Publications

2017 Denial and Retraction: A Challenge for Theories of Taste Predicates, Synthese.

2017 Jesus loves you!, Philosophical Studies, 174, pp 237-255.

2017 Biscuit Conditionals and Prohibited 'then', Thought, 6/2, pp 84-92.

Papers (available on request)

Embedded Predicates of Personal Taste -- A Contextualist Perspective
According to individualistic indexical contextualism---a very simple semantics for predicates of personal taste---sentences like 'Licorice is (not) tasty' as assertively used by a speaker in an ordinary conversation express the proposition that licorice is (not) tasty to the speaker. This view has been confronted with several objections. The most prominent one has been rebutted by philosophers who stress the role of pragmatics: pragmatically extended, the thought goes, individualistic indexical contextualism can very well account for faultless disagreements. But there is another, so far underappreciated objection: that individualistic indexical contextualism cannot account for our intuitive assessment of embeddings of sentences containing predicates of personal taste. In particular, it cannot account for the embedding under operators with truth evaluative adverbs such as 'correctly believes that' and 'falsely believes that.' In this paper, I shall critically examine this objection. There indeed is a challenge to individualistic indexical contextualism, I shall argue. For not even pragmatically extended by the popular commonality approach does individualistic indexical contextualism account for the crucial embeddings. Still, the challenge can be met. For given the superiority approach, a new and at least equally plausible pragmatic extension, individualistic indexical contextualism is equipped to do the job.

The Cancellability Test for Conversational Implicatures
Many people follow Grice in thinking that all conversational implicatures are cancellable. And often enough they use this insight as a test for conversational implicatures. If one wants to find out whether something is a conversational implicature, the test goes, one should ask oneself whether the thing in question is cancellable; if one finds that it is not cancellable, one can infer that it is not a conversational implicature; if one finds that it is cancellable, one can infer that it might well be a conversational implicature and that one should now do further testing. Various philosophers and linguists have questioned the test though. Some have held that Grice's original claim is subject to counterexamples and that the test is therefore prone to failure. Others have argued that even though Grice's claim can be defended against alleged counterexamples, the test is not as useful as people have hoped. This article introduces into the cancellability test by discussing prominent objections. It also makes a suggestion for how to defend the test by providing an alternative view of cancellability. This view, it is argued, is much closer to Grice's original idea than many of the views discussed in the literature so far.

Presupposing Counterfactuality
What distinguishes counterfactual conditionals from other conditionals? The arguably most immediate and most simple answer has it that they presuppose the falsity of their antecedents. That is, with them, the speaker always conveys that the antecedent is counter to the facts. Both among philosophers and linguists, however, there is by now long standing and broad consensus that the presupposition view cannot be upheld, neither for non-past subjunctive ('would') conditionals nor for past subjunctive ('would have') conditionals. If the speaker of either counterfactual conveys the falsity of the antecedent at all, she conversationally implicates it. In this paper, I shall examine the two most prominent arguments for the claim that not even past subjunctive conditionals presuppose the falsity of their antecedents: Anderson's argument featuring sentences such as 'If Jones had taken arsenic, he would have shown the same symptoms he actually shows' and Stalnaker's modus tollens argument. I will argue that neither of them is conclusive. I will thus show that we can hold on to the presupposition view for past subjunctives. This is relevant for ongoing debates about conditionals not only because it suggests that there is a clearly defined class of true counterfactuals, but also because it suggests that there might well be a deep difference between indicative and subjunctive conditionals.

Varieties of Biscuit Conditionals
It is commonly assumed that there are at least two kinds of indicative conditionals: hypothetical and biscuit conditionals. It is also assumed that there is no analogous distinction within subjunctive conditionals. Subjunctive conditionals, it is generally agreed, are uniformly read hypothetically. In a recent paper, Swanson argues that this is not true: embedded in the contexts of wants and wishes, at least certain subjunctive conditionals are read in a biscuit-like fashion. In this paper, I shall go beyond Swanson's claim. I shall argue that there are indicative biscuit conditionals of four different kinds and that subjunctive versions of all of them can be read as biscuit conditionals, even outside the contexts of wants and wishes.

A Direction Effect on Taste Predicates (with Alexander Dinges)
The recent literature abounds with accounts of the semantics and pragmatics of so-called predicates of personal taste, i.e. predicates whose application is, in some sense or other, a subjective matter. Relativism and contextualism are the major types of theories. The primary difference between these theories concerns how we should assess previous taste claims. Relativism predicts that we should assess them in the light of the taste standard governing the context of assessment. Contextualism predicts that we should assess them in the light of the taste standard governing the context of use. We show in a range of experiments that neither prediction is entirely correct. Which taste standard people choose in evaluating a previous taste claim crucially depend on whether they start out liking the food in question and then come to dislike it or vice versa. We argue first that this direction effect may offer an explanation of why some data supposedly supporting relativism are so controversial. We argue second that no extant theory predicts the effect and go on to suggest what we call hybrid relativism as a possible solution. On this view, sentences of the form 'F is/isn't tasty' are ambiguous between a relativist and a contextualist reading, where the relevant reading is selected by an independently motivated pragmatic principle to interpret speakers as negatively as possible.

Tasty Contextualism. A Superiorty Approach to the Phenomenon of Faultless Disagreement (book draft)