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Brian Rabern
University of Edinburgh
  1. The Antinomy of the Variable: A Tarskian Resolution.Bryan Pickel & Brian Rabern - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (3):137-170.
    Kit Fine has reawakened a puzzle about variables with a long history in analytic philosophy, labeling it “the antinomy of the variable”. Fine suggests that the antinomy demands a reconceptualization of the role of variables in mathematics, natural language semantics, and first-order logic. The difficulty arises because: (i) the variables ‘x’ and ‘y’ cannot be synonymous, since they make different contributions when they jointly occur within a sentence, but (ii) there is a strong temptation to say that distinct variables ‘x’ (...)
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  2. Monsters and the Theoretical Role of Context.Brian Rabern & Derek Ball - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (2):392-416.
    Kaplan (1989) famously claimed that monsters--operators that shift the context--do not exist in English and "could not be added to it". Several recent theorists have pointed out a range of data that seem to refute Kaplan's claim, but others (most explicitly Stalnaker 2014) have offered a principled argument that monsters are impossible. This paper interprets and resolves the dispute. Contra appearances, this is no dry, technical matter: it cuts to the heart of a deep disagreement about the fundamental structure of (...)
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  3. Descriptions Which Have Grown Capital Letters.Brian Rabern - 2015 - Mind and Language 30 (3):292-319.
    Almost entirely ignored in the linguistic theorising on names and descriptions is a hybrid form of expression which, like definite descriptions, begin with 'the' but which, like proper names, are capitalised and seem to lack descriptive content. These are expressions such as the following, 'the Holy Roman Empire', 'the Mississippi River', or 'the Space Needle'. Such capitalised descriptions are ubiquitous in natural language, but to which linguistic categories do they belong? Are they simply proper names? Or are they definite descriptions (...)
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  4. Binding Bound Variables in Epistemic Contexts.Brian Rabern - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-31.
    Quine insisted that the satisfaction of an open modalised formula by an object depends on how that object is described. Kripke’s "objectual" interpretation of quantified modal logic, whereby variables are rigid, is commonly thought to avoid these Quinean worries. Yet there remain residual Quinean worries in the epistemic case. Theorists have recently been toying with assignment-shifting treatments of epistemic contexts. On such views an epistemic operator ends up binding all the variables in its scope. One might worry that this yields (...)
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  5. Future Contingents and the Logic of Temporal Omniscience.Patrick Todd & Brian Rabern - forthcoming - Noûs.
    At least since Aristotle’s famous 'sea-battle' passages in On Interpretation 9, some substantial minority of philosophers has been attracted to the doctrine of the open future--the doctrine that future contingent statements are not true. But, prima facie, such views seem inconsistent with the following intuition: if something has happened, then (looking back) it was the case that it would happen. How can it be that, looking forwards, it isn’t true that there will be a sea battle, while also being true (...)
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  6. Does Semantic Relationism Solve Frege’s Puzzle?Bryan Pickel & Brian Rabern - 2017 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 46 (1):97-118.
    In a series of recent works, Kit Fine, 605–631, 2003, 2007) has sketched a novel solution to Frege’s puzzle. Radically departing from previous solutions, Fine argues that Frege’s puzzle forces us to reject compositionality. In this paper we first provide an explicit formalization of the relational semantics for first-order logic suggested, but only briefly sketched, by Fine. We then show why the relational semantics alone is technically inadequate, forcing Fine to enrich the syntax with a coordination schema. Given this enrichment, (...)
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  7. A Bridge From Semantic Value to Content.Brian Rabern - 2017 - Philosophical Topics 45 (2):181-207.
    A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile. Following Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken. According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoric content. Stojnić insists that views which distinguish the roles of content and semantic value (...)
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  8. Against the Russellian Open Future.Anders J. Schoubye & Brian Rabern - 2017 - Mind 126 (504): 1217–1237.
    Todd (2016) proposes an analysis of future-directed sentences, in particular sentences of the form 'will(φ)', that is based on the classic Russellian analysis of definite descriptions. Todd's analysis is supposed to vindicate the claim that the future is metaphysically open while retaining a simple Ockhamist semantics of future contingents and the principles of classical logic, i.e. bivalence and the law of excluded middle. Consequently, an open futurist can straightforwardly retain classical logic without appeal to supervaluations, determinacy operators, or any further (...)
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  9. Reviving the Parameter Revolution in Semantics.Bryan Pickel, Brian Rabern & Josh Dever - 2018 - In Derek Ball & Brian Rabern (eds.), The Science of Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 138-171.
    Montague and Kaplan began a revolution in semantics, which promised to explain how a univocal expression could make distinct truth-conditional contributions in its various occurrences. The idea was to treat context as a parameter at which a sentence is semantically evaluated. But the revolution has stalled. One salient problem comes from recurring demonstratives: "He is tall and he is not tall". For the sentence to be true at a context, each occurrence of the demonstrative must make a different truth-conditional contribution. (...)
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  10. The Semantics of Contextual Shifting and Sensitivity.Brian Rabern - 2012 - Dissertation, The Australian National University
    This thesis argues for two main points concerning the philosophy of natural language semantics. Firstly, that the objects of assertion are distinct from the entities appealed to in the compositional rules of natural language semantics. Secondly, natural languages contain context-shifting operators known as "monsters". In fact, it will be shown that these theses are simply two sides of the same coin.
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