•  4
    Normative Language in Context
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12. 2017.
    This chapter develops a contextualist account of normative language, focusing on broadly normative readings of modal verbs. The account draws on a more general framework for implementing a contextualist semantics and pragmatics, Discourse Contextualism. The aim of Discourse Contextualism is to derive the discourse properties of normative language from a contextualist interpretation of an independently motivated formal semantics, along with principles of interpretation and conversation. In using …Read more
  •  150
    Evaluational Adjectives
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1-35. forthcoming.
    This paper demarcates a theoretically interesting class of "evaluational adjectives." This class includes predicates expressing various kinds of normative and epistemic evaluation, such as predicates of personal taste, aesthetic adjectives, moral adjectives, and epistemic adjectives, among others. Evaluational adjectives are distinguished, empirically, in exhibiting phenomena such as discourse-oriented use, felicitous embedding under the attitude verb `find', and sorites-susceptibility in the co…Read more
  •  144
    This paper investigates how inquiry into normative language can improve substantive normative theorizing. First I examine two dimensions along which normative language differs: “strength” and “subjectivity.” Next I show how greater sensitivity to these features of the meaning and use of normative language can illuminate debates about three issues in ethics: the coherence of moral dilemmas, the possibility of supererogatory acts, and the connection between making a normative judgment and being mo…Read more
  •  38
    Review of Paul Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitutivism
  •  418
    Theories of vagueness and theories of law
    Legal Theory 25 (2): 132-152. 2019.
    It is common to think that what theory of linguistic vagueness is correct has implications for debates in philosophy of law. I disagree. I argue that the implications of particular theories of vagueness on substantive issues of legal theory and practice are less far-reaching than often thought. I focus on four putative implications discussed in the literature concerning (i) the value of vagueness in the law, (ii) the possibility and value of legal indeterminacy, (iii) the possibility of the rule…Read more
  •  263
    Recent decades have witnessed a flurry of interest in Nietzsche's metaethics — his views, if any, on metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and psychological issues about normativity and normative language and judgment. Various authors have highlighted a tension between Nietzsche's metaethical views about value and his ardent endorsement of a particular evaluative perspective: Although Nietzsche makes apparently "antirealist" claims to the effect that there are no evaluative facts, he vehement…Read more
  •  41
    Normativity in Language and Law
    In David Plunkett, Kevin Toh & Scott Shapiro (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    This chapter develops an account of the meaning and use of various types of legal claims, and uses this account to inform debates about the nature and normativity of law. The account draws on a general framework for implementing a contextualist theory, called 'Discourse Contextualism' (Silk 2016). The aim of Discourse Contextualism is to derive the apparent normativity of claims of law from a particular contextualist interpretation of a standard semantics for modals, along with general principle…Read more
  •  134
    Expectation Biases and Context Management with Negative Polar Questions
    Journal of Philosophical Logic 49 (1): 51-92. 2020.
    This paper examines distinctive discourse properties of preposed negative 'yes/no' questions (NPQs), such as 'Isn’t Jane coming too?'. Unlike with other 'yes/no' questions, using an NPQ '∼p?' invariably conveys a bias toward a particular answer, where the polarity of the bias is opposite of the polarity of the question: using the negative question '∼p?' invariably expresses that the speaker previously expected the positive answer p to be correct. A prominent approach—what I call the context-mana…Read more
  •  31
    Commitment and states of mind with mood and modality
    Natural Language Semantics 26 (2): 125-166. 2018.
    This paper develops an account of mood selection with attitude predicates in French. I start by examining the “contextual commitment” account of mood developed by Portner and Rubinstein Proceedings of SALT 22, CLC Publications, Ithaca, NY, pp 461–487, 2012). A key innovation of Portner and Rubinstein’s account is to treat mood selection as fundamentally depending on a relation between individuals’ attitudes and the predicate’s modal backgrounds. I raise challenges for P&R’s qualitative analysis …Read more
  •  21
    Modality, Weights and Inconsistent Premise Sets
    Journal of Semantics 34 (4): 683-707. 2017.
  •  221
    This paper develops an account of the meaning of `ought', and the distinction between weak necessity modals (`ought', `should') and strong necessity modals (`must', `have to'). I argue that there is nothing specially ``strong'' about strong necessity modals per se: uses of `Must p' predicate the (deontic/epistemic/etc.) necessity of the prejacent p of the actual world (evaluation world). The apparent ``weakness'' of weak necessity modals derives from their bracketing whether the necessity of the…Read more
  •  583
    Semantic with Assignment Variables
    Cambridge University Press. forthcoming.
    This book develops a syntactic and semantic framework for natural language. The principal focus is a spectrum of "shifting" phenomena in which the context relevant for interpreting certain expressions seems to depend on features of the linguistic environment. A key innovation is to introduce explicit representations of context in linguistic structure and meanings. Central applications include local and non-local contextual dependencies with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, conditionals, questi…Read more
  • Metaethical Contextualism
    In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, Routledge. pp. 102-118. 2017.
  •  35
    This paper develops a contextualist account of certain recalcitrant embedding phenomena with epistemic modals. I focus on three prominent objections to contextualism from embedding: first, that contextualism mischaracterizes subjects’ states of mind; second, that contextualism fails to predict how epistemic modals are obligatorily linked to the subject in attitude ascriptions; and third, that contextualism fails to explain the persisting anomalousness of so-called “epistemic contradictions” in s…Read more
  •  100
    Evidence Sensitivity in Weak Necessity Deontic Modals
    Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (4): 691-723. 2014.
    Kolodny and MacFarlane have made a pioneering contribution to our understanding of how the interpretation of deontic modals can be sensitive to evidence and information. But integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard Kratzerian framework for modals suggests ways of capturing the relevant data without treating deontic modals as “informational modals” in their sense. I show that though one such way of capturing the data within the standard semantics fails, an alternati…Read more
  •  122
    Nietzschean Constructivism: Ethics and Metaethics for All and None
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (3): 244-280. 2015.
    This paper develops an interpretation of Nietzsche’s ethics and metaethics that reconciles his apparent antirealism with his engagement in normative discourse. Interpreting Nietzsche as a metaethical constructivist—as holding, to a first approximation, that evaluative facts are grounded purely in facts about the evaluative attitudes of the creatures to whom they apply—reconciles his vehement declarations that nothing is valuable in itself with his passionate expressions of a particular evaluativ…Read more
  •  49
    Whither anankastics?
    with Billy Dunaway
    Philosophical Perspectives 28 (1): 75-94. 2014.
  •  27
    The Progressive and Verbs of Creation
    Journal of Semantics 33 (1): 19-48. 2016.
  •  80
    Accommodation and Negotiation with Context‐Sensitive Expressions
    Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (2): 115-123. 2014.
    Contextualists and relativists about predicates of personal taste, epistemic modals, and so on (“CR-expressions”) agree that the interpretation of these expressions depends, in some sense, on context. Relativists claim that the sort of context-sensitivity exhibited by CR-expressions is importantly different from that exhibited by paradigm context-sensitive expressions. This bifurcation is often motivated by the claim that the two classes of expressions behave differently in patterns of agreement…Read more
  •  99
    How to Be an Ethical Expressivist
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (1): 47-81. 2015.
    Expressivism promises an illuminating account of the nature of normative judgment. But worries about the details of expressivist semantics have led many to doubt whether expressivism's putative advantages can be secured. Drawing on insights from linguistic semantics and decision theory, I develop a novel framework for implementing an expressivist semantics that I call ordering expressivism. I argue that by systematically interpreting the orderings that figure in analyses of normative terms in te…Read more
  •  79
    This paper argues that a standard analysis of modals from formal semantics suggests a solution to the detaching problem — the problem of whether un-embedded 'ought'-claims can "detach" (be derived) from hypothetical imperatives and their antecedent conditions. On a broadly Kratzerian analysis, modals have a skeletal conventional meaning and receive a particular reading (e.g., deontic, epistemic, teleological) only relative to certain forms of contextual supplementation. I argue that 'ought'-clai…Read more
  •  80
    This book investigates context-sensitivity in natural language by examining the meaning and use of a target class of theoretically recalcitrant expressions. These expressions-including epistemic vocabulary, normative and evaluative vocabulary, and vague language -exhibit systematic differences from paradigm context-sensitive expressions in their discourse dynamics and embedding properties. Many researchers have responded by rethinking the nature of linguistic meaning and communication. Drawing o…Read more