Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
PhD, 1990
Helmetta, New Jersey, United States of America
  •  7
    The mental representation of universal quantifiers
    with Tyler Knowlton, Justin Halberda, and Jeffrey Lidz
    Linguistics and Philosophy 1-31. forthcoming.
    A sentence like every circle is blue might be understood in terms of individuals and their properties or in terms of a relation between groups. Relatedly, theorists can specify the contents of universally quantified sentences in first-order or second-order terms. We offer new evidence that this logical first-order vs. second-order distinction corresponds to a psychologically robust individual vs. group distinction that has behavioral repercussions. Participants were shown displays of dots and as…Read more
  •  9
    Précis of Conjoining Meanings
    Croatian Journal of Philosophy 20 (3): 271-282. 2020.
    In Conjoining Meanings, I argue that meanings are composable instructions for how to build concepts of a special kind. In this summary of the main line of argument, I stress that proposals about what linguistic meanings are should make room for the phenomenon of lexical polysemy. On my internalist proposal, a single lexical item can be used to access various concepts on different occasions of use. And if lexical items are often “conceptually equivocal” in this way, then some familiar arguments f…Read more
  •  38
    A narrow path from meanings to contents
    Philosophical Studies 178 (9): 3027-3035. 2020.
    In this comment on Yli-Vakkuri and Hawthorne's illuminating book, Narrow Content, I address some issues related to externalist conceptions of linguistic meaning.
  •  23
    Responses to comments on Conjoining meanings
    Mind and Language 35 (2): 266-273. 2020.
  •  11
    Fostering Liars
    Topoi 40 (1): 5-25. 2021.
    Davidson conjectured that suitably formulated Tarski-style theories of truth can “do duty” as theories of meaning for the spoken languages that humans naturally acquire. But this conjecture faces a pair of old objections that are, in my view, fatal when combined. Foster noted that given any theory of the sort Davidson envisioned, for a language L, there will be many equally true theories whose theorems pair endlessly many sentences of L with very different specifications of whether or not those …Read more
  •  54
    Function and concatenation
    In Georg Peter & Gerhard Preyer (eds.), Logical Form and Language, Oxford University Press. pp. 91--117. 2002.
    Paul M. Pietroski, University of Maryland For any sentence of a natural language, we can ask the following questions: what is its meaning; what is its syntactic structure; and how is its meaning related to its syntactic structure? Attending to these questions, as they apply to sentences that provide evidence for Davidsonian event analyses, suggests that we reconsider some traditional views about how the syntax of a natural sentence is related to its meaning.
  •  12
    Describing I-junction
    ProtoSociology 31 121-137. 2014.
    The meaning of a noun phrase like ‘brown cow’, or ‘cow that ate grass’, is somehow conjunctive. But conjunctive in what sense? Are the meanings of other phrases—e.g, ‘ate quickly’, ‘ate grass’, and ‘at noon’—similarly conjunctive? I suggest a possible answer, in the context of a broader conception of natural language semantics. But my main aim is to highlight some underdiscussed questions and some implications of our ignorance.
  • Causing Actions
    Philosophy 78 (303): 128-132. 2000.
  •  223
    Intentionality and teleological error
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 73 (3): 267-82. 1992.
    Theories of content purport to explain, among other things, in virtue of what beliefs have the truth conditions they do have. The desire for such a theory has many sources, but prominent among them are two puzzling facts that are notoriously difficult to explain: beliefs can be false, and there are normative constraints on the formation of beliefs.2 If we knew in virtue of what beliefs had truth conditions, we would be better positioned to explain how it is possible for an agent to believe that …Read more
  •  19
    On Explaining That
    Journal of Philosophy 97 (12): 655. 2000.
  •  74
    Believing in language
    with Susan Dwyer
    Philosophy of Science 63 (3): 338-373. 1996.
    We propose that the generalizations of linguistic theory serve to ascribe beliefs to humans. Ordinary speakers would explicitly (and sincerely) deny having these rather esoteric beliefs about language--e.g., the belief that an anaphor must be bound in its governing category. Such ascriptions can also seem problematic in light of certain theoretical considerations having to do with concept possession, revisability, and so on. Nonetheless, we argue that ordinary speakers believe the propositions e…Read more
  •  33
    LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited (review)
    Journal of Philosophy 107 (12): 653-658. 2010.
  •  40
    Interpreting concatenation and concatenates
    Philosophical Issues 16 (1). 2006.
    This paper presents a slightly modified version of the compositional semantics proposed in Events and Semantic Architecture (OUP 2005). Some readers may find this shorter version, which ignores issues about vagueness and causal constructions, easier to digest. The emphasis is on the treatments of plurality and quantification, and I assume at least some familiarity with more standard approaches.
  •  103
    The meaning of 'most': Semantics, numerosity and psychology
    with Jeffrey Lidz, Tim Hunter, and Justin Halberda
    Mind and Language 24 (5): 554-585. 2009.
    The meaning of 'most' can be described in many ways. We offer a framework for distinguishing semantic descriptions, interpreted as psychological hypotheses that go beyond claims about sentential truth conditions, and an experiment that tells against an attractive idea: 'most' is understood in terms of one-to-one correspondence. Adults evaluated 'Most of the dots are yellow', as true or false, on many trials in which yellow dots and blue dots were displayed for 200 ms. Displays manipulated the ea…Read more
  •  11
    Critical Notice
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (4): 613-636. 1996.
  •  45
    Quantification and second order monadicity
    Philosophical Perspectives 17 (1). 2003.
  •  140
    Fregean Innocence
    Mind and Language 11 (4): 338-370. 1996.
  •  44
    Minimal Semantic Instructions
    In Boeckx Cedric (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Minimalism, Oxford University Press. pp. 472-498. 2011.
    Chomsky’s (1995, 2000a) Minimalist Program (MP) invites a perspective on semantics that is distinctive and attractive. In section one, I discuss a general idea that many theorists should find congenial: the spoken or signed languages that human children naturally acquire and use— henceforth, human languages—are biologically implemented procedures that generate expressions, whose meanings are recursively combinable instructions to build concepts that reflect a minimal interface between the Human …Read more
  •  28
    Lot 2
    Journal of Philosophy 107 (12): 653-658. 2010.
  •  84
    Executing the second best option
    Analysis 54 (4): 201-207. 1994.
  •  8
    Causing Actions
    Oxford University Press. 2000.
    Paul Pietroski presents an original philosophical theory of actions and their mental causes. We often act for reasons: we deliberate and choose among options, based on our beliefs and desires. However, bodily motions always have biochemical causes, so it can seem that thinking and acting are biochemical processes. Pietroski argues that thoughts and deeds are in fact distinct from, though dependent on, underlying biochemical processes within persons.
  • Does every sentence like this exhibit a scope ambiguity
    with Norbert Hornstein
    In Wolfram Hinzen & Hans Rott (eds.), Belief and Meaning: Essays at the Interface, Deutsche Bibliothek Der Wissenschaften. pp. 43--72. 2002.
  •  16
    Mind and World
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (4): 613-636. 1996.
  •  165
    Innate ideas
    In James A. McGilvray (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky, Cambridge University Press. pp. 164--181. 2005.
    Here's one way this chapter could go. After defining the terms 'innate' and 'idea', we say whether Chomsky thinks any ideas are innate -- and if so, which ones. Unfortunately, we don't have any theoretically interesting definitions to offer; and, so far as we know, Chomsky has never said that any ideas are innate. Since saying that would make for a very short chapter, we propose to do something else. Our aim is to locate Chomsky, as he locates himself, in a rationalist tradition where talk of in…Read more
  •  62
    Think of the children
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (4). 2008.
    Often, the deepest disagreements are about starting points, and which considerations are relevant.
  •  58
    Events and Semantic Architecture
    Oxford University Press. 2004.
    A study of how syntax relates to meaning by a leader of the new generation of philosopher-linguists.