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NYLang: Ben Phillips
November 20, 2012 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Ben Phillips (CUNY)
Our speaker this week will be Ben Phillips, a PhD student in philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center. Ben will present a work in progress called ‘Speaker Meaning and Audienceless Utterances’. Here’s the abstract:
According to Grice’s basic account of speaker meaning, in uttering x, S meant that p just in case in uttering x, S had a certain communicative intention. In construing communicative intentions as constitutive of speaker meaning Grice thus opens himself up to an obvious problem; namely, that there seem to cases in which, intuitively, S meant that p in uttering x even though S had no audience-directed intention whatsoever, let alone a communicative one.
In dealing with the problem of audienceless utterances, Griceans have offered various replies. Grice himself suggested augmenting his basic account of speaker meaning to include cases in which S meant that p in uttering x because S intended x to be such that it would have the relevant effect on an audience, were one present. Other Griceans have found this fix unsatisfying for various reasons, choosing instead to downplay the problem by construing audienceless utterances as, in some sense, ‘derivative’ or ‘non-central’.
I argue that certain audienceless utterances cannot be written off as ‘non-central’ or ‘derivative’ in this manner. I do this by supplementing the usual focus on intuitions about speaker meaning with a consideration of what explanatory roles we should want the notion of speaker meaning to play. In particular, I’ll argue that we should appeal to the notion of speaker meaning in order to explain how it is that a speaker’s production of an arbitrary linguistic symbol enables a hearer to reliably acquire true beliefs about the speaker’s mental states, as well as certain facts about the extra-cranial world. And that, intuitions aside, this explanatory task applies to communicative and non-communicative (audienceless) cases alike. I then consider a number of replies on the Gricean’s behalf and indentify problems with each one.
As usual, the meeting will take place in the NYU Philosophy Building’s third floor seminar room at 6:30 on Tuesday night. We hope to see you there!
We’re a community of philosophers of language centered in New York City. We have a meeting each week at which a speaker either presents a piece of their own work (perhaps in-progress) or gives us an opinionated tour of some other work in the philosophy of language with which their own research is engaged.
During the Fall of 2012, our meetings will take place on Tuesdays at 6:30 in NYU’s third floor seminar room.