Jason (jcreed) wrote,

The philosophy of language I was sitting in on over at* pitt finally got to the point and started talking about indexicality: what counts as indexical (things like "I", "now", "here" whose referent depends on who says it, when they say it, where they say it) what doesn't (anaphoric pronouns like "it", "him", that" that do also depend on the circumstances of utterance but more deeply; their reference depends much more meatily on anaphoric context, whereas the meaning of "I", "now", "here" can be 'read off' of just the raw physical circumstances of utterance) etc.

Part of me wants to call BS on the whole enterprise of formal semantics for natural languages, but the lectures are fascinating somehow. Sort of how the reductionist in me wants to cry that laws can't possibly make arbitrary distinctions between action X and qualitatively-immensely-different-but-technically-the-same-sort-of-action Y, except that it practice it can and frequently does. Thus, I'm arriving at the tentative conclusion that philosophers are just lawyers of the ineffable, invisible, and immaterial, routinely doing the impossible tasks and distinguishing the impossible distinctions with a smile.

*the most prepositions I've used in a row in a while! Though maybe I'm using "over" adverbially? I can't really tell. I tend to think of "over at" as a single preposition that happens to be spelled as two words, now that I think about it. Something like a prepositional version of the spatial deixis in, e.g., the spanish "alla", or the nonstandard (but loosely comprehensible) esperanto "malcxi".
Tags: esperanto, indexicals, linguistics, philosophy, spanish
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