Confused Intentions Project

This project aims to fill a significant gap in the knowledge of the semantics of singular terms: What actually determines the meaning of a singular term on a given occasion of utterance? According to Gricean intentionalism it is determined by the speaker’s referential intentions. Intentionalism is successful and well supported by work in semantics and pragmatics. Recently, however, a growing number of theorists have argued that it makes false predictions in crucial cases and, thus, must be rejected. Specifically, various kinds of confused beliefs and conflicting intentions are thought to pose insurmountable problems for any Gricean theory. This project develops an extended argument for intentionalism, taking the issue of conflicting intentions into full account. Our method will be to gather the linguistic data used by opponents of intentionalism and question their underlying methodology (dubbed ‘puzzle- driven semantics’), which appears to be implicitly endorsed by many in the field. We propose to develop an alternative view of semantic inquiry, placing emphasis on the basic explanatory roles of semantic theories. In this framework, we argue, a novel and compelling theory of the semantic function of singular terms can be advanced.

Principal Investigator Elmar Unnsteinsson (University of Iceland & University College Dublin)
Co-Proposer Ólafur Páll Jónsson (University of Iceland)
Collaborators Deirdre Wilson (University College London & Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature)
François Recanati (Institut Jean-Nicod)
Daniel Harris (Hunter College, City University of New York)
Maria Baghramian (University College Dublin)