Topics in update semantics
Course Description: In the first lecture I will give a more or less historical introduction to dynamic semantics, in particular update semantics.
In lecture 2 and 3 I will discuss the semantic properties of gradable adjectives. The main question will be in what sense and to what extent adjectives like `tall', `skilful', and `tasty' are subjective. I will discuss some shortcomings of the main theories (absolutist, contextualist, relativist) that deal with this question in a truth conditional framework, and sketch an alternative, starting from some observations not made in the literature so far. Questions we will run into include: How do different adjectives (think of `tall' and `tasty') differ in `subjectivity'? What's a borderline case? Can a degree based approach work at all for an adjective like `tasty'? Why do so many gradable adjectives come with an antonym (tall-short, beautiful-ugly, etc.)? Why *solve* the Sorites paradox?
The topic of lecture 2 and 3 is “Imperatives”. Most philosophers of language would say that declarative sentences have a truth value, and that imperative sentences do not. A declarative sentence denotes a proposition, an imperative sentence denotes something else. There is no consensus about what exactly the denotation of an imperative would be. However, if declaratives and imperatives denote different kind of objects then what is the denotation of sentences like "Stop or I’ll shoot" in which these different moods are put together? To deal with sentences like this we need a uniform notion of meaning on which we can base a notion of logical validity that is applicable to both declaratives and imperatives, and to sentences in which these moods are combined. In the framework of update semantics indicative sentences, imperatives, (and also interrogatives) all find a proper place. I will show that within this framework some of the problems that arise with the treatment of different moods in a truth functional framework get a natural solution. Issues dealt with include (an imperative variant of) The Miner's Paradox , Free Choice Permission, and Pseudo imperatives.
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