Institut Jean Nicod

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Directeur de Recherche Émérite, CNRS

Directeur d’Études honoraire, EHESS

Professeur, Collège de France


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François Recanati’s research work pertains to three main areas. The first one is speech act theory construed as providing use-theoretical foundations for semantics. This trend, present since the beginning of Recanati’s career, has become prominent again recently (especially through Recanati’s work on the act-based conception of propositional content, polyphony and the force/content distinction).

The second area is context-dependence in language and thought. In his influential research on contextualism and the semantics/pragmatics interface Recanati has argued for the existence of a pragmatic process of ‘modulation’ distinct both from saturation (indexical resolution) and from implicatures. He has also argued for a two-level analysis of content which applies to thought and language alike. Recanati has emphasized the potential of that approach for the analysis of experiential states (memory, perception, imagination) and phenomena like immunity to error through misidentification or so-called pre-reflective self-consciousness.

In the past decade Recanati has worked extensively on the theory of reference and the analysis of singular concepts, construed as mental files. Like their perceptual ancestors (object files), mental files are based on ’epistemically rewarding’ relations to objects in the environment. Standing in such relations to objects puts the subject in a position to gain information regarding them, information that goes into the files based on the relevant relations. Files do not merely store information about objects, however. They refer to them and serve as singular terms in the language of thought, with a relational (nondescriptivist) semantics. In this framework, the reference of linguistic expressions is inherited from that of the files we associate with them. Crucially, files also play the role of ‘modes of presentation’. They are used to account for cognitive significance phenomena illustrated by so-called ’Frege cases’.