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Evidence, Experiment and Argument in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language


Edited By Martin Hinton

This volume is concerned with issues in experimental philosophy and experimental linguistics. Examining experiments in language from a variety of perspectives, it asks what form they should take and what should count as evidence. There is particular focus on the status of linguistic intuitions and the use of language corpora. A number of papers address issues of methodology in experimental work, while other contributions examine the use of thought experiments and what the hypothetical can tell us about the actual. The aim of this collection is to bring together the work of linguists and philosophers in order that they may learn from one another, and to help both groups understand how the use of experimental methods can affect the arguments they employ and the claims they make.
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Anna Drożdżowicz - Speakers’ Intuitions about Meaning Provide Empirical Evidence – towards Experimental Pragmatics


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Anna Drożdżowicz

University of Oslo

Speakers’ Intuitions about Meaning Provide Empirical Evidence – towards Experimental Pragmatics

1. Introduction

Intuitions have been seen as an important source of evidence in philosophy (e.g. Bealer, 1998; Sosa, 2009; Nagel, 2012). Recently, however, some have denied that intuitions have any importance for philosophical methodology (Cappelen, 2012), while others have concluded that intuitions are unreliable and ought to be abandoned altogether (Weinberg, 2008, Machery & Stich, 2013). Still, it is a common practice in philosophy of language and linguistics to appeal to intuitions about meaning as evidence for theories: Michael Devitt (2012, 2013a) calls this “the received view”, but the practice has been the subject of recent debate (Devitt, 2012, 2013a, 2013b; cf. Cohnitz & Haukioja, 2014). Michael Devitt (2012, 2013a) has argued that speakers’ intuitions are fallible empirical judgements about language that reflect speakers’ folk theories about meaning rather than meaning itself. This is what he means by calling them “metalinguistic”. Francois Recanati, on the other hand, argues that speakers’ intuitions about utterance meaning are direct intuitions about truth-conditional content, which are based on “the ability to pair an utterance with a type of situation”, they constitute data and our theories should account for them (2013: 1–3).

Among the crucial questions in this debate are: what is the nature of such intuitions, and what kind of evidence do they provide? In this paper I argue that speakers’ intuitive judgements...

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