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  1. The Acquaintance Inference with 'Seem'-Reports.Rachel Etta Rudolph - forthcoming - Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistics Society.
    Some assertions give rise to the acquaintance inference: the inference that the speaker is acquainted with some individual. Discussion of the acquaintance inference has previously focused on assertions about aesthetic matters and personal tastes (e.g. 'The cake is tasty'), but it also arises with reports about how things seem (e.g. 'Tom seems like he's cooking'). 'Seem'-reports give rise to puzzling acquaintance behavior, with no analogue in the previously-discussed domains. In particular, these reports call for a distinction between the specific acquaintance (...)
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  2. Experimenting on Contextualism: Between-Subjects Vs. Within-Subjects.Adrian Ziółkowski - 2017 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 36 (3):139-162.
    According to contextualism, vast majority of natural-language expressions are context-sensitive. When testing whether this claim is reflected in Folk intuitions, some interesting methodological questions were raised such as: which experimental design is more appropriate for testing contextualism – the within- or the between-subject design? The main thesis of this paper is that the between-subject design should be preferred. The first experiment aims at assessing the difference between the results obtained for within-subjects measurements (where all participants assess all contexts) and between-subject (...)
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  3. Disjunctive Antecedent Conditionals.Justin Khoo - forthcoming - Synthese.
    Disjunctive antecedent conditionals (DACs)—conditionals of the form if A or B, C—sometimes seem to entail both of their simplifications (if A, C; if B, C) and sometimes seem not to. I argue that this behavior reveals a genuine am- biguity in DACs. Along the way, I discuss a new observation about the role of focal stress in distinguishing the two interpretations of DACs. I propose a new theory, according to which the surface form of a DAC underdetermines its logical form: (...)
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  4. New Horizons for a Theory of Epistemic Modals.Justin Khoo & Jonathan Phillips - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
    Recent debate over the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic modals has focused on intuitions about cross-contextual truth-value assessments. In this paper, we advocate for a different approach to evaluating theories of epistemic modals. Our strategy focuses on judgments of the incompatibility of two different epistemic possibility claims, or two different truth value assessments of a single epistemic possibility claim. We subject the predictions of existing theories to empirical scrutiny, and argue that existing contextualist and relativist theories are unable to account (...)
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  5. Quasi Indexicals.Justin Khoo - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    I argue that not all context dependent expressions are alike. Pure (or ordinary) indexicals behave more or less as Kaplan thought. But quasi indexicals behave in some ways like indexicals and in other ways not like indexicals. A quasi indexical sentence φ allows for cases in which one party utters φ and the other its negation, and neither party’s claim has to be false. In this sense, quasi indexicals are like pure indexicals (think: “I am a doctor”/“I am not a (...)
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  6. Moral Disagreement and Moral Semantics.Justin Khoo & Joshua Knobe - 2016 - Noûs:109-143.
    When speakers utter conflicting moral sentences, it seems clear that they disagree. It has often been suggested that the fact that the speakers disagree gives us evidence for a claim about the semantics of the sentences they are uttering. Specifically, it has been suggested that the existence of the disagreement gives us reason to infer that there must be an incompatibility between the contents of these sentences. This inference then plays a key role in a now-standard argument against certain theories (...)
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  7. Semantic Intuitions, Conceptual Analysis, and Cross-Cultural Variation.Henry Jackman - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (2):159 - 177.
    While philosophers of language have traditionally relied upon their intuitions about cases when developing theories of reference, this methodology has recently been attacked on the grounds that intuitions about reference, far from being universal, show significant cultural variation, thus undermining their relevance for semantic theory. I’ll attempt to demonstrate that (1) such criticisms do not, in fact, undermine the traditional philosophical methodology, and (2) our underlying intuitions about the nature of reference may be more universal than the authors suppose.
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Experimental Philosophy: Reference
  1. Water Is and Is Not H2O.Kevin P. Tobia, George Newman & Joshua Knobe - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    The Twin Earth thought experiment invites us to consider a liquid that has all of the superficial properties associated with water (clear, potable, etc.) but has entirely different deeper causal properties (composed of “XYZ” rather than of H2O). Although this thought experiment was originally introduced to illuminate questions in the theory of reference, it has also played a crucial role in empirically informed debates within the philosophy of psychology about people’s ordinary natural kind concepts. Those debates have sought to accommodate (...)
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  2. Experimental Philosophy of Language.Nathaniel Hansen - 2015 - Oxford Handbooks Online.
    Experimental philosophy of language uses experimental methods developed in the cognitive sciences to investigate topics of interest to philosophers of language. This article describes the methodological background for the development of experimental approaches to topics in philosophy of language, distinguishes negative and positive projects in experimental philosophy of language, and evaluates experimental work on the reference of proper names and natural kind terms. The reliability of expert judgments vs. the judgments of ordinary speakers, the role that ambiguity plays in influencing (...)
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  3. Intuitions, Disagreement and Referential Pluralism.James Andow - 2014 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (2):223-239.
    Mallon, Machery, Nichols and Stich (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79: 332–356, 2009) argue that the use of intuitions in the philosophy of reference is problematic as recent studies show intuitions about reference vary both within and between cultures. I use some ideas from the recent literature on disagreement and truth relativism to shed light on the debate concerning the appropriate reaction to these studies. Mallon et al. argue that variation is problematic because if one tries to use intuitions which vary (...)
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  4. Interpreting Intuition: Experimental Philosophy of Language.Jeffrey Maynes - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (2):260-278.
    The role of intuition in Kripke's arguments for the causal-historical theory of reference has been a topic of recent debate, particularly in light of empirical work on these intuitions. In this paper, I develop three interpretations of the role intuition might play in Kripke's arguments. The first aim of this exercise is to help clarify the options available to interpreters of Kripke, and the consequences for the experimental investigation of Kripkean intuitions. The second aim is to show that understanding the (...)
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  5. In Defense of a Kripkean Dogma.Jonathan Ichikawa, Ishani Maitra & Brian Weatherson - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):56-68.
    In “Against Arguments from Reference” (Mallon et al., 2009), Ron Mallon, Edouard Machery, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich (hereafter, MMNS) argue that recent experiments concerning reference undermine various philosophical arguments that presuppose the correctness of the causal-historical theory of reference. We will argue three things in reply. First, the experiments in question—concerning Kripke’s Gödel/Schmidt example—don’t really speak to the dispute between descriptivism and the causal-historical theory; though the two theories are empirically testable, we need to look at quite different data (...)
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  6. Attitudes Towards Reference and Replaceability.Christopher Grau & Cynthia Pury - 2014 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (2):155-168.
    Robert Kraut has proposed an analogy between valuing a loved one as irreplaceable and the sort of “rigid” attachment that (according to Saul Kripke’s account) occurs with the reference of proper names. We wanted to see if individuals with Kripkean intuitions were indeed more likely to value loved ones (and other persons and things) as irreplaceable. In this empirical study, 162 participants completed an online questionnaire asking them to consider how appropriate it would be to feel the same way about (...)
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  7. Linguistic Intuitions.Jeffrey Maynes & Steven Gross - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (8):714-730.
    Linguists often advert to what are sometimes called linguistic intuitions. These intuitions and the uses to which they are put give rise to a variety of philosophically interesting questions: What are linguistic intuitions – for example, what kind of attitude or mental state is involved? Why do they have evidential force and how might this force be underwritten by their causal etiology? What light might their causal etiology shed on questions of cognitive architecture – for example, as a case study (...)
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  8. Meta-Externalism Vs Meta-Internalism in the Study of Reference.Daniel Cohnitz & Jussi Haukioja - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):475-500.
    We distinguish and discuss two different accounts of the subject matter of theories of reference, meta-externalism and meta-internalism. We argue that a form of the meta- internalist view, “moderate meta-internalism”, is the most plausible account of the subject matter of theories of reference. In the second part of the paper we explain how this account also helps to answer the questions of what kind of concept reference is, and what role intuitions have in the study of the reference relation.
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Experimental Philosophy: Semantics
  1. Generics and Experimental Philosophy.Adam Lerner - 2016 - In Wesley Buckwalter & Justin Sytsma (eds.), A Companion to Experimental Philosophy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 404-416.
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  2. Natural Language Processing and Semantic Network Visualization for Philosophers.Mark Alfano & Andrew Higgins - forthcoming - In Eugen Fischer & Mark Curtis (eds.), Methodological Advances in Experimental Philosophy. Bloomsbury.
    Progress in philosophy is difficult to achieve because our methods are evidentially and rhetorically weak. In the last two decades, experimental philosophers have begun to employ the methods of the social sciences to address philosophical questions. However, the adequacy of these methods has been called into question by repeated failures of replication. Experimental philosophers need to incorporate more robust methods to achieve a multi-modal perspective. In this chapter, we describe and showcase cutting-edge methods for data-mining and visualization. Big data is (...)
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  3. David Lewis in the Lab: Experimental Results on the Emergence of Meaning.Justin Bruner, Cailin O’Connor, Hannah Rubin & Simon M. Huttegger - 2018 - Synthese 195 (2):603-621.
    In this paper we use an experimental approach to investigate how linguistic conventions can emerge in a society without explicit agreement. As a starting point we consider the signaling game introduced by Lewis. We find that in experimental settings, small groups can quickly develop conventions of signal meaning in these games. We also investigate versions of the game where the theoretical literature indicates that meaning will be less likely to arise—when there are more than two states for actors to transfer (...)
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  4. Asymmetry in Presupposition Projection: The Case of Conjunction.Matthew Mandelkern, Jeremy Zehr, Jacopo Romoli & Florian Schwarz - forthcoming - Semantics and Linguistic Theory 27.
    Is the basic mechanism behind presupposition projection fundamentally asymmetric or symmetric? This is a basic question for the theory of presupposition, which also bears on broader issues concerning the source of asymmetries observed in natural language: are these simply rooted in superficial asymmetries of language use— language use unfolds in time, which we experience as fundamentally asymmetric— or can they be, at least in part, directly referenced in linguistic knowledge and representations? In this paper we aim to make progress on (...)
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  5. Must We Measure What We Mean?Nat Hansen - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (8):785-815.
    This paper excavates a debate concerning the claims of ordinary language philosophers that took place during the middle of the last century. The debate centers on the status of statements about ‘what we say’. On one side of the debate, critics of ordinary language philosophy argued that statements about ‘what we say’ should be evaluated as empirical observations about how people do in fact speak, on a par with claims made in the language sciences. By that standard, ordinary language philosophers (...)
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  6. Color Adjectives, Standards, and Thresholds: An Experimental Investigation.Nat Hansen & Emmanuel Chemla - 2017 - Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (3):1--40.
    Are color adjectives ("red", "green", etc.) relative adjectives or absolute adjectives? Existing theories of the meaning of color adjectives attempt to answer that question using informal ("armchair") judgments. The informal judgments of theorists conflict: it has been proposed that color adjectives are absolute with standards anchored at the minimum degree on the scale, that they are absolute but have near-midpoint standards, and that they are relative. In this paper we report two experiments, one based on entailment patterns and one based (...)
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  7. Differences in the Evaluation of Generic Statements About Human and Non‐Human Categories.Arber Tasimi, Susan Gelman, Andrei Cimpian & Joshua Knobe - 2017 - Cognitive Science 41 (7):1934-1957.
    Generic statements express generalizations about categories. Current theories suggest that people should be especially inclined to accept generics that involve threatening information. However, previous tests of this claim have focused on generics about non-human categories, which raises the question of whether this effect applies as readily to human categories. In Experiment 1, adults were more likely to accept generics involving a threatening property for artifacts, but this negativity bias did not also apply to human categories. Experiment 2 examined an alternative (...)
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  8. Aesthetic Adjectives Lack Uniform Behavior.Shen-yi Liao, Louise McNally & Aaron Meskin - 2016 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (6):618-631.
    The goal of this short paper is to show that esthetic adjectives—exemplified by “beautiful” and “elegant”—do not pattern stably on a range of linguistic diagnostics that have been used to taxonomize the gradability properties of adjectives. We argue that a plausible explanation for this puzzling data involves distinguishing two properties of gradable adjectives that have been frequently conflated: whether an adjective’s applicability is sensitive to a comparison class, and whether an adjective’s applicability is context-dependent.
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  9. Aesthetic Adjectives: Experimental Semantics and Context-Sensitivity.Shen-yi Liao & Aaron Meskin - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):371–398.
    One aim of this essay is to contribute to understanding aesthetic communication—the process by which agents aim to convey thoughts and transmit knowledge about aesthetic matters to others. Our focus will be on the use of aesthetic adjectives in aesthetic communication. Although theorists working on the semantics of adjectives have developed sophisticated theories about gradable adjectives, they have tended to avoid studying aesthetic adjectives—the class of adjectives that play a central role in expressing aesthetic evaluations. And despite the wealth of (...)
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  10. Experimental Philosophy of Language.Nathaniel Hansen - 2015 - Oxford Handbooks Online.
    Experimental philosophy of language uses experimental methods developed in the cognitive sciences to investigate topics of interest to philosophers of language. This article describes the methodological background for the development of experimental approaches to topics in philosophy of language, distinguishes negative and positive projects in experimental philosophy of language, and evaluates experimental work on the reference of proper names and natural kind terms. The reliability of expert judgments vs. the judgments of ordinary speakers, the role that ambiguity plays in influencing (...)
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  11. Modal Disagreements.Justin Khoo - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (5):511-534.
    It is often assumed that when one party felicitously rejects an assertion made by an- other party, the first party thinks that the proposition asserted by the second is false. This assumption underlies various disagreement arguments used to challenge contex- tualism about some class of expressions. As such, many contextualists have resisted these arguments on the grounds that the disagreements in question may not be over the proposition literally asserted. The result appears to be a dialectical stalemate, with no independent (...)
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  12. The Extinction of Masculine Generics.Brian D. Earp - 2012 - Journal for Communication and Culture 2 (1):4-19.
    In English, as in many other languages, male-gendered pronouns are sometimes used to refer not only to men, but to individuals whose gender is unknown or unspecified, to human beings in general (as in ―mankind‖) and sometimes even to females (as when the casual ―Hey guys‖ is spoken to a group of women). These so-called he/man or masculine generics have come under fire in recent decades for being sexist, even archaic, and positively harmful to women and girls; and advocates of (...)
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  13. Vagueness, Logic and Use: Four Experimental Studies on Vagueness.Phil Serchuk, Ian Hargreaves & Richard Zach - 2011 - Mind and Language 26 (5):540-573.
    Although arguments for and against competing theories of vagueness often appeal to claims about the use of vague predicates by ordinary speakers, such claims are rarely tested. An exception is Bonini et al. (1999), who report empirical results on the use of vague predicates by Italian speakers, and take the results to count in favor of epistemicism. Yet several methodological difficulties mar their experiments; we outline these problems and devise revised experiments that do not show the same results. We then (...)
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  14. Contradictions at the Borders.David Ripley - 2011 - In Rick Nouwen, Robert van Rooij, Uli Sauerland & Hans-Christian Schmitz (eds.), Vagueness in Communication. Springer. pp. 169--188.
    The purpose of this essay is to shed some light on a certain type of sentence, which I call a borderline contradiction. A borderline contradiction is a sentence of the form F a ∧ ¬F a, for some vague predicate F and some borderline case a of F , or a sentence equivalent to such a sentence. For example, if Jackie is a borderline case of ‘rich’, then ‘Jackie is rich and Jackie isn’t rich’ is a borderline contradiction. Many theories (...)
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  15. Are Linguists Better Subjects?Jennifer Culbertson & Steven Gross - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):721-736.
    Who are the best subjects for judgment tasks intended to test grammatical hypotheses? Michael Devitt ( [2006a] , [2006b] ) argues, on the basis of a hypothesis concerning the psychology of such judgments, that linguists themselves are. We present empirical evidence suggesting that the relevant divide is not between linguists and non-linguists, but between subjects with and without minimally sufficient task-specific knowledge. In particular, we show that subjects with at least some minimal exposure to or knowledge of such tasks tend (...)
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Experimental Philosophy of Language, Misc
  1. Experimental Ordinary Language Philosophy: A Cross-Linguistic Study of Defeasible Default Inferences.Eugen Fischer, Paul E. Engelhardt, Joachim Horvath & Hiroshi Ohtani - forthcoming - Synthese:1-42.
    This paper provides new tools for philosophical argument analysis and fresh empirical foundations for ‘critical’ ordinary language philosophy. Language comprehension routinely involves stereotypical inferences with contextual defeaters. J.L. Austin’s Sense and Sensibilia first mooted the idea that contextually inappropriate stereotypical inferences from verbal case-descriptions drive some philosophical paradoxes; these engender philosophical problems that can be resolved by exposing the underlying fallacies. We build on psycholinguistic research on salience effects to explain when and why even perfectly competent speakers cannot help making (...)
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  2. Eyes as Windows to Minds: Psycholinguistics for Experimental Philosophy.Eugen Fischer & Paul E. Engelhardt - forthcoming - In Eugen Fischer & Mark Curtis (eds.), Methodological Advances in Experimental Philosophy. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
    Psycholinguistic methods hold great promise for experimental philosophy. Many philosophical thought experiments and arguments proceed from verbal descriptions of possible cases. Many relevant intuitions and conclusions are driven by spontaneous inferences about what else must also be true in the cases described. Such inferences are continually made in language comprehension and production. This chapter explains how methods from psycholinguistics can be employed to study such routine automatic inferences, with a view to assessing intuitions and reconstructing arguments. We demonstrate how plausibility (...)
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  3. Danse Sur Glace : An Experiment in Language.Timothy M. Rogers - manuscript
    This text explores the interfacing of philosophy and poetry as encounter with alterity—language engaging theme and rupture.
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  4. Generics and Experimental Philosophy.Adam Lerner - 2016 - In Wesley Buckwalter & Justin Sytsma (eds.), A Companion to Experimental Philosophy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 404-416.
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  5. The Objectivity of Truth, A Core Truism?Robert Barnard & Joseph Ulatowski - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    It is often claimed by theorists of truth that truth is objective. Upon reflection, however, this familiar principle can be understood in multiple ways. With this in mind, we have conducted empirical studies designed to elicit people’s responses to questions about the objectivity of truth. These studies suggest the following: (1) overall, individuals tend to endorse claims that are consistent with the objectivity of truth; (2) individuals’ conceptions of the objectivity of truth can be importantly different from one another; (3) (...)
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  6. Third‐Person Knowledge Ascriptions: A Crucial Experiment for Contextualism.Jumbly Grindrod, James Andow & Nat Hansen - 2018 - Mind and Language:1-25.
    In the past few years there has been a turn towards evaluating the empirical foundation of epistemic contextualism using formal (rather than armchair) experimental methods. By-and-large, the results of these experiments have not supported the original motivation for epistemic contextualism. That is partly because experiments have only uncovered effects of changing context on knowledge ascriptions in limited experimental circumstances (when contrast is present, for example), and partly because existing experiments have not been designed to distinguish between contextualism and one of (...)
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  7. Normality: Part Descriptive, Part Prescriptive.Adam Bear & Joshua Knobe - 2017 - Cognition 167:25-37.
    People’s beliefs about normality play an important role in many aspects of cognition and life (e.g., causal cognition, linguistic semantics, cooperative behavior). But how do people determine what sorts of things are normal in the first place? Past research has studied both people’s representations of statistical norms (e.g., the average) and their representations of prescriptive norms (e.g., the ideal). Four studies suggest that people’s notion of normality incorporates both of these types of norms. In particular, people’s representations of what is (...)
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  8. Lying by Promising. A Study on Insincere Illocutionary Acts.Neri Marsili - 2016 - International Review of Pragmatics 8 (2):271-313.
    This paper is divided into two parts. In the first part, I extend the traditional definition of lying to illocutionary acts executed by means of explicit performatives, focusing on promising. This is achieved in two steps. First, I discuss how the utterance of a sentence containing an explicit performative such as “I promise that Φ ” can count as an assertion of its content Φ . Second, I develop a general account of insincerity meant to explain under which conditions a (...)
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  9. Intuitions' Linguistic Sources: Stereotypes, Intuitions and Illusions.Eugen Fischer & Paul E. Engelhardt - 2016 - Mind and Language 31 (1):67-103.
    Intuitive judgments elicited by verbal case-descriptions play key roles in philosophical problem-setting and argument. Experimental philosophy's ‘sources project’ seeks to develop psychological explanations of philosophically relevant intuitions which help us assess our warrant for accepting them. This article develops a psycholinguistic explanation of intuitions prompted by philosophical case-descriptions. For proof of concept, we target intuitions underlying a classic paradox about perception, trace them to stereotype-driven inferences automatically executed in verb comprehension, and employ a forced-choice plausibility-ranking task to elicit the relevant (...)
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  10. Philosophical Conceptual Analysis as an Experimental Method.Michael T. Stuart - 2015 - In Thomas Gamerschlag, Doris Gerland, Rainer Osswald & Wiebke Petersen (eds.), Meaning, Frames, and Conceptual Representation. Düsseldorf University Press. pp. 267-292.
    Philosophical conceptual analysis is an experimental method. Focusing on this helps to justify it from the skepticism of experimental philosophers who follow Weinberg, Nichols & Stich. To explore the experimental aspect of philosophical conceptual analysis, I consider a simpler instance of the same activity: everyday linguistic interpretation. I argue that this, too, is experimental in nature. And in both conceptual analysis and linguistic interpretation, the intuitions considered problematic by experimental philosophers are necessary but epistemically irrelevant. They are like variables introduced (...)
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  11. Experimental Philosophy of Language.Nathaniel Hansen - 2015 - Oxford Handbooks Online.
    Experimental philosophy of language uses experimental methods developed in the cognitive sciences to investigate topics of interest to philosophers of language. This article describes the methodological background for the development of experimental approaches to topics in philosophy of language, distinguishes negative and positive projects in experimental philosophy of language, and evaluates experimental work on the reference of proper names and natural kind terms. The reliability of expert judgments vs. the judgments of ordinary speakers, the role that ambiguity plays in influencing (...)
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  12. Inherent Emotional Quality of Human Speech Sounds.Blake Myers-Schulz, Maia Pujara, Richard Wolf & Michael Koenigs - 2013 - Cognition and Emotion 27 (6):1105-1113.
    During much of the past century, it was widely believed that phonemes--the human speech sounds that constitute words--have no inherent semantic meaning, and that the relationship between a combination of phonemes (a word) and its referent is simply arbitrary. Although recent work has challenged this picture by revealing psychological associations between certain phonemes and particular semantic contents, the precise mechanisms underlying these associations have not been fully elucidated. Here we provide novel evidence that certain phonemes have an inherent, non-arbitrary emotional (...)
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  13. On an Alleged Truth/Falsity Asymmetry in Context Shifting Experiments.Nat Hansen - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (248):530-545.
    Keith DeRose has argued that context shifting experiments should be designed in a specific way in order to accommodate what he calls a ‘truth/falsity asymmetry’. I explain and critique DeRose's reasons for proposing this modification to contextualist methodology, drawing on recent experimental studies of DeRose's bank cases as well as experimental findings about the verification of affirmative and negative statements. While DeRose's arguments for his particular modification to contextualist methodology fail, the lesson of his proposal is that there is good (...)
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