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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Monday, 11 October 2004


Coherentism and Justified Inconsistent Beliefs: A Solution

By Jonathan Kvanvig

Problems for coherentism come in two forms. The fundamental issue that coherentists have not been very successful in addressing is the problem of saying precisely what coherence involves. BonJour's account in The Structure of Empirical Knowledge is among the most detailed available, but he admits that it "is a long way from being as definitive as desirable." More recently, he has been more skeptical about the accomplishments on this score to date, writing that "the precise nature of coherence remains an unsolved problem." Recently, some hope has emerged that progress can be made on this issue, but the more pressing problem for coherentism comes in the form of objections to the view that are independent of any particular construal of the coherence relation itself. These problems are more pressing, since if these objections are correct, coherentists need not waste their time explicating the nature of coherence-the view would be false independently of these details. Among these objections are the claims that coherentism cannot account for the essential role of experience in justification (commonly termed the isolation objection), that coherentism cannot correctly explain what it is to base one's beliefs properly, and that coherentism cannot explain properly the relationship between justification and truth. My view of the matter is that none of these objections decisively undermine coherentism, but there is a one version of the problem of the relationship between justification and truth that is, to my mind, the most pressing difficulty coherentism faces. It is the problem of justified inconsistent beliefs. In a nutshell, there are cases in which our beliefs appear to be both fully rational and hence justified, and yet the contents of the beliefs are inconsistent, often knowingly inconsistent. This fact contradicts the seemingly obvious idea that a minimal requirement for coherence is logical consistency.

I will first explain the problem of justified inconsistent beliefs for coherentism, and then show how to avoid it. To anticipate my argument, the key is to note that there are distinct types of justification. There is the ordinary intuitive notion on which justification is roughly synonymous with reasonable or rational belief. Coherentists, however, are interested in the type of justification that is part of a proper account of knowledge, the kind of justification which is such that if it is ungettiered and conjoined to true belief, yields knowledge. In slogan form, I will summarize this idea as by saying that the kind of justification in question for coherentists is the kind that puts one in a position to know. I will call such justification "epistemic justification", and when I intend to talk about the more ordinary, commonplace justification that need not put one in a position to know, I will use the term `justification' without the qualifier. I will argue, in my preferred terminology, that epistemic justification cannot be identified with justification. The key to solving the problem of justified inconsistent beliefs, then, is to allow that they are possible on the ordinary intuitive notion of justification but not on the kind of justification that puts one in a position to know. The trick is to substantiate these claims and not rely simply on the claim that such a distinction can be drawn. I will do so with little more in the way of assumptions than a relatively well-understood form of internalism, something coherentists (and others) are committed to, anyway.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 11 October 2004 10:28 BST
Sunday, 10 October 2004


Total Adjectives vs. Partial Adjectives: Scale Structure and Higher-Order Modifiers

Carmen Rotstein & Yoad Winter

This paper studies a distinction that was proposed in previous works between total and partial adjectives. In pairs of adjectives such as safe -dangerous ,clean -dirty and healthy -sick , the first ( "total ") adjective describes lack of danger, dirt, malady, etc., while the second ( "partial ") adjective describes the existence of such properties. It is shown that the semantics of adjective phrases with modifiers such as almost ,slightly , and completely is sensitive to whether the adjective is total or partial. The interpretation of such modified constructions is accounted for using a novel scale structure for total and partial adjectives. It is proposed that the standard value of a total adjective is always fixed as the lower bound of the corresponding partial adjective. By contrast, the standard value of partial adjectives can take any point on the partial scale. The effects of this theoretical distinction on the behavior of modified constructions are studied in detail, and their ramifications for the semantic theory of adjectives are discussed. Some other phenomena are surveyed that show evidence for total and partial adjectival constructions with various comparatives and exceptive phrases.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Friday, 8 October 2004

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Classes, Worlds and Hypergunk

by Daniel Nolan
Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Many people have wanted to construe possible worlds as set-theoretic objects of one sort or another. A common feature of many of these theories is that they imply that no world contains more than a set of possible objects nor more than a set of properties possessed by those objects. A.P. Hazen has defended this consequence as being positively desirable, relying on a principle about what sorts of cases we should be able to have "genuine modal intuitions" about, and an argument that any such case can be represented set-theoretically. This paper produces a specification of a certain sort of unlimited divisibility which meets Hazen's strictures about what we may expect to have represented by a possible world, is independently plausible as a metaphysical possibility, and, if accepted as a genuine metaphysical possibility, demonstrates that many theories of possible worlds as set-theoretic objects are inadequate.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:51 BST
Thursday, 7 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Skepticism and the value of knowledge

by Patrick Hawley

Knowledge is no more valuable than lasting true belief. This surprising claim helps defuse skepticism about knowledge.

The main claim of this essay is that knowledge is no more valuable than lasting true belief. This claim is surprising. Doesn't knowledge have a unique and special value? If the main claim is correct and if, as it seems, knowledge is not lasting true belief, then knowledge does not have a unique value: in whatever way knowledge is valuable, lasting true belief is just as valuable.

After clarifying and defending the main claim, I will draw three conclusions. First, the main claim does not show that knowledge is worthless, nor undermine our knowledge gathering practices. Second, skepticism about knowledge is defused. Even if one cannot have knowledge, one can have something just as valuable. Third, any attempt to analyze the concept of knowledge faces a severe constraint.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Thursday, 7 October 2004 09:53 BST
Wednesday, 6 October 2004


Two-Dimensional Semantics - the Basics

By Christian Nimtz
Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

`Two-dimensional semantics' denotes a family of semantic theories rooted in intensional semantics, held together by shared general ideas, yet divided by deep divergences in semantic aims and philosophical aspiration. 2d-theorists agree that our sentences' truth-values vary with what the facts are, as well as with what the sentences mean. To model this twofold dependence of truth on fact and meaning, 2d-semantics assign our expressions intensions of more than one kind. The resulting formal framework, common to all 2d-sematics, distinguishes one dimension of actual worlds and primary intensions from a second dimension of counterfactual worlds and secondary intensions. (Hence two-dimensionalism.) These formal similarities often obscure the deep conceptual rifts between different interpretations of the 2dframework. Kaplan interprets it to capture context-dependence, Stalnaker understands it to model meta-semantic facts, and Chalmers construes it to display the epistemic roots of meaning.

Short Version

Long Version

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:54 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 6 October 2004 07:58 BST
Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Modal Realism and Metaphysical Nihilism

Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra

In this paper I argue that Modal Realism, the thesis that there exist non-actual possible individuals and worlds, can be made compatible with Metaphysical Nihilism, the thesis that it is possible that nothing concrete exists. Modal Realism as developed by Lewis rules out the possibility of a world where nothing concrete exists and so conflicts with Metaphysical Nihilism. In the paper I argue that Modal Realism can be modified so as to be compatible with Metaphysical Nihilism. Such a modification makes Modal Realism neither incur further theoretical costs nor lose its theoretical benefits. Thus such a modification constitutes an improvement of Modal Realism.


[See other works by Roriguez-Pereyra]

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 5 October 2004 09:30 BST

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Individuating Worlds in Extreme Modal

Dean Rickles

According to Lewis' brand of extreme modal realism [genuine realism], possible worlds are fusions of worldmates, and worldmates are those individuals that are spatiotemporally related. One cause of concern for Lewis is the explication of spatiotemporal relatedness, for there are clearly many types of spatiotemporal relations. In this paper I spell out this problem in some detail and attempt to go some way towards a resolution that favours Lewis' account.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 4 October 2004 09:44 BST
Sunday, 3 October 2004


Reactive Kripke Semantics and Arc Accessibility

Dov Gabbay
Source: CLE (CombLog'04)

Ordinary Kripke models are not reactive. When we evaluate (test/measure) a formula A at a model m, the model does not react, respond or change while we evaluate. The model is static and unchanged. This paper studies Kripke models which react to the evaluation process and change themselves during the process.
This is reminiscent of game theoretic semantics where the two sides react to each other. However, reactive Kripke models do not go as far as that. The only additional device we add to Kripke semantics to make it reactive is to allow the accessibility relation to access itself. Thus the accessibility relation R of a reactive Kripke model contains not only pairs (a, b) belongs to Rof possible worlds (b is accessible to a, i.e. there is an accessibility arc from a to b) but also pairs of the form (t, (a, b)) belongs to R, the arc (a, b) is accessible to t.This new kind of Kripke semantics allows us to characterise more axiomatic modal logics (with one modality) by a class of reactive frames. There are logics which cannot be characterised by ordinary frames but which can be characterised by reactive frames. We use such models to fibre logics which disagree on their common language.

Get it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 06:01 BST
Saturday, 2 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Prediction Versus Accommodation and the Risk of Overfitting

Christopher Hitchcock and Elliott Sober

When a scientist uses an observation to formulate a theory, it is no surprise that the resulting theory accurately captures that observation. However, when the theory makes a novel prediction-when it predicts an observation that was not used in its formulation-this seems to provide more substantial confirmation of the theory. This paper presents a new approach to the vexed problem of understanding the epistemic difference between prediction and accommodation . In fact, there are several problems that need to be disentangled; in all of them, the key is the concept of overfitting . We float the hypothesis that accommodation is a defective methodology only when the methods used to accommodate the data fail to guard against the risk of overfitting. We connect our analysis with the proposals that other philosophers have made. We also discuss its bearing on the conflict between instrumentalism and scientific realism.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 11:12 BST
Friday, 1 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

To Structure, or not to Structure?

by Philip Robbins
Source: Synthese

Some accounts of mental content represent the objects of belief as structured, using entities that formally resemble the sentences used to express and report attitudes in natural language; others adopt a relatively unstructured approach, typically using sets or functions. Currently popular variants of the latter include classical and neoclassical propositionalism, which represent belief contents as sets of possible worlds and sets of centered possible worlds, respectively; and property self-ascriptionism, which employs sets of possible individuals. I argue against their contemporary proponents that all three views are ineluctably plagued by generation gaps: they either overgenerate beliefs, undergenerate them, or both.

Get it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 14:58 BST


A Logic of Interrogation Should Be Internalized in a Modal Logic for Knowledge

by Rani Nelken and Chung-chieh Shan
Source: Sematics Archive

We propose a new, modal interpretation of questions. The idea of interpreting questions via modal logic goes back to Hintikka (1976) and ?qvist (1965), who interpret a question as a request for knowledge: ?bring it about that I know whether . . . ?. Such a request is composed of an imperative part and an epistemic part. Focusing on the latter, we interpret a question as the knowledge condition required in order to answer it completely. We will reduce the epistemic part of the meaning of both yes-no questions and wh-questions to statements of the form ?it is known whether? or ?it is in the common ground that . . . ?. For instance, for a yes-no question such as Is Alice quitting?, the meaning is ?it is known that Alice is quitting or it is known that Alice is not quitting?. Several di erent approaches have been suggested in linguistic semantics for modeling questions.

1. It is popular to follow Hamblin (1973) and Karttunen (1977) (hereafter HK)
in taking a question to denote its set of partial answers, or partial true answers. For instance, for the wh-question Who?s quitting?, these would be answers of the form: Alice is quitting, or Alice and Bob are quitting.

2. Groenendijk and Stokhof (1984, 1996; hereafter GS) propose a more parsimonious approach in which the answers in the set are required to be complete and mutually exclusive?in other words, a partition of possible worlds in the space of logical possibilities. For the same question, these answers would be Nobody is quitting, Just Alice is quitting, etc.

3. In contrast to these firmly intensional question denotations, Nelken and Francez (2000, 2002; hereafter NF) propose an extensional interpretation. The meaning of the same question is r (?resolved?) if it is known for every person in the domain whether he or she is quitting. Otherwise, it is ur (?unresolved?).

In this paper, we bridge these theories and combine their advantages. We begin by presenting the basic approach in Section 2. In Section 3 we delve deeper into the denotation of questions. In particular, we address what has been the main criticism against similar approaches: how to deal with embedded questions. Our theory captures GS?s prized entailment relations among questions and assertions (Section 4), while also enjoying an extensional semantics like NF?s (Section 5) and NF?s increased expressive power for complex questions (Section 6).


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 1 October 2004 04:42 BST
Thursday, 30 September 2004


On the Form of Chains: Criterial Positions and ECP fects.

By Luigi Rizzi

It is widely recognized that natural language syntax makes an extensive use of movement: elements are typically pronounced in positions different from those in which they receive some of their interpretive properties.

Rizzi's paper tstarts with a discussion of the functional motivations of movement, and then connects this level of analysis to the study of the form of chains, with special reference to the A'-system, and the formal principles which constrain possible chain configurations. The last part of the paper addresses another traditional research topic of A'-syntax the subject-object asymmetries arising in A'-extraction, and the system of principles proposed in the first part is shown to provide an alternative to the classical analysis in terms of the Empty Category Principle.

The first section addresses the issue of movement as "last resort" and discusses the implementation of the operating mechanisms. The second section proposes a characterisation of A'-chains as connecting an s-selection position (for arguments, a thematic position) to a criterial position, a position dedicated to the expression of some scope-discourse property (Chomsky 2001a-b) through a Criterion, in the sense of Rizzi (1991) and related work. These two positions are relevant for the interface with semantics and form the backbone of A'-chains. Sections 3-6 try to determine if and under what conditions other positions are allowed to occur in well-formed chains, in addition to the two interpretively relevant positions. In particular, empirical evidence is provided for a principle according to which criterial positions terminate chains:

a phrase meeting a criterion is frozen in place, and its chain cannot extend further(Criterial Freezing).

This principle makes sure that the chain will be assigned a unique scope-discourse property, basically in parallel with the assignment of a unique theta role, thus contributing to a parsimonious definition of chains as constituted by unique occurrences of the elementary ingredients.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Wednesday, 29 September 2004


What is a Correspondence Theory of Truth?

By Douglas Patterson
Source: Synthese

It is often thought that instances of the T-schema such as `` `snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white'' state correspondences between sentences and the world, and that therefore such sentences play a crucial role in correspondence theories of truth. I argue that this assumption trivializes the correspondence theory: even a disquotational theory of truth would be a correspondence theory on this conception. This discussion allows one to get clearer about what a correspondence theory does claim, and toward the end of the paper I discuss what a true correspondence theory of truth would involve.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 27 September 2004 18:11 BST


Internally-Headed Relatives Instantiate Situation Subordination

by Min-Joo Kim
Source: Sematics Archive

Korean is one of the languages that have the Internally Headed Relative Clause (IHRC) construction, in addition to the more familiar Externally Headed Relative Clause (EHRC) construction. IHRCs in Korean are gapless, as the semantic head noun is contained inside, and they are always followed by the grammatical element kes, which is
best analyzed as a pronoun (see C. Chan and J. Kim 2003, M. Kim to appear, among others). (...)

The IHRC construction in Korean provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate the principles that govern the mapping between syntax and semantics, as there appear to be discrepancies between its form and meaning (Ohara 1993, Y. Kim 2002).
First, although an IHRC is located inside a DP, it is interpreted like an independent sentence, as the English translation for (2) suggests. Second, the semantic head is buried inside the IHRC, but it is interpreted in such a way that it seems to serve as an argument of the embedding predicate; for example, in (2), what John caught was a thief.

In this paper, I propose a way of resolving these syntax-semantics mismatches. I account for the mismatch exhibited by an IHRC by motivating an LF movement of the IHRC: I propose that the RC is a generalized quantifier that operates in the eventuality domain and hence is interpreted in a position higher than its surface position by combining with an event-level denotation of the embedding clause. To solve the other
mismatch problem, I propose that the semantic head appears to function as an argument of the embedding predicate because it is indirectly but formally linked to the pronoun kes.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 25 September 2004 07:27 BST
Tuesday, 28 September 2004


Context-dependence and quantifier domains

by Orin Percus
Source: Semantics Archive

These are my lecture notes (i.e. revised handouts) for the EGG 2004 class Covert Variables at LF, co-taught with Luisa Mart? (see. Their general concern is with the phenomenon of context-dependence. Frequently, when a speaker utters a sentence, the pronounced words and the way they are put together do not fully determine our intuitions of when what the speaker said would be true. We see this clearly when, on different occasions when the same sentence is uttered, we have different intuitions about what it would mean for the speaker to have said something true. The issue is how best to treat context-dependence within a theory of how sentences get interpreted. These notes specifically address a kind of context-dependence that surfaces in sentences with quantifiers: the pronounced words do not fully determine what the domain of quantification is.

The notes rely heavily on Jason Stanley and Zoltan Szab?'s 2000 Mind and Language article "On Quantifier Domain Restriction" and on Kai von Fintel's 1998 web-accessible notes on the same topic, and to some degree (Section 1 particularly) on Fran?ois Recanati's 2003 book Literal Meaning. They are NOTES, and not all examples are attributed to their proper sources, so please check with me before citing anything as mine. Also, please let me know of any serious mistakes that you find. I will try to revise the notes accordingly.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 22:27 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 29 September 2004 10:24 BST

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