LEM Forum: Facing the Evidence: what can empirical facts tell us about semantics? Emma Borg, 11 Nov

Tuesday 4 November 2014


Tuesday 11 November 2014, 17:00-19:00
LEM - Logic, Epistemology & Metaphysics Forum
Room 243, Senate House, WC1
Facing the Evidence: what can empirical facts tell us about semantics? Emma Borg (Reading)

On the one hand, it seems almost a truism that we want a semantic theory which is informed by empirical evidence. On the other hand, however, it proves notoriously difficult in practice to map between empirical claims and theoretical ones. This paper aims to clarify the potential problems in moving between theory and evidence in this area, in the hope of coming to relate experimental evidence and semantic theories more closely in the future. The first part of the paper surveys semantic theories in general, asking what a semantic theory is supposed to be a theory of and what kind of evidence might be relevant to what kind of semantic theory. The second part of the paper focuses on the psychological dimension of language and I suggest that three distinct types of evidence are relevant: neurophysiological evidence, behaviour in experimental tasks, and behaviour in non-experimental situations. However I argue that there are significant problems in mapping from each kind of evidenceto semantic claims. I conclude that, alongside theory construction, philosophy of language needs to reflect more fully on how semantic theories face up to evidence.

Autumn 2014 Series: http://philosophy.sas.ac.uk/LEMSeries

Convenor: Dr Corine Besson (Sussex)

End Announcement.