Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lasersohn (2005) vs Non-Indexical Contextualism

I just came back from Paris, where I participated in the CPR07 organized by François, Isidora, and Neftalí. It has been a great fun, many thanks to them for that! Now I really look forward to submiting something also for the next one on vagueness.

Isidora presented her 'Talking about Taste,' where she discusses Lasersohn (2005) on the assumption that the view is a version of non-indexical contextualism, and I've met some other people attributing that view to him likewise. But I think this is not correct.

Lasersohn does say that the truth of contents is relative to a further, non-standard coordinate in indices, a judge, who will be provided by the context. But he also says:
In order to maintain an authentically subjective assignment of truth values to sentences containing predicates of personal taste, we must allow that the objective facts of the situation of utterance do not uniquely determine a judge. The formalism developed ... required that for any context c, there must be a unique individual j_c, the judge of c. That is, it was stipulated that the contexts uniquely determine a judge. If we are to retain this feature of the formalism, therefore, we must conclude that the objective facts of the situation of utterance do not uniquely determine a context. (p. 669, emphasis added)
Hence, contrary to the appearances produced by his non-standard use of 'context,' Lasersohn view is indeed radical relativism proper.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, bleb!!

Yep, one year already!

I'm back in Barcelona -- I feel I'm still moving, but has been a month now! Hope I manage to get some normality soon!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Vagueness at NYU

Yesterday we had the first session of the NYU Seminar on Vagueness. Wow. As you’ll imagine, it’s just impressive to get the topic introduced by Crispin Wright, and discussed by Hartry Field, Kit Fine, Stephen Schiffer, and Ted Sider, among others. Very very impressive.

I will only attend to the very first sessions, though. In October, I’ll be joining ICREA—from the Catalan for Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies—back in Barcelona as a (junior) researcher. I’m both excited for everything I'll get there and sad for everything I’ll miss here… Oh well whatayagonnado?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On the Semantic Indecision of Vague Singular Terms

I've just seen that Donald Smith's ‘Vague Singulars, Semantic Indecision, and the Metaphysics of Persons’ is out in PPR.

Smith argues that if ‘I’ is indeed vague, and the view of vagueness as semantic indecision correct after all, then ‘I’ cannot refer to a composite material object. But his considerations would, if sound, also establish that ‘Tibbles,’ ‘Everest,’ or ‘Toronto,’ do not refer to composite material objects either—nor hence, presumably, to cats, mountains, or cities. And both considerations can be resisted, anyway.

As to the first, it suffices to observe that if ‘I’ (or ‘Tibbles’) is vague, and the view of vagueness as semantic indecision is correct, then, when I assert a sentence containing it, I do no need to take myself to having successfully referred to any particular thing—if that is understood as definitely referring to something. Rather, I aim my statement to turn out true on any admissible way of making the semantic decisions that are not (and should not, and maybe could not, be) made.

As to the second, one just has to notice that the “many” solution to the problem of the many is certainly not the only solution that defenders of the view of vagueness as semantic indecision can adopt—and have indeed adopted. One rival solution by disqualification is the so-called “supervaluationist” solution, mentioned by Lewis and more recently defended by McGee & McLaughlin, Varzi, and Weatherson. According to this alternative solution, each sharpening of ‘is a cat’ or ‘is a person’ selects just one of the many candidates—different ones in the different sharpenings, thus respecting the arbitrariness felt in denying that they all had an equal claim. ‘Tibbles is a cat’ serves as a penumbral connection, guarantying that it is rendered inadmissible any sharpening that selects a different candidate as the referent of ‘Tibbles’ from the one that is selected as belonging to the extension of ‘is a cat’—inasmuch as ‘If it is not red, then it is orange’ serves to exclude sharpenings in which borderline rose Fifí is assigned both to the extension of ‘is red’ and to that of ‘is orange.’ Thus the many candidates are indeed equally eligible as referents of ‘Tibbles,’ but it definitely the case that one and just one of them is a cat after all. Mutatis mutandis, once again, for persons.

My response will appear shortly in Sorites.

Monday, July 23, 2007


In connection with the issue about labels here, Ghislain Guigon has suggested to me ‘indifferentism’:

"it seems to me that it reflects two aspects of your true dismissivism: first there is no difference in truthmakers between the opposite views. Second, the right philosophical attitude is to remain indifferent regarding the dispute."
I've just leared that the label does already exist:
"In Roman Catholicism, indifferentism is a condemned heresy that holds that one religion is as good as another, and that all religions are equally valid paths to salvation. Its condemnation is closely linked to the dogmatic definition that outside the Church there is no salvation."
I'm not sure about whether this goes against or in favor of using the label in the metametaphysical discussion (although I'm inclined to say that probably the latter)!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

CFP: LOGOS Conference on Meta-Metaphysics

LOGOS Conference on Meta-Metaphysics
, 19-21 June 2008

First Call for Papers

Do numbers, sets, and other abstract entities, exist? Does mereological composition ever occur? Does it always occur? How do objects persist through time? In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the status of certain traditional debates in metaphysics such as these. Some think that some of these turn out to be genuine disputes but of a semantic or conceptual character. Some think that some of these turn out to be pseudo-disputes that should be just dismissed. (Some others think, of course, that the disputes are indeed genuine, but not of a semantic or conceptual character.) Reflection of these issues promises to shed light on the nature of philosophical inquiry in general.

LOGOS—Grup de Recerca en Lògica, Llenguatge i Cognició is organizing a conference on meta-metaphysics. Invited and submitted papers will be made available to participants one month before the conference. Participants are expected to read them in advance, as there will be no presentation of them during the conference. Sessions will start with a critical commentary (lasting 20 minutes at most), followed by a response by the author(s) (lasting 10 minutes at most) and a general open discussion period.

Proposals to participate as a speaker and/or as a commentator should be sent by e-mail to by 1 April 2008. Full papers in suitable form for blind refereeing should be submitted in order to participate as a speaker, and a short CV is to be supplied as to participate as a commentator. We expect to notify accepted proposals within four weeks of the deadline.

Participants other than invited speakers will have to rely on their own institutions to defray the cost of travel and accommodation.

Confirmed Invited Speakers:

John Hawthorne (Oxford )
Amie Thomasson (
Stephen Yablo (MIT)

Organizing Committee:

Manuel García-Carpintero (Barcelona)
Dan López de Sa (NYU/St Andrews)
Pablo Rychter (Barcelona)

Scientific Committee:

Fabrice Correia (Rovira i Virgili)
Manuel García-Carpintero (Barcelona)
John Hawthorne (Oxford)
Max Kölbel (Birmingham)
Dan López de Sa (NYU/St Andrews)
Sven Rosenkranz (Barcelona/St Andrews)
Pablo Rychter (Barcelona)
Amie Thomasson (Miami)
Gabriel Uzquiano (Oxford)
Timothy Williamson (Oxford)
Stephen Yablo (MIT)

Further information:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is the Problem of the Many a Problem in Metaphysics? (Bristol)

The 2007 Joint Session in Bristol, organized by Anthony Everett and his team, was also excellent! Besides philosophy, and as expected, it was great seeing lots of friends, and meeting lots of new people: apparently it was the biggest JS ever!

There I presented my ‘Is the Problem of the Many a Problem in Metaphysics?,’ which I very happily had just learned has been accepted in Noûs. The discussion didn’t go that well at the time, as I was particularly slow and obtuse, but now I think it was very useful. (The following reconstruction is greatly indebted to posterior discussion with Patrick Greenough and Katherine Hawley.)

Tim Williamson objected that there is the danger that many if not all genuine disputes in metaphysics turn out to be “in semantics” in the sense in which I was claiming that the dispute between different solutions to the problem of the many is “in semantic”—assuming the view of vagueness as semantic indecision. One might try to block this overgeneralization concern via appealing to both parties agreeing that the ‘mountain’-free description is complete with respect to all the facts—except for facts about which should also be described as facts involving mountains—, along the lines I suggested in the paper. But then, Tim worried, one would be thereby committed to a coarse-grained notion of fact incapable of expressing controversial issues in philosophy—for under this sense (one of the parties would hold) the fact that mountains are mountains* is identical to the fact that mountains* are mountains* and so on. On reflection, I am now inclined to say that this is indeed right, but something that the defenders of the view should actually endorse. Consider, for an analogy, a Lewisian conception about values according to which it is analytic that something is good iff we are disposed to value it under appropriate conditions. If this is correct, then the fact that something is good would be identical to the fact that we are disposed to value it under appropriate conditions—its philosophical controversiality and non-obviousness notwithstanding.

Katherine Hawley pointed out that, as stated, a dispute would qualify as in semantics according to me even if the parties agreed on what things there are and which properties they have—when they are described in a suitably neutral way—but disagree about the relative naturalness of these objects and properties and, as a result of this, disagree about the semantics of certain expressions. I think I agree on the general point, and that a full characterization of the relevant metametaphysical attitude should take this point into consideration. I don’t think this would affect the particular claim about the problem of the many, as the different objects and properties seem to be equally natural according to both parties, but I’d like to think more about this.

Robbie Williams wondered whether the main issues could be more neutrally raised directly in terms of the relevant definiteness-involving statements, leaving the view of vagueness as semantic indecision as one possible way among others of explicating the notion. As I said there, I haven’t explored yet the shape to these issues if the assumption of vagueness as semantic indecision is not in place.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Meta-Metaphysical Taxonomy (Ovronnaz)

I’ve just come back from Europe. In Ovronnaz, we enjoyed a wonderful metaphysics workshop, excellently organized by Jiri Benovsky. Very friendly atmosphere, very fruitful discussions of the pre-read papers, and, as you can see in the pic (thanks to Ghislain Guigon), a very very enjoyable venue!

In my paper I defended that there are two very different meta-metaphysical attitudes sometimes conflated in the recent literature. On the one hand there is the idea that some apparent disputes in metaphysics are genuine disputes, but in semantics. This I illustrated with the dispute among defenders of the different solutions to the problem of the many, assuming vagueness is semantic indecision. (This was my paper in the JS, I’ll post on it separately later.) I really enjoyed the discussion about this. Among many other things discussed, John Drivers pointed out that some disputes satisfying my sufficient condition might be “less in order” than I suggested—if, for instance, semantics of English leaves indeterminate which of the different semantic claims is correct—; and both Jiri and Mark Heller worried whether there are examples where the initial appearance of the dispute being in metaphysics is stronger.

On the other hand, there is the quite distinct idea that some apparent disputes in metaphysics turn out to be merely apparent disputes, given that the views in question are metaphysically equivalent. The workshop itself provided further illustrations, as Jiri was in effect arguing that this is indeed the case between (versions of) the bundle theory vs the substratum theory, and Mark between 3D and 4D theories about persistence.

One thing some of us also discussed was which label would be appropriate for the latter kind of attitude. In the paper I used ‘(true) dismissivism,’ as to distinguish it from Karen Bennett’s usage (see here why). Another alternative label I found myself using in Mark’s discussion was ‘equivalentism.’ Any views?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Back in Europe

I'm leaving Brooklyn for some days, in order to participate in the Metaphysics Workshop in Ovronnaz (Switzerland) and the 2007 Joint Session in Bristol (UK). Looking forward to seeing lots of friends there!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rigidity for Predicates and the Trivialization Problem

I've just learned that this paper has been accepted for publication in Philosophers' Imprint. Thanks to everyone with whom I dicussed it in the last years!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vagueness in St Andrews

I'm back in St Andrews, for some vagueness-related events: John MacFarlane's visit, the 2007 Arché Academic Audit, and the Vagueness Conference.

Oh, I was missing Arché tempo!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Atheist's Nightmare: The Banana

Thanks to Aidan's the boundaries of language, I've just been enlightened. Just irrefutable.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Worlds and Times Enough or Locations?

(X-posted from the Arché Weblog.)

Some time ago we discussed Andy Egan’s ‘Second-Order Predication and the Metaphysics of Properties’ (AJP 82 (2004), 4867), at the St Andrews Metaphysics Reading Group in a couple of sessions.

In the paper, it is argued that properties should be identified with functions from worlds to extensions, as a way of solving the following problem: If properties are sets of (possible) instances, things that exist in more than one world can’t have any of their properties contingently. Properties like being green exists in more than one world, but have some properties contingently: being somebody’s favourite property.

Then, although more tentatively, it is argued that properties should be identified with functions from worlds and times to extensions, as a way of solving the following problem: If properties are functions from worlds to extensions, then things without temporal parts can’t have any of their properties at some but not other times. Properties like being bent don’t have temporal parts, but have some properties at some but not other times: being coinstantiated with being hungry.

I think I am generally sympathetic, but I was concerned that the same kind of reasoning would also motivate that properties should be identified with functions from worlds and times and places (or locations, for short) to extensions. After all, (i) “Second-order predication” of properties such as having many instances around seem to pose similar problems to the world-time proposal, by being possibly true at some places but not others; (ii) there seem to be parallel cases of spatially self-locating attitudes; and (iii) the response to Lewis' concern seems similarly effective as to defend the world-time-place proposal from the charge that these are relations rather than properties.

Any views?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Issues concerning Women in Philosophy in the UK

Jennifer Saul has just announced that the Society for Women in Philosophy UK now has a mailing list. Anyone who is interested in issues concerning women in philosophy in the UK is welcome to join. To do so, go to <>. If you're not a member of the University of Sheffield, you'll need to get a login and password first, which takes mere seconds. You can do this at the left-hand side of the page.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Are Factive Verbs a Myth?

I’ve just came back from 2007 Rutgers Epistemology Conference. The one that interested me most was Allan Hazlett’s ‘The Myth of Factive Verbs,’ winner of the 2007 Young Epistemologist Prize and forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. I’m afraid I disagree, however.

Allan argues against the orthodox view among philosophers that certain two-place predicates—‘knows’, ‘learns’, ‘remembers’, and ‘realizes’, for example—are factive in the sense that an utterance of ‘S knows p’ is true only if p, that an utterance of ‘S learned p’ is true only if p, and so on. He presents two consideration aimed to constitute a prima facie case against orthodoxy, and then discusses and rejects certain arguments in favor of orthodoxy.

I found the two considerations less than fully compelling. The first depends on the contention that “if the orthodox view is true, then we should expect the claim that all known propositions are true to be obvious to anyone who knows the meaning of ‘knows’” (p. 2). But on the face of it, this seems to unduly equate something like ‘analyticity’ with the obvious: the fact that ‘remembers’ or ‘sees’ might not be obviously factive for some competent users is clearly compatible with their being indeed factive all the same. As to the second, and as pointed out by several people in the discussion at Rutgers, it seems to depend on a too narrow conception of the phenomenon of loose talk.

It would be argued, however, that if the typical arguments for orthodoxy fail, this is remarkable regardless of the issue as to whether there is or not an antecedent prima facie case against it. The main one discussed by Allan is quite straightforward:

The appearance of contradiction. Someone who says ‘I know p, but not-p’ contradicts herself. Therefore, knowledge is factive. Mutatis mutandis for learning, remembering, realizing. (p. 6)

To which he replies:

‘I know p, but not-p’ is not contradictory, but an utterance of it is Moore paradoxical—to know that p is to believe that p, and ‘I believe p, but not-p’ is paradigmatically Moore paradoxical. (p. 6)

One typical way of arguing that ‘I believe p, but not-p’ is not contradictory, however, concerns the fact that is aproblematically OK when turned into the third person: ‘She believes p, but she’s completely wrong: not-p.’ In the case of ‘know,’ by contrast, it sounds exactly as bad as the original first-person version: ‘She knows p, but she’s completely wrong: not-p.’

Allan anticipates this objection, and says:

In §4 I outline what I think are some correct proposals concerning the pragmatics of the use of ‘knows’—and there I maintain that an utterance of ‘S knows p’ typically implies that p is true. I think this goes some way towards explaining why ‘S knows p, but not-p’ often sounds improper. (p.6)

Section §4, however, offers a "Gricean" account of the “implication” which exploits that knowing requires believing and a sufficient quantity of epistemic justification for one’s belief. But even in cases where S clearly satisfies both it would still sound contradictory to assert ‘S knows p, but not-p.’

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Schaffer on Furnishing Functions

(X-posted from The bLOGOS.)

In a part of ‘Ontological Anti-Realism’ which I didn’t comment on (§§8-11), David Chalmers considers an objection against anti-realism based on the idea that the absolute unrestricted quantifier has an objective, determinate semantic value. I don’t want to assess his response to the objection here (see related discussion here, and references there).

In order to analyse existence assertions, however, he tentatively introduces the notion of a furnished world—an ordered pair of a world and a domain—and a furnishing function—a mapping from worlds to domains—(see the end of §8).

In his comments to the paper, Jonathan Schaffer objects:

The argument for heavyweight realism about fundamental structure: Furnishing functions are maps from a world to a domain. But a function is a map from one structure (‘the input’) to another (‘the output’). One cannot have a well-defined function without there being some articulated structure to the input. In particular we must be able to specify the arguments of the function. Any function is either complete or partial. It is either injective or not. It is either surjective or not. None of these classifications would make sense unless the input (‘the world’) already comes with some fundamental articulated structure inbuilt, to feed into the function. … I conclude that the framework that Chalmers actually supplies is at least half-realist, in the sense that it presupposes heavyweight realism about fundamental structure. (pp. 2-3)

I am probably missing something here. For I understood that a furnishing function was a map from the class of worlds to the class of domains, whose arguments were precisely just worlds. Thus I don’t see why there being such mappings requires in any sense any “articulated structure” in the items to which the function is applied. Can anyone help?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

'Philosophy' at the Uncyclopedia

Here. Awesome ;-{)}!

(Thanks to Teresa for the link.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How to Respond to Borderline Cases

It seems that Hannah and her wife Sarah may disagree as to whether Homer Simpson is funny, without neither of them being at fault. This is an uncontroversial (enough) case of apparent faultless disagreement. Whether such an appearance of faultless disagreement is to be endorsed—or even whether it could be endorsed—is, of course, a matter of controversy. But that such appearances exist is, I take it, a datum for non-relativists and relativist alike.

Some philosophers seem to think that vagueness should be included: borderline cases provide further cases of apparent faultless disagreement. But this, however, does not seem to be so. Take Jason and his husband Justin, and consider a borderline green towel. Typically, I submit, they would not respond to it by taking a view as to whether the towel is green or not. They would simply lack the judgements that they would naturally express in an ordinary context by asserting ‘The towel is green’ or ‘The towel is nor green’ with its literal meaning: rather, if questioned about it, they would easily converge in something like that ‘it sort of is and sort of isn’t,’ ‘it's greenish,’ etc.—and they would be rational in so doing. But then they would lack the building blocks for the appearance of faultless disagreement clearly present in the other case considered above: the (contrasting) judgements. Hannah and Sarah do typically form polar opinions with respect to issues such as whether Homer Simpson is funny; Jason and Justin typically do not form such verdicts with respect to issues such as whether the towel is green.

So this is in essence why I think that vagueness does not provide further cases of apparent faultless disagreement: with respect to borderline cases, people typically do not respond by taking a view—unlike what is the case in genuine cases of apparent faultless disagreement. I have written a paper trying to provide further considerations in favor of this claim. Comments and objections very welcome!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Disjunctions, Conjunctions, and their Truthmakers, again

I have just learned that my discussion of Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra’s ‘Truthmaking, Entailment, and the Conjunction Thesis’ has been accepted in Mind (on condition that I make a minor change).

The piece originated itself at the blogosphere, and benefited from discussions at The bLOGOS and (in Spanish) at the GAF Blog. Many thanks to Benjamin, Glenda, Ezequiel, Gonzalo, Jiri, and Joan!

Any further suggestions and objections are, as usual, very welcome.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Against Truth-Value Gaps?

I’ve been reading Michael Glanzberg’s ‘Against Truth-Value Gaps’ (link to penultimate version, page references to the published version). I found a lot of interesting stuff there, with much of which I agree—inter alia, that the point of assertion is to convey information, and that thus one should assert something in a context only if that would be (true and thus) true or false, in that that context.

As to the main point, however, I’m not sure I got it. I had my worry at the very first pages, and it was not mitigated in the subsequent fortysomething, so I guess there is probably something very basic I am missing. Any help appreciated.

The main claim of the paper is that

that there are no substantial truth-value gaps. There are some phenomena that appear like gaps, but they are importantly different. There are faux gaps, as I shall call them, but no substantial gaps. In particular, attention to the role of context dependence, and the ways in which utterances of meaningful sentences can fail to express propositions in some contexts, provides a rich theoretical basis for explaining away apparently substantial truth-value gaps as merely faux gaps. (p. 152)

A substantial gap occurs, or would have occurred, when something that is apt to be true or false—including utterances, interpreted sentences paired with context, and propositions—fails to be either. (p.151)

I am a bit uneasy with talk of propositions in this context: too many (subtly but crucially different) things might be meant, so that one has always to make explicit which one one is interested in—which might be held to make the usefulness of the notion at best debatable.

But never mind that, here is the worry: any “faux” gap seems to be a substantial gap, in the envisaged sense. Take a “faux” gap case, where an utterance of a meaningful sentence “fails to express a proposition” in a given context. Thus the utterance or, better, the (interpreted) sentence at the context fails to be true or false. As, admittedly, these are things apt to be true or false—unlike shoes and ships and sealing wax—, this would be (also) a substantial gap.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rigidity for Predicates and Overgeneralization

What is it for a predicate to be rigid? The following seems to be a plausible straightforward proposal. Inasmuch as rigidity for singular terms concerns sameness of signification across possible worlds, so does rigidity for predicates: a predicate is rigid iff it signifies the same property across the different possible worlds (and is flexible otherwise). This I call the simple proposal about rigidity for predicates. It is arguably suggested by Kripke himself in N&N, and seems to be tacitly assumed in discussions in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, or metaethics.

However, it has received a number of criticisms in the recent literature. Among them: that it is unduly committed to the view that predicates signify entities like properties (the signification problem), and that it would trivialize the notion, by covering any predicate whatsoever (the trivialization problem).

I have written a paper defending the simple proposal from another objection. Although the objection is not usually formulated sharply, nor clearly distinguished from the trivialization concern, the idea behind it seems to be that the proposal would overgeneralize, by covering predicates for artifactual, social, or evaluative properties, such as ‘is a knife,’ ‘is a bachelor,’ or ‘is funny.’ And this despite the fact about the (relative) “unnaturalness” of the properties signified. Hence I label it the over-generalization problem. Recent proponents of this objection include Schwartz 2002 and Haukioja 2006.

My paper has been conditionally accepted in Synthèse, and I plan to write the final version in the next days. All comments, suggestions, and objections more than welcome ;-{)}!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

From Boise to SF

The metametaphysics conference in Boise has ended. Although I was not particularly active myself, I’ve really enjoyed it, both in format and content. I really wish people adopted the “pre-read papers” format more often, at least concerning small-medium sized conferences on specific topics. Having the papers in advance, and having much more time devoted to comments and discussion seem to go necessarily for the good of it!

I hope I’ll post more about it, both here and at The bLOGOS. But right now I’ve confirmed that one of the things that a fuller version of my paper should include is a comment—indeed, a complaint—about people in the field often equating analytic with trivial or philosophically nonsubstantive ;-{)}!

More importantly, I was re-reading in the plane Josh Parsons’ very interesting paper against analytic universalism. In my view, this represents a much more serious challenge for the view than those I have already discussed. I really look forward to think more about it as soon as I am back.

Now my first APA!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Analytic Universalism

(X-posted at The bLOGOS.)

I've put toghether in the form of a very brief note the considerations against the considerations against the view I propose to call Analytic Universalism, from discussions here, here, and here. Hopefully I could get some feedback from the participants at the INPC 2007 conference on metametaphysics.

Comments very welcome!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

What Are Precisifications? I

I’ve been reading the first section of Achille Varzi’s ‘Supervaluationism and Its Logics,’ forthcoming in Mind.

According to him, there are at least two main options as to how exactly the notion of a precisification is to be cashed out:

“(1) One option is to construe a precisification of our vague language, L, as a precise language in its own right. (This is how David Lewis and Michael Dummett put it, at least in some of their works.) From this point of view, to say that L admits of several precisifications is to say that L is really many languages, a cluster of several (homophonic) precise languages whose semantics are only partially in agreement: our practices have simply failed to uniquely identify the one language that we are speaking. Correspondingly, to say that a statement of L is supertrue (for instance) is to say that it is true no matter how we suppose L tobe identified, i.e., no matter which (homophonic) variant of our statement we consider.

(2) A different, more popular option is to construe a precisification of a vague language L as a precise interpretation of L. (This is how most authors see it, from Kit Fine to the later David Lewis to Vann McGee, Brian McLaughlin, and Rosanna Keefe) Here the idea is that the grammar of our language is in principle compatible with countless interpretations, countless models each of which is logically adequate in that each assigns an extension to every predicate constant, a denotation to every individual constant, etc. Our linguistic practices and conventions are meant to select one such interpretation as the intended one, but they may fall short of doing the job properly. Correspondingly, to say that a statement of L is super-true (for instance) is to say that it is true no matter how we suppose the job to be done properly.”

As he himself anticipates, one might worry this to be a distinction without a difference. I do not find completely compelling the considerations he offers in response—and hope to post on it somewhen.

Here I just want to reckon that option (1) seems to me to be heterogeneous. In particular, one could adhere to a conception of precisifications as precise expressions (and languages) without necessarily reserving the expression ‘languages’ for precise ones—and thus in particular without being committed to the view of ordinary “languages” as clusters of (precise) languages.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Google and Vanity

I've just learn here that Ross is first hit when you google "essentiality of origin." I am pleased to announce that, after some tries ;-{)}, I've discovered that I am first hit for "vagueness as semantic indecision." (Ok, admittedly not the most straightforward label for the view, but still...)

If you're proud or amused of being among the first hits for some particular locution, please feel free to share it. And no, nobody's gonna believe you've never googled your name!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Chalmers, Meta-Metaphysics, Existence, and “Analyticity”

Finally I am going to participate in the INPC 2007 conference on metametaphysics. The list of people there is huge, and I am very excited about itI hope to finish my paper in time for that!

I have been reading Dave Chalmers’ ‘Ontological Anti-Realism.’ There is a lot of interesting stuff, and I hope we discuss it at length soon in the Meta-Metaphysics e-Reading Group at The bLOGOS.

One thing that surprised me, however, and which connects with the discussion I had here and here, is the following paragraph:

“The absolute quantifier expresses a primitive concept, if it expresses any concept at all. Because of this, it is extremely implausible that ampliative conditionals involving the absolute quantifier, such as ‘If x and y exist, the sum of x and y exists’, or ‘If there are particles arranged heapwise, there is a heap’ could be analytic. It is unlikely that they are true in virtue of the concept of absolute quantification, because that concept is primitive and unanalyzable. It is unlikely that they are true in virtue of the concepts ‘heap’ and ‘sum’ alone, in part because they have logical consequences that do not involve these expressions. And it is unlikely that they are true in virtue of the concepts of absolute quantification and those expressed by ‘heat’ or ‘sum’ together: this combination might at best yield nonampliative analytic conditionals, such as ‘If there is an object made of particles arranged heapwise, it is a heap’, but not ampliative analytic conditionals.” (§7, p. 24)

For him, the conditionals are ampliative

“roughly in that the consequent makes an existential claim that is not built into the antecedent. (That is, the consequent is not a logical consequent of the antecedent, where we take an expansive view of logical consequence such that for example, ‘If x is a father, there exists someone who is an offspring of x’ is a logical truth.)” (§6, p. 18)

With this understanding of ‘ampliative’ it is indeed plausible that ampliative conditionals are not analytic, for being analytic would make them logical truths, in the relevant sense, and thus nonampliative.

The question, of course, is then which reason could be provided for the claim that the relevant mereological statements are not analytic; i.e. are “ampliative” in this sense? And the question is pressing, given that

‘Whenever there are two things, there is something which is a sum of them.’

does seem to be relevantly like related mereological statements such as

‘Whenever something is a proper part of another, there is something that is part of the latter but not of the former.’

‘Whenever two things overlap, there is something that is part of both.’

which, most would agree, are indeed “analytic” (and thus "nonampliative") in the relevant sense.

Spring Term in NY

After a longish hiatus, the new term is starting here. I am participating in Achille Varzi’s seminar on vagueness, Hartry Field & Jim Pryor’s Mind, Language, Etc 2007 seminar and Stephen Schiffer’s seminar on meaning and the apriori. I would expect some of the posts to be on issues raised in these.