Institut Jean Nicod

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Doc’in Nicod

Session 5

Date : Friday, April 24, 2020, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Víctor Carranza (PhD student University of Milan / ENS)
Commentator : Philippe Schlenker
Title : A unidimensional approach to expressive meaning

Abstract : In this talk, I’ll discuss Potts’ (2005) multidimensional approach to expressive terms. Expressive terms include epithets (‘jerk’, ‘bastard’), and attributive adjectives (‘damn’, bloody’), among others, which are characterized for expressing a meaning of a special sort which is both attitudinal (i.e. it predicates something about the emotions of the speaker) and independent (i.e. it updates a dimension of meaning that is different from the regular truth-conditional dimension). When dealing with such terms, Potts’ approach encounters two problems :

a) Some expressive terms can have descriptive uses (e.g., as in ‘John is fucking tall’, where ‘fucking’ is working as a degree modifier) [Geurts (2007)], and that, on closer inspection,

b) epithets behave more like descriptive (attitudinal, independent) expressions (e.g. as in ‘The president is stupid, isn’t he ?’) [Schlenker (2007)].

Although these problems could be solved by extending Potts’ formal apparatus by positing ‘type-shifting rules’, this strategy seems entirely ad hoc since there is nothing in the syntax of ‘fucking’, or epithets such as ‘stupid’, indicating a type-shift rule. Thus, the purpose of my talk is to present the basis for a unidimensional approach to expressive meaning. This will be carried out by extending Krifka’s (2015) commitment-based scorekeeping model of discourse, in which hearers interpret the speaker’s utterances by attributing commitments to them. My main hypothesis is that, whereas descriptive language updates the conversational score by adding the speaker’s commitments to the truth of what is said, expressive language updates it by adding the speaker’s commitments to the ‘appropriateness’ of how it was said.

Session 4

Date : Friday, April 3, 2020, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Matheus Valente (PhD student University of Barcelona/Visiting IJN)
Commentator : Gregory Bochner
Title : Paderewski variations

Abstract : Which conditions must be satisfied for a hearer to successfully understand a declarative utterance ? This is obviously a central question for any account of linguistic communication. My first goal is to identify a set of principles about understanding and communication that have usually been taken as prima facie plausible, and show, with the aid of several variations on Kripke’s story about the polish pianist-cum-politician Paderewski, that they cannot all be true. The second, more constructive, goal is offering a tentative solution to the puzzle. My ultimate diagnosis is that an influential and popular account of communication – the so-called “thought-transfer model” – ought to be rejected as the least plausible element of our inconsistent set of principles. At the same time, I show what this theoretical choice involves and why it should not be taken lightly – which is why my solution is only a tentative one.



Session 3

Date : February 7, 2020, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Xinxin Ma (Postdoctoral Researcher IJN)
Commentator : François Recanati
Title : A farewell to hidden indexicals

Abstract : Indexicalism tends to ascribe hidden variables to all sentences containing quantifier phrases or colour predicates. But one fundamental difficulty this theory faces is that many such sentences do not need hidden variables, as they express intuitively complete propositions. This talk argues that in order to offer the semantic interpretation of those unfavourable sentences, Indexicalists will be caught in a dilemma : rejecting hidden variables in unfavourable sentences results in implausible paraphrases, while accepting hidden variables in unfavourable sentences appears ad hoc and violates linguistic principles. Hence, other things being equal, a semantic theory without hidden variables is preferable.



Session 2 

Date : Friday, January 24, 2020, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Guido Löhr (PhD student IJN / RUB)
Commentator : Elisabeth Pacherie

Title : On commitments

Abstract :

Commitment accounts of assertion and promises are becoming more and more popular. But what exactly are commitments ? This question has not been fully discussed in the literature. This makes commitment accounts difficult to assess. In my talk, I will give an account of what commitments are. I will respond and reject previous analyses in the literature and in particular discuss Bart Geurts’ recent definition in detail.



Session 1

Friday, November 29, 2019, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Elmarie Venter (PhD student Ruhr University Bochum / Visiting IJN)
Commentator : Jérôme Dokic

The Perceiving Agent

Abstract :
In this talk, I investigate Recanati’s interpretation of Searle’s account of intentionality. On this interpretation, the satisfaction conditions of an intentional state are twofold : the primary condition and the self-referential condition. Searle claims that both of these conditions are determined by the content of an intentional state. This takes the form of a conjunctive proposition determined by the state of the world perceived and the experience of which this state is the content (Recanati 2006 : 4). I uphold Recanati’s claim that the content of an intentional state only captures the primary condition, and that the self-referential condition is determined by the mode of the intentional state. What remains desired however is an account of the subject, and her role in the intentional state. I draw three distinctions that give us useful parameters for an account of self- representation :

  1. The subject/object distinction. We need to understand the different ways in which an agent enters an intentional state. What does this mean for how we represent ourselves, and generate self-models ?
  2. The implicit/explicit distinction. We need to understand the role of the subject in representing the world. Is represented content selfless, or does the subject form part of what is explicitly represented ?
  3. The IEM/non-IEM distinction. We need to understand the conditions under which judgements can be immune to error through misidentification, and how this relates to the previous two distinctions.