Two-Dimensionalism and Interpretation

(Sprachphilosophie, Englisch)

talnaker's metasemantic interpretation of two-dimensional semantics provides a formal framework for the interpretation of utterances in a discourse (Stalnaker. Assertion. In Peter Cole, editor, Syntax and Semantics, Volume 9: Pragmatics. 1978.) (Stalnaker. Assertion revisited: On the interpretation of two-dimensional modal semantics. Philosophical Studies. 2004). The original purpose of the framework was to explain how sentences expressing necessary truths can be informative. To this aim the truth value of an utterance is relativized to possible worlds in two different dimensions. First, the truth value of the utterance depends on the facts holding at a possible world in the standard sense in which the truth value of the proposition expressed by the utterance can depend on the facts that the proposition is about. Second, what proposition is expressed by an utterance can itself depend on the semantic facts that hold in the context of the conversation. Examples of this second kind of dependence that were given in the literature are: Indexical expressions, a Kripkean causal mechanism that selects the referents of proper names depending on the causal history of the name at the context of utterance, or conversations in which the participants have a misunderstanding about the meaning of words.

In my presentation I suggest to use the two-dimensional framework under a metasemantic interpretation as a, no doubt vastly oversimplified, framework to model the problem of radical interpretation. The problem of radical interpretation is to give an account of how an interpreter can learn about a subject's beliefs and language given only observational evidence and no prior knowledge of her beliefs and language (Davidson. Inquiries Into Truth And Interpretation. Oxford University Press. 1984) (Lewis. Radical interpretation. Synthese, 27. 1974).

In the application of the two-dimensional framework to the problem of radical interpretation sets of possible worlds represent the totality of the subject's beliefs. This is a standard procedure in doxastic logic and a natural adaption of Stalnaker's idea to use sets of worlds for common ground in a conversation. I argue that then the two dimensions of two-dimensional semantics correspond to the two the two unknowns, beliefs and language, in interpretation. In the first dimension the basic facts of a possible world determine the truth value of a proposition and give the contend of the subject's basic beliefs. In the second dimension the semantic facts of a possible world determine what proposition is expressed by an utterance and how the subject uses language.

As the basic evidence available for interpretation Davidson has proposed the notion of the subject holding a sentence true in her own language. I show that if we model this notion in the two-dimensional framework it corresponds to the expression of the diagonal proposition which Stalnaker proposed for the reinterpretation of certain pragmatically problematic assertions.

On the most straightforward account all the linguistic evidence that is available for interpretation is what sentence the subject holds true under various circumstances. This only constraints the diagonal entries in the matrices of subject's sentences. It does not suffice to distinguish between a difference in content across contexts from a mere change in the facts that sentence is about. This might be taken as an indication that the two-dimensional framework in which a sentence in context expresses a proposition is too rich for the problem of radical interpretation. One might simplify the model to a essentially one-dimensional one in which only the truth values of sentences in context are represented.

If one however wishes to retain the full two-dimensional framework one has to find additional evidence that can constrain the truth values of sentences in the subject's language at indices that are distinct from the context of utterance. I discuss two suggestion of how this might be accomplished that correspond to fundamentally distinct conceptions of the semantic facts that are modeled in the second dimension.

Chair: Theresa Marx

Zeit: 14:00-14:30, 13. September 2013 (Freitag)

Ort: HS 107

Johannes Marti

(ILLC, University of Amsterdam, Niederlande)

Johannes Marti, MSc in Logic from the ILLC in Amsterdam, Master thesis and publications on coalgebraic modal logic, BSc of Mathematics, University of Bern, writing a PhD thesis on philosophy of langauge and multi-dimensional modal logics

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Letzte Aktualisierung: 2013-02-14.