“Verbal Disputes and Variance”
By Poppy Mankowitz (St Andrews, Philosophy)
Date: Friday, 1st March, 2019
Abstract: There has been much recent interest in the idea that, when philosophers disagree over existence claims like ‘There are numbers’, ‘Chairs exist’ or ‘There are some objective moral facts’, their dispute is merely verbal: they are disagreeing about the meaning of certain words rather than about something more substantive. It is important to clearly articulate and assess this view, since it threatens to undermine the aims and conclusions of a broad range of arguments within philosophy. In this talk, I will argue that the existing analysis of verbal disputes in the philosophical literature is incompatible with the way natural language theorists analyze meaning. I will claim that the best theories of natural language support an alternative strategy for modelling the idea of a merely verbal dispute. Moreover, this strategy provides clearer criteria for recognizing when, if ever, disputes over existence claims are merely verbal.
About the speaker: Poppy Mankowitz completed her doctoral studies at the University of St Andrews (Arché Philosophical Research Center) and her MPhil at King’s College London. She works primarily on the philosophy of language, semantics and metaphysics. She is currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the New University of Lisbon (Nova Institute of Philosophy). Her current research centers on the way we structure information within discourse, and how attending to information structure can resolve a range of philosophical problems. Dr Mankowitz has a forthcoming article in Mind & Language, entitled ‘Triggering Domain Restriction’.