What is Cognitive Science

Conditionals, Questions, and Content

William Starr

Thursday, September 10, 2009, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy

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Conditional sentences like 'Bob danced if Leland danced' are a heavily worked resource in planning, communication and inquiry, and have provided a wealth of puzzles for researchers in linguistics, philosophy and cognitive science. Current work on the semantics of conditionals ignores the role of 'if' -- and it's cross-linguistic cousins -- as an interrogative operator, e.g. in 'Bob wonders if Leland danced'. This conditional-interrogative link is so strong and poses such a serious obstacle to current theories, that it provides a fertile case for probing foundational ideas of current thinking about semantics and language use. A new theory of conditionals is offered here that is built on the idea that all occurrences of 'if' have an interrogative meaning. The theory relies on some new ideas elaborated in this work about linguistic meaning, truth, semantic content and their connection to the communicative intentions of language users. In addition to accounting for the conditional-interrogative link, this theory delivers a uniform account of indicative and subjunctive conditionals, and solutions to puzzling phenomena involving disjunctive antecedents and 'reverse Sobel sequences'.

William Starr

"What is Cognitive Science?"

This lunchtime talks series is designed to introduce the University community to issues in Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science is one the the few fields where modern developments in computer science and artificial intelligence promise to shed light on classical problems in psychology and the philosophy of the mind. Ancient questions of how we see the world, understand language, and reason, and questions such as 'how a material system can know about the outside world', are being explored with the powerful new conceptual prosthetics of computer modeling.

The talks in this lunchtime lecture series are every Thursday during the Fall semester from ** 12:00-1:00 ** in the Psychology Building, Room 101 on  Busch Campus.

Note: Talks are also announced by email (with reminders sent the day of the talk) to people who have requested to be placed on our announce list. If you would like to be added to our announce list, please email the Business Office (business_manager@ruccs.rutgers.edu).