•  1280
    Naming, Saying, and Structure
    Noûs 51 (3): 594-616. 2017.
    It is commonplace for philosophers to distinguish mere truths from truths that perspicuously represent the world's structure. According to a popular view, the perspicuous truths are supposed to be metaphysically revelatory and to play an important role in the accounts of law-hood, confirmation, and linguistic interpretation. Yet, there is no consensus about how to characterize this distinction. I examine strategies developed by Lewis and by Sider in his Writing the Book of the World which purpor…Read more
  •  958
    The Antinomy of the Variable: A Tarskian Resolution
    Journal of Philosophy 113 (3): 137-170. 2016.
    Kit Fine has reawakened a puzzle about variables with a long history in analytic philosophy, labeling it “the antinomy of the variable”. Fine suggests that the antinomy demands a reconceptualization of the role of variables in mathematics, natural language semantics, and first-order logic. The difficulty arises because: (i) the variables ‘x’ and ‘y’ cannot be synonymous, since they make different contributions when they jointly occur within a sentence, but (ii) there is a strong temptation to s…Read more
  •  650
    Does Semantic Relationism Solve Frege’s Puzzle?
    Journal of Philosophical Logic 46 (1): 97-118. 2017.
    In a series of recent works, Kit Fine, 605–631, 2003, 2007) has sketched a novel solution to Frege’s puzzle. Radically departing from previous solutions, Fine argues that Frege’s puzzle forces us to reject compositionality. In this paper we first provide an explicit formalization of the relational semantics for first-order logic suggested, but only briefly sketched, by Fine. We then show why the relational semantics alone is technically inadequate, forcing Fine to enrich the syntax with a coordi…Read more
  •  586
    One Dogma of Millianism
    with Derek Ball
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1): 70-92. 2014.
    Millians about proper names typically claim that it is knowable apriori that Hesperus is Phosphorus. We argue that they should claim instead that it is knowable only aposteriori that Hesperus is Hesperus, since the Kripke-Putnam epistemic arguments against descriptivism are special cases of Quinean arguments that nothing is knowable apriori, and Millians have no resources to resist the more general Quinean arguments.
  •  460
    The myth of occurrence-based semantics
    Linguistics and Philosophy 44 813-837. 2021.
    The principle of compositionality requires that the meaning of a complex expression remains the same after substitution of synonymous expressions. Alleged counterexamples to compositionality seem to force a theoretical choice: either apparent synonyms are not synonyms or synonyms do not syntactically occur where they appear to occur. Some theorists have instead looked to Frege’s doctrine of “reference shift” according to which the meaning of an expression is sensitive to its linguistic context. …Read more
  •  331
    Reviving the parameter revolution in semantics
    In Derek Ball & Brian Rabern (eds.), The Science of Meaning, Oxford University Press. pp. 138-171. 2018.
    Montague and Kaplan began a revolution in semantics, which promised to explain how a univocal expression could make distinct truth-conditional contributions in its various occurrences. The idea was to treat context as a parameter at which a sentence is semantically evaluated. But the revolution has stalled. One salient problem comes from recurring demonstratives: "He is tall and he is not tall". For the sentence to be true at a context, each occurrence of the demonstrative must make a different …Read more
  •  324
    Frege and saving substitution
    Philosophical Studies 178 (8): 2687-2697. 2021.
    Goodman and Lederman (2020) argue that the traditional Fregean strategy for preserving the validity of Leibniz’s Law of substitution fails when confronted with apparent counterexamples involving proper names embedded under propositional attitude verbs. We argue, on the contrary, that the Fregean strategy succeeds and that Goodman and Lederman’s argument misfires.
  •  283
    Semantics in the Montagovian tradition combines two basic tenets. One tenet is that the semantic value of a sentence is an intension, a function from points of evaluations into truth-values. The other tenet is that the semantic value of a composite expression is the result of applying the function denoted by one component to arguments denoted by the other components. Many philosophers object to intensional semantics on the grounds that intensionally equivalent sentences do not substitute salva v…Read more
  •  188
    Are Propositions Essentially Representational?
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (3). 2017.
    Jeffrey King argues that nothing has truth conditions except by being taken to be true or false by rational agents. But – for good reason – King claims that propositions possess truth conditions essentially and intrinsically. I will argue that King cannot have both: if the truth conditions of a proposition depend on the reactions of rational agents, then the possession of truth conditions can't follow from the intrinsic nature or existence of the proposition. This leaves two options. Either, not…Read more
  •  177
    A Quinean Critique of Ostrich Nominalism
    Philosophers' Imprint 12. 2012.
    Ostrich nominalists often cite Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment in order to claim that their view is more parsimonious than rival positions in ontology such as realism. We show that Quine’s criterion, properly understood, does not support this claim. Indeed, we show that ostrich nominalism has a far more profligate ontology than realism
  •  151
    The Functional Composition of Sense
    Synthese 1-26. forthcoming.
    A central dispute in understanding Frege’s philosophy concerns how the sense of a complex expression relates to the senses of its component expressions. According to one reading, the sense of a complex expression is a whole built from the senses of the component expressions. On this interpretation, Frege is an early proponent of structured propositions. A rival reading says that senses compose by functional application: the sense of a complex expression is the value of the function denoted by it…Read more
  •  138
    Quinean Updates: In Defense of "Two Dogmas"
    Journal of Philosophy 115 (2): 57-91. 2018.
    Quine challenged traditional views of the a priori by appealing to two key premises: that any statement may be held true “come what may” and that no statement is immune to revision in light of new experience. Chalmers has recently developed a seemingly compelling response to each of these claims. The critique is particularly threatening because it seems to rest on the Bayesian premise that upon acquiring evidence E, a rational agent will update her credence in any statement S to equal her prior …Read more
  •  113
    There is no 'is' of constitution
    Philosophical Studies 147 (2). 2010.
    I defend the view that ordinary objects like statues are identical to the pieces of matter from which they are made. I argue that ordinary speakers assert sentences such as ‘this statue is a molded piece of clay’. This suggests that speakers believe propositions which entail that ordinary objects such as statues are the pieces matter from which they are made, and therefore pluralism contradicts ordinary beliefs. The dominant response to this argument purports to find an ambiguity in the word ‘is…Read more
  •  110
    Frontloading, Supposition, and Contraction
    Philosophical Quarterly 66 (264): 559-578. 2016.
    In Constructing the World, Chalmers observes that our knowledge exceeds the core evidence provided by our senses and introspection. Thus, on the basis of core evidence, one also can know (S) that water covers the majority of the Earth. This knowledge, Chalmers suggests, requires a great deal of apriori knowledge. Chalmers argues that even if one suspends belief in one’s core evidence, one can nevertheless reason from a description of this evidence to an ordinary claim such as S. Chalmers conclud…Read more
  •  102
    Rigidification and attitudes
    Philosophical Studies 158 (1): 43-58. 2012.
    Scott Soames has argued that Rigidified Descriptivism wrongly predicts that one cannot believe, say, that Joe Strummer was born in 1952 without having a belief about the actual world. Soames suggests that agents in other possible worlds may have this belief, but may lack any beliefs about the actual world, a world that they do not occupy and have no contact with. I respond that this argument extends to other popular actuality-involving analyses. In order for Soames to hold on to his argument aga…Read more
  •  94
    Variables and Attitudes
    Noûs 49 (2): 333-356. 2015.
    The phenomenon of quantification into attitude ascriptions has haunted broadly Fregean views, according to which co-referential proper names are not always substitutable salva veritate in attitude ascriptions. Opponents of Fregeanism argue that a belief ascription containing a proper name such as ‘Michael believes that Lindsay is charitable’ is equivalent to a quantified sentence such as ‘there is someone such that Michael believes that she is charitable, and that person is Lindsay’. They conclu…Read more
  •  86
    Structured propositions and trivial composition
    Synthese 197 (7): 2991-3006. 2020.
    Structured propositions are often invoked to explain why intensionally equivalent sentences do not substitute salva veritate into attitude ascriptions. As the semantics is standardly developed—for example, in Salmon, Soames :47–87, 1987) and King :516–535, 1995), the semantic value of a complex expression is an ordered complex consisting of the semantic values of its components. Such views, however, trivialize semantic composition since they do not allow for independent constraints on the meanin…Read more
  •  86
    Unity through truth
    Synthese 196 (4): 1425-1452. 2019.
    Renewed worries about the unity of the proposition have been taken as a crucial stumbling block for any traditional conception of propositions. These worries are often framed in terms of how entities independent of mind and language can have truth conditions: why is the proposition that Desdemona loves Cassio true if and only if she loves him? I argue that the best understanding of these worries shows that they should be solved by our theory of truth and not our theory of content. Specifically, …Read more
  •  73
    Russell on Incomplete Symbols
    Philosophy Compass 8 (10): 909-923. 2013.
    Russell's notion of an incomplete symbol has become a standard against which philosophers compare their views on the relationship between language and the world. But Russell's exact characterization of incomplete symbols and the role they play in his philosophy are still disputed. In this paper, I trace the development of the notion of an incomplete symbol in Russell's philosophy. I suggest – against Kaplan, Evans, and others – that Russell's many characterizations of the notion of an incomplete…Read more
  •  62
    Complex Predication and the Metaphysics of Properties
    Dialectica 68 (2): 209-230. 2014.
    The existence of complex predicates seems to support an abundant conception of properties. Specifically, the application conditions for complex predicates seem to be explained by the distribution of a sparser base of predicates. This explanatory link might suggest that the existence and distribution of properties expressed by complex predicates are explained by the existence and distribution of a sparser base of properties. Thus, complex predicates seem to legitimize the assumption of a wide arr…Read more
  •  39
    Syntax in Basic Laws §§29–32
    Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 51 (2): 253-277. 2010.
    In order to accommodate his view that quantifiers are predicates of predicates within a type theory, Frege introduces a rule which allows a function name to be formed by removing a saturated name from another saturated name which contains it. This rule requires that each name has a rather rich syntactic structure, since one must be able to recognize the occurrences of a name in a larger name. However, I argue that Frege is unable to account for this syntactic structure. I argue that this problem…Read more