•  7
    Explaining Substitution Failures
    Southwest Philosophy Review 39 (1): 121-128. 2023.
    Many debates in philosophy of language are driven by examples in which two expressions have the same meaning, in some sense, yet fail of intersubstitutability in some of their occurrences. The usual move in response is to postulate a kind of meaning different from that which is shared by those two expressions. I argue that that the resulting semantic theories nevertheless typically cannot explain such failures: the explaining is not done entirely by the postulation and individuation of the new m…Read more
  •  283
    Interpretative Modesty
    Journal of Philosophy 120 (1): 42-59. 2023.
    Philosophers have wanted to work with conceptions of word-competence, or concept-possession, on which being a competent practitioner with a word amounts to being a competent judge of its uses by others. I argue that our implicit conception of competence with a word does not have this presupposition built into it. One implication of this is what I call "modesty" in interpretation: we allow for others, uses of words that we would not allow for ourselves. I develop this point by looking at Saul Kri…Read more
  •  287
    Distributed utterances
    In Tadeusz Ciecierski & Pawel Grabarczyk (eds.), The Architecture of Context and Context-Sensitivity, Springer. pp. 113-24. 2020.
    I propose an apparatus for handling intrasentential change in context. The standard approach has problems with sentences with multiple occurrences of the same demonstrative or indexical. My proposal involves the idea that contexts can be complex. Complex contexts are built out of (“simple”) Kaplanian contexts by ordered n-tupling. With these we can revise the clauses of Kaplan’s Logic of Demonstratives so that each part of a sentence is taken in a different component of a complex context. I con…Read more
  •  903
    Kinds of monsters and kinds of compositionality
    Analysis 78 (4): 657-666. 2018.
    In response to Stefano Predelli's article finding in David Kaplan's “Demonstratives” a distinction between “context shifting” monsters and “operators on character,” I argue that context shifters are operators on character. That conclusion conflicts with the claim that operators on character must be covertly quotational. But that claim is itself unmotivated.
  •  35
    Williamson on Modality (edited book)
    Routledge. 2017.
    Timothy Williamson is one of the most influential living philosophers working in the areas of logic and metaphysics. His work in these areas has been particularly influential in shaping debates about metaphysical modality, which is the topic of his recent provocative and closely-argued book *Modal Logic as Metaphysics* (2013). The present book comprises ten essays by metaphysicians and logicians responding to Williamson’s work on metaphysical modality. The authors include some of the most distin…Read more
  •  629
    Russellianism unencumbered
    Philosophical Studies 174 (11): 2819-2843. 2017.
    Richard Heck, Jr has recently argued against Russellianism about proper names not in the usual way—by appeal to “intuitions” about the truth conditions of “that”-clause belief ascriptions—but by appeal to our need to specify beliefs in a way that reflects their individuation. Since beliefs are individuated by their psychological roles and not their Russellian contents, he argues, Russellianism is precluded in principle from accounting for our ability to specify beliefs in ordinary language. I ar…Read more
  •  1058
    Scare-quoting and incorporation
    In Paul Saka & Michael Johnson (eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation, Springer. pp. 3-34. 2017.
    I explain a mechanism I call “incorporation,” that I think is at work in a wide range of cases often put under the heading of “scare-quoting.” Incorporation is flagging some words in one’s own utterance to indicate that they are to be interpreted as if uttered by some other speaker in some other context, while supplying evidence to one’s interpreter enabling them to identify that other speaker and context. This mechanism gives us a way to use others’ vocabularies and contexts, thereby extending …Read more
  •  411
    Williamson on Modality
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5): 453-851. 2016.
    This special issue of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy is dedicated to Timothy Williamson's work on modality. It consists of a new paper by Williamson followed by papers on Williamson's work on modality, with each followed by a reply by Williamson. Contributors: Andrew Bacon, Kit Fine, Peter Fritz, Jeremy Goodman, John Hawthorne, Øystein Linnebo, Ted Sider, Robert Stalnaker, Meghan Sullivan, Gabriel Uzquiano, Barbara Vetter, Timothy Williamson, Juhani Yli-Vakkuri
  •  577
    Critical notice of Language Turned on Itself, by Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore (review)
    Analytic Philosophy 52 (4): 349-367. 2011.
    This is a lively, provocative book and many of its arguments are convincing. In this critical study I summarize the book, then discuss some of the authors’ claims, dwelling on three issues: their objections to the view of François Recanati on “pre-semantic” effects; the relation between their theory of quotation and the Tarskian “Proper Name Theory,” which they reject; and their treatment of mixed quotation, which rests on the claim that quotation expressions are “syntactic chameleons.” I argue …Read more
  •  330
    How to use a concept you reject
    Philosophical Quarterly 61 (243): 293-319. 2011.
    Inferentialist accounts of concept possession are often supported by examples in which rejection of some inference seems to amount to rejection of some concept, with the apparently implausible consequence that anyone who rejects the inference cannot so much as understand those who use the concept. This consequence can be avoided by distinguishing conditions necessary for direct uses of a concept (to describe the non-cognitive world) from conditions necessary for content-specifying uses (to speci…Read more
  •  300
    Understanding Mixed Quotation
    Mind 116 (464): 927-946. 2007.
    It has proved challenging to account for the dual role that a directly quoted part of a 'that'-clause plays in so-called mixed quotation. The Davidsonian account, elaborated by Cappelen and Lepore, handles many cases well; but it fails to accommodate a crucial feature of mixed quotation: that the part enclosed in quotation marks is used to specify not what the quoter says when she utters it, but what the quoted speaker says when she utters it. Here I show how the Davidsonian can do better. The p…Read more
  •  414
    Motivating inferentialism
    Southwest Philosophy Review 21 (1): 77-84. 2005.
    Robert Brandom has supported his inferentialist conception of semantic content by appealing to the claim that it is a necessary condition on having a propositional attitude that one appreciate the inferential relations it stands in. When we see what considerations can be given in support of that claim, however, we see that it doesn’t even motivate an inferentialist semantics. The problem is that that claim about what it takes to have a propositional attitude does nothing to show that its inferen…Read more
  •  343
    Inferentialism and singular reference
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (2): 183-220. 2005.
    Basic to Robert Brandom’s project in Making It Explicit is the demarcation of singular terms according to the structure of their inferential roles---rather than, as is usual, according to the kinds of things they purport to denote. But the demarcational effort founders on the need to distinguish extensional and nonextensional occurrences of expressions in terms of inferential roles; the closest that an inferentialist can come to drawing that distinction is to discern degrees of extensionality, a…Read more
  •  301
    Do inferential roles compose?
    Dialectica 57 (4): 431-38. 2003.
    Jerry Fodor and Ernie Lepore have argued that inferential roles are not compositional. It is unclear, however, whether the theories at which they aim their objection are obliged to meet the strong compositionality requirement they have in mind. But even if that requirement is accepted, the data they adduce can in fact be derived from an inferential-role theory that meets it. Technically this is trivial, but it raises some interesting objections turning on the issue of the generality of inferenti…Read more
  •  489
    Wittgenstein on rules and practices
    Journal of Philosophical Research 27 83-100. 2002.
    Some readers of Wittgenstein---I discuss Robert Brandom---think that his writings contain a regress argument showing that the notion of participating in a practice is more basic than the notion of following a rule, in explanations of linguistic correctness. But the regress argument bears equally on both these notions: if there is an explanatory regress of rules, then there is an explanatory regress of practices as well. Why then does Wittgenstein invoke the notion of a practice, apparently by wa…Read more
  •  532
    Self-knowledge failures and first person authority
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64 (2): 365-380. 2002.
    Davidson and Burge have claimed that the conditions under which self-knowledge is possessed are such that externalism poses no obstacle to their being met by ordinary speakers and thinkers. On their accounts. no such person could fail to possess self-knowledge. But we do from time to time attribute to each other such failures; so we should prefer to their accounts an account that preserves first person authority while allowing us to make sense of what appear to be true attributions of such failu…Read more
  •  644
    Functionalism and self-consciousness
    Mind and Language 15 (5): 481-499. 2000.
    I offer a philosophically well-motivated solution to a problem that George Bealer has identified, which he claims is fatal to functionalism. The problem is that there seems to be no way to generate a satisfactory Ramsey sentence of a psychological theory in which mental-state predicates occur within the scopes of mental-state predicates. My central claim is that the functional roles in terms of which a creature capable of self-consciousness identifies her own mental states must be roles that ite…Read more
  •  448
    Solitary and Embedded Knowledge
    Southwest Philosophy Review 16 (1): 161-169. 2000.
    I argue for the usefulness of the distinction between knowledge that is, and knowledge that is not, acquired in such a way as necessarily to be acquired along with other knowledge so acquired. Knowledge gained in the latter ways—e.g. by testimony, by linguistic stipulation—has proved philosophically puzzling. But this is because philosophers have used traditional epistemological vocabulary to try to describe what’s distinctive about it. Using the solitary/embedded distinction, we can frame descr…Read more
  • Using and Understanding
    Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. 1997.
    In this dissertation I defend a claim about what we are doing in ascribing mental states and speech acts to each other, and I explain why we ascribe them in that way. In ascribing a propositional attitude to someone we are not only characterizing the conditions under which it would be true; we are also characterizing the subject's understanding of it. For example, in saying that Jones believes that the Dead Sea Scrolls are fake we are not only saying that he has a belief whose truth requires tha…Read more
  •  347
    I offer a reading of Aristotle’s “doctrine of the mean” that avoids two pitfalls: taking it as truistic, and taking it as involving the bizarre thesis that whenever one acts as reason directs, one’s action is mid-way between some extremes. The crucial point is that while Aristotle denies the existence of useful general ethical truths, he himself offers truths about the *likelihoods* with which rationality will require actions of certain types; and it is with such truths that the statistical idea…Read more