The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Mon Nov 21, 2011
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Michael Rieppel (University of California, Berkeley)
Being Something: Properties and Predicative Quantification

An adequate account of the semantic function of predicates has to make room for the fact that natural language allows quantification into predicate position — as in “Oscar is something (namely happy)” — just as much as it allows quantification into nominal position — as in “Someone (namely Oscar) is happy”. An intuitively compelling way to make sense of this phenomenon is to say that predicative quantifiers quantify over properties. This approach seems to face a problem, however. Properties are objects of a certain sort, quantified over in nominally quantified sentences like “Steel has some properties aluminum lacks”. They furthermore seem precisely not to be the things predicative quantifiers quantify over: although happy is something Oscar is, the property of being happy surely isn’t. I argue that such worries shouldn’t lead us to deny that predicative quantifiers quantify over properties, but should rather move us to distinguish the semantic relations predicative and nominal expressions bear to the items they denote. Predicative quantifiers differ from nominal quantifiers over properties not in terms of what they quantify over, but in terms of the semantic relation the bound variables bear to the properties they take as values.