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The Australian National University

Justin D’Ambrosio (Australian National University): Hallucination and the New Problem of Empty Names

Date and time

Thu, 05/10/2017 - 15:30 - 17:30


Coombs Seminar Room A

In this paper, I argue that, on very natural reconstructions, the problem of hallucination and the problem of empty names are structurally identical down to an extremely fine level of granularity, and also overlap significantly in terms of their content. I show that the problems follow from the same two general principles concerning representation—the principles of Significance and Uniformity—and have the same conclusion in their respective domains: that content is not dependent on ordinary physical objects. I then use this structural identity to motivate an Anscombian approach to the problem of empty names, and to develop a novel non-relational view of semantic content within this framework. In response to the problem of hallucination, Anscombe [1965] argued that verbs of perception and sensation are intensional transitive verbs (ITVs), and claimed that we could solve the problem of hallucination by determining the correct semantics for the object positions of ITVs. In previous work, I have shown that semantic verbs are intensional transitives: “refers”, just like “perceives”, “hallucinates”, and “seeks”, has an intensional reading. As a consequence, we can give an account of the semantic values of empty names by determining the semantic contribution of the NP in the object position of an ITV, and two of the most promising approaches to the semantics of ITVs provide them with a non-relational semantics. This allows us to develop a novel, non-relational account of semantic content that I call “semantic adverbialism”. 

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