The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Wed Mar 18, 2020
234 Moses Hall, 6–7:30 PM
Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science
Ivano Caponigro (University of California, San Diego)
Logic and Grammar: Richard Montague’s Turn towards Natural Language

In the early 60s, Richard Montague (1930-1971) still believed that: “[The] systematic exploration of the English language, indeed of what might be called the ‘logic of ordinary English’, […] would be either extremely laborious or impossible. In any case, the authors of the present book would not find it rewarding.” Just a few years later, he radically changed his mind: “There is philosophic interest in attempting to analyze ordinary English” and “I reject the contention that an important theoretical difference exists between formal and natural languages.” At the very same time—not by chance—Montague changed his beliefs in what should be the adequate framework for philosophy: from “set theory with individuals and the possible addition of empirical predicates” to higher-order “intensional logic.” These changes coincide with the beginning of Montague’s seminal work on natural language semantics that culminated with the last three papers he published before his sudden and violent death. In this talk, I examine these changes with the goal of understanding what motivated them and what light these motivations may shed on Montague’s subsequent work on natural language. This investigation is presented as part of a broader ongoing project of an intellectual and personal biography of Montague.