Two-dimensional semantics and the nesting problem

Brian Rabern, David Chalmers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Graeme Forbes (2011) raises some problems for two-dimensional semantic theories. The problems concern nested environments: linguistic environments where sentences are nested under both modal and epistemic operators. Closely related problems involving nested environments have been raised by Scott Soames (2005) and Josh Dever (2007). Soames goes so far as to say that nested environments pose the “chief technical problem” for strong two-dimensionalism. We call the problem of handling nested environments within two-dimensional semantics “the nesting problem”. We show that the two-dimensional semantics for attitude ascriptions developed in Chalmers (2011a) has no trouble accommodating certain forms of the nesting problem that involve factive verbs such as “know” or “establish”. A certain form of the nesting problem involving apriority and necessity operators does raise an interesting puzzle, but we show how a generalized version of the nesting problem arises independently of two-dimensional semantics—it arises, in fact, for anyone who accepts the contingent a priori. We, then, provide a two-dimensional treatment of the apriority operator that fits the two-dimensional treatment of attitude verbs and apply it to the generalized nesting problem. We conclude that two-dimensionalism is not seriously threatened by cases involving the nesting of epistemic and modal operators
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-224
Number of pages25
Issue number2
Early online date28 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • two-dimensionalism
  • epistemic operators
  • apriority
  • nesting problem
  • attitude verbs
  • contingent a priori
  • modality


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