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Volume 21, 2005
Compositionality, Concepts and Representations I

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Displaying: 1-19 of 19 documents

1. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Henry Jackman Descriptive Atomism and Foundational Holism: Semantics between the Old Testament and the New
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While holism and atomism are often treated as mutually exclusive approaches to semantic theory, the apparent tension between the two usually results from running together distinct levels of semantic explanation. In particular, there is no reason why one can’t combine an atomistic conception of what the semantic values of our words are (one’s “descriptive semantics”), with a holistic explanation of why they have those values (one’s “foundational semantics”). Most objections to holism can be shown to apply only to holistic versions of descriptive semantics, and do not tell against any sorts of holistic foundational semantics. As Davidson’s work will be used to illustrate, by clearly distinguishing foundational and descriptive semantics, one can capture the most appealing features of both holism and atomism.
2. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Claire Horisk The Surprise Argument for Truth-Conditional Semantics
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Davidson’s Surprise argument promises to resolve a dispute that has arisen in contemporary formal semantics over the proper semantic value for a semantic theory. At issue are doubts that Pietroski raises about the compositionality of truth-conditions, and thereby about truthconditional semantics, which treats a truth value as the semantic value for a sentence. The dispute is recalcitrant because, as I show, Pietroski’s evidence that truth-conditions are not compositional can be explained away with attention to Cappelen and Lepore’s distinction between the truth of what is semantically expressed by an utterance and the truth of its speech act content. While the Surprise argument would, if it worked, support truth-conditional semantics, I demonstrate that it fails; in fact, it is peculiarly vulnerable to Pietroski’s concerns.
3. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Alberto Peruzzi Compositionality up to Parameters
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The principle of compositionality (PC) claims that the meaning of a compound expression is determined by the meanings of its constituent expressions and the way they compose. Is it true or false? Does it apply to both natural and formalised languages? In order to answer, we must examine various formal versions of PC, the notion of meaning and the patterns of composition. Moreover, further principles are called for to determine its import and, in particular, its relationships with the Context Principle, which seems to be inconsistent with PC. The paper deals with some aspects of the issues involved, by considering both empirical and model-theoretic results on compositionality obtained in recent years. The main thesis is that only if the parametric form of PC is acknowledged, the above questions can receive a definite answer. To this aim, the paper makes the conditions for the consistency of PC with context-dependence explicit. Such conditions allow for the stability of a schematic conceptual/epistemic core, in contrast with the slippery slope leading to holistic pragmatism.
4. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Pauli Brattico On the Problem of Unspeakable Content
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There is compelling linguistic evidence that many words (e.g., boil) are derived from phrasal sources (e.g., cause to boil). Among causation, typical semantic primitives composing word meanings are becoming, having and getting. While linguists have argued that word meanings contain semantic knowledge that we can grasp but cannot express linguistically, Fodor and his colleagues maintain that words express primitive, semantically unanalysable concepts. Under this view, putative linguistic semantic decompositions express nonsemantic metaphysical regularities. After reviewing the debate, it is suggested in this article that semantic features that are linguistically salient and unspeakable emerge neither from the analytical connections between words, nor from the metaphysical structure of the world, but from the logical syntax of the grammar.
5. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Daniel Blair Contexts Crossed Over
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The recent interest in some of the phenomena traditionally associated with the context dependence of quantificational expressions (QPs) has centered around the idea that some constituents of a sentence might serve as the locus of domain restriction for QPs might be present but lack for overt manifestation. In this essay, one such argument – due to Stanley (2000) – is critically examined. Specifically, I will present a number of different kinds of constructions where the predictions of a theory based upon syntactically represented context variables are not confirmed.
6. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Marc A. Moffett Constructing Attitudes
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The singular term theory maintains that that-clauses are complex singular terms which designate propositions. Though extremely well-supported, the theory is endangered by the existence of oblique that-clauses; that is, that-clauses occurring in what appear to be nonargument positions (e.g., ‘Lola was upset that Slick Willy had all the fun’). In this paper I argue that the best solution to the problem consistent with the singular term theory, invokes a construction-based grammatical theory. Such an approach challenges traditional views of semantic compositionality by rejecting a central dogma of semantics, namely, that linguistic constructions contribute only trivial logical or quasi-logical information to semantic interpretation (e.g., function-application relations).
7. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Josep Macià Is Horwich’s Deflationary Account of Meaning an Alternative to Truth-Theoretic Semantics?
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In recent writings Paul Horwich has pursued two related aims: (i) To show “how small a constraint is provided by compositionality” (Horwich 1998, chapter 7, p. 183). “The compositionality of meaning imposes no constraint at all on how the meaning properties of words are constituted” (p. 154). (ii) To present a deflationary alternative to the “Davidsonian truth-theoretic perspective” (Horwich 2001) The paper has three sections: in section 1 I make some comments on compositionality, in section 2 I argue that Horwich does not succeed in achieving aim (i), and in section 3 I argue that he does not succeed either in achieving aim (ii).
8. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Tim Kenyon Are Names Ambiguous?
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It is widely held that proper names are ambiguous in some sense, a view commonly associated with the theory that names are, when suitably idealized, semantically “rigid designators”. In this brief paper I suggest that, while some refinement of the concept of a name is surely appropriate, proper names do not very clearly meet the standards normally used to determine ambiguity. There is reason to regard shared names as semantically univocal, including some evidence from development linguistics to regard a grasp of names as having a metalinguistic descriptive aspect.
on contemporary philosophy and sociology
9. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Shmuel N. Eisenstadt The Transformations of the Religious Dimension in the Constitution of Contemporary Modernities
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This paper analyzes different aspects of the far-reaching resurgence or reconstruction of religions is taking place in the contemporary world. This resurgence is manifest among others in the rise of new religious, especially fundamentalist and communal-national movements, in the crystallization of new diasporas with strong religious identities, as well as far-reaching transformations of the major religious components in the constitution of contemporary collective identities and public arenas.The central focus of such reconstruction or reconstitution of the religious dimension in the classical model of the nation and revolutionary states was delegated or confined, is the transposition thereof from private or secondary public spheres, into the various political and cultural arenas and in the central frameworks of collective identities of many societies, thus greatly transforming the basic premises of the classical nation and revolutionary state. This resurgence of religion does not entail a simple return of some traditional forms of religion, but rather a far-reaching reconstitution of the religious component in new modern settings which transcends the vision of the “classical” cultural and political program of modernity and of the model of the modern nation state.
10. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Julian Nida-Rümelin Why Rational Deontological Action Optimizes Subjective Value
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In present day philosophy there are two competing views regarding practical rationality: (1) Decision and game theory and economic theory have developed a theory of rational decision which has proven to be fruitful in many areas of social science. Practical philosophy should work with that paradigm (2) Economic theory and decision theory do not have an adequate account of practical rationality. The homo oeconomicus model is – at best – one perspective which competes inter alia with philosophical accounts of practical reason.In this article I try to show that these two seemingly opposing views are in fact compatible. I argue that consequentialism is an inadequate account of rationality because rational action is deontological in character. Nevertheless the decision theoretic conceptual frame should not be given up. Deontology and decision theory can be made compatible via comprehensive description of action. The conceptual frame of decision theory should be interpreted as coherentist, not consequentialist. With this intertretation deontological action, if rational, maximizes subjective value.
11. ProtoSociology: Volume > 21
Louise Röska-Hardy Reframing the Issues: On Donald Davidson’s Sea-change in Philosophical Thinking
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In his philosophy Donald Davidson developed original proposals, suggested innovative applications and moved philosophical debate forward by reframing key issues in analytic philosophy. In doing so, he attempted to bring about a profound transformation of the problems of modern philosophy by reframing philosophical issues. It is argued that essays in the collection, Donald Davidson, edited by Kirk Ludwig, show that the profound consequences of Davidson’s way of reframing issues about meaning, agency and mind have yet to be fully appreciated.
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