'' in the present case) are propositions. Schiffer examines
non-propositional alternatives, non-relational accounts of believing (not
plausible, according to him), and relational but non-propositional accounts of
believing (no more satisfactory than the non-relational accounts). Schiffer
concludes that propositional content remains a problematic notion.
Greenberg and Harman tackle ''Conceptual role semantics'' (CRS) in chapter 14,
linking it with the Wittgensteinian notion that meaning is determined by use, in
this specific case use in thinking. Specifically, meaning can be DETERMINED by
conceptual role, without being EQUIVALENT to conceptual role. Though one's
meaning is determined by one's uses, one's understanding of one's meaning does
not consist in understanding one's uses. CRS is compatible with both translation
and compositionality, The authors discuss a few objections to CRS, concluding to
the pursuit of the ongoing debate regarding these different objections to CRS.
Farkas deals with ''Semantic internalism and externalism'' in chapter 15,
beginning with the tension inherent in recognition of the fact that ''even if the
meaning of an expression is determined by social agreement, grasping the meaning
of the word is an individual psychological act'' (323). He describes the Twin
Earth argument, as highlighting the incompatibility between thinking, on the one
hand, that what a speaker means by a word is not determined by circumstances
outside of her and thinking, on the other hand, that meaning determines
reference as well as that the content of a sentence determines its
truth-conditions. This ''externalist'' view, according to which, famously,
''meaning ain't in the head'' (Putnam 1975), was extended to mental contents.
Farkas then proceeds to confront externalism with contradictory, ''internalist''
theories, noting that, pace Putnam, there is no incompatibility between ''the two
assumptions that meaning determines reference, and that meaning is internal'' (333).
Carston and Powell outline ''Relevance theory -- new directions and developments''
in chapter 16, beginning by an outline of relevance theory, and going on to its
view on the semantics-pragmatics distinction, pointing out that relevance theory
has advocated a strong pragmatic involvement in the determination of
propositional content, based on the notion that both lexical meaning and
propositional content are context-sensitive. This is seen in the recent
developments of relevance theory, not as deriving implicatures, but as processes
of mutual adjustment of the meaning of the words in the utterance. Carston and
Powell then quickly describe recent results in experimental pragmatics, notably
regarding scalar implicatures, which vindicate the Relevance Theory ''nonce''
approach to implicatures over the neo-Gricean ''default'' approach. Finally, they
outline some future directions, having to do with early communication and
developmental pathologies (autism, Williams syndrome).
Szabo returns to ''The distinction between semantics and pragmatics'' in chapter
17. He bases his discussion on the very possibility of agreement and
disagreement which depends on mutual understanding, which, in turn, depends on a
common interpretation of the linguistic expressions used. Noting that mutual
understanding does not require agreement about paraphrase, Szabo points out
that the distinction between verbal and substantive disagreements is not
exhaustive, given the existence of contextual disagreement. Verbal disagreement
concerns the semantics of expressions, while contextual disagreement concerns
pragmatics. Thus ''semantics and pragmatics [are] subfields within the general
study of utterance interpretation'' (379). Szabo argues in favour of the
inclusion of some information about speaker's intentions in the context, and
advocates abandonment of the dubious notion of what is said.
Part IV, THE NATURE OF REFERENCE, opens with a chapter (the 18th) by Sainsbury
on ''The essence of reference'', which begins by noting that reference implies
agents, words or concepts and things (the referents). Referring expressions have
a number of properties: semantic simplicity, uniqueness of referent,
understanding as knowledge of the referent, scopelessness, being rigid
designators. Singular referring expressions have at most one referent
(uniqueness) and this leads to the notion that understanding a referring
expression involves knowing its referent. Sainsbury then goes on to discuss
whether definite descriptions are or are not referential, introducing
Donnellan's distinction between referential and attributive uses. He notes that
the crucial debate is on whether referential uses are to be accounted for in
semantic or pragmatic terms, refusing to take a stand on this issue.
In chapter 19, MacBride investigates ''Predicate reference'', asking whether
predicates are, or not, referring expressions. Russell viewed predicates as
either referring expressions or reflecting the activity of the mind, and, given
that the second possibility would be tantamount to abandoning objectivity,
predicates should be referring expressions. MacBride notes however that Quine
questioned whether Russell's list of possibilities was exhaustive and proposed a
disquotational account, though Quine's disquotational theory falls foul of a
problem familiar from discussions of Tarski's theory, the difficulty of applying
the concept 'predicate' to novel strings (it fails to say what a predicate is).
MacBride discusses Frege's insight that intersubstitutability salva veritate is
the controlling principle of referring expressions. He however points out that
this Reference Principle itself is subject to well-known difficulties having to
do with failures of substitution, which leads him to the conclusion that
failures of substitution between predicates and names should not be taken as
indicating lack of co-reference. This, however, does not establish that
predicates refer and his conclusion acknowledges the persistence of a mystery
concerning the nature of predication.
Sosa speaks of ''Rigidity'' in chapter 20, defining it as the fact that an
expression refers ''to one and the same thing WITH RESPECT TO any POSSIBLE
SITUATION'' (476, Sosa's emphasis). His first endeavor is to specify what is
meant by the expression 'with respect to', and he says that ''this specification
takes place in the actual situation, in which the expression is used''. Proper
names are rigid, while definite descriptions are not. From the fact that Kripke
extended the notion of rigidity to natural kind terms, and the fact that any
general term can indeed be used rigidly, Sosa raises the possibility that one
should think of a term as rigid only if it has this feature essentially (rather
than as a matter of use).
Braun pursues the same type of questions in chapter 21 on ''Names and natural
kind terms''. He begins with the Millian Theory of proper names, according to
which what proper names contribute to the proposition expressed are their
referents. The four objections to that theory are the Objection from Cognitive
Significance (i.e., identity judgments are not trivial), the Objection from
Belief Ascription (i.e., one can believe that Mark Twain is Mark Twain and not
believe that Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens), the Objection from Meaningful
Sentences Containing Non-Referring Names, and the Objection from Negative
Existentials. This theory, together with fatal objections against alternative
''descriptive'' accounts, has led to a new proposal, the Causal Theory of
Reference, which claims that proper names get their reference from a causal
chain beginning at the baptism of the referent. The Millian Theory was extended,
by Kripke, from proper names to natural kind terms (e.g., 'water', 'gold',
Bach, in chapter 22, pursues the topic of reference, asking ''What does it take
to refer?''. He begins by restricting reference to singular reference. He then
distinguish between speaker reference (what speakers do when they are said to
refer) and linguistic reference, listing properties for each of them, which he
then develops one by one, beginning with those associated with speaker
reference. His basic point is that ''much of what speakers do that passes for
reference is really something else, and much of what passes for linguistic
reference is really nothing more than speaker reference'' (518). This is because
''it is one thing for a speaker, when using an expression in a certain way, to
express a thought about a certain object and quite another for the expression to
stand for that object, even relative to the context'' (552).
Part V, SEMANTIC THEORY, opens with a chapter (the 23rd) by King, on ''Formal
semantics'', tracing its beginning to Tarski's theory of truth. After a review of
Carnap's and Kripke's work, he turns to Montague who ''assigned intensions,
functions from world and times to extensions, to English expressions'' (567).
Kaplan introduced two indices where Montague had a single one, one representing
the context of utterance, while the second represents its circumstance of
evaluation, linking them to two kinds of meaning. King then outlines the
development of dynamic semantics, through a concern for ''conversational
dynamics'', by, notably, Kamp and Heim and its modifications by Groenendijk and
Stokhof, through ''dynamic predicate logic'', rather than ''Discourse
Representation Theory'' or ''File Change Semantics''.
Chalmers, in chapter 24, introduces ''Two-dimensional semantics'', tracing its
source to the Fregean distinction between sense and reference. He reworks these
two notions as, respectively, intensions (functions from possible worlds to
extensions) and extensions. As he reminds us, two expressions can share their
extensions without sharing their intensions, as shown by the old example of
'cordate' and 'renate'. A natural suggestion is that two such expressions would
have the same extension in, e.g., the actual world but different extensions in
some possible worlds (where not all renate organisms, for instance, would have
hearts, contrary to what happens in our world). This is cashed out in a matrix
in which the left column represents what turns out in the actual world (roughly,
the world of the speaker) while the second column represents what turns out in a
counterfactual world (not the world of the speaker). The core of two-dimensional
semantics is that every expression token has a primary intension, a secondary
intension and a two-dimensional extension. Applications of two-dimensionalism
are Fregean senses, contents of thoughts, belief ascriptions, indicative
conditionals, and conceivability and possibility.
Bar-On and Simmons deal with ''Deflationism'' in chapter 25. Deflationism is the
position according to which truth is not a genuine property and this raises the
question of how to ''make sense of our pervasive truth TALK'' (607, authors'
emphasis). Bar-On and Simmons begin by enumerating varieties of deflationism,
from disquotationalism to illocutionary deflationism, through minimalism,
redundancy theory and the prosentential theory of truth, and then discuss a few
objections to deflationism: the possibility that it is self-defeating, that it
is not stateable, the problem of its scope, the fact that it presupposes some
semantic notions. The consequence of this last problem is that truth is not an
autonomous notion, contrary to what deflationists pretend, raising the worry
that deflationism might fail at deflating all truth.
Part VI, LINGUISTIC PHENOMENA, begins with ''Compositionality'' (chapter 26, by
Dever). Compositionality is at the root of generativity (the possibility of
producing an infinite number of different — and new — sentences from a limited
number of components), and can be simply defined as the fact that the meanings
of complex expressions are derived from the meaning of their parts. Dever then
reviews two varieties of compositionality theories, compositionality as
functionality and compositionality as substitutability, turning then to discuss
how compositionality can be non-trivial in a mathematical sense, i.e., how it
can be a stringent constraint on the grammar of a language. He concludes that
''compositionality thus enforces a variety of honesty in semantic theory'' (663).
Chapter 27, by Richard, focusing on ''Opacity'', pursues the intersubstitutability
problem. Richard notes ''that there seems to be a lot of opacity in our language''
(667), raising the questions of whether this is indeed so, and, if it is, of why
it should be so. The term 'Opacity' was introduced by Quine, to characterize
some linguistic contexts in which substitution salva veritate of coreferential
expressions is not possible, making opacity a case of nonextensionality. Setting
aside quotational contexts, Richard asks whether there is such a thing as
opacity, concluding that indeed there is, but that it is not clear that it is an
homogeneous phenomenon (opacity in quotation and opacity in complements seem
In chapter 28, Ludlow treats ''Tense'', asking whether tense is a property of our
language and thoughts or ''a property of aspects of the external world'' (688). He
begins by noting that tense marking seems scarce outside of Indo-European
languages, which of course does not mean that tenseless languages do not express
past, present or future, suggesting that tense might be in the world, after all.
He opposes two different approaches, dubbing the defenders of the first the
'detensers' (they reject tenses from the metalanguage) and the defenders of the
second the 'tensers' (they don't). In the first approach, tenses are represented
by a semantic value of some kind in the metalinguistic semantic formula
corresponding to the utterance; in the second, tenses are eliminated in favour
of a ''relative ordering of events on a time line'' (693), on the basis of a
primitive temporal relation 'earlier-than/later-than'. Ludlow then reviews
arguments for and against each type of approach, showing the advantages and
inconveniences of both, and concluding that ''by having a firm enough grasp on
BOTH approaches we afford ourselves a deeper insight into the nature of tense
itself'' (714, Ludlow's emphasis).
Schein turns to the problem of ''Plurals'' in chapter 29, linking it to the
intricate questions raised by the distinction between mass and count terms, as
well as by the porosity of that distinction. He extends the question to events
(quantifiable in a Davidsonian approach).
Edgington examines ''The pragmatics of the logical constants'' in chapter 30,
i.e., 'and', 'or', 'if', 'not', 'all' and 'some'. The question is whether one
should, following Grice, consider that the linguistic terms have the same
meaning as the corresponding logical constants, or whether the discrepancies
between their linguistic use and their logical characterization (in terms of
truth tables, for instance) indicates differences in meaning. She points out
that this question is linked to that of the semantics-pragmatics distinction:
its answer is directly related to an answer to the question of whether
discrepancies are matters of use (pragmatics) or of meaning (semantics). Through
a discussion, mainly, of conditionals, conjunction and negation, and of
different approaches in addition to Grice's, Edgington comes to the conclusion
that pragmatic approaches may have been overrated in the specific case of
Glanzberg discusses ''Quantifiers'' in chapter 31, introducing Generalized
Quantifier Theory, where expressions of generality (e.g., 'everything',
'nothing') are treated as second-level properties (properties of properties:
thus 'everything' contributes to sentences ''the second-level property of being a
property under which everything falls'' (796)). Properties apply to sets of
individuals and this is cashed out inside a universe of discourse. Natural
languages have more quantifiers than the universal and the existential (and
their negations), including such quantifiers as 'few', 'both', 'enough', etc.
These usually correspond to relations between sets inside a universe of
discourse. Glazberg lists some constraints which quantifiers satisfy and
concludes to the effect that quantifiers have ''significant semantic and
grammatical implications'' (818).
In chapter 32, Pietrovski deals with ''Logical form and LF'', beginning with a
comparison between patterns of reason and traditional grammar. The main question
is whether ''all valid inferences are valid by virtue of propositional structure''
(823), as was traditionally thought from Aristotle's treatment of syllogisms
until Frege and Russell, who divorced between logical form and grammatical
structure. The emergence of transformational grammar in the seventies, with the
distinction between surface and deep structures, and the resultant
identification between logical form and deep structure meant that ''many apparent
examples of grammar/logic mismatches were rediagnosed as mismatches between
different aspects of GRAMMATICAL structure'' (836, Pietroski's emphasis).
Part VII, VARIETIES OF SPEECH ACT, opens with a chapter on ''Metaphor'' by Reimer
and Camp. The authors begin by noting that metaphors are currently considered
some sort of conceptual phenomena, in that, though intelligible, they produce a
conceptual tension. Contemporary accounts share a tendency to downplay
differences among tropes as well as differences between figurative and
nonfigurative language. The authors conclude that recent research has taken a
strong pragmatic turn and that contemporary investigation sees metaphor as a
species of context-sensitive communication.
Boisvert and Ludwig concentrate in chapter 34 on ''Semantics for
non-declaratives'', and begin by pointing out that mood and force should be
dissociated in that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between a
sentence's grammatical mood and a corresponding utterance's illocutionary force.
Yet a semantics for non-declaratives should explain the connection between mood
and force, while giving a uniform and compositional description of the
contribution of mood to sentences, explaining why non-declarative sentences are
not truth-evaluable, accounting for mixed-mood sentences, for quantification
into mood markers, and explaining the distribution patterns in mixed-mood
sentences (e.g., the impossibility of imperatives in the antecedents of
conditionals). The authors advocate an approach in terms of satisfaction and
sincerity conditions, thus obtaining the right measure between a too tight or
too loose link between mood and force.
Hornsby dedicates the 35th chapter to ''Speech acts and performatives'', beginning
with the classification of speech acts and the relations between force, indirect
speech and implicatures, before turning to illocution. She describes the
alliance proposed by Strawson between Austin's notion of illocution and Grice's
notion of non-natural meaning, closing the section with a look at taxonomies of
speech acts. The chapter ends with an analysis of the notion of ''performativity''
and its possible application in politics.
Part VIII, THE EPISTEMOLOGY AND METAPHYSICS OF LANGUAGE, opens with Stainton's
36th chapter on ''Meaning and reference: some Chomskian themes'', supporting
Chomsky's claim that a scientific approach of semantic reference is impossible.
Having reviewed two major insights of Chomsky, the innateness and modularity of
language, he then describes the view he intends to reject, that is, the notion
that there are word-world semantic relations, outlining three negative
arguments: the ''radical'' argument from ontology (there are no public languages,
but only individual idiolects and hence no public words to relate to the world);
the ''moderate'' argument from ontology (there are public words, but there can be
no science of the relata -- words and world objects -- because neither are
recognised as such by science); the failure of compositional referential
semantics (sentences fail to express propositions which can be attributed truth
values INDEPENDENTLY of -- non-linguistic -- world knowledge). Stainton proposes
a positive alternative to referential semantics, in terms of an internal semantics.
In chapter 37, Smith, once again relying on a Chomskian position, tries to
clarify ''What I know when I know a language'', intimately linking questions about
the nature of linguistic knowledge to questions about the nature of language
(this is where Chomsky comes in). Smith begins by noting that language IS a
source of knowledge, but that knowledge of language itself remains mysterious,
especially given language generativity which implies that we understand myriads
of utterances which we have never been confronted with before. Smith then
discusses linguistic acquisition, insisting that inductive approaches just will
not do, and endorses Chomsky's proposal in terms of an innate language
acquisition device. He then comes back to the possibility of knowing public
languages and shows that it is difficult to account for such knowledge, because,
at best, such public languages are abstractions for individual idiolects, which
makes not only speakers' knowledge, but also the very notion of public languages
in the sense of speaker's languages, elusive.
In Chapter 38, Miller talks about ''Realism and antirealism'', opening his paper
by noting that Dummett, taking the centrality of philosophy of language for
granted, replaced the debate between realism and antirealism inside philosophy
of language, attacking semantic realism. Semantic realism is the claim that even
undecidable sentences can be understood through a grasp of their
truth-conditions, and, hence that these truth-conditions are
evidence-transcendent. Dummett's two arguments against semantic realism are the
acquisition argument (we could not acquire a language whose truth-conditions are
evidence-transcendent) and the manifestation argument (we could not manifest our
understanding of language through our use of it if truth-conditions are
evidence-transcendent). Miller discusses arguments for or against Dummett's
view, but notes that all supporting arguments beg the question in as much as
they presuppose that realism is an ESSENTIALLY SEMANTIC theory, a dubious view
Glüer deals with ''Triangulation'' in chapter 39, a central notion in Davidsonian
semantics. Basically, triangulation has to do with the view that to think,
entertain propositions, etc., a creature must have the concept of objective
truth, which, in turn, supposes that it has experienced a specific sort of
interaction, in which it and other creatures ''sufficiently like itself'' (1006)
interact with objects in the world. This is taken as a criterion of correctness
of a sort, both in order to attribute thought to a creature, and in order to
assess the correctness of our own thought, a requirement which, according to
Glüer, leads to infinite regress. As well, she spots an antirealism or idealism
in the requirement of triangulation. She notes that triangulation is poorly
social in that it does not imply interaction between the creatures, but mere
observation. She advocates a stronger requirement, such as mutual knowledge,
noting the strong circularity in the triangulation argument.
Cappelen and Lepore coauthored chapter 40 on ''Shared content'', noting a strong
tension between the generally acknowledged context-sensitivity of sentences and
the obvious fact that the same sentence basically means the same thing ''across a
wide range of different contexts'' (1020), using reported speech as the basis for
their arguments. They defend their own view, pluralistic minimalism, based on a
rejection of speech act monism, the (implicit) constraint that a given utterance
corresponds to a single thing (proposition or thought). Pluralistic minimalism
is thus a combination of speech act pluralism (a given utterance can express a
whole bunch of propositions) and semantic minimalism. Same-saying corresponds to
the overlap between utterances.
The final and 41st chapter, written by the late Donald Davidson, bears on ''The
perils and pleasures of interpretation''. Davidson begins by noting the
difference between ''the difficulties that stand in the way of explaining in
detail how we manage to find out what is in other people's minds and the
relative ease with which we do it in practice'' (1057). This leads him to a
pessimistic view of the project of naturalization of the mind: our
interpretation of other minds will not be reduced ''to a branch of the natural
sciences'' (1056). Davidson begins with the skeptic's concern about our certainty
that others have minds, let alone minds like our own, and remarks that answering
that concern is linked to saying how we interpret other minds. The main
difficulty regarding that second question is the holism of conceptual thought,
''for what we observe is the product of many cognitive factors'' (1058). However,
''the difficulty is not in the practice, but in the theory'' (1061). Here Davidson
introduces the notion of triangulation, as a key factor for a creature's having
the notion of error, which helps us attribute thoughts to other minds if we
trust others to, on the whole, be not only truthful but correct about current
This mammoth book (1,083 pages including the index) should be read by anyone
with an interest not only in philosophy of language, but in semantics and
pragmatics, and even, though less centrally, in syntax. Though not introductory
in the sense that it could be read by a first year student, it is well worth the
effort of reading and, given the overall clarity of the chapters, accessible.
The quality of the papers is sustained throughout and is of the highest standard.
Thus, the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language should be in any university
library, and, indeed, should be on the bookshelves of anyone with an educated
interest in language.
Putnam, Hilary (1975) Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, volume
2, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Anne Reboul is a Senior Researcher at the French Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. She has a Ph.D. in Linguistics (EHESS, Paris) and a Ph.D. in philosophy (University of Geneva, Switzerland). She has written some books, among which are an Encyclopedic Dictionary of Pragmatics and quite a few papers in French and English, on pragmatics and/or philosophical subjects. She has developed an interest in recent years in both language evolution and animal cognition and communication and has recently published a book on Language and human cognition. A longer version of this review is available on her web site (http://l2c2.isc.cnrs.fr/en/members/annreboul/).
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