Edited By Martin Hinton
Lukáš Bielik - Thought Experiments in Semantics
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Slovak Academy of Sciences
Thought Experiments in Semantics1
Thought experiments have been widely used in different areas of philosophy – the philosophy of language and semantics being no exception. In general, thought experiments target a thesis or a proposition which seems to be accepted within a given context. They usually make use of our imagination and conjoin it with some form of deductive or inductive reasoning. They present us with a hypothetical scenario (usually, via counterfactual reasoning) in order to evaluate the thesis within that imagined situation.
On the other hand, philosophical disciplines such as the philosophy of language and semantics, represent together a very broad research field. Both these philosophical areas give rise to many different problems, topics, approaches and methodologies related somehow to language. They deal with such distinct questions as, ‘What is the nature of (linguistic) meaning?’, ‘What makes a bunch of sounds a meaningful utterance?’, ‘What does an expression E refer to?’, ‘Are proper names rigid designators?’, ‘Is the extension of natural kind terms determined by the psychological states of the speakers?’, ‘What is an agent related to in belief contexts?’, etc.2
Many papers coming from within these areas appeal to thought experiments. It is quite remarkable that we can track their use as early as Frege’s papers. (For instance, Frege’s imaginary scenarios with Dr. Lauben, Leo Peter and Rudolf Lingens aim...
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