Mark McCullagh—publications

2017. Scare-quoting and incorporation. Forthcoming in Semantic and pragmatic aspects of quotation, edited by Paul Saka and Michael Johnson. Dordrecht: Springer. [penultimate version]
I explain a mechanism I call “incorporation,” that I think is at work in a wide range of cases often put under the headings of “scare-quoting” or “mixed-quoting.” Incorporation is flagging some words in one’s own utterance to indicate that they are to be interpreted as if uttered by some other speaker in some other context, while supplying evidence to one’s interpreter enabling them to identify that other speaker and context. This mechanism gives us a way to use others’ vocabularies and contexts, thereby extending our expressive capacities on the fly. Explaining incorporation involves explaining intrasentential shifts in lexicon and in context. Shifts of the former sort are familiar to linguists under the heading of “code-switching.” Shifts of the latter sort have been less explored; accordingly I explain how to modify David Kaplan’s Logic of Demonstratives to allow for such shifts. I compare the incorporation account of scare-quoting with accounts offered by Brandom 1994, Recanati 2000, Geurts and Maier 2003, Benbaji 2004, Predelli 2003a and 2003b, and Shan 2010. Finally I note a possible implication concerning the speech act of assertion: that you can properly assert a content you don’t believe, let alone know, because part of it is expressed with words you don’t understand.
2017 [edited volume]. Williamson on modality, co-edited with Juhani Yli-Vakkuri (London: Routledge).
Timothy Williamson is one of the most influential living philosophers working in the areas of logic and metaphysics. His work in these areas has been particularly influential in shaping debates about metaphysical modality, which is the topic of his recent provocative and closely-argued book Modal Logic as Metaphysics (2013). The present book comprises ten essays by metaphysicians and logicians responding to Williamson’s work on metaphysical modality. The authors include some of the most distinguished philosophers of modality in the world, as well as several rising stars. Each essay is followed by a reply by Williamson. In addition, the book contains a major new essay by Williamson, “Modal science,” concerning the role of modal claims in natural science. This book was originally published as a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy.
2016. Russellianism unencumbered. Philosophical Studies [online-only].
Richard Heck, Jr has recently argued against Russellianism about proper names not in the usual way—by appeal to “intuitions” about the truth conditions of “that”-clause belief ascriptions—but by appeal to our need to specify beliefs in a way that reflects their individuation. Since beliefs are individuated by their psychological roles and not their Russellian contents, he argues, Russellianism is precluded in principle from accounting for our ability to specify beliefs in ordinary language. I argue that Heck thus makes things easier for the Russellian. For by framing the issue as one concerning the specificatory powers of ordinary language in general, rather than just of “that”-clause ascriptions, Heck weakens the implications of any claim about the semantics of that one type of belief-specifying locution. I augment this diagnosis with a positive account of the specificatory usefulness, and attested commonness, of (partly or wholly) quotational belief ascriptions, e.g. “Lois believes that ‘Superman’ is at the meeting.” This proposal is not of the usual sort concerning such locutions since it does not involve the (dubious) claim that they are in some way equivalent to “that”-clause ascriptions.
2011. Critical notice of Language turned on itself , by Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore (Oxford University Press, 2007). Analytic Philosophy 52: 349–67.
This is a lively, provocative book and many of its arguments are convincing. In this critical study I summarize the book, then discuss some of the authors’ claims, dwelling on three issues: their objections to the view of François Recanati on “pre-semantic” effects; the relation between their theory of quotation and the Tarskian “Proper Name Theory,” which they reject; and their treatment of mixed quotation, which rests on the claim that quotation expressions are “syntactic chameleons.” I argue that the objections to Recanati don’t expose any problem with his view, and that the “Proper Name Theory” has all the virtues of their own proposal. Finally I raise some queries about the technical apparatus of syntactic chameleonism.
2011. How to use a concept you reject. Philosophical Quarterly 61: 293–319.
Inferentialist accounts of concept possession are often supported by examples in which rejection of some inference seems to amount to rejection of some concept. Timothy Williamson has argued that these accounts have the implausible consequence that in such a case, someone rejecting the inference can’t so much as understand those who use the concept. Here I explain how to avoid that consequence: by distinguishing between conditions necessary on direct uses of a concept (to describe the non-cognitive world) and conditions necessary on content-specifying uses (to specify what someone thinks or says). I consider how this claim about the non-uniformity of concept possession accords with different theories of attitude ascription and with claims about reverse compositionality. There is surprisingly little standing in the way of the claim that someone unable to use a concept directly can nonetheless satisfy conditions for using it in a content-specifying thought.
2007. Understanding mixed quotation. Mind 116: 927–46.
Mixed quotation is when part of an indirect quotation is itself a direct quotation put to work simultaneously in a content-specifying, as well as utterance-specifying role. (For example, in the sentence
Stig said that Dinsdale was “vicious but fair”
the directly quoted part of the that-clause plays both these roles.) It is surprisingly difficult to account for the semantics of mixed quotations. Davidson’s account (elaborated by Cappelen and Lepore) handles many cases well, but it fails to accommodate the fact that the part enclosed in quotation marks is used to specify not what the quoter means when she utters it but what the quoted speaker means when she utters it. In this paper I propose an account that is Davidsonian in terms of logical form yet which accommodates that fact. It rests on the idea that mixed quotation involves deferred demonstration: in the example above, I specified what Stig meant partly by using my utterance of “vicious but fair” to deferred-demonstrate his utterance of those words. The account also explains why it’s possible to understand direct and indirect quotations while failing to understand mixed quotations—hence mixed quotation is a nontrivial addition to our linguistic repertoire.
2005. Inferentialism and singular reference. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35: 183–220.
Basic to Robert Brandom’s project in Making It Explicit is the demarcation of singular terms according to the structure of their inferential roles—rather than, as is usual, according to the kinds of things they purport to denote. But the demarcational effort founders on the need to distinguish extensional and nonextensional occurrences of expressions in terms of inferential roles; the closest that an inferentialist can come to drawing that distinction is to discern degrees of extensionality, and that is not close enough. The general moral applies as well to “two factor” theories of content: the notion of inferential role lacks the independence from the notion of denotation that many proponents of such theories have attributed to it.
2005. Motivating inferentialism. Southwest Philosophy Review. 21: 77–84
Robert Brandom has supported his inferentialist conception of semantic content by appealing to the claim that it is a necessary condition on having a propositional attitude that one appreciate the inferential relations it stands in. When we see what considerations can be given in support of that claim, however, we see that it doesn’t even motivate an inferentialist semantics. The problem is that that claim about what it takes to have a propositional attitude does nothing to show that its inferential relations are a feature of its content rather than of the relation that the subject stands in to that content—that is, the attitude.
2003. Do inferential roles compose? Dialectica 57: 430–37.
Jerry Fodor and Ernie Lepore have argued that inferential roles are not compositional. It is unclear, however, whether the theories at which they aim their objection are obliged to meet the strong compositionality requirement they have in mind. But even if that requirement is accepted, the data they adduce can in fact be derived from an inferential-role theory that meets it. Technically this is trivial, but it raises some interesting objections turning on the issue of the generality of inferential roles. I explain how those objections can be met. Whether Fodor’s and Lepore’s strong compositionality requirement is justified or not, then, inferential-role theories do not have the problem that they claim to have identified.
2002. Self-knowledge failures and first person authority. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64: 365–80.
No account of self-knowledge is satisfactory, I claim, unless it explains how we might truly attribute failures to possess self-knowledge. We can make progress towards a satisfactory account, then, by asking, What sorts of self-knowledge could be at issue in true attributions of such failures? It might seem that it can’t be the sort of self-knowledge whose possession conditions Tyler Burge (1988) and Donald Davidson (1984, 1987) have described. I argue that it can be, once we generalize Burge’s and Davidson’s accounts along a certain dimension along which propositional attitude-types can differ. For the sort of self-knowledge required to have attitudes of one type can differ from the sort of self-knowledge required to have attitudes of other types.
2002. Wittgenstein on rules and practices. Journal of Philosophical Research 27: 83–100.
Some readers of Wittgenstein—I discuss Robert Brandom—think that his writings contain a regress argument showing that the notion of participating in a practice is more basic than the notion of following a rule, in explanations of linguistic correctness. But the regress argument bears equally on both these notions: if there is an explanatory regress of rules, then there is an explanatory regress of practices as well. Why then does Wittgenstein invoke the notion of a practice, apparently by way of diagnosing the error on which the regress argument rests? I suggest that he invokes that notion to emphasize certain aspects of rule-following which we are apt to neglect, when we forget that rule-following is—not, rests upon—participating in a practice. When we appreciate those aspects of rule/practice-following we see the flaw in both regress arguments.
2000. Functionalism and self-consciousness. Mind & Language 15: 481–99.
I offer a philosophically well-motivated solution to a problem that George Bealer has identified, which he claims is fatal to functionalism. The problem is that there seems to be no way to generate a satisfactory Ramsey sentence of a psychological theory in which mental-state predicates occur within the scopes of mental-state predicates. My central claim is that the functional roles in terms of which a creature capable of self-consciousness identifies her own mental states must be roles that items could play within creatures whose psychology is less complex than hers. (Bealer’s reply to this paper appears in the same issue of Mind & Language.)
2000. Solitary and embedded knowledge. Southwest Philosophy Review 16: 161–9.
I argue for the usefulness of the distinction between knowledge that is, and knowledge that is not, acquired in such a way as necessarily to be acquired along with other knowledge so acquired. Knowledge gained in the latter ways—e.g. by testimony, by linguistic stipulation—has proved philosophically puzzling. But this is because philosophers have used traditional epistemological vocabulary to try to describe what’s distinctive about it. Using the solitary/embedded distinction, we can frame descriptions that are both true, and not stipulative-seeming, of what is distinctive of knowledge gained in these ways. I illustrate these points by discussing Saul Kripke’s claim that one can gain non-linguistic knowledge by linguistic stipulation.
1995. Mediality and rationality in Aristotle’s account of excellence of character. Apeiron 28: 155–74.
I offer a reading of Aristotle’s “doctrine of the mean” that avoids two pitfalls: taking it as truistic, and taking it as involving the bizarre thesis that whenever one acts as reason directs, one’s action is mid-way between some extremes. The crucial point is that while Aristotle denies the existence of useful general ethical truths, he himself offers truths about the likelihoods with which rationality will require actions of certain types; and it is with such truths that the statistical idea of the mean gets a foothold in his theory of the virtues.

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