The Philosophy of Language Research Group Talk: Who's Afraid of Humpty Dumpty?


The Philosophy of Language Research Group will host a talk by Alex Radulescu (University of Missouri). The talk will take place from 15.00-16.30 in NIG room 3A. Everyone is welcome to attend!

Abstract: Extreme intentionalists about a particular kind of content claim that the speaker's intentions suffice to make expressions have that content. A common objection against such views is to accuse them of resembling Humpty Dumpty from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, who mistakenly claimed that you can use "glory" to mean "a nice knock-down argument". In this paper, I defend three claims. First, that a common answer given to this objection (e.g. by Schiffer and Neale), namely that you cannot rationally intend just anything, does not actually address the objection. Second, that there is another answer, originally offered by Donnellan, that points to a better way to assess the objection: namely, that intention attributions do not come for free, i.e. that we need to look at cases where we can plausibly claim that the speaker actually does have that intention. Third, that the actual scenario envisaged by Carroll is completely unproblematic for intentionalists and anti-intentionalists alike, and is not as unusual as it may seem. As an illustration, the paper ends with applying these claims to intentionalism about demonstratives.