I’m a PhD candidate at UT Austin specializing in the philosophy of language, formal semantics, and metaphysics. Right now, I'm thinking a lot about the semantics of attitude ascriptions and the nature of attitudinal objects. I hold an MA in philosophy from Notre Dame and a BA in philosophy and mathematics from Dartmouth College.
Contact me: aprausch at utexas dot edu
I present a puzzle for the standard, propositional semantic account of belief reports by considering novel inferences which it incorrectly predicts to be invalid under assumptions that are plausible by its advocates’ own lights. In response, I propose a conservative departure from the standard view on which certain ‘that’-clauses designate novel devices of semantic type <e,t> that I call open propositions. After outlining some desiderata for a theory of open propositions, I provide some reasons for advocates of the standard view to treat them as properties of a certain kind. Then I give a bridge principle between the core notions of belief and belief-about before showing how the resulting view can be implemented in accordance with formal theories of syntax and semantics. I bring out some of the consequences this investigation has beyond our semantic theorizing and conclude, more generally, that any response to the puzzle requires paying some surprising cost or another.
The dissertation concerns the semantics of attitude ascriptions , with eye on how linguistic theory can inform the metaphysics of attitudinal objects. Under-appreciated linguistic constructions and novel inferences involving them are used to raise problems for standard views in the literature, and consequences these developments have for issues outside of formal semantics are considered. The result is a novel account of attitude reports, the nature of attitudinal objects, and the structure of a compositional framework itself.
Chapter 1 introduces belief-about reports and novel inferences involving them that pose serious problems for the standard propositional semantics for attitude reports. A conservative departure from tradition is sketched in response. See "A Puzzle about Belief-about" above.
Chapter 2 provides an alternative explanation of the novel inferences considered in Chapter 1, and can be understood as a contemporary revival of relational theories of belief developed by Russell and Quine. Departing from its ancestry, the proposed theory is consistent with the existence of propositions and provides a unified syntactic and semantic treatment for belief reports de dicto and de re. The crux of the formal implementation involves taking propositions to be certain properties of possible worlds, and so an account of propositions is sketched along these lines.
Chapter 3 raises new challenges for the semantics of attitude-embedded indefinites, which give rise to "third readings" (i.e., neither de dicto nor de re) first observed by Janet Fodor. A novel solution is provided within a semantic framework that takes sentential semantic values to be structured, Russellian propositions.
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