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NYUTalk: Anandi Hattiangadi

October 5, 2012 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Anandi Hattiangadi (Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford) will give a talk in NYU’s Philosophy Department on Friday October 5th, at Noon (5 Washington Place, Room 202).  Lunch will be served. If you plan on attending, please RSVP by emailing Anupum Mehrotra at NYU.

The title of the talk is ‘The Fundamentality of Intentionality’.

The Fundamentality of IntentionalityIt is widely held that semantic facts are determined by the physical facts. In this paper, I argue that this thesis is false. By ‘semantic fact’, I mean for instance the fact that the English word ‘water’ and its mental counterpart, the concept water refer to H2O. By ‘physical fact’ I mean not just the facts of microphysics, but also the chemical, biological, geological and even (non-intentional) psychological facts which are generally thought to supervene on the microphysical facts.             There are three kinds of physical fact that are typically thought to be relevant to the determination of meaning: 1. facts about use, broadly construed, including facts about actual linguistic and non-linguistic behaviour, as well as behavioural dispositions, and all of the facts about the circumstances in which the behaviour occurs, causal relations to the environment, and so forth; 2. Facts about the objective naturalness of properties or objects; 3. Facts about interpretations, such as their simplicity, scope and charity. I present a case which shows that no facts about use, broadly construed, could uniquely determine the truth of the intended interpretation of ‘water’ as referring to H2O, and rule out as false a range of crazy interpretations of ‘water’. I then argue that naturalness considerations and theory level considerations do not determine the truth of the intended interpretation either. I conclude that the intended interpretation is underdetermined by the physical facts. Since the intended interpretation is so obviously true, and the alternative interpretations so bizarrely false, it is difficult to deny that these are semantic facts. This suggests that we need to reconsider the view—often summarily dismissed—that some semantic facts are fundamental.

Anupum Mehrotra
Administrative Assistant
New York University
Philosophy Department
5 Washington Place


October 5, 2012
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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NYU Philosophy Department
5 Washington Place, Room 202
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