“Conversational Implicature, Communicative Intentions, and Content” by Ray Buchanan (12 Dec)

At the core of the Gricean account of conversational implicature is a certain assumption concerning the phenomenon that its proponents hope to explain, and predict; namely, that conversational implicatures are, essentially, cases of speaker meaning. Heck (2006), however, has argued that once we appreciate a distinctive kind of indeterminacy characteristic of many cases of particularized implicatures, we must reject this assumption. Heck’s observation is that there are cases where it is clear a speaker has conversationally implicated something by her utterance, but there is no particular proposition – other than what the speaker said – such that we can plausibly take the speaker to have meant, or intended to communicate, it. I argue that while Heck’s observation does call into question a standard assumption about the objects of our communicative intentions, it is ultimately not in conflict with the core Gricean idea. What is needed, I argue, is to give up the assumption, which has seemed to go hand-in hand with that idea: that propositions are both the things we mean as well as the objects of our cognitive attitudes. I sketch an alternative account of the things we mean – one that that allows for the fact that in many cases of successful communicative exchanges, speakers do not intend to communicate any particular proposition.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 12 Dec 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Ray Buchanan, University of Texas, Austin
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

Since receiving his PhD from New York University in 2008, Ray Buchanan has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. His work primarily focuses on the questions of how, and to what extent, we can express our thoughts by our actions – linguistic, or otherwise. Ray has published papers on these issues in Mind, Nous, Philosopher’s Imprint, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Studies, Thought, The Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and elsewhere. His more recent work focuses on the nature of linguistic agency and foundational issues in pragmatics.

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