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Lewis and t he Semantics-Pragmatics Divide. Ernie Lepore Matthew Stone. Outline. Rethinking semantics and pragmatics coordination (Lewis 1969) the conversational record (Lewis 1979) Linguistics and the social Implications for philosophical practice. Background. Last time: Intentions

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outline
Outline
  • Rethinking semantics and pragmatics
  • coordination (Lewis 1969)
  • the conversational record (Lewis 1979)
  • Linguistics and the social
  • Implications for philosophical practice
background
Background
  • Last time: Intentions
  • Intention recognition is an important ingredient of understanding, collaboration
  • BUT
  • Problematic to locate linguistic knowledge using intentions
  • Need to look elsewhere to get clear on the scope of linguistic rules as social constructs
coordination
Coordination
  • Situations where agents’ actions must agree
  • but no intrinsic reason to prefer one joint strategy over another
coordination1
Coordination
  • Examples from Lewis (1969)
  • Arrange a meeting
  • Restart an interrupted phone call
  • Row a boat
  • Share the road when driving
  • Perform a search as a group
  • Collude to set prices
  • Signal a choice
games and reasoning
Games and reasoning
  • If an agent chooses her action deliberately, she must consider her expectations about her partner.
  • Idealization: equilibrium
  • no player would change his move,given the moves the others make
games and reasoning1
Games and reasoning
  • We generally expect equilibria in real life
  • where agents play repeatedlythey can learn to match one anothereven if individual decisions are heuristic
  • Equilibrium describes regularity in behavior
  • Lets us ascribe certain states to agents (perhaps tacit or implicit)
state underlying equilibrium
State underlying equilibrium
  • It’s common knowledge that
  • everyone conforms to R
  • everyone expects everyone else to conform to R
  • everyone prefers to conform to R on the condition that others do
lewis this is a convention
Lewis: this is a convention
  • Objections:
  • Silent about how conventions are instituted
  • That’s the point.
  • Lewis describes how we can get convention from salience, precedents and convergence – but this is just one story among many
games and reasoning2
Games and reasoning
  • A range of mechanisms explain equilibrium
  • Architecture – we’re only biologically capable of one equilibrium
  • Salience – we’re so constituted that preferred equilibrium leaps to mind
  • Experience – we’ve learned that others follow a given equilibrium
all potentially relevant to language faculty
All potentially relevant to language faculty
  • Architecture: Universal Grammar
  • Salience: Primitive preferences for particular patterns of interpretation
  • Experience: Acquired lexical items, syntactic parameter settings, etc.
lewis this is a convention1
Lewis: this is a convention
  • Objections:
  • We don’t have to know all these things (Burge)
  • Fair point – let’s talk about ‘social competence’ instead as whatever lets us solve (certain) coordination problems – not prejudging the actual status of skills, knowledge, choice & alternatives
lewis this is a convention2
Lewis: this is a convention
  • Objections:
  • Lewis’s conventions are always followed – this seems too strong (Gilbert, Millikan)
  • Examples: handing out cigars, using ‘bank’ to mean financial institution
lewis this is a convention3
Lewis: this is a convention
  • Objections:
  • Lewis’s conventions have to achieve preferred outcomes – this seems too strong (Gilbert, Millikan)
  • Examples: decorating for Christmas specifically with red and green
lewis this is a convention4
Lewis: this is a convention
  • Objections:
  • Seems to assume coordination problem exists antecedently of equilibrium – this seems too strong (Marmor)
  • Examples: playing chess by the rules
response
Response
  • In keeping with idea of social competence, let’s think of coordination problems are rational reconstructions
lewis on signaling
Lewis on Signaling
  • One party produces signal,knowing the state of the world
  • The other acts,having seen the signal
  • Explains information carried by signal,but a long way from meaning
signaling example
Signaling example
  • ‘one if by land, two if by sea’
  • Sexton hangs certain patterns of lightsconditional on what British are doing
  • Revere prepares particular pattern of defenseconditional on what lights he sees
  • They want equilibrium
problems
Problems
  • Meaning is underdetermined
  • 1 light: the British are coming by landor
  • 1 light: prepare the land defenses!or
  • both?
problems1
Problems
  • Meaning only present at equilibrium
  • So what about coordination that succeeds through other mechanisms – salience? good luck? partial or tentative precedents?
lewis on convention
Lewis on Convention
  • Lewis attempts to generalize to languageby directly understanding truth conditionsas conventions for agents to use certain sentences in certain conditions(namely, when they are true)
lewis on convention1
Lewis on Convention
  • This is very cumbersome
  • And doesn’t seem to get at the real difficulties
another idea
Another idea
  • Language combines social competence with specific institutions targeted at meaning
  • Specifically: the conversational record (Lewis 1979)
conversational record
Conversational record
  • List of propositions associated with discourse
  • Specifies
  • interlocutors’ environment
  • what has been said already
  • what the purposes and plan is
  • what standards of meaning are in play
  • what issues are open
  • what conversation is committed to
  • (Lewis 1979, Thomason 1990)
conversational record1
Conversational record
  • Record is dynamic
  • topic can change
  • meaning standards can be negotiated
  • presuppositions can be challenged
  • interlocutors can commit to new propositions or rescind previous commitments
  • Utterances specify updates
  • generally, as a matter of meaning
conversational record2
Conversational record
  • Abstraction
  • Free to specify discourse referents,standards for vague predicates,other constructs from formal theories
  • Need not be tied to interlocutors’ knowledge or belief
record is arbitrary
Record is arbitrary
  • In key respects, it’s up to us how the record changes
  • So it’s natural to think of the record as an object of coordination
coordinating on the record
Coordinating on the Record
  • One way of thinking
  • I have my version of what’s happened
  • You have your version of what’s happened
  • When it lines up, we’ve communicated
  • Compare Neale’s presentation here
coordinating on the record1
Coordinating on the Record
  • One way of thinking
  • I have my version of what’s happened
  • You have your version of what’s happened
  • When it lines up, we’ve communicated
  • Drawback: describing cases of miscommunication, clarification, etc.
coordinating on the record2
Coordinating on the Record
  • An indirect way of thinking
  • Each of us defers to practices
  • Meanings specify how to update the record
  • We coordinate on what we defer to
coordinating on the record3
Coordinating on the Record
  • An indirect way of thinking
  • Each of us defers to practices
  • Meanings specify how to update the record
  • We coordinate on what we defer to
  • Promises a better handle on miscommunication, clarification
the received view
The Received View
  • Semantics
  • linguistic specification of reference, truth
  • settles what the speaker is saying
  • Pragmatics
  • general principles of inference and strategy
  • settles what speaker is doing
problems2
Problems
  • Fails to describe linguistic knowledge
  • more linguistic facts than supposes
  • e.g., rules for indirection, presupposition, information structure, etc.
  • Fails to describe interpretive inference
  • wide range of practices for engaging with imagery, drawing insights
overall picture
Overall picture
  • Key theoretical notion is inquiry
  • process (normally collaborative)in which interlocutors settle how things are
  • Requires
  • public meanings
  • open to negotiation, debate
overall picture1
Overall picture
  • Inquiry privileges conventional meaning
  • depends on conversational record
  • depends on coordination
  • Allows for a broad understanding of meaning
  • Excludes insight or point of open-ended, idiosyncratic engagement with utterance
inquiry and cr
Inquiry and CR
  • Conversational record tracks inquiry
  • Assertion registers proposition on recordas commitment of one party
  • Enables further follow up, such asclarification questions,arguments for or against,agreement or disagreement by other parties
  • Record ensures a shared interpretation
how will this affect philosophy
How will this affect philosophy?
  • Better arguments, but more difficult ones.
  • Close with case study:
  • Grice versus ordinary language philosophers
color the dialectic
Color: the dialectic
  • Claim: color supervenes on appearance
  • Something is red just in case it looks red under normal conditions to appropriately endowed observers.
  • Objection (Austin):
  • Hogwash! You’d only say something looked red if it wasn’t red!
color the dialectic1
Color: the dialectic
  • Reply (Grice):
  • Well, yes, you wouldn’t say something looks red unless it wasn’t red.
  • But, that’s not part of the meaning of “it looks red”, it’s an implicature.
  • Us:
  • Sorry Grice, your linguistics is bogus.
what next
What next?
  • Us:
  • Sorry Austin, your linguistics is bogus too!
  • Often say “something looks red” when it is:
  • His fake tan looks orange.
  • Contaminated water still looks clear.
  • The distant shores look green and inviting.
  • (examples after google searches)
what next1
What next?
  • Us:
  • Sorry Austin, your linguistics is bogus too!
  • When “it looks red” means it’s not, it’s because of intonation.
  • No objection to analysis of color,as long as you don’t use that intonation!
similar cases
Similar cases
  • Believe and know.
  • Try and succeed.
  • Or and and.
  • Ordinary language folks: 1st suggests not 2nd
  • Grice: That’s just an implicature.
  • Us: You’re both wrong.
  • 1st suggests not 2nd if marked elsewherelots of times 1st doesn’t suggest not 2nd.
basic point
Basic point
  • Our theories need to acknowledge the richness and complexity of language and communication.
  • We can do the linguistics and philosophy we want without unhelpful categories like “conversational implicatures”.