March 24, 2023 - March 28, 2023
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Warsaw

Krakowskie Przedmieście 3

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  • Polish National Science Centre


Stockholm University
Stockholm University


University of Warsaw
University of Warsaw

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(Stockholm University)

March 24-28, 2023
University of Warsaw


Switcher semantics – a semantic framework we have been developing for some time – is a generalized version of semantics working with more than one semantic function. Its key idea is that certain operators, such as intensional operators, function as “evaluation switchers”. When embedded under a switcher, the function for evaluating an embedded expression might then differ from that by which the embedding expression itself is evaluated.

We introduced the basic idea first in 2002, applying it to proper names and (metaphysical) modal operators. The modal operator was treated as a switcher, and proper names in its scope were treated differently that outside its scope – as rigid designators inside and non-rigid outside. Since then, switcher semantics have been developed for a variety of semantic problem cases, including empty names, quotation, indexicals, and belief sentences. These are all cases where what is said by means of an utterance of a sentence S appears to differ from the semantic contribution S makes under certain embeddings. Cases like these pose a challenge to at least one of two fundamental ideas in semantics and the theory of content more generally. The first is that the semantics of natural language is compositional. The other is that the semantic values it assigns to declarative sentences (in context) are the very things that also are the contents of the attitudes: (classical) propositions. The current trend is to sacrifice the classical proposition to the demands of compositionality.

Switcher semantics offers a way of avoiding that sacrifice by accounting for problematic embedding behaviors while at the same time holding on to the idea that the semantic values of declarative sentences (in context) are classical propositions. Switcher semantics gives up standard compositionality, but replaces it with a more general version – general compositionality – that has all the advantages claimed to motivate standard compositionality.

In these lectures, we shall introduce the formal framework of switcher semantics and elaborate on its general philosophical significance (lecture 1). We shall also explain in some detail how it works in two particular cases:  proper names and modal operators (lecture 2) and indexicals and temporal operators (lecture 3).

(Faculty of Philosophy, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, 00-047 Warsaw)

March 24, 11:30-13:00, room 4
LECTURE 1: The Framework and Its Philosophical Significance

March 27, 13:15-14:45, room 209
LECTURE 2: Switcher Semantics for Proper Names and Modal Operators

March 28, 13:15-14:45, room 209
LECTURE 3: Switcher Semantics for Indexicals and Temporal Operators

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March 24, 2023, 11:00am CET

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