David Braun Home | Research | Teaching | CV


Research: Online Papers

David Braun


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.


          The Objects of Belief and Credence, forthcoming in Mind.

David Chalmers uses Bayesian theories of credence to argue against referentialism about belief. This paper argues that Chalmers’s Bayesian objections to referentialism are very similar to older, more familiar objections to referentialism. There are familiar responses to the old objections, and there is a predictable way to modify those old responses to meet Chalmers’s Bayesian objections. The new responses to the new objections are no less plausible than the old responses to the old objections. Chalmers’s positive theory of belief and credence is structurally similar to typical referential theories of those objects, but his theory is more speculative and dubious.

          Wondering About Witches, in Stuart Brock and Anthony Everett (Eds.), Fictional Objects (forthcoming 2015), Oxford University Press.

I discuss certain semantic problems raised by ‘witch’, ‘unicorn’, and other general terms that seem to apply to nothing. I also discuss issues about belief and other attitudes raised by speakers who use such terms.

          Desiring, Desires, and Desire Ascriptions, Philosophical Studies online.

Delia Graff Fara maintains that many desire ascriptions underspecify the content of the relevant agent’s desire. She argues that this is inconsistent with certain initially plausible claims about desiring, desires, and desire ascriptions. This paper defends those initially plausible claims. Part of the defense hinges on metaphysical claims about the relations among desiring, desires, and contents.

          Invariantism about ‘Can’ and ‘May’ (As Well as ‘Might’), Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (2013), pp. 181-185.

I argued for a non-relativist, invariantist theory of ‘might’ (in the paper immediately below). Yanovich (in a reply published in L&P 2013) argues that my theory is inconsistent with certain facts concerning diachronic meaning changes in ‘might’, ‘can’, and ‘may’. This paper replies to Yanovich’s objection.

          An Invariantist Theory of ‘Might’ Might Be Right, Linguistics and Philosophy 164 (2012), pp. 461-489.

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 164 (2013), pp. 485-511.

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: Routledge.

            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 Theory.

          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 [2008] 209-242). In this paper, I comment on some of his replies.

          Complex Demonstratives and Their Singular Contents, Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2008), 57-99.

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 Thau’s views.

          Review of Scott Soames’s Beyond Rigidity, Linguistics and Philosophy 26 (2003), pp. 365-78.

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 attitude ascriptions.

          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 demonstration.

          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. 193-219.

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 e.



David Braun Home | Research | Teaching | CV