[SydPhil] Title/Abstract - Hanti Lin, Aug 5

Brian Hedden brian.hedden at sydney.edu.au
Mon Aug 3 12:27:24 AEST 2015

Hi all,

Below is the title and abstract for this Wednesday's department seminar talk by Hanti Lin (ANU/UC Davis) from 1-2:30pm in the Muniment Room.

Title: When ‘Or’ Meets ‘Might’: Toward Acceptability-Conditional Semantics

Abstract: When one asserts a sentence of the form ‘it might be that P or it might be that Q’, the assertion almost always sounds like a conjunction: we can freely replace this ‘or’ by ‘and’ without changing what is intended. Call this the conjunctive ‘or’ phenomenon. I argue that it is very difficult to explain the conjunctive ‘or’ phenomenon within the standard, truth-conditional framework for doing semantics. So, to remedy, I propose a new framework: let us construct a compositional semantics that tells us, not when a sentence is true, but when a sentence is acceptable. To be more precise, sentences are to be compositionally evaluated as being acceptable, or not, at possible mental states. The result is what I call acceptability-conditional semantics. I explain how this kind of semantics is almost tailored made for the so-called Stalnaker-style pragmatics — in a way that makes it very easy to explain the conjunctive ‘or’ phenomenon. All this is meant to be a case study showing that acceptability-conditional semantics has the potential to be a respectful rival to the two paradigms in natural language semantics: truth-conditional semantics and dynamic semantics. I also explore some consequences of acceptability-conditional semantics, including what it has to say about the debate over nonfactualism, the thesis that certain sentences do not have truth conditions.
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