Princeton University
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 2003
Notre Dame, Indiana, United States of America
  •  477
    Is there a problem about nonconceptual content?
    Philosophical Review 114 (3): 359-98. 2005.
    In the past twenty years, issues about the relationship between perception and thought have largely been framed in terms of the question of whether the contents of perception are nonconceptual. I argue that this debate has rested on an ambiguity in `nonconceptual content' and some false presuppositions about what is required for concept possession. Once these are cleared away, I argue that none of the arguments which have been advanced about nonconceptual content do much to threaten the natural …Read more
  •  367
    Transparency, Intentionalism, and the Nature of Perceptual Content
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (3): 539-573. 2009.
    I argue that the transparency of experience provides the basis of arguments both for intentionalism -- understood as the view that there is a necessary connection between perceptual content and perceptual phenomenology -- and for the view that the contents of perceptual experiences are Russellian propositions. While each of these views is popular, there are apparent tensions between them, and some have thought that their combination is unstable. In the second half of the paper…Read more
  •  278
    Epistemic two-dimensionalism and the epistemic argument
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (1). 2010.
    One of Kripke's fundamental objections to descriptivism was that the theory misclassifies certain _a posteriori_ propositions expressed by sentences involving names as _a priori_. Though nowadays very few philosophers would endorse a descriptivism of the sort that Kripke criticized, many find two-dimensional semantics attractive as a kind of successor theory. Because two-dimensionalism needn't be a form of descriptivism, it is not open to the epistemic argument as formulated by Kripke; but the m…Read more
  •  231
    Attention and intentionalism
    Philosophical Quarterly 60 (239): 325-342. 2010.
    Many alleged counter-examples to intentionalism, the thesis that the phenomenology of perceptual experiences of a given sense modality supervenes on the contents of experiences of that modality, can be avoided by adopting a liberal view of the sorts of properties that can be represented in perceptual experience. I argue that there is a class of counter-examples to intentionalism, based on shifts in attention, which avoids this response. A necessary connection between the contents and phenomenal …Read more
  •  226
    Since the 1960's, work in the analytic tradition on the nature of mental and linguistic content has converged on the views that social facts about public language meaning are derived from facts about the thoughts of individuals, and that these thoughts are constituted by properties of the internal states of agents. I give a two-part argument against this picture of intentionality: first, that if mental content is prior to public language meaning, then a view of mental content much like the causa…Read more
  •  222
    Frege's Puzzle and Descriptive Enrichment
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2): 267-282. 2011.
    Millians sometimes claim that we can explain the fact that sentences like "If Hesperus exists, then Hesperus is Phosphorus" seem a posteriori to speakers in terms of the fact that utterances of sentences of this sort would typically pragmatically convey propositions which really are a posteriori. I argue that this kind of pragmatic explanation of the seeming a posterioricity of sentences of this sort fails. The main reason is that for every sentence like the above which (by Millian lights) is a …Read more
  •  205
    Conversational implicature, thought, and communication
    Mind and Language 23 (1). 2008.
    Some linguistic phenomena can occur in uses of language in thought, whereas others only occur in uses of language in communication. I argue that this distinction can be used as a test for whether a linguistic phenomenon can be explained via Grice’s theory of conversational implicature. I argue further, on the basis of this test, that conversational implicature cannot be used to explain quantifier domain restriction or apparent substitution failures involving coreferential names, but that it must…Read more
  •  200
    Foreknowledge, Evil, and Compatibility Arguments
    Faith and Philosophy 28 (3): 269-293. 2011.
    Most arguments against God’s existence aim to show that it is incompatible with various apparent features of the world, such as the existence of evil or of human free will. In response, theists have sought to show that God’s existence is compatible with these features of the world. However, the fact that the proposition that God exists is necessary if possible introduces some underappreciated difficulties for these arguments
  •  190
    Spectrum inversion without a difference in representation is impossible
    Philosophical Studies 156 (3): 339-361. 2011.
    Even if spectrum inversion of various sorts is possible, spectrum inversion without a difference in representation is not. So spectrum inversion does not pose a challenge for the intentionalist thesis that, necessarily, within a given sense modality, if two experiences are alike with respect to content, they are also alike with respect to their phenomenal character. On the contrary, reflection on variants of standard cases of spectrum inversion provides a strong argument for intentionalism. Depe…Read more
  •  188
    The normativity of content and 'the Frege point'
    European Journal of Philosophy 17 (3): 405-415. 2009.
    In "Assertion," Geach identified failure to attend to the distinction between meaning and speech act as a source of philosophical errors. I argue that failure to attend to this distinction, along with the parallel distinction between attitude and content, has been behind the idea that meaning and content are, in some sense, normative. By an argument parallel to Geach's argument against performative analyses of "good" we can show that the phenomena identified by theorists of the normativity of co…Read more
  •  185
    Truth theories, translation manuals, and theories of meaning
    Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (4). 2006.
    In "Truth and Meaning", Davidson suggested that a truth theory can do the work of a theory of meaning: it can give the meanings of expressions of a language, and can explain the semantic competence of speakers of the language by stating information knowledge of which would suffice for competence. From the start, this program faced certain fundamental objections. One response to these objections has been to supplement the truth theory with additional rules of inference (e.g. from T-sentences to m…Read more
  •  183
    I argue that the best way to solve Russell's problem of the relationship between propositions and their constituents is to think of propositions as properties of worlds. I argue that this view preserves the strengths and avoids some of the weaknesses of the view of the metaphysics of propositions defended by Jeff King in his _The Nature and Structure of Content_, and that it provides an explanation of the representational properties of propositions and the nature of indexical belief. I conclude…Read more
  •  175
    What are debates about qualia really about?
    Philosophical Studies 170 (1): 59-84. 2014.
    What’s really at issue in the debate between the transparency theorist and the qualia realist? To answer this question it will be useful to start off with Tye’s clear and, I think, representative ways of defining these views.What is qualia realism? Tye glosses the view as the claim that “Experiences have intrinsic features that are non-intentional and of which we can be directly aware via introspection.”Tye. Unless otherwise noted, all references to Tye’s work in what follows are to this paper. …Read more
  •  164
    On Possibly Nonexistent Propositions
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (3): 528-562. 2012.
    Alvin Plantinga gave a reductio of the conjunction of the following three theses: Existentialism (the view that, e.g., the proposition that Socrates exists can't exist unless Socrates does), Serious Actualism (the view that nothing can have a property at a world without existing at that world) and Contingency (the view that some objects, like Socrates, exist only contingently). I sketch a view of truth at a world which enables the Existentialist to resist Plantinga's argument without giving up e…Read more
  •  160
    Millian descriptivism defended
    Philosophical Studies 149 (2). 2010.
    I reply to the argument of Caplan (Philos Stud 133:181–198, 2007 ) against the conjunction of Millianism with the view that utterances of sentences involving names often pragmatically convey descriptively enriched propositions.
  •  146
    Theories of meaning
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010.
  •  145
    Explaining the Disquotational Principle
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (2): 211-238. 2010.
    Questions about the relative priorities of mind and language suffer from a double obscurity. First, it is often not clear which mental and linguistic facts are in question: we can ask about the relationship between any of the semantic or syntactic properties of public languages and the judgments, intentions, beliefs, or other propositional attitudes of speakers of those languages. Second, there is an obscurity about what 'priority' comes to here.We can approach the first problem by way of the se…Read more
  •  145
    A Millian-Russellian semantic theory is one according to which the meanings of proper names are the objects for which they stand, and the meanings of predicates are the properties (or relations) they express. Given a compositionality principle (which I will assume), the Millian-Russellian must hold that sentences which differ only in the substitution of proper names which have the same reference (relative to the relevant context) must express the same proposition
  •  140
    Is Phenomenal Character Out There in the World?
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (2): 465-482. 2015.
  •  138
    The most widely accepted and well worked out approaches to the foundations of meaning take facts about the meanings of linguistic expressions at a time to be derivative from the propositional attitudes of speakers of the language at that time. This mentalist strategy takes two principal forms, one which traces meaning to belief, and one which analyzes it in terms of communicative intentions. I argue that either form of mentalism fails, and conclude by suggesting that we can do better by focusing…Read more
  •  130
    No Easy Argument for Two-Dimensionalism
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (4): 775-781. 2014.
    Some opponents of epistemic two-dimensionalism say that the view should be rejected on the grounds that it misclassifies certain a posteriori claims as a priori. Elliott, McQueen, & Weber [2013] have argued that any argument of this form must fail. I argue that this conclusion is mistaken, and defend my argument [Speaks (2010] against their criticisms
  •  121
    If [C1-3] are true, then we must identity some analyticity-relevant property other than character and content which differs between “Hesperus” and “Phosphorus.” On Gill’s view this is the property of having a certain reference determiner
  •  113
    New Thinking About Propositions
    Oxford University Press. 2014.
    Philosophy, science, and common sense all refer to propositions--things we believe and say, and things which are true or false. But there is no consensus on what sorts of things these entities are. Jeffrey C. King, Scott Soames, and Jeff Speaks argue that commitment to propositions is indispensable, and each defend their own views on the debate
  •  112
    Demonstratives have different semantic values relative to different contexts of utterance. But it is surprisingly difficult to describe the function from contexts to contents which determines the semantic value of a given use of a demonstrative. It is very natural to think that the intentions of the speaker should play a significant role here. The aim of this paper is to discuss a pair of problems that arise for views which give intentions this central role in explaining the characters of demons…Read more
  •  98
    Benj’s paper is a characteristically thoughtful, imaginative, and wide-ranging exploration of the relationship between certain direct realist theories of perception and the nature of perceptual justification — with some formal semantics thrown in for good measure. Here I’ll focus on just one of the many topics about which Benj has something to say: his remarks on the topic of the relationship that must obtain between a perceptual state and a belief in order for the former to immediately justify …Read more
  •  89
    Individuating Fregean sense
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (5): 634-654. 2013.
    (2013). Individuating Fregean sense. Canadian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 43, Essays on the Nature of Propositions, pp. 634-654
  •  86
    A puzzle about demonstratives and semantic competence
    Philosophical Studies 174 (3): 709-734. 2017.
    My aim in this paper is to lay out a number of theses which are very widely held in contemporary philosophy of language and linguistics, and to argue that, given some extra theses for which I’ll argue, they are inconsistent. Some of this will involve going through some very well-trodden territory—my hope is that presenting this familiar ground in the way that I do will help to make plain the problem that I aim to identify.
  •  85
    Increasingly, beginning in the 1970’s and 1980’s, many philosophers of language found themselves in a difficult situation. On the one hand, many came to believe that, in order to do semantics properly, as well as to give an adequate treatment of the attitudes, one needed to posit certain entities — propositions — which could be the meanings of sentences (relative to contexts), the contents of mental states, and the primary bearers of truth and falsity. However, many — largely due to the argument…Read more
  •  80
    The nature of predication, and its relation to truth, is the central topic of Davidson’s posthumously published Truth and Predication . The main task which an account of predication should accomplish is a solution to the problem of predication; and that, Davidson tells us, is the problem of explaining what makes some collections of words, but not others, true or false (86). It is so-called because, Davidson thinks, the principal challenge faced by any answer to this problem is the problem of exp…Read more