SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Principle of Compositionality, Context Principle and Inferential Role Semantics -- Are They All Compatible?
(Philosophy of Language, Englisch)

A The principle of compositionality, according to which the meaning of a complex expression is fully determined by the meanings of it's component parts and the way of their composition, is taken to be the most obvious explanation of the two distinguished features of natural language: productivity and systematicity, both explaining the phenomenon of learnability.
It is this principle that the attack launched by Jerry Fodor and Ernest LePore on the Inferential Role Semantics is based on. They argue that since the proponent of IRS cannot explain how inferential roles of simple expressions are compositionally tied to the inferential roles of complexes without appeal to the analytic/synthetic distinction (which, since Quine's quest against it, is not something widely endorsed in philosophy), this particular metasemantic theory tells us nothing about how language actually works.
Their argument has provoked a range of controversy around the subject. In the first part of my talk I am planning to give an analysis of the answer given to Fodor and Lepore by Pagin and McCullagh. Each of them is in fact proposing two strategies of resistance -- I will first compare the introductory ones, which point out to the assumptions that Fodor and LePore make and show what problems they can pose. I will then pass to the more complex ones, which are in each case based on the framework of set theory. I will point out the similarities and differences between these two approaches, placing them in the wider context of the problem of decomposition in IRS.
The Principle of Compositionality, as defined at the beginning, and the Context Principle, according to which it is only sensible to ask about the meaning of a simple expression in context of the complex expression of which it is a part, are both being said to originate from the writings of Frege. They have also been said to be inconsistent with each other. I am planning to show how, using the apparatus discussed earlier, one can reject this apparent incompatibility.


Brandom, Robert (2000). Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Harvard University Press.
Fodor, J. A. A. & Lepore, E. (1992). Holism: A Shopper's Guide. Blackwell.
Fodor, J. A. & Lepore, E. (1993). ''Why meaning (probably) isn't conceptual role'' in Philosophical Issues 3 (4):15-35.
Janssen, Theo M. V. (2001). ''Frege, contextuality and compositionality'' in Journal of Logic, Language and Information 10 (1):115-136.
Pagin, Peter (1997). ''Is compositionality compatible with holism?'' in Mind and Language 12 (1):11-33.
Peregrin, Jaroslav (forthcoming). ''Is inferentialism circular?'' in Analysis:anx130.
McCullagh, Mark (2003). ''Do inferential roles compose?'' in Dialectica 57 (4):431-38.

Chair: Nadja-Mira Yolcu
Zeit: 10:40-11:10, 14. September 2018 (Freitag)
Ort: HS E.002

Antonina Jamrozik
(Univeristy of Warsaw, Polen)

Third year undergraduate student at the University of Warsaw. At the core of her interest lay philosophy of language and linguistics.

Testability and Meaning deco