Do we need dynamic semantics?
Forthcoming in: Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning, edited by Alexis Burgess and Brett Sherman, OUP
Work in progress
A pragmatic account of cross-sentential anaphora on embedded indefinites
I argue that we can maintain a static semantics and account for cross-sentential anaphora using the tools of dynamic semantics – namely updates to the context involving discourse referents – while relegating the tools of dynamic semantics to the realm of pragmatics. In this paper, I look particularlyat the cases of cross-sentential anaphora that involve antecedents that are indefinite descriptions scoped under negation, universal quantifiers, modals, and conditionals. I argue that there’s no clear cut account of the data using a dynamic conception of meaning, i.e., taking semantic values to be context change potentials, and that the pragmatic account fairs just as well or better than the dynamic semantic one in these cases. Draft down for major revisions.
Elusive Counterfactuals (Under review)
A known problem for counterfactual conditionals, most recently pressed by Alan Hájek, but also discussed by David Lewis and John Hawthorne, among others, is the following. Take any contingently true counterfactual, the one you are the most certain is true, such as (1) If you had dropped this extremely fragile vase, it would have broken, and you can find a might-counterfactual that seems to conflict with it. For example, if certain intepretations of quantum mechanics are true, then there’s a (close-by) possibility in which the vase lands safely on the couch, supporting the truth of (2) If you had dropped this extremely fragile vase, it might not have broken. (2) for all the world sounds like it contradicts (1). I argue that this is not a feature of counterfactuals brought about by esoteric cases, but a central feature of the way we use counterfactuals in conversation. That is, while counterfactuals are generally thought to ignore far away worlds, I argue that they also often ignore close worlds when these represent possible outcomes that are irrelevant for conversational purposes. I then present and defend a contextualist semantic and pragmatic theory that captures this fact, involving a new strategy for ordering worlds. Draft
A new puzzle about epistemic modals
(Joint work with Ben Lennertz)
In this paper we present a problem for most views of epistemic modals. The problem stems from the interaction of epistemic modals and the term 'because' in sentences like 'Joe might be the thief because he has crumbs in his pocket'. I'll post more about this project soon!