SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Do we need metaphysics of words?
(Philosophy of Language, English)

Kaplan's paper "Words" (1990) has sparked a debate, recently revived, about the metaphysical status of words. A number of authors (cf. McCulloch 1991, Cappelen 1999, Hawthorne & Lepore 2011, Kaplan 2011, Bromberger 2011, Imrak 2018) have thought this debate and the questions it concerns, namely (1) What are words? and (2) How are word individuated? to be both novel and important. Their importance is stressed by emphasising the fact that a word, despite being a concept commonly used in ordinary discourse as well as in linguistic and philosophy of language, has rarely been subject to a deepened philosophical analysis on its own.

In our talk we would like to examine the question whether it is really the case that metaphysics of words is a legitimate and important philosophical inquiry. We suspect a negative answer -- although there might be some interesting things to say about the metaphysical status of words, most of the debate that has been going on so far mirrors already existing debates in metasemantics, pragmatics and semiotics. We argue that this is not due to parallels between those domains but to the fact that the questions present in the debate about the metaphysics of words is in fact reducible to the abovementioned ones. In the first part of our talk we are going to analyse the common points between different stances in metaphysics of words and (1) the interpretationism-productivism debate in metasemantics (2) the problem of "what is said" in Gricean framework (3) the issue of conventional nature of signs in semiotics.

In the second part we will look at the question whether one can defend the enterprise of metaphysical analysis of words by taking it to be part of the domain of philosophy of science -- more specifically, philosophy of linguistics. On the face of it, when one needs not concern themself with the common conception of the word and the -- often contradictory -- intuitions about its usage it seems easier to distinguish the object of one's enterprise. However, we want to point out that in the case of linguistics it is not the case -- it is far from clear what linguists take to be a word, yet the inventory of concepts they propose to describe language seems sufficient for the tasks at hand. So, while metaphysics of lexemes, phonemes or morphemes could all in theory be taken to be important parts of philosophy of linguistics, metaphysics of words cannot.


Chair: Eduardo Pérez-Navarro
Time: 15:20-15:50, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.006

Antonina Jamrozik 
(University of Warsaw, Poland)

Antonina Jamrozik is a MA student at University of Warsaw where she studies Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Her BA concerned the relation between Holistic Semantics and the Principle of Compositionality. At the moment she is most interested in dynamic accounts of language and knowledge.

Zuzanna Jusińska 
(University of Warsaw, Warsaw)

Zuzanna Jusińska is currently enrolled in a MA program in the College of Interdepartmental Studies in the Humanities at the University of Warsaw where they study philosophy and gender studies. Jusińska graduated two BA programs, one in Philosophy at the University of Warsaw where their bachelor thesis was "Semantic and Pragmatic Analysis of Expressions with Grammatical Gender", second in Choreography and Dance Techniques where their bachelor thesis was "Dance as Language: Meaning and Communication". Jusińska's long term goal is to contribute to the development of queer and feminist philosophy of language and analytic feminist philosophy.

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