• Philosophy of Language,  Philosophy of Religion,  Religious Pluralism,  Theism

    Naming God: Determining a Divine Referent

    In this paper I will argue that the apparently commonplace activity of referring to God depends on what we take to be the relationship between a given entity and the name of that entity. It is commonly held that reference depends on some definite description of the entity in question. I will argue that Saul Kripke’s criticisms of descriptivism are sufficient to reject the view. However, if we take Kripke’s causal theory or a Millian direct theory of reference we are confronted with the problem of worship. If people from a broad variety of religions can successfully refer to God, then can they be said to worship the same God?…

  • Language,  Philosophy of Language,  Politics

    Presuppositions and Public Discourse

    When my students get a Latin test they make mistakes because they attempt to translate sentences according to what they think I would say. For instance, consider the following sentence: vīnum virōs cōservat The English translation is: wine preserves men However, nearly everyone in the class translated the sentence as: the men preserve the wine What explains the mistake? Presuppositions. Given that most of them know their Latin endings, they should be able to work out that ‘wine’ is a nominative singular and ‘men’ is accusative plural. It seems that the most likely explanation for their mistake is a presupposition. A presupposition in interpreting speech or writing is what we…

  • Epistemology,  Philosophy of Language,  Theism

    Why Correct Answers Do Not Entail Knowledge

    It is tempting to say the following: S can answer a question correctly only if S knows the answer to the question.  However, we should resist the temptation. Consider the following: When I was about 11years old I was sitting in a classroom, my gaze fixed firmly on the cricket pitch outside and paying no attention to what my teacher was saying. Then I heard my name. “Ben, can you tell us where the ship sprung a leak?” my teacher asked. Now everyone’s gaze was fixed on me. “Hull” I said without a pause. “Yes, well done Ben” my teacher replied and carried on talking. Now the backstory: When the…

  • Ethics,  Philosophy of Language

    Does Speech Have Rules?

    Elizabeth Warren has been silenced in the Senate for impugning a fellow Senator. The rule tells Senators that criticizing the motives of a fellow Senator on the floor of the Senate is not allowed. Under Rule 19, Senators are not allowed to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Now, having a rule for speaking in the Sentate makes sense. Imagine if there were no rules in the Sentate! But, what about the rest of us? Do we have any rules to follow? Perhaps someone might think that what matters is what…

  • Culture,  Ethic,  Philosophy of Language,  Politics

    Pronoun Paradox

    If I told you that my car was a Ferrari, you would say I was mistaken. You would probably take me outside to my driveway and point saying, “look! your car is a Saturn Vue.” If I replied, “no, it is a Ferrari,” you would think that something had gone very wrong. You might point again and say “but can’t you see? Just look at that white car over there! It looks nothing like a Ferrari.” “White car?” I reply. “But that car is red. And it is a Ferrari.” Now you are clear: Ben has lost his mind. Let’s assume I have not lost my mind, that I am…

  • Philosophy of Language,  Philosophy of Mind

    Naturalism and the Language of Thought Hypothesis

    According to naturalism, the world can be adequately described in terms of what is physical. But what is a good naturalistic explanation of thought? Beliefs, desires, and other propositional attitudes appear not to fit within the physical universe. While the physical universe can be analyzed in terms of causation, and laws of nature, the life of the mind appears to involve more. What it is to reason about some action seems very different to what it is for a neuron to initiate a causal chain that results in an action. If causation cannot account for reasoning, then what it is that does the reasoning cannot be accounted for in physical…

  • Bible,  Hermeneutics,  Language,  Philosophy of Language,  Propositions

    How Many Meanings Does a Sentence Have?

    A declarative sentence is said to express a proposition. Propositions have truth-values: they are either true or false.[4] Furthermore, the truth-value of a proposition is objective. It is true or false whether or not it is believed by anyone. The alternative to thinking that propositions have objective truth-value is self-refuting. This is clear from the following dilemma: Either propositions have objective truth values or the proposition expressed by the statement, “no propositions have objective truth values,” has no objective truth value.  Clearly, the proposition expressed by the statement “no propositions have objective truth values,” has an objective truth value. It cannot be both true and false, something in between or neither…