Operators vs Quantifiers

Download: Abstracts, Poster, Call for Papers (no longer open)

Operators vs Quantifiers

30 June – 2 July 2016, Barcelona


30 June 2016 (Facultat de Filosofía, c/Montalegre 6, 4th floor, Seminari de Filosofía)

10.15–11.45:      Michael Glanzberg (Northwestern) “Compositionality and Content” (with Jeffrey King, Rutgers)
12 – 13.30:     David Rey (Barcelona UB) “Intensionality and Embedded Tenses”
15 – 16.30:      Matthew Cameron (St Andrews): “Tense, Modality and Natural Language Syntax”
16.45– 18.15:  Peter Fritz (Oslo) and Juhani Yli-Vakkuri (Oslo): “Operator Arguments Revisited” (with John Hawthorne)

1 July 2016 (Facultat de Filosofía, c/Montalegre 6, 4th floor, Seminari de Filosofía)

10.15–11.45:      Brian Rabern (Edinburgh): “Quantifiers vs intensional operators: a distinction without difference”
12 – 13.30:      Simon Goldstein (Rutgers): “Epistemic Modality in Situ”
15 – 16.30:     James Openshaw (Oxford/USC): “Singular Content and the Anchoring Role”
16.45– 18.15:     Berit Gehrke (CNRS/Paris Diderot) and Louise McNally (Barcelona UPF): “Distributional Modification, not Quantification”

Conference Dinner

2 July 2016 (Residencia d’Investigadors, c/Hospital)

10.15–11.45:     Matthew McKeever (St Andrews): “Quantification without Quantifiers (or Operators): Towards an E-Type Analysis of QNPs”
12 – 13.30:     Hans Kamp (Stuttgart/Texas): “Operators vs. Quantifiers: Ontology or Logical Form? A case study targeting tense, temporal reference and time”


Workshop Theme:

A number of age-old and recent debates in several branches of philosophy depend in some way on the competition between two apparently different approaches to modelling linguistic phenomena: on the one hand the approach that employs binding expressions (e.g. quantifiers) and variables, and on the other hand the approach that employs intensional operators.

For example, the most standard approach to modality treats expressions like “possibly” as intensional operators. A competing approach treats them as binding quantifiers (“There is a possibility x, such that …”). In the treatment of tense, the situation is reverse: the traditional intensional treatment of phenomena of tense, as introduced by Prior, is now a minority view, while a quantificational treatment has become standard. Analogous alternatives present themselves in the treatment of countless other embedding expressions that shift some feature: “somewhere”, “in some way”, “on every standard”, “given what he knows” etc.

In fact, even “some” and “all” can be modeled not only as variable-binding expressions but also as operators, as in an Aristotelian syllogistic or term logic. Famously, the inventor of logic himself started logic off without variables, which prompted Geach to complain that Aristotle had started it off on the wrong foot. An unjustified complaint, as has been shown by many, including Schönfinkel, Quine and Sommers. The present-day controversy in semantics between the standard approach and a variable-free semantics à la Jacobson seems to be the contemporary version of this dispute.

It may be an historical accident that the most mainstream semantic approaches combine an operator treatment of some phenomena with a quantifier treatment of other phenomena. Only some extremists argue for a variable-free pure operator approach (e.g. Jacobson), or for a operator-free pure variable binding approach (e.g. Schaffer).

It therefore seems worth exploring what exactly is at stake in a choice between the alternatives: Do we need to employ both operators and quantifiers in a mixed semantics? If so, are there any principled reasons for deciding which approach to use in which case? Are there reasons of theoretical convenience or elegance? If we do not need to employ both, which of the two purist approaches should we choose?

Invited Speakers (confirmed):

  • Michael Glanzberg (Northwestern)
  • Hans Kamp (Texas at Austin, Stuttgart)
  • Louise McNally (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
  • Brian Rabern (Edinburgh)

Evaluation committee:

Max Kölbel (Logos /ICREA-UB)
Josep Maciá (Logos/UB)
Louise McNally (Pompeu Fabra)
Andrei Moldovan (Salamanca)
Daniel Morgan (Logos/UB)
Bryan Pickel (Edinburgh)
Mihaela Popa (Logos/UB)
Brian Rabern (Edinburgh)
Moritz Schulz (Tübingen/Hamburg)
Isidora Stojanovic (Jean Nicod)
Stephan Torre (Aberdeen)
Dan Zeman (Basque Country)


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