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A General Argument Against Pragmatic Explanations

Zachary Miller

Thursday, October 04, 2012, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy

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If a semantic theory makes incorrect predictions, defenders often attempt to rescue the theory by appealing to Gricean pragmatics. The idea is that we can successfully rescue the theory as long as we can use Gricean pragmatics to explain why the incorrect predictions do not manifest themselves at the level of appropriate assertion. I argue that this appeal to Gricean pragmatics fails if the incorrect predictions at issue reemerge at the epistemological level of rational commitment or the metaphysical level of mere facts. This general "reformulation argument" undermines a wide variety of pragmatic “rescue attempts” in formal semantics.

Zachary Miller