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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Embedded Belief Operators Again

The following sort of sentence is fun to think about:

1) In 2030 it will be the case that George Bush believes that Hillary Clinton is president.

I suggested in an earlier post that (1) has two readings. On one reading, the time of believing is the same as the time the belief is about. On the other reading, the time the belief is about overlaps the time of speech, and the time of believing is later than the time of speech. Mike suggested that there are readings where the time the belief is about is later than the time of speech but earlier than the time of believing. Here is his example: "Bush won't believe it when Hillary is president (i.e., say, in 2010), but he will believe it later."

So, it seems that (1) must have the following meta-linguistic truth-conditions (ignoring 'in 2030')? @ is the actual world, and t* is the time of speech.

There is a future time t such that, for all worlds w that are compatible with what George Bush believes at (@, t), Hillary Clinton is president is true at (w, t)

There is a future time t such that, for all worlds w that are compatible with what George Bush believes at (@, t), Et'(t' < t & (t* < t' or t* = t') & Hillary is president is true at (w,t'))

But there is still something left to explain. How do we account for the availability of the two readings if temporalism is true? Well, it is easy to account for the different readings given something like Kent Bach's account of belief reports. On Kent's account, the very same proposition may describe different beliefs depending on which standards for belief description are salient in the context. If the proposition expressed by the operand sentence 'George Bush believes that Hillary Clinton is president' in (1) is a description of what is believed rather than the thing believed, it may pick out different beliefs in different contexts.

The Danish Blog Administrator Conspiracy

Joe asked me to delete his comment on my Hacker post. He meant to comment on the Happy Danes post but pressed the wrong button. But now look what happened! It has the air of a Danish blog administrator cover-up.

Around the Blogosphere

Over at Majikthise Lindsay Beyerstein reports from the BlogHer conference. Click here.

As Brian points out, Philosophy Talk currently features a panel discussion recorded at the Pacific APA. Panellists were Liz Harman, Sean Kelly, and Brian. Read Brian's post here.

Joe has posted an interesting post on Church's Solution to the Knowability Paradox over at Knowability.

Greg Restall answers ten questions about books over at Consequently.org.

Dave reports from the Time and Consciousness conference in Sydney. Click here.

Carrie offers interesting reflections on a priori knowledge. Click here and here.

Eric Schwitzgebel has posted an interesting post about depression and philosophy.

Matt Weiner is reflecting on an odd conditional over at Opiniatrety.

Aidan McGlynn is reflecting on Mark Sainsbury's case against the Millian over at the Boundaries of Language.

For "philosophy of art-ists": Philosophy of Art is well worth checking out.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Women in Philosophy: Where Did They Go?

It is well-known that there are very few women in philosophy compared to men. In 1997 Sally Haslanger compiled some data that showed the "percentage distribution of full-time and part-time instructional faculty and staff in institutions of higher education by program area, race/ethnicity, and sex". In 1992 there were approximately 87% male philosophers and 13% female philosophers in academic jobs. In 1992-3, 199 men and 67 women received a doctoral degree in philosophy. In other words, approximately 25% of those who received a doctoral degree in philosophy in 1992-3 were women. The data seem to suggest one of two things: either the number of women in philosophy was increasing, or female philosophers disappeared from the philosophy scene once they had received their Ph.D. So which is it? Well, the percentage of women who receive a Ph.D. in philosophy has indeed been increasing:

2004: 33.3 %
2003: 27.1 %
2002: 25.3 %
2001: 25.2 %
2000: 28.4 %
1999: 24.8 %
1998: 29.4 %
1997: 26.0 %

And so has the percentage of female full-time and part-time faculty in philosophy. But the percentage of women who disappear from the scene is still much higher than the percentage of men who disappear. That is rather puzzling. I am not sure what explains it. Perhaps low salaries and instability play a role. In 1992 female full-time faculty in philosophy averaged lower salaries than male full-time faculty by approximately $10,000. Women were also less likely to get tenure and to become full professors. However, I suspect that cannot be the whole explanation. Though we can only speculate, I would like to hear what you think explains the imbalance.

'Few' and 'Many'

'Few' and 'many' are fun determiners. Sentences containing them have multiple readings. Take, for instance:

(1) Few German linguists applied

As Ariel Cohen has argued, if 'German' is stressed, (1) may be interpreted as meaning that the number of German linguists who applied is small (relative to the average number of non-German linguists who applied). If 'linguist' is stressed, (1) may be interpreted as meaning that the number of German linguists who applied is small (relative to the average number of German non-linguists who applied). If 'German linguist' is stressed, we get a reading equivalent to 'the number of German linguists who applied is small (relative to the average number of non-German non-linguists who applied)'. If 'applied' is stressed, we get a reading equivalent to 'the number of German linguists who applied is small (relative to the number of German linguists who did not apply)'.

However, I think the interpretation of (1) depends not only on focus but also on topic. If, for example, the topic of the discourse is the applicant pool in this year's search compared to past searches, (1) may be interpreted as meaning that the number of German linguists who applied is small (relative to the number of linguists who applied in a typical search in the past)

Hacker

I am new to blogging. So until recently I thought a hacker was a cracker, for example, someone who breaks into bank or university computers. According to Wikipedia, however, the term "hack" can be used to refer to "a program that (sometimes illegally) modifies another program, often a computer game, giving the user access to features otherwise inaccessible to them" . When I started blogging, there were no instructions on how to list comments with a post title attached. So I created some code that would take care of the problem. Most of the code was already provided in the blogger help section but some of it was not. I posted it on the Blogger Help Group blog. And now people are emailing me, telling me: "thanks for your hack". I guess strictly speaking that makes me a hacker. I have been working on a hack for changing the order of the recent comments in the recent comments section. No luck yet. Does anyone know how to do this in Blogger?

Happy Danes

Denmark ranks #1 on happiness chart. It must be nice being over there.

Fitch, Church and Nagel Papers (Salerno)

Berit has publicly shamed me as one of her all too quiet guest bloggers. So I'm cross posting this from Knowability.

Below is a chronological catalog of archival documentation pertaining to the early history of Fitch's knowability paradox. The items were identified for the first time by myself or those aiding my research. I discuss their content in "Knowability Noir: 1945-1963", which will appear in New Essays on the Knowability Paradox.

The documents can be found in one of three archives:

(FFP) Frederic B. Fitch Papers: Manuscripts and Archives. Yale University Library.

(ACP) Alonzo Church Papers: Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Princeton University Library.

(ENP) Ernest Nagel Papers: Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Columbia University.

*****************************************

* Church, Alonzo. "First Anonymous Referee Report on Fitch's 'A Definition of Value'". January or February 1945. Hand written by Alonzo Church to Ernest Nagel, coeditor of JSL. Contains the first proof of the modal epistemic result, today known as the knowability paradox. (ENP: Box 1)

An edition of this and the second referee report (listed below) is being prepared by Julien Murzi and myself for publication in New Essays on the Knowability Paradox.

* Nagel, E. "Letter to Church: March 6, 1945". Explains that Fitch has returned the manuscript and offered replies to the first report. (ACP: Box 20)

* "Second Anonymous Referee Report on Fitch's 'A Definition of Value'". Late March or early April 1945. Includes a more formal characterization of the knowability result in Lewis and Langford's proof theory. Includes replies to Fitch's discussion of the first report. (ENP: Box 1)

* Nagel, E. "Letter to Church: April 13, 1945". Announces that Fitch has withdrawn his paper owing to a defect in his definition of value. (ACP: Box **)

* Fitch, F. "A Logical Analysis of Some Value Concepts". Fitch's December 23, 1961 Presidential Address to the Association for Symbolic Logic. (FFP: Box 33)

* Fitch, F. "A Logical Analysis of Some Value Concepts". Penultimate draft. (FFP: Box 33)

* Postcard to Fitch: January 18, 1963. Regarding remaining typographical edits to be made prior to the printing of "A Logical Analysis of Some Value Concepts" in JSL. (FFP: Box 33)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Temporalism and Embedded Belief Operators

Thanks to Jason Stanley I have been reading up on the literature on embedded belief operators. While reading I suddenly started worrying about the following sentence:

(1) In 2030 it will be the case that George Bush believes that Hillary Clinton is president.

This time I worried on behalf of the temporalist. Even assuming 'in 2030' is a restrictor of 'it will be the case that', the sentence has two readings. On one reading, the time of believing is the same as the time the belief is about. On the other reading, the time the belief is about overlaps the time of speech, and the time of believing is later than the time of speech. The problem for the temporalist is that the temporalist takes the object of belief to be a temporal proposition. So how do we get both readings? I am not sure. But here is a suggestion. What about the following meta-linguistic truth-conditions (ignoring 'in 2030')? @ is the actual world, and t* is the time of speech.

There is a future time t such that, for all worlds w that are compatible with what George Bush believes at (@, t), Hillary Clinton is president is true at (w, t)

There is a future time t such that, for all worlds w that are compatible with what George Bush believes at (@, t), Hillary Clinton is president is true at (w, t*)

Blogging for Academics

Evelyn Brister has posted an interesting post about blogging and academics over at Knowledge and Experience. Click here.

Another Blog Turned Group Blog

Gualtiero Piccinini hopes to turn Brains into a group blog. Do we see a pattern forming here? Fortunately I made Lemmings a group blog from the very start. It's just that my guest bloggers (to steal Leiter's term), who were supposed to write about politics while I finish my book, haven't contributed yet :-)

He/She

I still find it difficult to figure out what the conventions are for 'he'/'she' pronoun choice in philosophical examples. Back in the mid-90s when I was an undergrad in Copenhagen my teachers told me to use '(s)he'. But I was quickly corrected by my supervisor when I started graduate school. He told me "just use one or the other". For a long time I wondered whether the 'or' was supposed to be exclusive. I concluded that that was probably what he meant. But he didn't follow his own advice. He would tend to make the farmers, truckdrivers, prisoners and serial killers females, and the nurses, homemakers, and wedding planners males. Since then there has been even more confusion. Some have told me to alternate for reasons of fairness. Others have told me to avoid 'he' and 'she' altogether and only use 'one', 'I', and 'you'. Yet others have told me that women can choose freely but that men must use 'she'. So which is it?

Philosophy of ...

Yesterday Robert Kraut was giving a talk at St. Louis U on whether music expresses emotions (for the record: Robert says 'no'). Very late the night before Robert and I were talking about the status of philosophy of art at the universities. He wanted to know why many philosophers think philosophy of art is not a core area of philosophy. I suggested that perhaps it's because it is a philosophy-of ..., like philosophy of mathematics or philosophy of economics. But Robert quickly gave me counterexamples: philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. Then we turned to possible historical explanations, but we weren't very successful. We eventually changed the topic. But the question remains: how do we define 'core area'? Why is, say, philosophy of mind a core area if philosophy of art is not?

UPDATE: Robert Kraut has posted some interesting posts about philosophy of art and its "centrality" in the profession. Click here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More on Assertoric Content

King (2003) raises a problem for the assertoric content/semantic value distinction. Those who distinguish between assertoric content and semantic value will typically say that 'believe' operates on assertoric content whereas tense operators operate on temporal semantic values. But it is not clear how to account for mixed cases. Consider, for instance:

(1) It will be the case that George W. Bush believes that Hillary Clinton is president

It seems that 'believe' must here be operating on semantic value rather than assertoric content. So, 'believe' operates sometimes on semantic value and sometimes on assertoric content. But that seems implausible. Does anyone know of any replies to this sort of objection?

Miscellaneous News

Carrie and Brian report that TAR soon will become a group blog. Brian thinks it might help the Cornell rankings :-)

Philosophers' Carnival #33 is here.

Jon's move seems to have gone well. Certain Doubts has resumed its normal activity levels.

Monte Johnson has left St. Louis to begin his new job at San Diego. We will miss him.

Restall on National Radio

As Brian points out, Greg Restall was just interviewed about logical pluralism on national radio. The link is here. Read Brian's post here.

Stanley's Expression-Communication Principle and Conventional Implicature

In "Rigidity and Content" (1997) and "Modality
and What is Said
" (2002) Jason Stanley defends versions of what he calls the "Expression-Communication Principle". Here is the formulation of it given in (1997: 136):

Expression-Communication Principle
If an utterance u of a sentence S and a different utterance u' of another sentence S' have different assertoric content, then, generally, for any normal context c, had S and S' been uttered in c, they would have communicated different things.

By 'normal context' Jason means a context where 'the speakers are competent with all of the words in the sentences being uttered, and the sentence is used as it standardly is' (1997: 136). There is a worked-out version of this principle in his (2002). Anyway, I think this principle is very appealing. As Jason points out, it implies that Kent Bach is right that there is no such thing as conventional implicature. I used to think that was right. But last night I read a very well-argued manuscript by Larry Horn. Larry argues that we cannot completely dispose of the category of conventional implicature. One of the examples he gives (attributed to Levinson 1983) is based on T/V pronoun choice. 'tu'/'vous' in French, 'du'/'Sie' in German, or 'du'/'De' in Danish makes no difference to assertoric content but seems to involve what Larry calls "conventional aspects of meaning". I was wondering how Jason, Kent and others who think that there is no such thing as conventional implicature would approach the issue of T/V pronoun choice. Any thoughts?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Presentist Humor

Student: Why isn't it true that Socrates is mortal?
Presentist: Because he is dead.

(by courtesy of Joe Salerno)

Lewis' Tense Operators

In "Index, Context and Content" Lewis argues that we should take compositional semantic values to be functions from context and index to extensions. That way we can determine truth-values at one fell swoop. Here is how it works. Take:

(1) It will be the case that Hillary Clinton is president.

The prefix is a tense operator that shifts the time feature of the index from present to future. (1) is true iff 'Hillary Clinton is president' is true at the context of use and the shifted index.

Simple and elegant. But I think Lewis' approach runs into difficulties. The folllowing assumption is plausible:

Non-Redundancy: Tense operators are not typically semantically redundant.

Now consider:

(2) It will be the case tomorrow that Hillary Clinton is president

Lewis cannot say that 'tomorrow' is part of a prefix that functions as a temporal operator. For context is required to interpret 'tomorrow'. Yet context enters the picture only later. Otherwise it wouldn't be a one-step method for determining truth-values. So, Lewis must take (2) to have the form 'it will be the case that (Hillary Clinton is president tomorrow)'. But the tense operator is now semantically redundant.

Bach and Chalmers on Belief Reports

As mentioned in two earlier posts (The Specification Assumption and Belief Reports Do Not Report Beliefs) there are some good reasons to think that the Specification Assumption fails. Here is Kent Bach's formulation of it (Do Belief Reports Report Beliefs?):

Specification Assumption: Belief reports specify belief contents, i.e., to be true a belief report [of the form 'S believes that p'] must specify a proposition [that p] the person believes.

As I see it, Kent is saying that 'S believes that p' ascribes a dyadic relation, but 'believe' expresses different relations depending on the standards for describing belief that are salient in the context. Kent's view has the advantage over the hidden indexical accounts that it takes 'S believes that p' to ascribe a dyadic relation, whereas the hidden indexical accounts take it to ascribe a triadic relation (a relation among a subject, a proposition and a mode of presentation).

I have recently been reading up on the literature on epistemic two-dimensionalism. I realized that Dave Chalmers' account of belief reports has the same virtues. Here is my take on it (the terminology is Dave's).

'A believes that p' is true iff B(A, p). So 'believe' ascribes a dyadic relation, but Dave takes 'B(A, p)' to hold iff A endorses a proposition q that is co-ordinate with p. q is co-ordinate with p iff (1) q and p express the same Russellian proposition and (2) q determines an S-appropriate primary intension in the mouth of the ascriber, where S is the sentence used to express p. Which q is relevant will depend on the context of the ascriber. So, it seems to me that Dave and Kent agree that 'S believes that p' ascribes different relations in different contexts depending on which standards for belief description are in place in the context (Kent) or which belief is taken by the ascriber to be co-ordinate with p (Dave). In other words, both are committed to a rejection of the Specification Assumption. So, as far as I can see, at least three authors reject it: Kent, Dave, and Delia Graff. Any others?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Modality and Assertoric Content

In "Names and Rigid Designation" Stanley argues against the thesis that rigid and non-rigid expressions never have the same assertoric content. King ("Tense, Modality, and Semantic Values") construes Stanley's argument as an argument against Dummett's distinction between assertoric content and ingredient sense. Here is a related argument, a reductio on the thesis that there are modal operators in the language, and that assertoric content is absolute (viz. if true, true at all worlds; if false, false at all worlds). Consider:

(1) It is possible to travel faster than light

Given Kaplan-style semantics, (1) is true relative to context c iff the content of the operand sentence in (1), viz. that some object travels faster than light, is true at some world accessible from the world of c. Since different contexts will determine different accessibility relations, let us focus on contexts in which speakers are talking about physical possibility. The content of (1) is then false in any actual context. For, as the actual laws prohibit faster-than-light speeds, there is no accessible world in which some object travels faster than light. But since we are quantifying over all contexts c in which the speaker of c is talking about physical possibility, the actual world need not be accessible from the world of c. The content of (1) is true when (1) is uttered at a world where the laws of physics allow objects to travel faster than light. So the content is false at some worlds (e.g., here) and true at some worlds (i.e., distant worlds); so the content is not an absolute proposition. We can conclude that if we want assertoric content to be absolute, we are required to take the modals to be quantifiers over worlds.

Kamp/Vlach Sentences: Further Reflections

Here are some further reflections on today's discussion. Consider again Kamp's old example and some variations on it:

(1) A child was born who will become ruler of the world.
(2) A child who will become ruler of the world was born.
(3) A child was born who would become ruler of the world.
(4) A child who would become ruler of the world was born.

Where P is past, and F is future, I take it that the preferred readings of (1) - (3) are as follows (these are not necessarily the only readings):

(1a) There is an x such that (P(x is a child and x is born) and F(x is ruler of the world))
(2a) There is an x such that (x is a child and P(x is born) and F(x is ruler of the world))
(3a) P(there is an x such that (x is a child and x is born and F(x is ruler of the world)))

Notice that the future tense operator occurs within the scope of a past tense operator in (3a). In Priorean tense logic, a future tense operator in the scope of a past tense operator takes us to some time that is future relative to a past time. In (1a) and (2a) P and F do not occur within the scope of another tense operator.

Two questions: first, how do you propose to analyze (4)? In the same way as (3)? Second, why do we tend to read (1) and the stylistic variation in (2) differently? Any ideas?

Last Night's Storm

A big storm passed through St. Louis last night and knocked out the power for 450.000 households. The storm knocked down trees, branches and buildings, and broke water lines. A boil order was issued for counties north of I-70. At the same time an excessive heat warning remains in effect until 7 pm tonight. Afternoon highs from 100 to 105 and afternoon heat index readings from 115 to 120.

I suddenly realized how much we depend on electricity and clean water. No lights, no baby monitors, no television, no radios, no computers, no internet access, no phones, no air conditioning, no fans, no refrigerators, no freezers, no coffee grinders. What a nightmare, I thought. But then it became painfully clear to me how lucky we are. We will lack acess to electricity and clean drinking water for 2 - 3 days at most. But more than 1 billion of the world's people permanently lack access to clean water and more than 2 billion permanently lack acess to electricity. Let us keep things in perspective.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Kamp/Vlach Sentences

I have been thinking a lot about Kamp/Vlach sentences recently, for instance

(1) A child was born who will become the ruler of the world

Sentences like (1) are puzzling for a number of reasons. For instance, they cause trouble for Priorean tense logic. However, I have a question about (1) that is at least to some extent unrelated to the issue of whether Priorean tense logic could be revived. It seems that (1) requires for its truth that there is someone who was a child but isn't anymore and who will in future become the ruler of the world. In other words, it does not require for its truth that there is someone who is currently a child. But relative clauses are movable. So let's move the relative clause:

(2) A child who will become the ruler of the world was born

(2) could be true, it seems, if there is someone who is currently a child, who was born, and who will become the ruler of the world. As far as I know, moving the relative clause should not be able to affect truth-conditions. What is going on?

Here are some other cases that are structurally similar to (1)

(3) Tomorrow we will talk to a war veteran who survived for more than a week without food or water. (x is a war veteran now)

(4) In 5 months we will go to a demonstration, and we will talk to a protester who went to this school. (x is not a protester now)

(5) In 2030 Alice will be sitting on a chair that Clinton was sitting on in 1990. (x is a chair now)

(6) In 2030 Alice will marry a single father who was abused as a child. (x is not a single father now)

(7) On Friday I will be meeting a former student of mine who is going to China. (x is a former student now)

(8) (oracle) In two years you will go on a long trip, and you will meet another traveler who was a dear friend of yours many years ago (x is not a traveler now)

(9) The baby who was born four months early will finally be able to go home tomorrow (x is a baby now)

(10) The baby who was born four month early will begin college next week (x is not a baby now)

You get the idea. But what causes the different readings? Prima facie, at least, it seems to have something to do with our knowledge of the general background assumptions about properties and persistence. If that is true, then perhaps (2) will not cause trouble for Priorean tense logic after all (the relative order of the tenses is not a problem for Priorean tense logic, as relative clauses + noun phrases can be assumed to move out of the scope of the matrix clause, as argued by Ogihara).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Women and Blogging

Evelyn Brister has posted an interesting post about women and blogging over at Knowledge and Experience. Click here.

Are the Tenses Quantifiers?

In his recent paper "Tense, Modality and Semantic Values" King argues that there are no genuine tense operators in English. The English tenses are object-language quantifiers. 'John is hungry' is analyzed as 'John is hungry at the time of speech', 'John was hungry' is analyzed as 'there is a past time t & John is hungry at t', and 'John will be hungry is analyzed as 'there is a future time t & John is hungry at t'. King's article has been widely discussed. And many prominent philosophers (e.g., MacFarlane and Stanley) have, at least in print, given the impression that they are sympathetic to it. But it is not entirely clear how this treatment of the tenses could account for all English sentences. Here are a couple that would seem to resist this sort of treatment.

It has always been the case that objects persist over time.
It will always be the case that Socrates exists, located temporally before us.

'It has always been the case that objects persist over time' certainly doesn't mean that for all past times t, objects persist over time at t. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to analyze these sentences if King is right?

Friday, July 14, 2006

An Old Argument against Temporalism

Richard (1981) offers the following sort of argument against temporalism (roughly the view that temporally neutral content can be the object of possible belief).

John believed that Mary was hungry.
John still believes everything he once believed.
Therefore, John believes that Mary is hungry.

The argument seems invalid, but temporalism predicts otherwise (for what Mary believed was the temporal proposition that Mary is hungry -- the past tense is vacuous on the relevant reading).

But notice that the following argument seems valid:

John will be thinking that Mary is hungry
Everything John will be thinking he is thinking now
John is thinking that Mary is hungry

Temporalism apparently makes the correct predictions in the latter case. For temporalism predicts just that.

Who is right? Is the first argument really valid (temporalism wins), or is the second argument really invalid (eternalism wins)?

I discuss these and other issues in Chap. 1 of Transient Truths (In progress).

Some articles that dicuss these and related issues:

Richard 1981. "Temporalism and Eternalism", Philosophical Studies 39, 1-13.
Salmon 1989. "Tense and Singular Propositions" in Themes From Kaplan, Oxford University Press, New York, Almog, Perry, Wettstein (eds.)
Stanley, 1997 "Rigidity and Content", in Logic, Language and Reality: Essays in Honor of Michael Dummett, R. Heck (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Fitch 1998. "Temporalism Revisited" Philosophical Studies 92: 251-256.
King 2003. "Tense, Modality, and Semantic Values", Philosophical Perspectives 17: Language and Philosophical Linguistics, John Hawthorne and Dean Zimmerman (eds.), 195-246.

And, of course, Kaplan's "Demonstratives" (my favorite article of all time)

Beliefs Do Not Report Beliefs (More on the Specification Assumption)

Last night I read Kent Bach's very interesting article "Do Belief Reports Report Beliefs?". Kent rejects the specification assumption (SA). Here is Kent's formulation of it:

Specification Assumption: (SA) Belief reports specify belief contents, i.e., to be true a belief report [of the form 'S believes that p'] must specify a proposition [that p] the person believes.

Kent's reason for rejecting (SA) is different from Delia Graff's. Kent is motivated by Frege/Kripke puzzles, like:

(1) Lois Lane disbelieves that Clark Kent can fly
(2) Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly
(3) John disbelieves Paderewski had musical talent.
(4) John believes Paderewski had musical talent.

The puzzle is that it seems that these can all be true, even though 'Clark Kent' and 'Superman' co-refer, and the two occurrences of 'Paderewski' co-refer. John might, for instance, believe that Paderewski, the pianist, had musical talent, but disbelieve that Paderewski, the statesman, had musical talent.

Kent rejects (SA). 'S believes that p' expresses a dyadic relation between S and the proposition that p. But p may not be the exact content of any of S's belief states. 'That p' describes the content; it doesn't specify it. So, the exact content of S's belief may be considerably more specific than the content of 'that p'. Whether 'that p' adequately describes the content of S's belief will depend on the context of the reporter.

I find the view very interesting. I think it might even be right. But there is an apparent puzzle. Consider the following exchange:

Jason: John believes Paderewski had musical talent.
Delia: You are wrong, Jason. John doesn't believe that Paderewski had musical talent.

Jason and Delia seem to disagree. But as a matter of fact, John believes that Paderewski, the pianist, had musical talent, but he doesn't believe that Paderewski, the statesman, had musical talent. So, given Kent's view, we may suppose that they are both saying something true! But now we also know that the following is true:

A proposition p and its negation, not-p, contradict iff p and not-p are evaluated at the same circumstance of evaluation.

Delia and Jason are located at the same circumstance of evaluation (if there are times in the circumstance, let's assume that they are speaking at the same time). So, if Delia denies what Jason affirms, and they are both saying something true, then they do not disagree.

Or if they do disagree, then either Delia is not denying what Jason affirms, or they are not both saying something true.

That's a puzzle.

So is Kent's view in trouble?

I don't think so.

Kent apparently holds that belief reports can express different relations in different contexts of use. Here is a quote:

"[t]he relation in question is not the belief relation. If it were, then Peter would bear the belief relation both to the proposition that Paderewski had musical talent and to the proposition that Paderewski did not have musical talent, in which case he would believe contradictory propositions. The descriptivist theory [Kent's view] specifically denies this. Besides, because the relation in question would vary from one context to another, it could not be the belief relation"

So, it seems to me that what Kent says about 'belief' is quite similar to what some epistemic contextualists say about 'know'. Some epistemic contextualists (Keith DeRose, I think) say that 'know' expresses different knowledge relations depending on the epistemic standards that are salient in the context. I take Kent to be saying that 'belief' expresses different relations depending on the standards for describing belief that are salient in the context.

Delia and Jason, to the extent that their claims express propositions, do not really disagree. They express different propositions, but, and this is the cool part: 'S believes that p' still ascribes a dyadic relation!

I think this view is really neat.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Problem for Kaplan-style Semantics

John Hawthorne presented the following argument as a problem for a certain kind of Kaplan-style semantics that I find attractive (U is any utterance/sentence-in-context):

U is true
U means that p
So, p

Hawthorne's hunch is that it is valid. The problem is this. In Kaplan-style semantics, proposition truth is relative, i.e. propositions are true or false only relative to circumstances of evaluation. But utterances (and sentences-in-contexts) are true or false simpliciter. Assume that temporalism is right (i.e., sentences-in-contexts/utterances without explicit time determination express temporally neutral propositions). Let U be my utterance 3 years ago of "I am hungry", and suppose I was hungry then. Since utterances are true or false simpliciter, the first premise is true. The second premise is true; U means the temporal proposition that Brit is hungry. Yet the conclusion is false. I am not hungry.

Assume that eternalism is right (i.e. sentences-in-contexts/utterances without explicit time determination express propositions with times in them). Let U be my utterance at t in a non-actual world w of "I am hungry", and suppose I am hungry at t there. Since utterances are true or false simpliciter, the first premise is true. The second premise is true; U means the eternal proposition that Brit is hungry at t. Yet the conclusion may be false. For I may not be hungry at t in the actual world @.

What are we to do? If we reject the assumption that utterance truth is absolute, we get relativistic semantics (MacFarlane, Egan, etc.). Are we really forced to become relativists?

I think the solution to the problem is to treat object-language and meta-language occurrences of 'is true' differently. The argument is invalid if formulated in the object-language, but valid if formulated in the meta-language. I think there are good reasons to take object-language occurrences of 'S as uttered in c is true' to be true iff the proposition expressed by S-in-c is true at the circumstance of evaluation determined by the context in which 'S as uttered in c is true' is uttered (which is not c). I offer some reasons in my paper "Moral Contextualism and Moral Relativism".

The Specification Assumption

I recently read Delia Graff Fara's paper: "Desires, Scope and Tense", . Delia here questions what Kent Bach calls 'the specification assumption':

(SA) A sentence or clause embedded in a propositional attitude context, when disambiguated, specifies precisely the content to which the subject in question is related.

(SA) seems prima facie plausible. However, Delia rejects it. She offers examples like the following:

a. Joe wants to smoke a cigarette
b. Monte hopes he will find a cheap place to live
c. Jim wishes he were somewhere warmer

Intuitively, (a) might be true even if Joe has no desire that could be satisfied by smoking a cigarette that has been floating in a glass of beer most of the night, (b) might be true even if Monte has no hope that is satisfied if he finds an empty dorm room, and (c) might be true even if Jim has no wish that would be satisfied if he were in Sahara during the warmest month of the year. (SA) thus seems be at odds with our normal ways of reporting propositional attitudes. More carefully, Graff Fara adheres to what she calls 'the Content-Satisfaction Principle':

The Content-Satisfaction Principle
If one has a desire/hope/wish with the exact content that p, then one has a desire/hope/wish which is satisfied in any possible world in which it is true that p.

Since Joe's desire to smoke a cigarette isn't satisfied in worlds where he smokes an old, beer-soaked cigarette, Joe's desire does not have the exact content Joe smokes a cigarette. Since Monte's hope that he will find a cheap place to live isn't satisfied in worlds where he finds a cheap dorm room, Monte's hope doesn't have the exact content Monte finds a cheap place to live. And since Jim's wish to be somewhere warmer isn't satisfied in worlds where he is in Sahara during the warmest month of the year, Jim's wish does not have the exact content Jim is somewhere warmer. So, she says, (SA) is false.

It is tempting to think that sentences like (a)-(c) are cases of loose talk (false yet close enough to the truth). But, as Delia points out, normally when we speak 'loosely', we are able to recognize that we are speaking that way. However, this is not obviously so for (a)-(c).

I think that there are two further reasons for denying that (a)-(c) are cases of loose talk. First, if Joe wants a dry cigarette but has no desire that is satisfied if he is offered a soaked one, it sounds much worse to say that Joe doesn't want a cigarette than saying that he wants one. Likewise, if Monte hopes that he will find a cheap place to live but has no hope that is satisfied if he finds an empty dorm room, it sounds much worse to say that Monte has no wish to find a cheap place to live than saying he hopes he will find one. Second, the following cases of loose talk,

France is roughly hexagonal, but it is not hexagonal
It is almost 3 o'clock, but it is not 3 o'clock

do not sound too awful. But the analogous attitude reports sound terrible:

Joe wants to smoke a dry cigarette, but he doesn't want to smoke a cigarette.
Monte hopes that he will find a cheap and decent place to live, but he has no desire to find a cheap place to live.
Jim wishes he were somewhere a bit warmer, but he has no wish that would be satisfied if he were somewhere warmer.

It appears that (SA) is false. Quite surprising!

Moral Contextualism

I just got back from a fun conference on Moral Contextualism in Aberdeen. Carrie Jenkins took some pics. They are available here. Check out the spoons! Carrie also has some interesting things to say about some of the papers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

About Lemmings

Lemmings, a blog devoted to issues in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics and Mind, began on July 11, 2006. The administrator is Brit Brogaard, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Missouri, St Louis. The term 'l.e.m.m.-ings' (n, pl) was coined by Brian Weatherson in Nov 2004.