•  1437
    Pronouns and Gender
    In Ernest Lepore & Luvell Anderson (eds.), Oxford handbook of applied philosophy of language, Oxford University Press. 2023.
    This chapter introduces readers to the empirical questions at issue in debates over gendered pronouns and assesses the plausibility of various possible answers to these questions. It has two parts. The first is a general introduction to the linguistics and psychology of grammatical gender. The second focuses on the meanings of gendered pronouns in English. It begins with a discussion of some methodological limitations of empirical approaches to the topic and the normative implications of those l…Read more
  •  1340
    Under what conditions would an artificially intelligent system have wellbeing? Despite its obvious bearing on the ethics of human interactions with artificial systems, this question has received little attention. Because all major theories of wellbeing hold that an individual’s welfare level is partially determined by their mental life, we begin by considering whether artificial systems have mental states. We show that a wide range of theories of mental states, when combined with leading theorie…Read more
  •  729
    Recent advances in natural language processing have given rise to a new kind of AI architecture: the language agent. By repeatedly calling an LLM to perform a variety of cognitive tasks, language agents are able to function autonomously to pursue goals specified in natural language and stored in a human-readable format. Because of their architecture, language agents exhibit behavior that is predictable according to the laws of folk psychology: they function as though they have desires and belief…Read more
  •  652
    Dilemmatic gaslighting
    Philosophical Studies 180 (3): 745-772. 2022.
    Existing work on gaslighting ties it constitutively to facts about the intentions or prejudices of the gaslighter and/or his victim’s prior experience of epistemic injustice. I argue that the concept of gaslighting is more broadly applicable than has been appreciated: what is distinctive about gaslighting, on my account, is simply that a gaslighter confronts his victim with a certain kind of choice between rejecting his testimony and doubting her own basic epistemic competence in some domain. I …Read more
  •  612
    Do Not Diagonalize
    In Ernie Lepore & Una Stojnic (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Language, Oxford University Press. 2024.
    Speakers assert in order to communicate information. It is natural, therefore, to hold that the content of an assertion is whatever information it communicates to its audience. In cases involving uncertainty about the semantic values of context-sensitive lexical items, moreover, it is natural to hold that the information an assertion communicates to its audience is whatever information audience members are in a position to recover from it by assuming that the proposition it semantically determin…Read more
  •  579
    Recent progress in artificial intelligence (AI) has drawn attention to the technology’s transformative potential, including what some see as its prospects for causing large-scale harm. We review two influential arguments purporting to show how AI could pose catastrophic risks. The first argument — the Problem of Power-Seeking — claims that, under certain assumptions, advanced AI systems are likely to engage in dangerous power-seeking behavior in pursuit of their goals. We review reasons for thin…Read more
  •  549
    The inclusion problem for theories of gender arises when those theories inappropriately fail to include certain individuals in the gender categories to which they ought to belong. The inclusion problem affects both of the most influential traditions in feminist theorizing about gender: social-position accounts and identity accounts. I argue that the inclusion problem can be solved by adopting a structured theory of gender which incorporates aspects of both social-position accounts and identity a…Read more
  •  519
    Contextology
    Philosophical Studies 179 (11): 3187-3209. 2022.
    Contextology is the science of the dynamics of the conversational context. Contextology formulates laws governing how the shared information states of interlocutors evolve in response to assertion. More precisely, the contextologist attempts to construct a function which, when provided with just a conversation’s pre-update context and the content of an assertion, delivers that conversation’s post-update context. Most contextologists have assumed that the function governing the evolution of the c…Read more
  •  373
    Let the label binary category terms refer to natural language expressions like ‘woman’, ‘man’, ‘female’, and ‘male’. Focusing on ‘woman’ and ‘female’, I develop a novel, empirically supported theory of the meanings of English binary category terms. Given plausible assumptions about the metaphysics of sex and gender, this gender-first theory predicts that the sentence ‘Trans women are women’ expresses a truth in all contexts and the sentence ‘Women are adult human females’ expresses a truth in mo…Read more
  •  271
    The term 'covert mixed quotation' describes cases in which linguistic material is interpreted in the manner of mixed quotation — that is, used in addition to being mentioned — despite the superficial absence of any commonly recognized conventional devices indicating quotation. After developing a novel theory of mixed quotation, I show that positing covert mixed quotation allows us to give simple and unified treatments of a number of puzzling semantic phenomena, including the projective behavior …Read more
  •  112
    Slurs Are Directives
    Philosophers' Imprint 19 1-28. 2019.
    Recent work on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs has explored a variety of ways of explaining their potential to derogate, with the most popular family of approaches appealing to either: (i), the doxastic or evaluative attitudes or commitments expressed by — or (ii), the propositions concerning such attitudes or commitments semantically or pragmatically communicated by — the speakers who use them. I begin by arguing that no such speaker-oriented approach can be correct. I then propose an alt…Read more
  •  76
    Radically Insensitive Theists
    Religious Studies 55 (2): 169-188. 2019.
    Sceptical theists attempt to meet the challenge to theism posed by evidential arguments from evil by appealing to the limitations of human cognition. Drawing on an exchange between William Rowe and Michael Bergmann, I argue that consistent sceptical theists must be radically insensitive to certain kinds of evidence about prima facie evils – that is, that they must endorse the claim that not even evidence of extreme and pervasive suffering could justify disbelief in theism. I show that Bergmann's…Read more
  •  53
    Greg Ray (2014) believes he has discovered a crucial oversight in Donald Davidson’s semantic programme, recognition of which paves the way for a novel approach to Davidsonian semantics. We disagree: Ray’s novel approach involves a tacit appeal to pre-existing semantic knowledge which vitiates its interest as a development of the Davidsonian programme.
  •  48
    Why horizontalism
    Philosophical Studies 177 (10): 2881-2905. 2020.
    Horizontalism is the thesis that what a speaker asserts in literally and sincerely uttering an indicative sentence is some horizontal proposition of her utterance; diagonalism is the thesis that what a speaker asserts in literally and sincerely uttering an indicative sentence is some diagonal proposition of her utterance. Recent work on assertion has reached no clear consensus favoring either horizontalism or diagonalism. I explore a novel strategy for adjudicating between the two views by consi…Read more
  •  47
    Uniformity motivated
    Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (6): 665-684. 2018.
    Can rational communication proceed when interlocutors are uncertain which contents utterances contribute to discourse? An influential negative answer to this question is embodied in the Stalnakerian principle of uniformity, which requires speakers to produce only utterances that express the same content in every possibility treated as live for the purposes of the conversation. The principle of uniformity enjoys considerable intuitive plausibility and, moreover, seems to follow from platitudes ab…Read more
  •  21
    The Structure of Truth (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2020.
    This book marks the first publication of celebrated philosopher Donald Davidson's 1970 Locke Lectures. In detailing his work on the theory of meaning, the role of a truth theory, the ontological commitments of a truth theory, and the notion of logical form, these lectures offer a rare insight into Davidson's thought at a key moment in his career.
  •  4
    Unstructured Content (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    The original essays in this volume present new research on unstructured theories of content, which have traditionally played a central role in linguistics and philosophy of language. The volume explores a wide range of themes related to unstructured content, including both the continued controversy over whether unstructured theories individuate contents too coarsely and various applications of unstructured theories to topics like rationality, epistemic commitment, semantic expressivism, relevanc…Read more