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The Davidsonian program of a truth-condition semantics for natural languages: its empirical scope and ontological commitments

Grant number: 14/22777-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): January 15, 2015
Effective date (End): January 14, 2016
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Logic
Principal Investigator:João Vergílio Gallerani Cuter
Grantee:Michel Platiny Assis Navarro
Supervisor: Kirk Ludwig
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Indiana University, United States  
Associated to the scholarship:12/17304-0 - The Davidsonian program of a truth-condition semantics for natural languages: its empirical scope and ontological commitments, BP.DR


In this project I will address, in general terms, the proposal of the American philosopher Donald Davidson to introduce the recursive theory of truth developed by Tarski as a vehicle of a compositional theory of meaning, i.e, of a recursive semantics of truth conditions for natural languages. Specifically, I will rehearse the two hypotheses I intend to defend in the thesis. The first hypothesis is that the compositional semantics proposed by Davidson for natural languages - though controversial, given the "limitations" of reducing the meaning to truth conditions - led to a program of empirical research on language within the formal semantics which enabled significant insights about the semantic structure of natural languages. Therefore, objections to Davidson's semantics must also take into account its empirical relevance, i.e, the results and generalizations about the semantics of natural languages that linguists who embraced the Davidsonian program reached, and not just its implications in the field of philosophy of language. The second assumption is that the Davidsonian program constitutes not only an attempt to develop a systematic semantics, but also to derive ontological consequences from it, in the sense of ontological commitments with entities which would be conditions for the possibility of communication. In the Quinean spirit that to be is to be the value of a variable of quantification, Davidson believes that a correct semantic theory - i.e, a theory that clarifies the logical form of sentences and their patterns of inferences - can reveal the entities belonging to the ontology of language, or even the relationship between language and world, conceptual scheme and experience. In addition, we will seek to defend - in the thesis- that the ontological commitments made by Davidson were transferred to the empirical program that grew out of his proposal, but also that new entities were added as the researches within the program progressed and new entities have been postulated to account for new problems or explain old semantic problems which had not received a recursive and compositional characterization. (AU)

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