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Sensitive Semantics: On the Clash Between the Naïve Theory and Intuition Open Access


Other title
Belief Reports
Direct Reference
Naïve Theory
Mode of Presentation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Ion, Octavian
Supervisor and department
Morton, Adam (Philosophy)
Examining committee member and department
Pelletier, Jeff (Philosophy)
Tessier, Anne-Michelle (Linguistics)
Simchen, Ori (Philosophy)
Linsky, Bernard (Philosophy)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The Naïve Theory is one the dominant accounts amongst philosophers of language. This theory has much to offer, however it does not in all cases bode well with intuitions. Two puzzles are raised and investigated here. The first is a puzzle regarding certain simple sentences. The Naïve Theory does not recognize semantic differences amongst simple sentences which are cognitively very different. The second is a puzzle regarding attitude ascriptions. The truth-values the Naïve Theory assigns to an important subset of such ascriptions disagree with the pretheoretical intuitions of ordinary language users. The first and second chapters examine some of the ways that Naïve Theorists have attempted to resolve the puzzle and finds them insufficient. In the first chapter modifications to the Naïve Theory are proposed which aim to preserve the referentialist core of the theory while accommodating intuitions regarding cognitive significance. The second chapter discusses the extension of the Naïve Theory to attitude ascribing sentences, presents the truth-value discrepancy problem and evaluates the pragmatic and psychological-explanatory accounts that have been developed in response. The third chapter examines two standard contextualist accounts of attitude ascriptions that aim to bring referentialist semantics in line with the truth-value assignments of ordinary speakers. It is argued that, while standard versions of contextualism can respect truth-value intuitions to a large extent, these accounts make overly demanding claims about what it is that speakers represent with their reports. The fourth chapter explores a more radical version of contextualism that has been recently developed by Stefano Predelli and John MacFarlane. The account developed there takes the truth-value of attitude ascriptions to be sensitive to the explanatory projects of those who ascribe them. The non-standard version of contextualism advanced takes the word choice in attitude ascriptions to make a semantic difference relative to the explanatory contexts to which the ascriptions are meant to contribute. Employing Kit Fine’s relationist semantics, the semantic difference is cashed out in terms of coordination relations that hold between the ascriptions and the set of statements which comprise the contextually salient explanation.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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