Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Contextuals and score-keeping

One thing that Lewis's theory in "Score-keeping in a Language Game" could shed some light on is the class of words that Cappelen and Lepore call 'contextuals'. These are words like 'foreign', 'local', 'enemy', and 'import' that aren't indexicals but seem to depend on some feature of the context of usage to supply some of their semantic content. What feature isn't clear uniform across the board. They also don't seem deictic in the way that 'these', 'that', and 'coming' seem deictic. That is just my intuition, and it isn't based on any deep theoretical observation. One thing that Lewis's theory claims is that the truth values of utterances of a sentence can vary depending on what the score is when the utterance occurs. For things like 'I know that Oswald shot JFK', this seems loony. For something like 'I am an outsider', this seems less loony. Depending on whether the score is set to the nation, state, county, town, or group, this can variously be true or false. There are two questions I have. Was Lewis trying to come up with a justification for using a non-monotonic logic? Are the scores that Lewis is talking about better modeled by something like circumstances and situations in situation semantics? The former is influenced by the use that Brandom makes of Lewis (the influence I see at least, although I haven't read Making it Explicit). The latter is influenced by the fact that situations model primarily local phenomena, and the scores seem to do that as well.

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