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  • Logical form and language ed. by Gerhard Preyer, and Georg Peter
  • Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach
Logical form and language. Ed. by Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Pp. x, 512. ISBN 019924460X. $69.95.

Donald Davidson is arguably the most influential living philosopher of language, and several recent proposals for the semantics of natural language have a definitive Davidsonian imprint. The present collection is dedicated to him, something that seems more than justified in view of the fact that one can easily trace the resonance of Davidsonian topics, ideas, and views in every single one of the contributions included. The overarching theme of the book is the relation between logical form and language, in a fashion that has concerned the analytic tradition in philosophy from Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell to the present. Contributors include philosophers and linguists working on the semantics of natural language.

The volume is organized in three sections. The papers in the first part address issues related to the nature of logical form. Stephen Neale claims that Russell’s theory of descriptions can be profitably used to elucidate matters of scope, quantification, and ontology. Descriptions should be treated as restricted quantifiers, on a par with expressions such as every, some, a, and so on. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig present a semantic conception of logical form that takes the shape of an interpretive truth theory for natural language. The logical form of a sentence is revealed by its canonical proof in such a theory. Paul Pietroski studies the distinction between function and concatenation. After Frege, function application (function-argument combination) has been viewed as the primary mode of semantic composition. Nevertheless, predicate conjunction also seems to play an important role if one assumes the Davidsonian view of events, logical form, and an analysis of modification as conjunction of predicates of events. Jeffrey King distinguishes two sorts of claims about logical form: claims about the structure and constituents of a proposition and claims about the nature or internal structure of one or more constituents of a proposition. Peter Ludlow tries to reconcile current views of the syntactic level of logical form and monotonicity inferences that have traditionally been cast in natural logic and categorial grammar. Robert May and Robert Fiengo present a new view on identity statements building on an insight by Frege. They introduce an assignment principle of a speaker’s belief in the redescription and translation of identity statements.

The essays in the second part deal with intensionality, events, and semantic content. James Higginbotham analyzes sequence-of-tense phenomena in English and Italian and defends a new proposal, which differs from his and Toshiyuki Ogihara’s views and is based on syntactic assumptions about the complementizer structure of embedded clauses. Richard Larson advocates a restricted sententialist view of intensionality and proposes alternative analyses of putative nonsentential intensionality effects (transitives, adverbial and adjectival modification). Barry Schein defends several refinements of the theory of thematic relations. Norbert Hornstein argues that current versions of the minimalist program lend themselves to a view of semantics and its interface with syntax that is intrinsically Davidsonian. Finally, Jason Stanley studies the effects of context dependence on quantified noun phrases, mass terms, and comparative adjectives.

Part 3 brings together essays on belief ascription and proper names. Bernard Linsky argues that Russell’s conception of logical form should be distinguished from Davidson’s view (a recursive account of truth conditions) and the syntactic view based on a level of representation (logical form). Lenny Clapp and Robert Stainton examine Russell’s rejection of propositions as objects of belief and argue for an interpreted-logical-form-style account of belief reports. Robert Matthews rejects the relational theory of belief (a relation between an agent and an object) and defends a monadic theory based on a measurement-theoretic account of belief ascriptions. Marga Reimer finds problems both in John Stuart Mill’s and Russell’s accounts and proposes an account in which reference varies...


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