- 'Broad Properties of Beliefs'. Analysis, forthcoming.
Yli-Vakkuri (2018) argues that content externalism can be established without thought experiments, as the deductive consequence of a pair of uncontroversial principles about beliefs, contents, and truth. I argue that the most dialectically plausible motivation for the first principle, that truth is a broad property or beliefs, undermines the second principle, that the truth-value of a belief goes hand-in-hand with that of its content, and that other motivations are likely to depend on externalist thought experiments the argument was meant to avoid. As it stands, the argument for externalism therefore fails.
- 'Denoting and Disquoting'. The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 96(3), 2018: 548-561.
Fregeans hold that predicates denote things, albeit things different in kind from what singular terms denote. This leads to a familiar problem: it seems impossible to say what any given predicate denotes. One strategy for avoiding this problem reduces the Fregean position to form of nominalism. I develop an alternative strategy that lets the Fregean hold on to the view that predicate denote things by re-conceiving the nature of singular denotation and of Fregean objects.
- 'Names, Masks, and Double Vision'. Ergo, 4(8), 2017: 229-257.
Cumming (2008) argues that his Masked Ball problem undermines Millianism, and that we must instead treat names as variables. However, although the Masked Ball does pose a problem for the Millian given a standard view about the meaning of `believes', that view faces difficulties for independent reasons. I develop a novel ``neo Kaplanian'' attitude semantics to address this problem, and go on to show that with this alternative semantics in hand, the Millian is quite capable of accounting for the Masked Ball.
- 'Being Something: Properties and Predicative Quantification'. Mind, 125 (499), 2016: 643-689.
When we say that Alice is everything Oscar hopes to be (healthy, wealthy, wise etc.), we seem to be quantifying over properties. That suggestion faces an immediate difficulty, however: though Alice may be wise, she surely isn't the property of being wise. I argue that this dilemma demands a semantic solution. To resolve it, we need to distinguish different ways that expressions can denote, or be semantically related to, properties: whereas the `the property of being wise' refers to a property, the predicate `wise' ascribes it. Similarly, what sets the predicatively quantified `Alice is something Oscar is not' apart from the nominally quantified `Alice has some property Oscar lacks' is the semantic relation the bound variables bear to the properties they take as values. I motivate this proposal by showing that we can't appeal to a syntactic solution, and then considering the shortcomings of a Fregean approach to the matter. The Fregean attempts to retain a strict denotationalist view by holding that nominal expressions like `the property of being wise' and predicates like `wise' denote things of fundamentally different kinds. But this then makes it impossible for us to say what particular thing a given predicate denotes. For to complete the open argument position in e.g. `` `wise' denotes ... '', we have to use some nominal expression or other, and will thus invariably mention something of the wrong kind. Dummett famously proposed that the Fregean can avoid this problem by instead using predicative expressions to state the denotation of predicates. I argue that the problem posed by the nominal character of the argument positions of `denotes' reappears in a new guise in the context of Dummett's proposal, and that it ultimately doesn't offer the Fregean a way out. Appealing to different semantic relations lets us resolve our original dilemma while steering clear of the Fregean's predicament.
- 'Pluralities and Plural Logic'. Critical Notice in Analysis, 75 (3), 2015: 504-514
[abstract] [preprint] [journal]
I defend the dominant paradigm in the semantics of plurals among linguists against a number of objections Oliver and Smiley raise, focusing especially on the proper treatment of plural definite descriptions, the threat posed by Russell's paradox, and the notion of objecthood.
- 'The Double Life of `The Mayor of Oakland''. Linguistics and Philosophy, 36 (5), 2013: 417-446.
[abstract] [preprint] [journal]
The widely held view that definite descriptions and names are both referential predicts that copular sentences like `Napoleon is the emperor of France' will invariably be interpreted as identity statements. But as numerous diagnostics show, such sentences are frequently capable of receiving a predicational reading. I argue that a common response, according to which referring expressions can quite generally undergo a ``type shift'' that transforms them into predicates, does not succeed. In particular, I show that descriptions exhibiting the structure the + N + of + Proper Name fall into two semantically distinct classes --- represented by pairs like `the mayor of Oakland' and `the city of Oakland' --- and that members of the second class pattern with proper names in resisting a predicative reading. The type-shifting proposal therefore overgenerates. I argue that we can better account for the data by distinguishing two definite articles, one of which (`ther') produces referring expressions, and the other of which (`thep') produces predicative expressions. I go on to argue that this proposal will also let us explain why proper names resist predicative readings, and then conclude by showing how the distinction between reference and ascription I advocate in my dissertation will let us do the necessary work while retaining a single definite article.
- 'Stoic Disagreement and Belief Retention'. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 92 (2), 2011: 243--262.
Propositions are often thought to have a truth-value only relative to some parameter or sequence of parameters. Many apparently straightforward notions, like what it is to disagree or retain a belief, become harder to explain once propositional truth is thus relativized. I offer an account of disagreement within a framework involving such "stoic" propositions. Some resources developed in that account are then used to respond to the eternalist charge that temporalist propositions can't function as belief contents because they don't allow us to make adequate sense of what belief retention amounts to.
Work in Progress
- 'Quinean Predicativism'. [abstract]
Quine (1960) proposed that names be treated as the predicate element of a covert description, expressing the property of being identical to the named individual. Fara (2015) has also argued for a predicative view of names, but one according which a name expresses the property of being called by that name. Whereas Fara's Being-Called Predicativism has received much attention in the recent literature, Quinean Predicativism has not. This neglect is undeserved. In this paper, I argue that close appositive constructions suggest that names can function as predicates expressing identifying properties of the sort proposed by Quine, and that a predicativist analysis which treats bare referential names as likewise expressing such identifying properties overcomes some of the central objections that have been raised against Being-Called Predicativism. In the final section, I take up the broader question of how Quinean Predicativism stacks up against a Referentialist treatment of bare names.
Current draft available upon request.
- Being Something: Prospects for Property-Based Approach to Predicative Quantification. PhD Thesis, UC Berkeley, 2013. [abstract][pdf]
In my dissertation I investigate the nature of predication. When we say that Alice is everything Oscar hopes to be (healthy, wealthy, wise etc.), we seem to be quantifying over properties. That suggestion faces an immediate difficulty, however: though Alice may be wise, she surely isn't the property of being wise. I argue that this dilemma demands a semantic solution. To resolve it, we need to distinguish different ways that expressions can stand for properties: whereas the `the property of being wise' refers to a property, the predicate `wise' ascribes it. It is this semantic role of being ascribed that sets properties apart from particulars like Oscar and Alice.