Discussion group on context dependence in philosophy, logics and a.i.

Come non detto

Posted by carlopenco on February 21, 2016

genovadebate in Genoa 2016 on applied pragmatics: context rules!


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what is said and what is not

Posted by carlopenco on August 1, 2014


The design of the cove (taken from “Conversation” by Tom Corbin) has been originally made by Marcello Miglietta (MM-Comunicazione) and lightly changed by the publisher (for instance, inserting some Italics that were not present in the original design).

This volume contains essays that explore explicit and implicit communication through linguistic research. Taking as a framework Paul Grice’s theories on “what is said,” the contributors explore a number of areas, including: the boundary between semantics and pragmatics; the concept of implicit communication; the idea of the logical form of our assertions; the notion of conventional meaning; the phenomenon of deixis, which refers to when an utterance require context in order to be understood fully; the treatment of definite descriptions; and the different kinds of pragmatic processes.


    1. What is Said: A Short History in QuotesCarlo Penco, Filippo Domaneschi
  • I Semantics First
    1. What’s What’s Said?Una Stojnic and Ernest Lepore
    2. Context and Logical FormJason Stanley
    3. Surprise IndexicalismMassimiliano Vignolo
    4. The Lure of LinguistificationKent Bach
    5. Explicit PerformativesManuel Garcia Carpintero
  • II Pragmatics First
    1. Illocutions in ContextClaudia Bianchi
    2. Metaphor and the Scope ArgumentCatherine Wearing
    3. Reference through Mental FilesFrancois Recanati
    4. Word Meaning, What is Said and ExplicatureRobyn Carston
  • III Alternatives
    1. Grice’s Requirements on What is SaidKepa Korta
    2. Ironically Saying and ImplicatingJoana Garmendia
    3. Non Indexical ContextualismJohn Macfarlane
    4. On Situationalism: Situations with an AttitudeEros Corazza and Jerom Dokic
    5. Three Methodological Flaws of Linguistic PragmatismMichael Devitt
    6. Direct Discourse, Indirect Discourse and BeliefJohn Perry


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contextual philosophy needed

Posted by carlopenco on November 23, 2013

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Truth and Dummett

Posted by carlopenco on January 8, 2012

Michael Dummett begun his philosophical enterprise discussing the concept of truth. He eventually indicated what is the main problem in contemporary discussion on relativism, which is based on a basic contrast between Prior and Frege: Prior claimed that a sentence as “it rains at x” expresses the same “minimal” proposition irrespective  of the time in which it is uttered; depending on the time of evaluation it will express a false or a true proposition. Frege claimed that a thought, what is expressed by a sentence, is something which is true or false absolutely, and therefore is context dependent: “it reins at x” will express different thoughts in different occasions of utterance. According to Dummett “the disagreement between Prior and Frege is not merel one about logic: it is a disagreement about the character of reality itself. Does it comprise evenescent of discontinuous states of affair? Or is it of itself unchanging, most faithfully described by propositions stating eternal facts that subsist indifferently to the passage of time?” (Truth and Reality, 2006, p. 13). I found it wonderful to see how Dummett got to the central point of the contemporary debate where different trends are fighting to get the best picture of the working of language and to what is meant by “what is said”: contextualism, minimalism, relativism, indexicalism, multi-propositionalism, relevance theory, and other trends of thought are just working out different aspects of this fundamental contrast. I think a good digging on Dummett’s work is the best commemoration for his departure. He left us, and he left us a lot of writings to think.

SIFAGuardian,  Telegraph,  The Scotsman,  Commonweal,  NYTimes

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John McCarthy

Posted by carlopenco on November 1, 2011

His web page is still alive:

NYT Obituary:

from lisp to python:

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Truth and Synthese: an intelligent design

Posted by carlopenco on May 2, 2011

Evolution and its rivals:
the printed version has a disclaimer saying that “some of the papers in this issue employ a tone that may make it hard to distinguish between dispassionate intellectual discussion of other views and disqualification of a targeted author or group”. This sounds awkward: it never happened that editors of a scientific journal wrote a disclaimer as showing they were not responsible of the contents or – in this case – of the form. It sounds like a political disclaimer (like disclaimer in a web newspaper where they say: “The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect X’s editorial policy”.
What is the truth? a political disclaimer? Against whom? Under the pressure of what? Naïf reaction of editors in front of strong pressures from fundamentalist lobbies?  Here below some information:
Barbara Forrest’s paper “the non-epistemology of intelligent design:its implications for public policy” sounds to become a more referred paper in these difficult times of survival of intelligence. Evolution will tell the truth (on the long run).

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fitness club

Posted by carlopenco on March 23, 2011

Impression: discussing Williamson’s “The philosophy of Philosophy” is like to go to a fitness club. Then, you think, I should go out and use that fitness.

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The End of Philosophy

Posted by carlopenco on March 9, 2011

It is just the beginning. We have to wonder if we still will survive our century:

Any suggestion for persuading people of the necessity of philosophy?

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logical truths and constraints on the world

Posted by carlopenco on March 2, 2011

Things you may post, but not seriously publish 🙂 Discussing Williamson’s  Philosophy of Philosophy is not an easy task. Sometimes writing something helps (even if wrong).

The question whether Mars have been at all times either dry or not dry is a factual question; we may ask it, for instance, in order to know whether there has been a point of time where Mars was neither dry or not dry – if we are not following Williamson on his ideas on vagueness. A scientific question is a question which might be in principle be answered. But what about an assertion?

Vt (Dry (m,t) or not Dry (m,t))

Here the question is: what does it mean to accept an assertion of an instance of the excluded middle? If we assert that Mars at all times has been dry or not dry we are asserting what we might believe to be a logical truth. What does it mean to impose a contraint on the world in this case, and what does it mean that the assertion says something of the world? If we assume classical logic, this assertion (conceived as logical truth) would esclude that there might be a time in which Mars is neither or both. Therefore, it would impose a contraint on the world. Really? Or would it impose a contraint to our way to decide how to describe the world, therefor it would be a grammatical contraint.

But here we are using “constraint on the world” in different way than normally used. When I assert

Vt (Dry (m,t) or not Dry (m,t))

I mean that I don’t care whether (1) Mars was dry at time t and therefore true or (2) Mars was not dry at time t and therefore true. I just mean that in any case the complex sentence is true. It seems to me that we have two notions of “genuine contraint” and on “dealing with the world”:

(1) The world does not impose any contraint on the truth of the complex sentence, that is the sentence will be true in any of the possible situations. (Wit.)

(2) The world imposes a constraint on the truth of the sentence, because it will be true if Mars would have been dry at time t or it will be true if Mars would have been not dry at time t. (Will.).

(3) The sentence imposes a constraint to the world because it would make it false that Mars would have been neither dry nor not dry at time t. (Will)

I might be wrong, and probably I am; however I am wondering whether Wit and Will are speaking of different kinds of constraints.

P.S. [no philosopher would ask a question of the first kind  (has  Mars always been dry or not?) , but it is easy to think of a philosopher asking a question of the second kind (what does it mean to assert that Mars has always been dry or not dry?)]

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epistemology vs metaphysics

Posted by carlopenco on October 9, 2010

the point is that if we use metaphysics as a background for semantics, we cannot have any sensible semantic treatment of natural language; truth becomes inaccessible, and what use we may have of a semantics which cannot help us in understanding each other to give semantic evaluations? On the other hand if we go on the epistemological side, we need to rearrange our semantics in connection with limited information and limited resources, given that in using language we are neither  logically not semantically omniscient.  The first route is typically taken by direct reference theorists. The second is not yet clear, although we may find it coherent with the cognitive science trends. However I think we should keep a clear distinction between an epistemically driven semantics and a cognitive semantics. Maybe it is not a chance that at the last Conference on Truth in Torino and Bologna June 2010) some papers were strongly connected with an epistemological point of view, if not with epistemological problems as such. (I think the problems are connected with the distinction between explanatory issue and epistemological issue as discussed in Vignolo 2009).

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