I received my PhD in Philosophy from UT Austin in 2023 under the direction of Josh Dever. My committee included Hans Kamp, Jeff Speaks, Harvey Lederman, and Ray Buchanan.
Before that, I received an MA in Philosophy from Notre Dame in 2016 and a double BA in Philosophy and Mathematics from Dartmouth College in 2013.
My research interests range across the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics, especially as they concern the nature of linguistic content (i.e., propositions). Formal semantic theorizing plays a large role in my methodology.
Feel free to contact me at 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.
This dissertation concerns the semantics of attitude verbs with clausal complements, especially so-called belief-about reports of the form `S believes about x that it's F.'
In Chapter 1, "A Puzzle about Belief-about," I argue that certain valid inferences involving belief-about reports are prima facie inconsistent with orthodox views of the belief relation as binary and propositional. In response, I propose a conservative departure from orthodoxy according to which certain `that'-clauses designate novel devices of semantic type <e,t> called open propositions; the view of belief as binary and propositional is retained. I give some reasons for thinking that open propositions are properties of a certain kind, give a bridge principle between belief-about and belief simpliciter, and formally implement the resulting view in accordance with contemporary theories of syntax and compositional semantics. The upshot is that theorists committed to orthodoxy must complicate their account of certain `that'-clauses in surprising ways.
In Chapter 2, "Belief is a Ternary Relation," I object to the semantic complexity required by the proposal advanced in Chapter 1 and investigate a more radical departure from orthodoxy, viz. that belief is a ternary relation between subjects, objects ("targets"), and properties ("contents"). After showing how the resulting Target and Content View can be formally implemented, I respond to a variety of objections that fall roughly into one of two categories: semantic and metaphysical. Responding to the semantic objections requires developing accounts of truth, assertion, and related notions, while responding to the metaphysical objections requires defending a particular view on the nature of propositions. The upshot is that if theorists are unwilling to countenance the semantic complexity required to save orthodoxy in the way proposed in Chapter 1, then the Target and Content View is an attractive alternative with theoretical benefits that are significant in their own right.
The formal implementation of the view proposed in Chapter 2 presupposes an intensional semantic framework attributable to the linguistic development of variable-based theories of intensionality, which purport to explain the transparency of determiner phrases in the context of attitude reports. In Chapter 3, "Variable-based Intensionality for Structured Propositions," I argue that these theories in their simple, traditional forms are not available to advocates of structured propositions, and that the only attempt so far to unify these approaches is unsuccessful. So, I develop an improved variable-based theory of intensionality for structured propositions. Due to the under-appreciated generality of the intensional phenomena at issue, however, it turns out that all theories face further challenges still. The upshot is that advocates of structured propositions might even be in a stronger position than other theorists when it comes to tackling these challenges purely semantically, but the complications required also suggest that non-semantic explanations of transparency are worth investigating now more than ever.
Copyright © 2023 Alex Rausch