Title of the project: Predication, Context and Relativism

PIs: Paolo Leonardi, Sebastiano Moruzzi

AIs: Massimilano Carrara, Walter Cavini, Annalisa Coliva, Vittorio Morato, Eva Picardi,Marco Santambrogio, Marina Sbisà, Giuseppe Spolaore, Giorgio Volpe, Eugenio Orlandelli, Michele Palmira

PhD and Master students: Luca Zanetti, Francesco Spada

External researchers: Francesco Berto, Richard Dietz, Daniele Mezzadri, Dag Westerståhl


Title of the project: Predication, Context and Relativism


Scientific aim of the project

The project in Philosophy of Language will focus on the problem of predication, on contextualism and minimalism in semantics and on whether the concept of truth requires a relativistic treatment. More specifically it will consider:


In the second semester of the academic year 2008-2009, the section of Philosophy of Language group based in Bologna will hold twice a week a reading group and a research seminar until end of June (reading list). The research seminar will host research papers by both members of the group and invited speakers (list). The entire group will meet with a flexible cadence in intensive one or two-days seminars where it will be discussed the papers of some of the members.


In February 2010 the group will host a major event on truth-relativism (programme and dates tba).

Expected results

to foster individual and joint publications in peer-reviewed international journals, as well as the publication of books on the themes researched with established international publishers.
  • the project will give Master and PhD students a chance to study some of the main themes in current philosophy of language and to familiarise themselves with discussion in this area of philosophy;
  • it will lead to PhD theses for those students primarily enrolled within this project.



We aim to create collaborations with similarly oriented research groups mostly based in Europe.

Conceptual Charts in the Philosophy of Language Project

Semantic Minimalism - state of the art

Argument Templates used by semantic minimalists

  • ?

Arguments against semantic minimalism

Semantic Skepticism (aka Radical Contextualism) - state of the art

Argument Templates used by semantic skeptic

  • Semantic intrusion in what is said
    • temporal implicit
      • "X and Y is better than...", "Some of the cake is better then...", Indicative conditionals , causal relations, collective reading of "and" Wilson(1975)

      Against: Stanley(2000, 2002a, Szabo&King(2005)

      Arguments against semantic skepticism

Semantics-Pragmatics Distinction

3 models Szabo&King(2005)

Weak pragmatic effect (semantic role of context): context affect what is communicated by affecting content via resolution of context-sensitive elements in the sentence uttered.

Strong pragmatic effect (pragmatic role of context): context affect what is communicated over and abov semantic content

  1. Semantics: only unrelatized standing meanings - semantic content bearers are expression types (e.g. Montague)
  2. 2 levels of semantic value: non relativized -+ relativized to context (where context fixes semantic content only insofar is follows the syntactic composition (e.g. Szabo&King(2005))
  3. Only automatic indexical (not involving intentions) are considered for a context as relevant for contributing to semantic content (Bach2002a??)