New perspectives on relativism and context-dependency
Paris, 21-22 October, 2009
ENS, Institut Jean-Nicod, Pavillon Jardin - 29 rue d'Ulm, 75005
9:30 Arrival of Participants
9:45 Dan LÓPEZ DE SA (LOGOS)
"Audience in Context"
Abstract: Audience-sensitivity, as recently explored by Andy Egan (2009), is the phenomenon consisting of features of the consumer of the linguistic exchange, as opposed to merely those of its producer, determining the content of the relevant linguistic expression. In the paper, I distinguish this phenomenon from "content relativism", with which it has been conflated in recent literature on contextualism and relativism, and I explore whether it can be accounted for within a Lewisian conception of contexts as particular locations--spatiotemporally centered worlds--, against Egan’s suggestion to the contrary.
Comments: François Récanati (IJN)
11:15 Coffee break
11:30 David RIPLEY (IJN)
"Contradictions at the Border"
Abstract: The purpose of this talk is to shed some light on a certain type of sentence, which I'll call a "borderline contradiction". A borderline contradiction is a sentence of the form "Fa and not Fa", for some vague predicate F and some borderline case a of F, or a sentence equivalent to such a sentence. For example, if Jackie is a borderline case of "rich", then "Jackie is rich and Jackie isn't rich" is a borderline contradiction. Many theories of vague language have entailments about borderline contradictions; correctly describing the behavior of borderline contradictions is one of the many tasks facing anyone offering a theory of vague language.
Here, I present and discuss an experiment intended to gather relevant data about the behavior of ordinary speakers, to see what explanations are available. I present data that shows that speakers often agree with borderline contradictions, and I present and consider several possible explanations for this result. My conclusions are necessarily tentative; I do not attempt to use the present experiment to show that any single theory is incontrovertibly true. Rather, I try to sketch the auxiliary hypotheses that would need to be conjoined to theories of vague language to predict the present result.
In the end, I conclude that two of the theories I consider (nonindexical contextualism and dialetheism) are better-positioned to account for the observed data than are the others. But the field of logically-informed research on people's actual responses to vague predicates is young; surely as more data come in we will learn a great deal more about which (if any) of these theories best accounts for the behavior of ordinary speakers.
Comments: Jose A. Díez (LOGOS)
13:00 Lunch break
14:30 Dan ZEMAN (LOGOS)
"Contextualism and Disagreement"
Abstract: The paper is concerned with one aspect of the recent debate between contextualism and relativism about a series of discourses, such as predicates of personal taste, knowledge attributions, epistemic modals, etc. – namely, the issue of disagreement. One major objection that relativists have raised for contextualist treatments of the domains enumerated is that it cannot satisfactorily explain the intuition of disagreement we have in exchanges like the following:October 22, 2009
A: Avocado is tasty.
B: No, it is not. It’s horrible.
One way to answer, which I don’t consider in the paper, has been to deny the data – that is, to deny that the intuition of disagreement is present in exchanges like the one above. A second way to answer has been to argue that, while agreeing that the intuition exists, contextualism does have the resources to account for disagreement, despite relativists’ allegations, or that the intuition can be explained away. It is the goal of this paper to have a close look on those responses and argue that contextualists have either (a) disregarded the real problem, giving answers that miss the target or
(b) their response involves postulating, in some form or another, semantic blindness on the part of the speakers. (I take having to postulate semantic blindness to be an undesirable feature of a semantic view.) In the second case, this extra theoretical cost is not always made explicit.
Comments: Gregory Bochner (IJN)
16:00 Coffee break
16:15 Michael MUREZ (IJN)
"Mental Files and Coreference"
Abstract:Mental files are posited in order to solve two types of problems that arise within a general theory of reference, which attempts to explain how terms, mental or linguistic, manage to represent objects. Firstly, mental files are called upon in order to account for the cognitive significance of certain terms, which seem to be directly referential or singular i.e. terms whose contribution to the truth conditions of the utterance or thought in which they appear seems to be merely their referent. Secondly, mental files are posited in order to explain the cognitive significance of the coreference of such terms i.e. what it is for several different singular terms, or several uses of a term, to represent an object either as the same, or as being the same, within speech or thought. After distinguishing between two different types of cognitively significant coreference, de jure and de facto coreference, and two different versions of the mental file theory, the standard version, which individuates files based on the epistemic relations that feed them their content, and the sophisticated version, which recognizes relation-independent object files individuated solely by the unity of their reference, I offer a series of objections to both versions of the theory. The sophisticated theory, when it attempts to account for de jure coreference, is circular. Not only do we have good reason to prefer the sophisticated over the standard version, but in order to explain de facto coreference, a mental file theorist has no choice but to endorse the sophisticated version, which has been shown to be circular in its explanation of de jure coreference. Even if such issues could be ignored, the standard file theory is seriously flawed in both its explanation of de facto coreference, which it reduces to de jure coreference being established between terms through a "merging" operation, and in its explanation of de jure coreference itself, because of major difficulties raised by the individuation conditions of epistemically rewarding relations in relation to those for mental files. Even if all these problems were solved, a basic commitment of both the standard and the sophisticated file theory is wrong: if de jure coreference is to be explained by terms being associated with identical files, then de jure coreference should be a transitive relation ; but, as an argument recently put forward in the literature (cf. Soames and Pinillos), and which I here adapt to mental files, shows, de jure coreference is not transitive ; so file identity cannot explain de jure coreference, and the mental file theorist's basic idea, that it is the presence of the same entity that accounts for the cognitive significance of individual terms that explains de jure coreference between several terms, should be rejected. This suggests that, contrary to what is often claimed, coreference needs to be explained independently of the most fundamental aspects of the currently most influential version of the mental file theory. I conclude that, either major changes must be made to the mental file theory, if it is to explain coreference, or the claim that it is meant to explain grasp of coreference as well as the reference of singular terms should be abandoned. If the latter option is preferred, however, a great deal of the motivation for positing mental files in the first place, which is that they help to solve traditional puzzles concerning cognitive significance, is lost.
Comments: Adrian Briciu (LOGOS)
9:45 Fabio DEL PRETE (IJN)
"Relativizing truth of future-tensed sentences"
Abstract: Bonomi and Del Prete (2008) agree with MacFarlane on the point of the two contrasting intuitions about future contingents’ truth-status, but they develop a framework in which both intuitions are accounted for without relativizing utterance-truth to contexts of assessment (whatever these may ever be), as theoretically distinct from Kaplanian contexts of utterance. Here, we wish to take up one of their philosophical points against relativistic semantics in the style of MacFarlane, and elaborate it in further details.
Comments: Manuel Garcia-Carpintero (LOGOS)
11:15 Coffee break
11:30 Max KÖLBEL (LOGOS)
"The contingent future and the problem of asserting incomplete propositions"
Comments: Paul Égré (IJN)
13:00 Lunch break
14:30 Felipe CARVALHO (IJN)
"What is it for a demonstrative belief to be immune to error through misidentification?"
Abstract:Although the notion of Immunity to Error through Misidentification has been in the forefront of many discussions of the first-person, linked to analyses of self-knowledge, personal identity, memory and subjectivity, there is little work on the question of the immune character of demonstrative beliefs, that would give us a satisfactory answer to exactly which demonstrative claims are Immune to Error and how to account for it. In this paper I present a challenge for the Immunity theorist regarding demonstratives, in accounting for demonstrative claims attributing color to a perceived object. I then examine two distinct theoretical projects that give different answers to the question, the first from Evans and the second from Campbell. I argue that Campbell’s theory of demonstrative Immunity is limited in explanatory power, and defend an Evansian account according to which thoughts expressed with demonstratives are immune to error through misidentification in virtue of their links to action, arising from a more primitive perceptual skill that allows the organism to focus his attention immediately onto a newly sighted object, track it, detect its properties and act towards it. Such a skill is an integral part of a more general system of perceptual input and behavioral output that connects the organism to its external environment in a direct and immediate way, of which Immunity is a mark.
Comments: Josep Lluís Prades (LOGOS)
16:00 Coffee break
16:15 Teresa MARQUES (LOGOS)
"Two Kinds of Disagreement and Retractions: in View and in Act"
Abstract: Do I contradict you if I disagree with what you have just said? And do I contradict you if I assent to the negation of what you said? Do I retract what I said earlier if I now assent to its negation? What do disagreement and retraction amount to, and what constraints on content do they impose? Intuitions concerning reports of agreements and disagreements have played a central role in contemporary arguments motivating relativism, and against more standard contextualist positions. Briefly, relativists accuse contextualist positions of loosing the sense of disagreement that seems to exist in certain central cases involving, for instance, predicates of personal taste.
Intuitions concerning a speaker’s retraction of a previous utterance made have, likewise, been central to motivate relativism and against contextualism. A contextualist about predicates of personal taste will be committed to holding that utterances of a sentence containing such a predicate made in different contexts may express different propositions, which the relevant standard of taste, in that context, helps to individuate. This looses the seeming disagreement, and the possibility of a retraction, made in matters of taste. Disagreement and retraction, so the story goes, require that the same content be accepted or rejected.
In their recent Relativism and Monadic Truth, Cappelen and Hawthorne usefully point out that, in saying that two people disagree, we sometimes mean that they are having a disagreement – actively disputing some issue – and sometimes that they disagree in their views. People can disagree in their views even if they do not know of each other. In this sense, communities who do not know of each other disagree about whether widows should be burned with their dead husbands. Whether two people disagree in their views is a function of these views, not of their attitude towards each other. Whether they are having a disagreement, by contrast, depends only on their attitude towards each other. Two people whose attitudes on some issue are in agreement could nonetheless dispute the issue, if, through some misunderstanding, they take their attitudes to differ, or if one is playing devil’s advocate. Here I am concerned with understanding what it is for people to disagree in their views, and, in line with this, what it is for someone to retract an earlier accepted view. My goals
- To distinguish two senses of disagreement, after Cappelen and Hawthorne (2008): disagreement in view and in act.
- To establish a parallel distinction in two senses of retraction.
- To argue that no form of relativism, moderate or radical, in the current literature is better positioned to capture any real sense of disagreement in view in the cases in focus.
- To argue that retractions are a special case of disagreements, and as such relativism also fails to capture a real sense of retraction in view.
- I offer a formulation of sufficient conditions for agreement/disagreement in view, and hint at an attractive (for me), but tricky, necessary conditions.
- I finally consider whether agreement in act could be characterized after Lewis 1969, Convention, which in turn follows Hume, in the Treatise, III.ii.2: "When this common sense of interest is mutually expressed and is known to both, it produces a suitable resolution and behavior. And this may properly enough be called a convention or agreement betwixt us..."
Comments: Jérôme Dokic (IJN)
Organization : A. Domingo, P. Egré & F. Recanati
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