Ori Simchen


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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Metasemantics, moderate inflationism, and correspondence truth (2023)

An object-based correspondence theory of truth holds that a truth-bearer is true whenever its truth conditions are met by objects and their properties. In order to develop such a view, the principal task is to explain how truth-bearers become endowed with their truth conditions. Modern versions of the correspondence theory see this project as the synthesis of two theoretical endeavours: basic metasemantics and compositional semantics. Basic metasemantics is the theory of how simple, meaningful items (e.g. names and concepts) are endowed with their contributions to truth conditions, and compositional semantics is the theory of how the meanings of simple items compose to generate (among other things) the truth conditions of sentences. Understanding truth along these broad lines was once popular; it was first championed by Field (1972). However, the once-popular conception of its tasks included an over-ambitious view of basic metasemantics. It was thought that reference needed to be analyzed (or reduced a posteriori) in terms of more fundamental, non-semantic relations (e.g. causal relations, indication, or teleological relations, in the case of mental representation). Obstacles in providing such an analysis engendered skepticism towards this understanding of truth and eventually gave way to its deflationary competitors. This dissertation aims to defend the modern, object-based correspondence theory against its rivals—especially deflationism. Chapter one provides a historically-grounded overview of the theory. Chapter two identifies two points of contrast between the correspondence theorist and the deflationist: they employ different orders of explanation for the variety of semantic phenomena, and they (traditionally) take different attitudes towards the prospects of reduction. Situating the dialectic in this way allows me to develop a middle ground: a moderate version of inflationism that takes the inflationary explanatory structure and combines it with a non-reductive, pluralist approach to basic metasemantics. Chapter three expands on the details of this pluralist account of reference. Chapter four contrasts the view with another rival approach to basic metasemantics: metasemantic interpretationism. And finally, chapter five applies the theory to answer another question of broad philosophical interest: what role does our conception of truth play in inquiry about the world?

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Logic in the Tractatus (2013)

What is logic, in the Tractatus? There is a pretty good understanding what islogic in Grundgesetze, or Principia. With respect to the Tractatus no comparablydefinite answer has been received. One might think that this is because, whetherthrough incompetence or obscurantism,Wittgenstein simply does not propounda definite conception. To the contrary, I argue that the text of the Tractatus supports,up to a high degree of confidence, the attribution of a philosophicallywell-motivated and mathematically definite answer to the question what is logic.

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Reference Through Demonstration: Singular Terms, Propositional Attitudes and Fiction (2012)

This thesis defends original accounts of the semantics and metaphysics of propositional attitudes, their reports and fiction in general. These accounts are unified by being parts of a general view on language, according to which demonstrations play a crucial role in explaining a wide range of phenomena.The basic ideas of the view defended here about propositional attitudes and their reports can be summarized as follows: first, propositional attitudes are binary relations between individuals and structured propositions, which are constituted by individuals and properties, but also possibly by representations of those individuals and properties. Secondly, like utterances of sentences containing singular terms in general, propositional attitude reports containing singular terms express both a descriptive proposition and a singular structured proposition, which are the objects of propositional attitudes. Thirdly, a standard Gricean pragmatic explanation is offered to account for those cases in which reports seem to ascribe an attitude towards a less fine-grained proposition than the ones to which the theory appeals.The proposal on fiction defended here is also derived from more general views on language and metaphysics. The basic idea is that the meaningfulness of fictional discourse, which involves many empty singular terms, is mostly due to the descriptive proposition that any utterance of a sentence expresses in addition to expressing the other, more widely accepted proposition. This is also due, however, to the occurrence of implicit prefixes such as ‘the fictional character’, ‘fictionally’, or ‘a fictional persona’, in addition to the ones that are already discussed in the literature. According to the view defended here, fiction does not represent real possibilities –nor is it intended to. Fictional worlds, while having the same nature as possible worlds, do not represent possibilities for the actual world.Both proposals are based on a semantic view of singular terms presented and defended at the outset, which is a Fregean metalinguistic token-reflexive view.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Meaning and mapping: Sellars on predication and representation (2021)

Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989) developed a broadly deflationary, non-relational analysis of traditional semantic vocabulary. However, Sellars also developed a broadly inflationary, “correspondence” theory of “matter-of-factual” truth and linguistic representation, in which language-world relations play an important role. By contemporary lights, there is a certain tension in the combination of theses Sellars’s advances, concentrated in his claim (in Science and Metaphysics) that “the criterion of the correctness of the performance of asserting a basic matter-of-factual proposition is the correctness of the proposition qua picture” [ch.V, §57]. This paper addresses the tension in Sellars’s project, in an attempt to reconcile the analysis of semantic vocabulary with the account of “picturing” as a natural-order, language-world relation. I first situate Sellars’s theory of predication against the backdrop of theses advanced by Russell and early Wittgenstein. I then present Sellars’s analysis of semantic vocabulary and draw out his (albeit skeletal) account of the relation of semantic vocabulary to descriptive vocabulary, here proposing that a causal, anthropological account of the proper functioning of ‘...means...’ is supposed to fill an apparent gap most recently addressed by Lionel Shapiro (2014). Finally, I defend Sellars’s distinction between pictorial structure and logical structure, arguing that it stems from a disagreement with Wittgenstein of the Tractatus and yields a response to Irad Kimhi’s (2018) criticisms of compositionalist picture-theoretic accounts of propositional complexity.

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