Friday, February 2: Yimei Xiang [pt. II]

Please join us this Friday as Yimei Xiang (Linguistics, Harvard) presents work on exhaustivity in attitudes.

Date and time: Friday, February 2, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Complete and true: attitudes held of questions


Attitudes (e.g., knowledge, memory, emotion, and so on) held of questions must be complete and true. For example, the sentence “Jenny knows who left” has two conditions: a Completeness condition, that Jenny knows an answer that completely addresses the question “who left”, and a false answer (FA-)sensitivity condition, that Jenny has no false belief relevant to “who left”. Completeness is standardly equivocated to exhaustiveness. For example, a complete answer of “who left” should exhaustively specify all the individuals who left. Adopting this assumption, recent works on question embedding treat the FA-sensitivity condition as a scalar implicature of Completeness and derive it via exhaustification (Klinedinst & Rothschild 2011, Uegaki 2015, Cremers 2016, Theiler et al 2016).
However, investigating into mention-some readings of questions with existential modals (e.g., “Who can chair the committee?”), I argue for a non-exhaustive definition of Completeness that unifies mention-some and mention-all readings of questions (Fox 2013). Further, drawing on observations validated experimentally, I argue against the exhaustification-based account of FA-sensitivity: the FA-sensitivity condition is much stronger than what it can be defined as in any exhaustification-based account. It is concerned with all the relevant false answers, including those that can never be complete. This generalization also suggests a non-trivial prediction against the reducibility view: to recover all the relevant false answers, questions under attitudes must be able to supply partitions; hence, attitudes held of a question cannot be reduced to attitudes held of one answer of this question.

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