Knowing That, Knowing Who, and Context

Philosophy 516: Selected Topics in Philosophy of Language

Fall 2005


Instructor:                              David Braun

Time & Location:                  Wednesdays 2:00-4:40, Lattimore 531

Office, Phone, E-mail:            Lattimore 525, (585) 275-8107,

Office Hours:                          Mondays 2:00-4:00.


Several philosophers have claimed that a single sentence containing ‘knows that’ (such as ‘John knows that Hillary Clinton is a senator’) can have different truth-values in different contexts, depending on the epistemic standards in force in those contexts. Many epistemologists and philosophers of language have criticized this view. Several (other) philosophers have claimed that a single sentence containing ‘knows who’ (such as ‘John knows who Hillary Clinton is’) can have different truth-values in different contexts, depending on the interests of the speakers in those contexts. Virtually no one has criticized this view. We will critically examine, compare, and contrast the semantic claims of both theories. We will begin with some background material, including theories of “what is said”, semantic content, indexicals, contexts, assertion, and implicature. Next, we will turn to the enormous literature on contextualist theories of ‘knows that’. We will then consider analogous contextualist views of ‘knows who’. This will lead us into the theory of questions and answers and the semantics of interrogative sentences.


I will assume that students in this seminar have taken courses that are equivalent to our Philosophy 247/447 (Philosophy of Language) and Philosophy 243/443 (Theory of Knowledge). Knowledge of the material in Philosophy 217/417 (Logical Methods in Philosophy) or Philosophy 249/449 (Formal Semantics) will be useful when we turn to the literature on questions and answers. Undergraduates must have my written permission to enroll in the course.


Our readings will be articles and chapters of books that I will put on reserve in the Beck library.


1.         Weekly comment papers, about 1-2 pages.

2.        A class presentation.

3.         A longer paper, about 12 pages, due Monday, December 12, 2005.

Weekly Comment Papers

You will write a 1-2 page comment paper every week, except for those weeks near the end of the semester when we have student presentations. Each paper will comment on the readings for that week. The deadline for comment papers will be 8:30 am on Wednesday. You may either e-mail me your comment paper or put a hard copy in my mailbox. If you use e-mail, you must send your comment to me as a Word attachment, and I will attempt to e-mail you my comments before the beginning of class that day. If you give me a hard copy, I will return it to you with comments at the beginning of class. I may discuss your comment during class.

Class Presentations

Your presentation will be an opportunity for you to get comments on a draft of your long paper. You will make a rough draft of your long paper available several days before the day of your presentation. (Details to be discussed later.) Your presentation, and our discussion of your presentation, should take about half of a seminar session (about 1.25 hours). All students are expected to read the papers in advance and to be prepared to make comments. The number of seminar sessions that we dedicate to presentations will depend on the number of students enrolled. I expect us to use at least the seminar meetings of November 30 and December 7 for presentations.

Long Paper

The most straightforward sort of paper to write is a critique of a published paper on a topic relevant to this course. Your “target” may be an article or book that we discuss in class.


Comment papers: 15%          Class Presentation: 15%       Long paper: 70%

Readings and Schedule

Tentative and Subject to Revision


1. September 7 Introduction, and preliminaries concerning “what is said”: semantic content, indexicals, context.

Braun, David. 2001. “Indexicals.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Kaplan, David. 1989. “Demonstratives.” From J. Almog, J. Perry, and H. Wettstein (eds), Themes from Kaplan, New York: Oxford University Press.

Stalnaker, Robert. 1974. “Pragmatic Presuppositions.” In Milton K. Munitz and Peter Unger (eds.), Semantics and Philosophy. New York: New York University Press. Reprinted in Stalnaker 1999, Context and Content, New York: Oxford.


2. September 14 Preliminaries concerning “what is said”, continued: pragmatics, assertion, implicature. Introduction to epistemic contextualism.

Lewis, David. 1979. “Scorekeeping in a Language Game.” Journal of Philosophical Logic 8, 339-59. Reprinted in Lewis 1983, Philosophical Papers, Volume 1. New York: Oxford.

Grice, H.P. 1967. “Logic and Conversation.” In A.P. Martinich (ed.), Philosophy of Language. New York: Oxford University Press. Also in Grice 1989, Studies in the Ways of Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bach, Kent. 2005. “Context ex Machina.” In Zoltán Szabó (ed.), Semantics versus Pragmatics, 15-44. New York: Oxford University Press. Also at his website.

Lewis, David. 1996. “Elusive Knowledge.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74, 549-67. Reprinted in Lewis 1999, Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press.

3. September 21 Contextualism, continued

Cohen, Stewart. 1999. “Contextualism, Skepticism, and the Structure of Reasons.” Philosophical Perspectives 13, 57-89.

DeRose, Keith. 1999. “Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense.” In J. Greco and E. Sosa (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, 187-205. Oxford: Blackwell.

4. September 28 Semantic criticisms of contextualism

Schiffer, Stephen. 1996. “Contextualist Solutions to Scepticism.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 96, 317-33.

Hawthorne, John. 2004. Knowledge and Lotteries (selected pages). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stanley, Jason. 2004. “On the Linguistic Basis for Contextualism.” Philosophical Studies 119, 119-146.

Bach, Kent. Forthcoming. “The Emperor’s New ‘Knows’.” In Preyer and Peter (forthcoming).

Cappelen, Herman and Lepore, Ernest. 2004. Insensitive Semantics (selections). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

5. October 5 Contextualist replies

DeRose, Keith. Forthcoming. “‘Bamboozled by Our Own Words’: Semantic Blindness and Some Objections to Contextualism.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. At DeRose’s website:

Ludlow, Peter. Forthcoming. “Contextualism and the New Linguistic Turn in Epistemology.” In Preyer and Peter (eds.) At Ludlow’s website:

6. October 12 Contextualist replies, continued

Richard, Mark. 2004. “Contextualism and Relativism.” Philosophical Studies 119, 215-242.

McFarlane, John. Forthcoming. “The Assessment Sensitivity of Knowledge Attributions.” In Tamar Szabo Gendler and John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Available at McFarlane’s website:

7. October 19 Knowing who

Hintikka, Jaakko. 1962. Knowledge and Belief, selections. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Boer, Stephen and Lycan, William. 1975. “Knowing Who.” Philosophical Studies 28, 299-344.

8. October 26 Questions and answers

Jeroen Groenendijk and Martin Stokhof. 1997. “Questions.” In Johan van Benthem and Alice ter Meulen (Eds.), Handbook of Logic and Language, pp. 1055-1124. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

9. November 2 Questions and answers and knowing-wh.

Stanley, Jason and Williamson, Timothy. 2001. “Knowing How.” Journal of Philosophy 98, 411-444.

Braun, David. Forthcoming. “Now You Know Who Hong Oak Yun Is.” Philosophical Issues.

10. November 9 Questions, answers, and knowing-wh, continued.

11. November 16 Catch up and review

No class on November 23 - Thanksgiving

12. November 30 Student presentations

13. December 7 Student presentations

Suggestions for Further Reading

Sources for several articles listed above and below

Preyer, George and Peter, Georg. Forthcoming. Contextualism in Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philosophical Studies 119 (2004), special issue on contextualism

Philosophical Quarterly 55 (2005), special issue on contextualism.

Indexicals, context, and critiques of Kaplan

Salmon, Nathan. 1986. Frege’s Puzzle, chapter 2, section 2, on tense. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Richard, Mark. 2004. “Introduction to Part 1.” In Aleksandr Jokic and Quentin Smith (eds.), Time, Tense, and Reference. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Assertion, context, and context change

Stalnaker, Robert. 1978. “Assertion.” In Syntax and Semantics 9. New York: Academic Press. Reprinted in Stalnaker 1999, Context and Content, New York: Oxford.

Stalnaker, Robert. 1974. “Pragmatic Presuppositions.” In Milton K. Munitz and Peter Unger (eds.), Semantics and Philosophy. New York: New York University Press. Reprinted in Stalnaker 1999, Context and Content, New York: Oxford.

Chiercha and McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 2000. Meaning and Grammar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (See chapters on context-change.)

Pragmatic matters

Bach, Kent. 1994. “Conversational Impliciture.” Mind & Language 9, 124-62. Available at his website:

Bach, Kent. Forthcoming. “Speech Acts and Pragmatics.” In Michael Devitt and Richard Hanley (eds.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Language. Oxford: Blackwell. Available at his website:

Carston, Robyn. 2004. “Relevance Theory and the Saying/Implicating Distinction.” In Laurence Horn and Gregory Ward (eds.), The Handbook of Pragmatics, 633-656. Oxford: Blackwell.

Horn, Laurence. 2004. “Implicature.” In Laurence Horn and Gregory Ward (eds.), The Handbook of Pragmatics, 3-28. Oxford: Blackwell.

Horn, Laurence. 1996. “Presupposition and Implicature.” In Shalom Lappin (ed.), The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory, 299-319. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kripke, Saul. 1977. “Speaker Reference and Semantic Reference.” In P. French, T. Uehling, and H. Wettstein (eds.), Contemporary Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language, 6-17. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

In favor of contextualism about ‘knows that’

Cohen, Stewart. 1988. “How To Be a Fallibilist.” Philosophical Perspectives 2, 91-123.

Cohen, Stewart. 2001. “Contextualism Defended: Comments on Richard Feldman’s ‘Skeptical Problems, Contextualist Solutions’.” Philosophical Studies 103, 87-98.

Cohen, Stewart. 2005. “Knowledge, Speaker, and Subject.” Philosophical Quarterly 55, 199-            212.

DeRose, Keith. 1992. “Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52, 913-29.

DeRose, Keith. 1995. “Solving the Skeptical Puzzle.” Philosophical Review 104, 1-52.

DeRose, Keith. 2002. “Assertion, Knowledge, and Context.” Philosophical Review 111, 167-203.

DeRose, Keith. 2004. “Single Scoreboard Semantics.” Philosophical Studies 119, 1-21.

DeRose, Keith. 2005. “The Ordinary Language Basis for Contextualism and the New Invariantism.” Philosophical Quarterly 44, 172-198.

Criticisms of contextualism about ‘knows that’ (mixed with some replies to criticisms)

Brueckner, Anthony. 2005. “Contextualism, Hawthorne’s Invariantism, and Third-Person Cases.” Philosophical Quarterly 55, 315-318.

Cappelen, Herman and Lepore, Ernest. 2003. “Context Shifting Arguments.” Philosophical Perspectives.

Feldman, Richard. 1999. “Contextualism and Skepticism.” Philosophical Perspectives 13,


Feldman, Richard. 2001. “Skeptical Problems, Contextualist Solutions.” Philosophical Studies 103, 61-85.

Feldman, Richard. 2003. Epistemology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Feldman, Richard. 2004. “Comments on DeRose’s ‘Single Scoreboard Semantics’.” Philosophical Studies 119, 23-33.

Heller, Mark. 1999. “The Proper Role of Contextualism in Anti-Luck Epistemology.” Philosophical Perspectives 13, 115-29.

Hofweber, Thomas. 1999. “Contextualism and the Meaning-Intention Problem.” In K Korta, E. Sosa, and J. Arrazola (eds.), Cognition, Agency, and Rationality, 93-104. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Kompa, Nikola. 2000. “The Context Sensitivity of Knowledge Ascriptions.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 64, 1-18.

Neta, Ram. 2003. “Skepticism, Contextualism, and Semantic Self-Knowledge.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67, 396-411.

Rysiew, Patrick. 2001. “The Context-Sensitivity of Knowledge Attributions.” Nous 35, 477-514.

Schaffer, Jonathan. 2004. “From Contextualism to Contrastivism in Epistemology.” Philosophical Studies 119, 73-103.

Stalnaker, Robert. 2004. “Comments on Schaffer’s ‘From Contextualism to Contrastivism’.”             Philosophical Studies 119, 105-117.

Williamson, Timothy. 2005. “Contextualism, Subject-sensitive Invariantism, and Knowledge of Knowledge.” Philosophical Quarterly 55, 213-235

Williamson, Timothy. Forthcoming. “Knowledge and Skepticism.” Oxford Handbook of Analytic Philosophy. Available at:

Williamson, Timothy. Forthcoming. “Knowledge, Context, and the Agent’s Point of View.” In Preyer and Peter (eds.), Contextualism in Philosophy. Available at his website:

Gradable and comparative adjectives

Kennedy, Christopher. Forthcoming. “Towards a Grammar of Vagueness.” See Kennedy’s website:

Kennedy, Chris. Forthcoming. “Comparatives, Semantics of.” Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Second Edition. Available at Kennedy’s website:

Rusieciki, Jan. 1985. Adjectives and Comparisons in English: A Semantic Study. New York: Longman.

Attitude ascriptions, context-sensitivity, and assertion

Soames, Scott. 2002. Beyond Rigidity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Richard, Mark. 1990. Propositional Attitudes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richard, Mark. Forthcoming. “Meaning and Attitude Ascriptions.” Philosophical Studies.

Knowing Who

Boer, Stephen and Lycan, William. 1986. Knowing Who. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kaplan, David. 1969. “Quantifying In.” In D. Davidson and J. Hintikka (eds.), Words and Objections: Essays on the Work of W. V. Quine, 178-214, Dordrecht: Reidel. Also reprinted in Linsky, see above.

Salmon, Nathan. 1987. “How to Measure the Standard Metre.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 88, 193-217.

Quine, Willard Van Orman. 1981. “Intensions Revisited.” In Peter French, T. Uehling, and Howard Wettstein (Eds.), Contemporary Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language, pp. 268-274. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Salmon, Nathan. Unpublished. “Three Perspectives on Quantifying In.”

Sosa, Ernest. 1970. “Propositional Attitudes De Dictu and De Re.” Journal of Philosophy 67, 883-896.

Questions and Answers

Ginzburg, Jonathan. 1996. “Interrogatives: Questions, Facts and Dialogue.” In Lappin 1996, 385-422.

Higginbotham, James. 1996. “The Semantics of Questions.” In Lappin 1996, pp. 361-383.

Lappin, Shalom. 1996. Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory, 385-422. Oxford: Blackwell.

Karttunen, Lauri. 1977. “Syntax and Semantics of Questions.” Linguistics and Philosophy 1, pp. 3-44.

Schiffer, Stephen. 2002. “Amazing Knowledge.” Journal of Philosophy 99, 200-202.


Bach, Kent. Forthcoming. “Semantic Minimalism Without Minimal Propositions” (comments on Cappelen and Lepore). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

Lasersohn, Peter. 1999. “Pragmatic Halos.” Language 75, 522-51.

Unger, Peter. 1975. Ignorance: A Case for Scepticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Unger, Peter. 1984. Philosophical Relativity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.