The Philosophy Colloquium on Friday, November 17, at 4pm in FSB 217, will feature Janice Dowell, philosopher from Syracuse.
Normative Questions Semantics Should Not Settle
“The semantic analysis tells us what is true (at a world) under an ordering. It modestly declines to choose the proper ordering. That is work for a moralist, not a semanticist.” D. Lewis (1978: 85-6.)
Call “Semantic Neutrality” the presumptive requirement that a semantics for deontic modal sentences in a natural language should be neutral between plausible candidate normative theories about what morality (and more broadly, practical rationality) requires, permits, and forbids. Here I consider a variety of cases in which such a requirement appears pretheoretically attractive. I then assess how well recent contextualist rivals to Angelika Kratzer’s own formal semantics fare in meeting this requirement in those cases. As I hope to show, the flexibility of Kratzer’s semantics permits a wide degree of neutrality not clearly available in those rival theories, constituting a powerful attraction in its favor.