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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Heim on Comparative Clauses

Metaphysical eternalists occasionally offer presentists the following challenge: if only present things exist, how do we account for the truth of claims of the following sort:

-Al Gore is taller than almost any ancient politician
-Russell was smarter than most philosophers of his generation.

The alleged problem for the presentist is that claims like these seem to ascribe cross-time relations. But no relation can be instantiated by objects that do not exist.

As it turns out, however, if Irene Heim's recent theory of comparative adjectives is correct, comparative claims pose no problem for presentism. Heim begins with claims of the following sort:

-John is taller than every girl
-John is taller than one of the girls

As Richard Larson (1988) argues, such claims can be dealt with by positing that (i) the quantified noun phrase moves to a wide-scope position and (ii) the comparative expression 'taller than' combines with two type e expressions (i.e., variables or referring terms). But a similar strategy is unavailable for claims of the following sort:

-John is taller than every girl is.
-John is taller than one of the girls is.

The initially tempting hypothesis that the quantified noun phrases scope out of the 'than'-clauses is extremely implausible, given what we know about the sort of movement quantified noun phrases undergo (quantified noun phrases do not normally scope out of relative clauses, etc.) Moreover, Heim argues, even if quantified noun phrases could scope out of 'than'-clauses, adverbs of quantification, modal expressions and floated quantifiers can't possibly do that. Out-of-'than'-clause accounts of comparatives are thus unable to account for claims of the following sort (from Heim):

-The suit cost more than they had each paid in taxes.
-It is warmer here today than it usually is in New Brunswick.
-It is warmer today than it might be tomorrow.
-George is richer than his father was and his son will be.

After considering some traditional analyses of comparatives, Heim then offers a theory where comparatives ascribe relations between what she calls "degrees" (i.e., abstract entities like heights, weights, etc.). To account for quantifier scopes, Heim suggests that there are semantically vacuouos 'wh'-items in the sentence structure of comparative claims. 'John is taller than every girl is' is thus of the following form:

[wh5[every girl is t5]]4 [John is taller than t4]

'Every girl is wh', where 'wh' is a semantically vacuous 'wh'-item, scopes out of the comparative clause, and the 'wh'-item raises to a wide-scope position. The truth-condition for this sentence is: for every girl x, John's height is greater than x's height.

From a semanticist's point of view, Heim's hypothesis is interesting because it makes the right predictions in nearly every case. From a metaphysician's point of view, her theory is interesting because it makes presentism look less unattractive. Consider:

-Al Gore is taller than almost any ancient politician ever was

Heim's theory predicts that this sentence is of the following form.

[wh5[almost any ancient politician was t5]]4 [Gore is taller than t4]

Assuming the past tense takes wide scope over the quantified noun phrase 'almost any ancient politician', we get the following truth-condition: it was the case that, for almost any ancient philosopher x, Gore's height is greater than x's height. As this analysis incurs no commitments to the existence of non-present individuals, presentists can happily embrace it.

Reference:
Larson, R. (1988), "Scope and Comparatives", Linguistics and Philosophy.

It's Not "Unnatural"

Oslo's Museum of Natural History currently features an exposition devoted to animal homosexuality. Manifest homosexual behavior has been observed among members of 450 species. The Museum exposes explicit photographs of sexual behavior among members of 30 of them. The project's director Geir Soli's says the aim of the exposition is "To refute the too well-known argument according to which homosexual behavior is a crime against nature."

(Via Truthout and BBC News)

Most Dangerous City in the U.S.

St. Louis is the most dangerous city in the country, according to annual rankings of the safest and most dangerous American cities. The murder rate increased 16 percent from 2004 to 2005, compared with 4.8 percent nationally, and the overall violent crime rate surged nearly 20 percent, compared with 2.5 percent nationally. That places St. Louis just above Detroit, Flint, Michigan and Compton California. The safest city in 2005 was Brick, New Jersey, followed by Amherst, New York, and Mission Viejo, California.

(Via CNN)

David Armstrong

David Armstrong gave a talk here yesterday. Colleen Keating has put up a summary of the talk on her blog.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Redbirds Take it in Five!







Maybe now we can stop wearing bright red.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Schlenker on Quantifiers

It is widely agreed that the truth-conditions for sentences with quantified noun phrases must reflect our use of them. If we are talking about my logic class, and I say 'some student failed', then my utterance of 'some student failed' may be false even if some student in the universe failed. The question is, how do we account for the apparent context-sensitivity of quantified noun phrases?

Jason Stanley and Zoltan Szabo (2000) argue that there are implicit indexical variables in the sentence structure. Such variables are either bound by higher operators or assigned values by context.

Philippe Schlenker (forthcoming) has a different proposal. To see what the proposal is, let us briefly look at how quantifiers were treated pre-Stanley/Szabo and pre-generalized quantifier theory. Here is how we used to give truth-conditions for existentially quantified sentences.

'Ex(Fx & Gx)' is true at a sequence of evaluation s iff for some individual d in the domain fixed by the sequence, 'Fx & Gx' is true at s for the assignment of d to x.

For example, 'some boy is hungry' is true at s iff for some individual d in the domain, 'x is a boy and x is hungry' is true at s for the assignment of d to x.

Schlenker suggests that we make the following amendments.

'Ex(Fx & Gx)' is true at s iff for some individual d in the domain satisfying certain conditions determined by an accessibility relation R, 'Fx & Gx' is true at s for the assignment of d to x.

Suppose I utter 'some student failed' and intend it to mean that some student in my logic class failed. Treating the tensed verb as if it were tenseless, 'some student failed' is true at the domain of individuals assigned by the sequence of evaluation iff for some individual d satisfying 'x is in Brit's logic class' at the domain for the assignment of d to x, 'x is a student and x failed' is true at the domain of individuals for the assignment of d to x.

Note that all of this is stated in the meta-language, just as we do it in modal logic. So, context determines an accessibility relation, and the accessibility relation determines the conditions an individual in the domain must satisfy for it to be relevant in the context. So, on Schlenker's proposal, quantified noun phrases have the same semantic values in all contexts: they are not context-sensitive, and there are no implicit domain variables in the sentence structure of sentences with quantified noun phrases. What varies with context is the relevance relation (or accessibility relation) and so also which individuals in the domain of the sequence are deemed relevant.

I think Schlenker's suggestion is very interesting. Only drawback: it seems to presuppose pre-generalized quantifier theory, and so I do not see at this point how it would deal with determiners such as 'most', 'more than half' and the like.

References:
Schlenker, P. forthcoming. "Ontological Symmetry in Language: A Brief Manifesto", Mind & Language.
Stanley, J. and Szabo, Z. 2000. "On Quantifier Domain Restriction", Mind and Language 15: 219-261.

(Thanks to Francois Recanati for recommending Schlenker's article)

Hutchinson Wins Marijuana Battle

Professor Doug Hutchinson who teaches ancient Greek philosophy at The University of Toronto has been fighting college officials for more than a year.

The battle has been over whether Hutchinson has a right to smoke marijuana in his office on campus. Hutchinson depends on marijuana to alleviate pain from an undisclosed medical condition, and for years he secretly smoked up to 10 joints a day in his office. But last year he was caught when colleagues complained about the smell.

After multiple cease-and-desist orders with morally judgmental content and a clearance from Health Canada, college provost Margaret MacMillan finally gave in and granted Hutchinson his own room in the basement of the college.

Hutchinson is relieved that the process is over and said that the process has relit his activism for people's right to use marijuana.

(Via The Gazette and Hemp.net)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hyperintensional Operators

The latest issue of Philosophical Issues features a very intersting article called Indicative versus Subjunctive Conditionals, Congruential versus Non-Hyperintensional Contexts by Timothy Williamson. As the title indicates, the articles is mostly about indicative and subjunctive conditionals. However, the article got me thinking about hyperintensional operators again.

Uncontroversially, Williamson takes an operator O to be intensional iff it is not extensional, and O is extensional iff the following condition is satisfied:

If p is materially equivalent to q, then Op is materially equivalent to Oq.

An operator O is hyperintensional iff it is not non-hyperintensional, and O is non-hyperintensional iff the following condition is satisfied:

If p is strictly equivalent to q, then Op is strictly equivalent to Oq.

Hyperintensionality, then, is a special case of intensionality. As I believe some but not all truths, 'Brit believes that' is intensional. Moreover, as I believe some but not all necessary truths, 'Brit believes that' is hyperintensional. If S is a perfectly rational and omniscient being, then 'S believes that' is extensional, and non-hyperintensional. However, as a matter of fact, most propositional attitude operators will be hyperintensional.

Many story prefixes are also hyperintensional. 'Andrew Shepherd is identical to the actual current president' is strictly equivalent to '2 + 2 = 5', but 'in the movie the American President, Andrew Shepherd is the actual current president' is not strictly equivalent to 'in the movie the American President, 2 + 2 = 5'. Or if you dislike examples with 'actual', consider this example instead: 'Andrew Shepherd is not identical to the President' is strictly equivalent to '2 + 2 = 4', as 'Andrew Sherpherd' is empty, but 'in the movie the American President, Andrew Sherpherd is not identical to the president' is not strictly equivalent to 'in the movie the American President, 2 + 2 = 4', as the fomer is false but the latter true.

According to David Lewis ["Tensed Quantifiers" in Zimmerman (ed) Oxford Studies in. Metaphysics 2005], span operators -- operators that shift the time feature of the index of evaluation from the time of utterance to some past or future time span -- are hyperintensional. According to Lewis, 'it is raining, and it is not raining' is strictly equivalent to '2 + 2 = 5', but 'it WAS the case that it is raining, and it is not raining' is not strictly equivalent to 'it WAS the case that 2 + 2 =5', as the former has a true reading, whereas the latter is necessarily false. According to David Lewis, the reason that the former has a true reading is that it could be true at one time but false at another time during the time span in question that it is raining. Lewis takes this to constitute a serious problem for presentism. If presentism is true, then span operators are required to capture certain truths (e.g. 'there have been several kings of England named Charles'). But span operators are hyperintensional. Yet modal operators (including tense operators) are thought to be intensional, not hyperintensional.

However, I think a presentist could reply as follows: a proposition is true at a span circumstance only if it holds at some, most or all times during the time span in question. But 'it is raining, and it is not raining' does not hold at any time during the time span in question. For there is no time at which it is raining and not raining. In other words, the result of embedding a contradiction under a span operator does not yield a truth. So, span operators are not hyperintensional.

Around the Blogosphere

Joe Salerno has a new post on mental state operators.

Carrie Jenkins wrote a paper on flirting. Now Daniel Nolan has written a reply.

Arnold Zwicky is thinking about F-words over at Language Log.

And Brian Leiter is slowly but surely revealing the new rankings for Ph.D. programs.

New Blog

I just learned that Luvell Anderson has a new blog, Philosopher X, "devoted to matters in the philosophy of language and social and political philosophy".

Other Blog News:
Ideally Speaking has moved to a new site. A few other philosophy graduate student blogs well worth checking out: Adam Arico, Richard Chappell, Jeff Dauer, Colleen Keating, Aidan McGlynn, Shawn Standefer.

Also, Dave Chalmers has recently updated the page of people with on-line papers in philosophy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Go Cards!

The religious fervor of the fans of the St. Louis Cardinals has taken to the streets, and basically a lot of people in this town are just plain drunk. Please stay off the roads!

Schnieder on Leibniz's Law

The January 2006 issue of The Philosophical Quarterly features an interesting article, " 'By Leibniz's Law': Remarks on a Fallacy", by Benjamin Schnieder.

Schnieder makes a convincing case for the view that the following sort of argument is sometimes fallacious.

(A)
a is F
b is not F
By Leibniz's Law, a is not identical to b

Leibniz's Law says (roughly) that if a and b have distinct properties, then a is not identical to b. The problem with (A)-style arguments is that the negation in the second premise may be meta-linguistic. Here are a couple of examples of meta-linguistic uses of negation (from Schnieder, p. 45):

I din't trap two mongeese, I trapped two mongooses.

Non-English speaking student: I shall become a great toy for christmas.
English teacher: No, you will not become a toy, you will get one.

In these cases the negation is not used to deny that the thing in question has a property expressed by the predicate, for the predicate does not express a property. Rather, as Schnieder points out, it is used to deny that the predicate "lacks proper usage in English" (p. 45) or does not express the property the speaker intended it to express. For example, I am not denying that I have the property of trapping two mongeese, for there is no such property. Rather, I am saying that 'trapped two mongeese' lacks proper usage. Likewise, the English teacher is not denying that the student has the property of becoming a toy for christmas. Rather, she is saying that 'shall become a great toy for christmas' does not express the property the speaker intended it to express.

Schnieder concludes by considering some arguments from the literature that could perhaps be refuted by arguing that the negation is meta-linguistic, for instance, Nicholas Wolterstorff's argument against taking the kind K to be identical to the property of being K:

The Apple Blossom is the state flower of Michigan
The property of being an apple blossom is not a state flower.
Therefore, The Apple Blossom is not identical to the property of being an apple blossom.

It is arguable that 'the property of being an apple blossom is a state flower' lacks proper usage, and that that is what the negation sign is supposed to indicate.

As I was reading Schnieder's article, I came to think of Kit Fine's case for the non-identity of the statue and the clay. In his case for non-identity Fine appeals to the following sort of argument:

The statue is well made
The clay is not well made
So, the statue is not identical to the clay

Fine even says that predicates such as 'is well made', 'is ugly', 'is Romanesque', 'is insured', and so on may apply to the statue, but the "correct and proper" application of the predicates prevents them from applying to the clay. So, it isn't simply that it is false to say 'the clay is ugly', on Fine's view. It is meaningless to say it. So, when we say 'the clay isn't ugly', Schnieder or anyone sympathetic to his view could argue that the negation is meta-linguistic. If it is, then arguably Fine's non-identity argument does not go through.

Philosophers' Carnival # 37

is here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why are Lagadonian Languages so Called?

A Lagadonian language is a language where objects and properties can be names for themselves (Lewis 1986: 145). But why are Lagadonian languages so called? The answer can be found in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels from 1726 (thanks to John Gabriel).

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift's hero Lemuel Gulliver visits the Academy of Science at Lagado, the capital city of Balnibarbi. Here he finds scientists trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, erect buildings from the roof down, plow farmland with pigs, and make marbles soft enough to stuff pillows. At the school of languages a language experiment is being conducted. Gulliver explains (pp. 162-3):

"The other project was a scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health as well as brevity. For it is plain that every word we speak is, in some degree, a diminution of our lungs by corrosion; and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express the particular business they are to discourse on. And this invention would certainly have taken place, to the great ease as well as health of the subject, if the women, in conjunction with the vulgar and illiterate, had not threatened to raise a rebellion, unless they might be allowed the liberty to speak with their tongues after the manner of their forefathers; such constant irreconcilable enemies to science are the common people".

"However, many of the most learned and wise adhere to the new scheme of expressing themselves by things; which hath only this in­convenience attending it, that if a man's business be very great, and of various kinds, he must be obliged, in proportion, to carry a greater bundle of things upon his back, unless he can afford one or two strong servants to attend him. I have often beheld two of those sages almost sinking under the weight of their packs, like pedlars among us; who, when they met in the streets, would lay down their loads, open their sacks, and hold conversation for an hour together; then put up their implements, help each other resume their burdens, and take their leave".

"But, for short conversations, a man may carry implements in his pockets, and under his arms, enough to supply him; and in his house he cannot be at a loss. Therefore the room where company meet, who practise this art, is full of all things ready at hand, requisite to furnish matter for this kind of artificial converse".

"Another great advantage, proposed by this invention, was, that it would serve as a universal language, to be understood in all civilised nations, whose goods and utensils are generally of the same kind, or nearly resembling, so that their uses might easily be comprehended. And thus ambassadors would be qualified to treat with foreign princes, or ministers of state, to whose tongues they were utter strangers".

Swift's novel was a satire on various aspects of humanity. But satire or not, Lagadonian languages have proven useful to modal abstractionists, or ersatzers, as David Lewis called them, those who treat possible worlds as abstract entities. As a nice example of how Lagadonian languages can be used to describe possibilities and possibilia, take a look at, for example, Ted Sider's The Ersatz Pluriverse.

Reference
Lewis, David. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Cambridge: Blackwell.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Review of Sattig: the Language and Reality of Time

I've posted a new draft of my review of Thomas Sattig's The Language and Reality of Time on my webpage.

More Tense

There appear to be more scope interactions among quantifiers, relative clauses and tenses than predicted by most theories of tense. If you have time, take a moment to appreciate the differences between these structurally similar relative clause sentences. The reading indicated for each sentence is the most salient reading, not the only one (P is past, F is future, E is a stand-in for the existential quantifier, and the predicates are appropriately abbreviated):

200 years ago John Smith hired a senior professor who got his Ph.D. from Harvard.
P(Ex(senior professor x & John hires x & P(get Ph.D. x)))

200 years ago John Smith hired a junior professor who later became president
P(Ex(become president x & P(junior professor x & John hires x)))

A colleague of mine who was a child prodigy got her Ph.D. from Harvard.
Ex(colleague x & P(get Ph.D. x & P(prodigy x)))

A colleague of mine who got her Ph.D. from Harvard was a child prodigy.
Ex(colleague x & P(get Ph.D. x & P(prodigy x)))

A colleague of mine who was a child prodigy will run for president
Ex(colleague x & P(prodigy x) & F(run x))

A colleague of mine who will run for president was a child prodigy
Ex(colleague x & F(run x) & P(prodigy))

John hired a junior professor who will become president
Ex(P(junior professor x & John hires x) & F(x becomes president))

A child prodigy who won five competitions will soon graduate from college
Ex(P(prodigy x & x wins) & F(x graduates))

An adequate theory of tense should explain all of these scope interactions and more.

Men Want Children

Last year the New York Times reported that many women at elite universities plan to stop working after having children. The article caused much controversy. Now a new study sheds light on women's post-childbirth plans. Yale's Women's Center released a survey last week that found that 0.7 percent of men and 4.1 percent of women at Yale plan to leave the work force after having children.

Victoria Brescoll, who conducted the survey in 2005-6, suggests that men and women value their careers equally, because 4.1. percent does not count as many. But that is not quite right. I am sure men and women do value their careers equally. But it is not quite right that 4.1. percent does not count as many. She is right that we cannot conclude that many women plan to stop working after having children (compared to women who do not plan to stop working). But we can conclude that many women plan to stop working when they have children (compared to men).

Interestingly, the Yale study also found that more men than women plan to have children. So, why do more women than men plan to leave the work force after having children when more men than women plan to have children? Perhaps because child-birth often has a negative impact on a woman's career but often has no impact on a man's.

(via Inside Higher Ed)

Dolphins Call Each Other By Name












Humans call each other by name. But so do dolphins. Distinctive "signature whistling calls" apparently function as referential signals in Dolphinese. This was the conclusion of a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers found that when playing synthesized signature whistles without the caller's voice features to a dolphin, the dolphin would turn toward the speaker if the whistle sounded like a relative's. What remains unknown is whether dolphins also make signals that refer to entities other than dolphins.

(Via tvnz and Colleen Keating)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Meta-Ontology and Singular Plural Predicates

The October issue of The Philosophical Quarterly features an article by Patrick Toner called "Meta-Ontology and Accidental Unity". Toner defends something like Peter van Inwagen's approach to composition: not every two things compose a thing. Artifacts, for example, do not. If one takes the van Inwagen approach to artifacts, one cannot sincerely and truly say 'there are chairs' or 'there are computers'. Or so it seems. However, Toner argues that that is not so. He points out that there are singular predicates that apply to pluralities and which appear to be plural predicates in disguise, for instance, 'family', 'basketball team' and so on. Arguably, Sam, Linda, Amy and Kurt do not compose an object, even if they collectively satisfy the predicate 'family'. On this view, then, 'chair', 'computer', 'telephone' and other similar predicates are (or can be treated as) plural predicates. So, when we say 'there are chairs' or 'chairs exist' we are not committed to there being any single object that satisfies the predicate 'chair'. We are only committed to there being a plurality of entities which collectively satisfy the predicate 'chair'.

This is an interesting argument. However, if the project is descriptive, then I think it fails. For 'family' and 'basketball team' behave just like other singular nominals. They combine with determiners (as in 'every family', 'the basketball team' or 'at most one basketball team'), they are grammatically singular ('every great basketball team is from the East Coast'), and so on. So, the suggestion must be that we ought to treat 'family', 'basketball team', 'chair' and so on as if they were plural.

We can then say 'there are chairs'. This translates as 'there are some Xs that collectively satisfy the predicate 'chair" '. But we should not say 'the chair is soft', 'every chair is broken', 'at most one chair is broken', and so on. Instead we should say something plainly ungrammatical: 'the chair are soft', 'all chair are broken', etc. and we should never say 'at most one chair is broken', for the latter is plainly false. However, we could probably get used to saying things like 'the chair are broken', for people already use plural in combination with singular names and nouns, as in 'Manchester United are playing tonight', 'the government are doing what they can', and so on. My main worry is that since this project requires us to revise English, it is not clear that it fares any better than van Inwagen's original position. After all, van Inwagen's position does not rule out a complete revision of our linguistic practices. For example, we might get used to saying 'there are some particles arranged chair-wise' instead of 'there are chairs'.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Food Tongue and Lagadonian Languages

A lagadonian language is a language where objects and properties can be names for themselves (Lewis 1986: 145). Brit (not 'Brit') is a name for Brit. Redness (not 'redness') is a name for redness. Lagadonian languages are dead languages, not quite in the sense in which Latin is a dead language, but in the sense that they cannot be spoken. Nonetheless we can give a syntax and a semantics for them in a non-Lagadonian meta-language.

Speaking of strange languages, Food Tongue is an actual non-Lagadonian languague, invented and spoken by some math campers (hat tip: Christopher Owen). Unfortunately, the semantics, syntax and lexicon for Food Tongue is kept secret. But I think the basic idea is this. The grammar is essentially English. Moreover, every Food Tongue word is an English food kind term. That is, every word in Food Tongue refers, in English, to kinds of food or ingredients used in cooking. For example, 'chocolate' refers to chocolate in English but in food tongue it is an adjective whose semantic value is the property of being good. 'Vanilla' refers to vanilla in English but in Food Tongue it is an adjective whose semantic value is the property of being bad. Proper names in English are translated into food kind terms that sound similar. 'Christopher', for example' might be translated into 'Crust topping'.

One problem with Food Tongue, as I understand it, is that its vocabulary is severely limited. But this problem could be avoided if Food Tongue were turned into a Lagadonian-style language. Let the vocabulary of Food Tongue* be, not English food kind terms, but rather concrete dishes, concrete ingredients that could be used in cooking, and so on. This apple, for example, might be a name of Manhattan, this piece of dark chocolate might be an adjective whose semantic value is the property of being good, and this cheese sandwich might refer to the property of instantiating. We cannot translate English sentences into Food Tongue*, but we can translate English sentences into spatial arrangements. 'Manhattan is good' translates into the arrangement consisting of this apple, this piece of dark chocolate and this cheese sandwich. Imagine what one can do with Food Tongue* at weddings, anniversaries, and the like. If you are the best man, you can bake a cake instead of giving a toast.

Reference:
Lewis, David. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Cambridge: Blackwell

Tense and Relative Clause Sentences II

Sentences like:

(1) John met a man who was a cyclist (King 2003)

pose a problem for most standard theories of tense. (1) has three readings, which can be paraphrased as follows:

(1a) John met a man who was a cyclist before John's meeting him
(1b) John met a man who was a cyclist at the time of the meeting
(1c) John met a man who was a cyclist after John's meeting him

Every theory of tense predicts that (1a) is a reading of (1). For every theory of tense takes past under past to mean anteriority with respect to some past reference time. The problem is how to account for (1b) and (1c).

Toshiyuki Ogihara has made a number of interesting suggestions about how to account for the tenses in relative clause sentences (most of his papers are available on his website).

First, Ogihara suggests that English has an SOT rule (sequence-of-tense rule), which allows for optional deletion of embedded past-tense morphemes. This is what is going on in:

(2) John said he would buy a fish that was still alive (Ogihara 1989)

The past tense morpheme in the relative clause is deleted. So, (2) requires for its truth that John said that he would buy a fish that was still alive at the time of the buying event.

Interestingly, a similar suggestion was made by the Danish grammarian Otto Jespersen (1860-1943) (in A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles). Jespersen suggests that unlike certain other languages (e.g. Japanese) English has a rule that allows past-tense morphemes to be deleted when they occur under another past-tense morpheme.

Second, Ogihara suggests that the (1c) reading where the time of the cycling is later than the time of the meeting can be gotten via (optional) quantifier raising. "A man who was a cyclist" raises to a wide-scope position. On this reading, the matrix tense becomes the "embedded" tense. So, on this reading, the time of the cycling is naturally interpreted as being later than the time of the meeting.

Unfortunately, this simple story cannot be the whole story about tenses in relative clause sentences. For consider:

(3) I will marry a man who went to Harvard (from Partee)

(3) has a reading that does not require for its truth that I marry a man who went to Harvard prior to the speech time. It only requires that I marry a man who went to Harvard prior to the time of the marriage. Since 'a man' is not the surface-grammatical subject of the sentence, there is clearly quantifier raising. But if "a man who went to Harvard" raises to a wide scope position, then (3) does require for its truth that a man I will marry went to Harvard prior to the speech time (as in "a man x who went to Harvard is such that I will marry x").

Another problem with the wide scope reading is that (3) could be true if the speaker marries a man who is not born yet (suppose the speaker is 3 years old). So, we do not want the existential quantifier to have wide scope. Given Priorean tense logic the correct reading of (3) is:

(3a) F(Ex(man x & I marry x & P(x goes to Harvard)))

In English: it will be the case that, there is someone who is a man and who marries me and who went to Harvard.

What to do? Here is my working hypothesis ("working hypothesis" because I am still struggling with the syntax).

The matrix tense can either take wide scope or narrow scope with respect to the existential quantifier. If the matrix tense takes wide scope, then the relative clause tense is interpreted as past (future) relative to the matrix tense (and there is (optional) deletion of the embedded past tense). If the matrix tense takes narrow scope, then the relative clause tense is intepreted as past (future) relative to the time of speech. Moreover, if the matrix tense takes narrow scope, then it can take wide or narrow scope with respect to the predicate restricting the existential quantifier.

This working hypothesis gives us rather nice results in the case of:

(4) John was talking to a student who will run for president

My hypothesis predicts that (4) has the following three readings:

P(Ex(student x & John talks to x & F(runs x)))
Ex(P(student x & John talks to x) & F(runs x))
Ex(student x & P(John talks to x) & F(runs x))

In English:
It was the case that, there is someone who is a student and who is talked to by John and who will run for president.
There is someone who was a student and who was talked to by John and who will run for president.
There is someone who is a student and who was talked to by John and who will run for president.

The first reading seems unavailable. But notice that it is unavailable only if we allow that "will" can introduce a time that is earlier than the time of speech. It has been suggested in the linguistic literature that since English features two future modals, namely "would" (as in "It was the case that John would run for president) and "will" (as in "It was the case that John will run for president"), "will" always introduces a time that is future relative to the time of speech (the exception being special narrator contexts).

Also, my account does not straightforwardly predict that (1c) is a reading of (1). What it does predict is the following reading:

Ex(P(man x & John meets x) & P(cyclist x))

This reading is compatible with "John met a man who was a cyclist after John's meeting him" but it does not entail it. So, we should expect the "cyclist-after-meeting" reading to be triggered only by the presence of temporal adverbials and/or other cues in the surrounding discourse context. And that is entirely consistent with the data. For, as Ogihara reports, speakers need a little bit of help for the "cyclist-after-meeting" reading to be salient.

Dissertations On-line

Josh Dever has created a site where you can publish your philosophy dissertation. (Hat tip: Leiter Reports)

PPR and Nous Go Electronic

The Rutgers-based journals Philosophy and Phenomenological Research and Nous have decided to "move from paper to exclusively electronic operation". The journals do not accept any new submissions while this new approach is being implemented. The time-out is from October 18, 2006 - mid-April 2007 (Hat tip: Leiter Reports).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Academic Blogs Wiki

Henry Farrell has created an academic blogs wiki. You can add your blog if it is not already listed (hat tip: TAR).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Impressions from Last Weekend: Multiple-Choice Edition

How many philosophers and linguists can fit in an SUV?

(a) None
(b) Seven
(c) Thirteen
(d) None of the above


What is the best way to irritate Jason Stanley?

(a) Eat his dinner while he is talking
(b) Put three relativists on the program and make him the chair
(c) Discreetly remind him that no one on the program is named "Lasergun"
(d) All of the above


How much can you expect a philinguist from California to pay for a bottle of conference pre-dinner wine?

(a) Eight dollars
(b) Ten dollars
(c) Fifty-six dollars
(d) All of the above


Where can one buy a bottle of wine in New Brunswick, Jersey?

(a) A wine store
(b) The supermarket
(c) Walmart
(d) More than half of the above


Is 'yellow fin tuna salad glitzy Hollywood star restaurant menu item' interpretable?

(a) Yes, but only if it is type e rather than type (e, t)
(b) Yes, this is one of my preferred items on glitzy Hollywood star restaurant menus.
(c) Sure, it combines with determiners, as in 'more than two-third of the yellow fin tuna salad glitzy Hollywood star restaurant menu items were unavailable yesterday'
(d) Yes, it is interpretable. In fact, most constructions in which it occurs are system 1 not system 2, which means that even a small child can grasp them (witness 'yellow fin tuna salad glitzy Hollywood star restaurant menu items rarely make you sick' and 'yellow fin tuna salad glitzy Hollywood star restaurant menu items carry the West Nile Virus'.
(e) Yes, but I am wondering what to say about 'the four yellow fin tuna salad glitzy Hollywood star restaurant menu items available Thursday morning from 10 to 11 and Friday evening before Friday's episode of Jeopardy but after regular school hours at the local school in East New Brunswick were unavailable Friday at 9 p.m. when we suddenly found ourselves in the mood for something fishy'

Salerno on Factive Mental State Operators

Joe Salerno has an interesting criticism of the main thesis of Williamson's book Knowledge and its Limits. The main thesis is that 'know' is the most general factive mental state operator. Joe argues that 'S could have known that' also satisfies Williamson's tests for being (i) factive, (ii) most general, and (iii) a mental state operator.

Laurence Jonathan Cohen (1923-2006)

Jonathan Cohen, who is particularly well-known for his accomplishments in philosophy of language, died last week. The Guardian has an obituary for him (hat tip: TAR).

Stanley on Un-American Universities

Jason Stanley has an interesting post arguing that American universities are responsible for developing "one of the most impenetrable class hierarchies in the first world".

Back to Work

I am back from my shore excursions, back to classes, papers, emailing, blogging, and what have you. Regular posting at Lemmings will resume shortly.