Spring 2013

Thursday 7 February: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Alessandra Marra

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: Deontic modals for the present and for the past

Abstract: Deontic statements can be used both to report and to bring about obligations and permissions. Deontic logic focused almost exclusively on the first reading, providing a truth-functional analysis based on a primitive preference-ordering among possible worlds. Instead, in this talk I discuss how to account for the second reading: I concentrate on obligation sentences, and give an Update Semantics in which the preference-ordering is generated and evolves from obligation to obligation. I take histories as basic elements of the framework, and show how to model deontic modals for the present (such as must, should, ought to) and for the past (such as must have, should have, ought to have). In line with Condoravdi (2002), I argue that the meaning of a deontic modal for the past can be expressed by the interaction between a past operator and a present deontic modal. Finally, I show how those considerations also apply to some classical deontic paradoxes.

Thursday 14 February: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Janine Reinert

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: A problem for Lewisian modal realism

Abstract: I propose an argument to the effect that Lewis’s modal realism does not afford an adequate analysis of doxastic modalities. The argument is a reductio ad absurdum: It establishes that Lewisian modal realism, if true, cannot possibly be disbelieved. Since many philosophers in fact do not believe in the truth of modal realism, we may conclude that the theory is either false or at least does not do justice to actual belief content.

Thursday 21 February: Tutorial

Speaker: Reinhard Muskens

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: A Very Short Intro to Type-Logical Semantics

Abstract: This semester I will give a course on true intensionality, aka hyperintensionality (I will explain what these terms mean and why I don’t like the latter much). But in, order to prepare the ground, I want to explain a few things about type-logical semantics. Many 20th century philosophers followed Frege and Russell in thinking that there is a well-nigh unbridgeable gap between logic and language. But in the late 1960s Richard Montague showed that a well-known extension of predicate logic, the type logic defined by Alonzo Church (based on a simplification of Russell’s own type theory), is much closer to language than standard predicate logic is. I will explain why Russell and others thought there to be a mismatch between logic and language, and how this apparent mismatch can be overcome with the help of type logic. See an entry I wrote for Routledge Encyclopedia Online for a text supporting the tutorial.

Thursday 7 March: Tutorial

Speaker: Reinhard Muskens

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: Approaches to True Intensionality: An Introduction.

Abstract: In this lecture I will explain what the Problem of the Individuation of Meaning in higher order logics is and I will give an overview of ways that have been proposed for dealing with it. For the moment I will only sketch solutions that have been proposed but some of these solutions will be studied in more detail in subsequent lectures.
The slides for this and the following presentations are here.

Thursday 14 March: No Meeting

Thursday 21 March: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Stefan Wintein

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 5

Title: On the Strict Tolerant Conception of Truth

Abstract: We discuss four distinct semantic consequence relations which are based on Strong Kleene theories of truth and which generalize the notion of classical consequence to 3-valued logics. Then we set up a uniform signed tableau calculus (the strict-tolerant calculus), which we show to be sound and complete with respect to each of the four semantic consequence relations. The signs employed by our calculus are As, Ds, At and Dt,, which indicate a strict assertion, strict denial, tolerant assertion and tolerant denial respectively. Recently, Ripley applied the strict-tolerant account of assertion and denial (originally developed by Cobreros et al. [2012] to bear on vagueness) to develop a new approach to truth and alethic paradox, which we call the Strict Tolerant Conception of Truth (STCT). The paper aims to contribute to our understanding of STCT in at least three ways. First, by developing the strict-tolerant calculus. Second, by developing a semantic version of the strict-tolerant calculus (assertoric semantics), which informs us about the (strict-tolerant) assertoric possibilities relative to a fixed ground model. Third, by showing that the strict-tolerant calculus and assertoric semantics jointly suggest that STCT’s claim that ‘the strict and tolerant can be understood in terms of one another’ has to be reconsidered.

Thursday 28 March: Progress Report

Speaker: Lasha Abzianidze

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: Towards wide-coverage lexical semantics.


One of the most common ways of achieving wide-coverage semantic analysis of natural language phrases consists of two steps: (a) to assign (more or less) correct semantic representations to all lexical items a phrase consists of and (b) to compute semantics of the phrase, using the principle of compositionality.

The talk will mainly emphasize on the first step of the task by illustrating the manual process of assignment of typed lambda terms to lexical items. The assignment process principally employs two features the off-the-shelf CCG parser (from C&C tools) assigns to lexical items and exhibits that semantic representations of some syntactically diverse words have similar structures; the latter makes manual assignment process less time-consuming.

Finally, the assignment process will be (improperly) evaluated on the sentences used in the data of textual entailments.

Thursday 4 April: No Meeting

Thursday 11 April: Tutorial

Speaker: Reinhard Muskens

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: Approaches to True Intensionality: A Streamlined Version of Thomason’s Intentional Logic.
We also did Sense and the Computation of Reference.

Thursday 18 April: No Meeting

Thursday 25 April: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Maša Močnik
Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7
Title: Scalar Analysis of a Free Choice Item
I will examine the Slovenian free choice item kar en and show that it can express different readings: free choice, random choice, unremarkableness, low-level, ignorance and indifference. I will focus on the first four readings to provide a unified analysis in terms of pragmatic scales. I propose that kar en presupposes a pragmatic scale and an order-preserving equivalence relation on the elements of the scale, and asserts that the element the existential claim is about is in the equivalence class of the least element of the scale. The idea is to derive the four readings via different resolutions of the two pragmatic variables: the scale can be a scale of remarkableness or of expectation (in terms of likelihood or bouletic), whereas the equivalence relation can be either universal or non-universal. In contexts with salient scales, we derive the truly scalar readings (free choice, low-level, remarkableness), whereas the random reading is derived in contexts with a salient universal equivalence relation.

Thursday 2 May: Tutorial

Speaker: Reinhard Muskens

Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7

Title: Approaches to True Intensionality: Impossible Worlds in Classical Logic + Intensional Models for the Theory of Types, Part I.

Thursday 9 May: No Meeting

Thursday 16 May: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Alessandra Marra
Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7
Title: A Dynamic Semantics Solution to the Miners’ Paradox
Abstract: One of the most studied paradoxes in recent meta-ethics is the “Miners’ Paradox”. The reason the paradox is so prominent is that it incorporates other familiar paradoxes generated by Standard Deontic Logic: paradoxes involving conditional obligations, disjunction of obligations and conflict of obligations. In this talk I present a solution to the paradox by developing a dynamic semantics of deontic modals in which the acceptance of obligation-sentences affects the conversational contexts. The framework I propose aims at representing the dynamics of discourse practice, and is based on Veltman’s (1996) work on Update Semantics. Contrary to the current attempts to solve the Miners’ Paradox (e.g., Kolodny and MacFarlane 2010, Willer 2012), I argue that only a fully dynamic semantics can provide a satisfactory solution. I suggest indeed that we need to take seriously the dynamic aspect intrinsic to everyday discourse, in particular as far as deontic reasoning is concerned.

Thursday 23 May: Tutorial

Speaker: Reinhard Muskens
Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 10
Title: Approaches to True Intensionality: Intensional Models for the Theory of Types, Part II.

Thursday 30 May: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Inés Crespo and Frank Veltman
Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7
Title: Gradable Adjectives and Subjective Experience

In this talk we will discuss in what sense gradable adjectives like `tall’, `heavy’, and `tasty’ are subjective.

It’s certainly not that everybody gives a different meaning to words like these. Still it looks like you have got to say something like that if you try to deal with the semantics of these phrases in a truth conditional framework. We will discuss the shortcomings of the main theories (absolutist, contextualist, and relativist) that do so, and sketch an alternative starting from some observations not made so far. Modeling meanings as instructions to change one’s intentional state as is done in update semantics is the key to our solution.

Thursday 6 June: Invited Lecture

Speaker: Bart Geurts
Time & Place: 16:45–18:30; Room DZ 7
Title: Framing, scales, and human rationality

Abstract: There is a widespread rumour in the social sciences that the experimental record shows that people are irredeemably irrational. In this talk I discuss one of the more popular pieces of evidence that have been adduced in favour of this claim, and argue that it shows exactly the opposite.

Starting with Tversky and Kahneman’s Asian Disease study, psychologists have collected a wealth of experimental data showing that the way a problem is framed may have an effect on people’s choices and decisions. Based on a semantic analysis of evaluative expressions like “good”, I propose a principled explanation of such framing effects. The key idea is that our choices and decisions reveal a counterfactual systematicity: they carry information about the choices and decisions we would have made if the facts had been otherwise. It is these counterfactual alternatives that may diverge between otherwise equivalent versions of the same task, and thus explain the effects of framing.


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