CFP: Synthese Topical Collection - Beyond inferentialism

Submission deadline: May 31, 2024

Topic areas


Beyond inferentialism

While inferentialist theories of meaning never achieved the same popularity as truth-conditional semantic theories, it is safe to say that inferentialism has attained the status of an alternative yet well-established approach to meaning. With its roots traced back to the early ideas of Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Wilfrid Sellars, inferential theories have gained prominence in modern approaches proposed by Robert Brandom, Ned Block, Jaroslav Peregrin, or – recently – Paweł Grabarczyk. This significance is particularly evident when employing a broader perspective of "functional role semantics" that allows for more than just inferential relations between meaning-constitutive rules.

Inferentialism has also made substantial contributions to the analysis of conditionals, exploring how conditional statements are understood in terms of the inferences they license. The question of how to characterize the details of this inference is by no means easy to answer. Despite being overshadowed by possible worlds semantics analysis, the last few decades have witnessed a renaissance of the idea that the truth of a conditional is grounded in the inference relation between the antecedent and consequent, with empirical studies playing an important role in this endeavor.

This topical collection aims to explore current trends and challenges arising from contemporary functional role semantics, including the role of inferential relationships in meaning, normativity in functional-role semantics, context-dependence, content-establishing mechanisms, and the applicability of inferential theories beyond traditional contexts. By investigating these key aspects, the collection aims to enrich our understanding of language and meaning, fostering interdisciplinary discussions and advancing inferentialist theories in the study of semantics, cognition, and communication.

Appropriate Topics for Submission include, among others:

1)    The role of inferential roles in functional-role theories of meaning. While traditional functional-role semantics prioritized inferential roles, it is essential to note that even in the seminal theories of Ajdukiewicz and Sellars, inferential roles were not the sole types of rules constitutive of meaning. Some modern approaches suggest reversing the roles and investigating different kinds of rules as primary. Should other rule types be taken into account? Is it possible to create functional-role semantics without relying solely on meaning-constitutive inferences?

2)    Addressing the normativity of meaning in functional-role semantics. Does normativity naturally emerge within these theories, or should a separate account of normativity be developed?

3)    Incorporating context-dependence into inferentialism and other functional-role semantic theories. Certain traditional accounts appear incompatible with context-dependence. Is this an intrinsic issue of functionalism, or is it a consequence of specific details within these theories?

4)    Exploring the role of content-establishing mechanisms, such as indexical references, in inferential theories. Can indexicals be effectively integrated into these theories?

5)    Applying inferential theories to non-inferential or non-functional contexts. For instance, how might inferential theories supplement explanations for certain discourses, such as discourses on fictional objects or sets of terms, where inferential relationships may not be evident?

6)    Investigating the inferential analysis of conditionals and its implications for understanding the meaning of conditional statements.

For further information, please contact the guest editor(s):

[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]

Submissions to this Topical Collection will be reviewed in the same process as applied to regular Synthese submissions.

The deadline for submissions is the 31st of May 2024

Submissions via:

Tadeusz Ciecierski [email protected]

Paweł Grabarczyk [email protected]

Maciej Sendłak [email protected]

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