Hello! I’m a 5th year PhD candidate at UT Austin specializing in the philosophy of language, formal semantics, and metaphysics. My work defends a novel account of the semantics of attitude reports and the nature of propositions. 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 primarily concerns the semantics of `that’-clauses and attitude ascriptions, as well as the corresponding metaphysics of propositions and content-bearing attitudes. Under-appreciated linguistic constructions and novel inferences involving them are used to raise problems for standard views in the literature, and wide-reaching consequences these developments have for issues outside of formal semantics are considered at length. The result is a novel account of attitude reports and the nature of propositions.
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 for the novel inferences considered in Chapter 1 which can be understood as a contemporary revival of relational theories of belief, such as those developed by Russell and Quine. Departing from its ancestral heritage, this new relational 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 a novel account of propositions is sketched along these lines.
Chapter 3 provides a more rigorous justification for the view developed in Chapter 2 that propositions are certain properties of possible worlds. I situate this view within a taxonomy of views that also take propositions to be properties of some kind, and I argue that it is superior along a number of dimensions.
Copyright © 2021 Alex Rausch