Defusing easy arguments for numbers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pairs of sentences like the following pose a problem for ontology: (1) Jupiter has four moons. (2) The number of moons of Jupiter is four. (2) is intuitively a trivial paraphrase of (1). And yet while (1) seems ontologically innocent, (2) appears to imply the existence of numbers. Thomas Hofweber proposes that we can resolve the puzzle by recognizing that sentence (2) is syntactically derived from, and has the same meaning as, sentence (1). Despite appearances, the expressions 'the number of moons of Jupiter' and 'four' do not function semantically as singular terms in (2). Hofweber's primary evidence for this proposal concerns differences in the focus-related communicative functions of (1) and (2). In this paper I raise several serious problems for Hofweber's proposal, and for his attempt to support it by appeal to focus-related phenomena. I conclude by offering independent evidence for an alternative, purely pragmatic resolution of the ontological puzzle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-461
Number of pages15
JournalLinguistics and Philosophy
Volume36
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

ontology
evidence
appeal
pragmatics
Communicative Function
Ontological
Singular Term
Syntax
Ontology
Paraphrase

Keywords

  • Fiction
  • Focus
  • Indifference
  • Numbers
  • Numerical determiners
  • Ontology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Philosophy

Cite this

Defusing easy arguments for numbers. / Balcerak Jackson, Brendan.

In: Linguistics and Philosophy, Vol. 36, No. 6, 11.2013, p. 447-461.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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