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Research: Online Papers
The papers below are penultimate versions of published or forthcoming papers. Please use the
published versions for citations and quotations. All files are in pdf, unless otherwise noted.
• An Invariantist Theory of ‘Might’ Might Be Right, Linguistics and Philosophy,
Invariantism about ‘might’ says that ‘might’ semantically expresses the same modal
property in every context. This paper defends a non-relativist, invariantist theory of
‘might’. According to it, ‘might’ expresses the same very weak modal property in every
context. However, speakers who utter sentences containing ‘might’ typically assert
propositions concerning stronger types of modality, including epistemic modality.
• Contextualism About ‘Might’ and Says-That Ascriptions, Philosophical Studies,
I argue that contextualism about ‘might’ has serious problems with collective and
quantified ‘says’-that ascriptions. Herman Cappelen and John Hawthorne attempt to deal
with these problems. I argue that their attempt fails.
• Hob, Nob, and Mythical Witches, in Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O’Rourke, and
Harry S. Silverstein (eds..), Reference and Referring (2012), pp. 148-188, Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
This paper discusses Geach’s famous sentence: ‘Hob thinks that a witch has blighted
Bob’s mare, and Nob wonder whether she (the same witch) blighted Cob’s sow’. Nathan
Salmon claims that there is a reading of this sentence that attributes thoughts about
mythical witches to Hob and Nob. I argue that there is no such reading. I sketch an
alternative explanation of common intuitions about this sentence.
• Extension, Intension, Character, and Beyond, in Gillian Russell and Delia Graff Fara
(eds.), Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (2012), pp. 9-17, Oxford:
This theory explains various notions and terms commonly used in semantic theory.
• Knowing How and Knowing Answers, in Marc A. Moffett and John Bengson (eds.),
Knowing How (2011), pp. 244-260, New York: Oxford University Press.
I argue for a version of Intellectualism about knowing how. According to my version,
which I call ‘The Answer Theory’, an agent knows how to G if and only if she knows a
proposition that answers the question of how to G. But judgments about whether a
proposition answers the question of how to G vary from context to context. Once we
recognize this, it is easy to formulate effective replies to various objections to the Answer
• Implicating Questions, Mind & Language, 26 (2011), 574-595.
I modify Grice’s theory of conversational implicature so as to accommodate acts of
implicating propositions by asking questions, acts of implicating questions by asserting
propositions, and acts of implicating questions by asking questions.
• Persisting Problems for a Quantificational Theory of Complex Demonstratives,
Philosophical Studies 141 (2008), 243-262.
I criticized Jeffrey King’s quantificational theory of complex demonstratives in
“Problems for a Quantificational Theory of Complex Demonstratives” (below). King
replied in “Complex Demonstratives As Quantifiers” (Philosophical Studies 141 
209-242). In this paper, I comment on some of his replies.
• Complex Demonstratives and Their Singular Contents, Linguistics and Philosophy 31
I present a modified version of the direct-reference theory of complex demonstratives that
I gave in Braun 1994 (below). I respond to various objections to direct-reference
theories, including King’s objections from quantification into complex demonstratives.
• Problems for a Quantificational Theory of Complex Demonstratives, Philosophical
Studies 140 (2008), 335-358.
I argue that Jeffrey King’s quantificational theory of complex demonstratives has various
problems with modal sentences and attitude ascriptions.
• Vague, So Untrue (with Theodore Sider). Noûs 41 (2007), pp. 133-156.
Any sentence that contains a vague term is indeterminate in its content, and therefore fails
to have a truth value. However, such sentences have many legitimate disambiguations,
and if a sentence is true on all of its legitimate disambiguations, then a rational speaker
who is ignoring vagueness can assertively utter it.
• Comment on David Chalmers’s ‘Probability and Propositions’, for the Online Philosophy
Conference, May 2006. (Click here for a copy of Chalmers’s paper from his website.)
Chalmers argues that referential theories of meaning (e.g., Millianism) conflict with
Bayesian theories of rational belief. I argue that the problems that Chalmers raises for
Millianism resemble familiar problems (e.g., Frege’s puzzle) and that Millians can
respond to Chalmers’s objections in much the way that they have to the older objections.
• Now You Know Who Hong Oak Yun Is, Philosophical Issues 16 (2006), pp. 24-42.
To know who X is (or what X is, or how X got to Cleveland, and so on) is to know an
answer to the question of who X is (what X is, etc.). Some genuine answers to such
questions are rather uninformative. Thus knowing who X is requires knowing very little
about X. Contrary to widespread belief, ‘knows who’ ascriptions are not context-sensitive.
• Names and Natural Kind Terms, Handbook of Philosophy of Language (2006), Oxford
University Press, edited by Ernest Lepore and Barry C. Smith.
This is a survey of debates concerning the semantics of proper names and natural kind
terms. It is written (I hope) in a way that is appropriate for advanced undergraduate and
beginning graduate students.
• Illogical, But Rational, Noûs 40 (2006), pp. 376-379.
This paper is a reply to a paper by Stephen Schiffer, available below. Nathan Salmon
also wrote a reply, also available below. All three papers appeared together in the same
issue of Noûs.
Stephen Schiffer, A Problem for a Direct-Reference Theory of Belief Reports
Nathan Salmon, The Resilience of Illogical Belief
• Kripke’s Revenge (with Theodore Sider), Philosophical Studies 128 (2006), pp. 669-682.
A critical study of Scott Soames’s Beyond Rigidity.
• Empty Names, Fictional Names, Mythical Names, Noûs 39 (2005), pp. 596-631.
Sentences that contain non-referring names semantically express gappy propositions. The
name ‘Vulcan’ in Le Verrier’s language fails to refer and has no semantic content. In
some especially reflective semantic theorizers’ languages, it is ambiguous; on one
disambiguation, it fails to refer and has no semantic content, while on another it refers to
a mythical object and has that object as its content . In most speakers’ languages, the
name is indeterminate in reference and semantic content.
• Review of Michael Thau’s Consciousness and Cognition, Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research 69 (2004), pp 484-491.
Thau claims that visual experiences do not represent colors but rather properties that
correlate with colors. His argument for this claim depends on a version of Millianism
that denies that belief is mediated. I critically assess this view, and other aspects of
• Review of Scott Soames’s Beyond Rigidity, Linguistics and Philosophy 26 (2003), pp.
Soames says that a sentence that semantically express a singular proposition can be used
by a speaker to assert descriptive propositions. He uses this to reply to several arguments
against Millianism. I argue that Soames’s claim about assertion is insufficient to solve
certain Frege puzzles. Millians need to appeal to different ways of believing a single
proposition to solve these problems.
• Indexicals (html), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online).
• Simple Sentences, Substitutions, and Mistaken Evaluations (with Jennifer Saul),
Philosophical Studies 111 (2002), pp. 1-41.
Speakers sometimes resist substituting co-referring names in simple sentences. We argue
that their mistakes should not be explained by semantics or pragmatics, but rather by
certain psychological facts.
• Cognitive Significance, Attitude Ascriptions, and Ways of Believing, presented at the
Pacific APA, 2001. An abbreviated version of this paper was published in Philosophical
Studies 108, pp. 65-81.
Thau and Soames reply to Fregean objections to Millianism without appealing to distinct
ways of believing. I argue that these replies fail. I argue that Millians need to rely on the
claim that a single proposition can be believed in distinct ways.
• Russellianism and Prediction, Philosophical Studies 105 (2001), pp. 59-105.
Attitude ascriptions can be used to predict behavior. Some philosophers have argued that
this is inconsistent with Millian theories of proper names (in this paper, such views are
called ‘Russellian’ because they use Russellian propositons). I clarify and criticize such
arguments. Many such arguments are based on misconceptions about prediction, while
others underestimate the predictive strength of Millian attitude ascriptions.
• Russellianism and Explanation, Philosophical Perspectives 15 (2001).
Attitude ascriptions can be used to explain behavior. Some philosophers argue that this is
inconsistent with Millian theories of attitude ascriptions (here called ‘Russellian’). I
clarify and criticize these arguments. Most make false assumptions about explanation,
and most underestimate the amount of explanatory information provided by Millian
• Russellianism and Psychological Generalizations, Noûs 34 (2000), pp. 203-236.
Some law-like generalizations regarding beliefs, desires, and behavior seem true, e.g., “If
a person wants Twain to smile, and he thinks that if he waves, then Twain will smile,
then he will wave, other things being equal.” Some philosophers hold that this is
incompatible with Millianism (here called ‘Russellianism’). I respond to such criticisms.
• Understanding Belief Reports, Philosophical Review 107 (1998), pp. 555-595.
Some Millians have attempted to explain away anti-Millian intuitions (such as those
involved in Frege-puzzles) by appeal to pragmatics. I argue that these attempts are
implausible. However, if a single proposition can be believed in many different ways,
then Millians can reply to the problems without appealing to pragmatics.
• Demonstratives and Their Linguistic Meanings, Noûs 30 (1996).
David Kaplan’s theory of true demonstratives implausibly entails that some occurrences
of ‘that’ differ in linguistic meaning. I offer a modification of Kaplan’s theory that
distinguishes the linguistic meaning of a demonstrative from its character, given a
• What is Character?, Journal of Philosophical Logic 24 (1995), pp. 227-240.
Kaplan represents the character of an indexical with a function, but he is inconsistent in
his choice of function. I argue that his formal theory makes the wrong choice. I then
argue that character should not be identified with any sort of (extensional) function.
• Structured Characters and Complex Demonstratives, Philosophical Studies 74 (1994), pp.
Kaplan holds that contents are structured but that characters are (unstructured) functions.
I argue that characters are also structured. I first argue that complex demonstratives are
directly referential. I then give examples of non-synonymous complex demonstratives
that have the same functional character, but different structured characters.
• Causally Relevant Properties, Philosophical Perspectives 9 (1995), pp. 447-475.
I present an analysis of the ternary relation event c’s being F is causally relevant to event
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