Why does Davidson (or why do we) require a semantic theory?

April 18, 2016
Philosophical Seminar, University of Zürich

ZUP U8
Zürichbergstrasse 43
Zürich 8050
Switzerland

View the Call For Papers

Keynote speakers:

Miguel Holtje
(unaffiliated)

Organisers:

Sebastian Wyss
University of Zürich

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Why does Davidson (or why do we) require a semantic theory?
Doctoral Workshop
University of Zurich, April 18 2016.

Davidson used the expression “theory of meaning” for what is called here a “semantic theory”. Theories of meaning can be analytic or constructive. In the first case, it is a theory that relates to language in general and elucidates the concept of meaning. In the second case, it is a theory that relates to a particular language (e.g. English), and specifies the meaning of each expression or sentence of that language. This workshop is interested in the constructive sense of “theory of meaning” – in semantic theories.
A good part of contemporary analytic philosophy of language is set in a framework which presupposes the requirement of a semantic theory in philosophy. But, to reformulate the title question: What is the philosophical importance of a semantic theory? There are two main motives for Davidson. i) Natural languages consist or include a potential infinity of sentences. Then, it is argued, the only way for them to be learnable is by generating the potentially infinite set of sentences from a finite set of semantic rules. This in turn requires that natural languages function in the same way as a formal language. ii) The notion of meaning is problematic and in need of explanation. Classical conceptual analysis has proved to be unsatisfactory. A semantic theory, however, provides all there is to know. It specifies the meaning of every sentence of the language in question and thus captures all there is to meaning.
The workshop offers the opportunity to critically examine the philosophical purpose of semantic theories, especially in relation but not limited to the two arguments mentioned or to Davidson.


The workshop will be chaired by Dr. Miguel Holtje.
Structure of the sessions: Paper presentation (30 minutes), discussion (30 minutes).

If you are interested please send in either
a long abstract (300-500 words)
or a paper with a short abstract (fewer than 200 words). The paper should be suitable for a 30 minute presentation.

Please send your application to Sebastian Wyss, sebastian.wyss@uzh.ch.

A long abstract is sufficient to apply for participation. However, we recommend to send in the full paper (in the application or later) in order to allow for better comments and discussion.

Dates:
Submission of application: February 22, 2016
Notification of acceptance: March 1, 2016
Submission of full paper: April 4, 2016 (optional)
Workshop: April 18, 2016

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February 22, 2016, 11:00pm CET

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