Event Detail

Wed Dec 14, 2016
4–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Richard Lawrence
Who are the persons, and how many are the numbers?

How should we describe what nouns mean? We usually describe nouns as denoting classes of objects, but that view quickly leads to some philosophical puzzles. To see how we might avoid those puzzles, I focus on a class of nouns that I call categorial nouns, which includes nouns like ‘person’, ‘place’, ‘reason’, and ‘number’. I argue that our usual way of thinking about noun meaning cannot explain the special relationship between categorial nouns and question words, but this relationship suggests a better approach. Instead of describing nouns as denoting classes of objects, we should describe their meanings in terms of questions. This approach helps clarify what is at stake in philosophical debates about the reality of numbers, reasons, and other abstracta.