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Indexicalism, Contextualism and Underdetermination

Conference contribution
Authors Stellan Petersson
Published in XXIV SIUCC - 2015. Jason Stanley: Knowledge, Language and Ideology. University of Valladolid, October 29-31
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Language en
Keywords Contextualism, Indexicalism, Empirical underdetermination
Subject categories Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Theoretical philosophy


Indexicalism, a view pursued by Stanley (2000) and Szabó (2001), holds that contextual effects on truth-conditions could be traced to covert expressions in the logical form of sentences. Contextualism denies that there are covert functions or variables in the logical form of natural language sentences or assumes that covert linguistic material is rather an exception than a rule (Pagin, 2005; Pagin & Pelletier, 2006; Recanati, 2010, 2004). I will argue that there are several central linguistic examples, where both frameworks could account for the relevant data. The conclusion is that the data underdetermines the choice of theoretical formalism, in these cases. The aim is to make plausible the conclusion that this result generalizes to all linguistic phenomena. We end the talk by some remarks on questions associated with indexicalism and contextualism that concern the nature of the process that leads to the hearer’s uptake of the statement made by the speaker in situations of communication.

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