Semantic Models, Their Explanatory Force and Application
Semantic Models, Their Explanatory Force and Application
Doc. PhDr. František Gahér, CSc., Mgr. Lukáš Bielik, PhD., PhD. Dr. Vladimír Marko, PhD., prof. Mgr. Marián Zouhar, PhD., Mgr. Igor Sedlár, PhD., Mgr. Tomáš Orieščik, Mgr. Martin Vozák, Mgr. Miloš Kosterec
What are the minimal requirements that are to be met by semantic entities in order to be taken as models of meaning that are explanatory adequate? Our aim is to show in what the explanatory force of particular models consists in; we are interested in the semantics of scientific, technical, and natural languages. The explanatory force of particular models will be investigated on the basis of their capability to solve certain semantic phenomena such as anaphoric dependence in language, logical analysis of epistemological notions and attitudinal verbs, semantic profile of natural kind terms and related identity statements, relationships between the semantic content of an expression to that of its sub-expression, various semantic relations between various scientific theories, semantic representations of time, or the ways in which logical operators (propositional connectives, quantifiers, deontic operators, etc.) work in normative contexts (e.g., law).
The logico-semantic theories whose aim is to describe, or explicate, the meaning of expressions belonging to formal, or scientific, or natural languages can be taken as models representing semantic features of these languages. A theory ascribes to semantic entities such properties that guarantee that they enable us to explicate the meaning features of languages. What are the minimal requirements that are to be met by the chosen semantic entities in order to be taken as models of meaning that are adequate from the explanatory viewpoint? Different kinds of languages would call for different kinds of models because these languages entertain different meaning features that are connected with their specific function. The language of mathematics (i.e., a scientific language) differs in some important respects from the language of law (i.e., a technical language) and the two differ from natural languages widely considered (e.g., ordinary Slovak). Our aim is to show in what the explanatory force of particular models consists in. Various kinds of models are, as a rule, assorted into the followinggroups: a) extensional models, b) intensional ones, and c) hyperintensional ones. The explanatory force of particular models will be investigated on the basis of their capability to solve certain problematic semantic phenomena such as anaphoric dependence in language, logical analysis of epistemological notions and attitudinal verbs, semantic profile of natural kind terms and related identity statements, relationships between the semantic content of an expression to that of its sub-expression, various semantic relations between various scientific theories, semantic representations of time, or the ways in which logical operators work in normative contexts (e.g., law). In so doing, we deal with a) natural languages, b) the scientific language of mathematics, c) the scientific languages of empirical sciences, and d) the technical language of law.
In evaluating the explanatory force of extensional, intensional and hyperintensional models what is usually taken into account is their capability to explain various semantic phenomena (notably) in the natural language (Chierchia – McConell-Ginnet 1990; Cann 1993). What is missing, however, is a thoroughgoing evaluation of adequacy of these theories for particular kinds of languages. On the other hand, it often happens that a logico-semantic theory is justified provided it is capable to explain all semantic phenomena of a given kind of language. But the question about its expressive power in another kind of language is often merely implicit.
Various versions of intensional semantics based on the notion of possible worlds dominate in the current logical semantics. It is this kind of semantics that we take into account primarily; however, some other kinds of models will be discussed as well. The proponents of intensional semantics are aware that intensions themselves are not structured entities and, thus, they cannot be used to explain the structured nature of meanings of compound phrases. Anyway, various attempts at explaining the structured nature of meanings occur in intensional semantics without modifying the semantic framework. There are various attempts that work with so called structured intensions (King 2007 as the most recent attempt). However, these attempts are by no means satisfactory. The most promising option is to abandon intensional semantics in favour of hyperintensional ones resembling to, e.g., Transparent Intensional Logic (TIL; Tichý 1988, Tichý 2004, Duží – Jespersen – Materna 2010).
In spite of a wealth of persuasive arguments for non-extensional representation of meanings the extensional model still flourishes and is used to explicate certain kinds of problem, e.g., quantification, anaphora or the semantics of mathematical discourse. In particular, the last item in the list is of particular interest, because we do not need intensions in mathematical discourse; on the other hand it seems that a purely extensional model is not satisfactory either because it explains meanings of compound terms by simple semantic entities and this fact leads to various semantic, epistemological and doxastic problems. The hyperintensional approach based on TIL offers a remarkable solution in this area as well. For it is capable to capture the structure in terms of the constructions of extensional objects.
Concerning the logical analysis of epistemological notions, the most widespread apparatus is that of possible worlds semantics. Anyway, this approach is also subjected to critical assessment. One of the most widespread criticisms concerns the so called problem of logically perfect knowledge according to which the formal models of the notions of knowledge and justification are too strong (for example, the knowing agents know all logical truths and all logical consequences of their knowledge claims). Various ways to eliminate the problem of logically perfect knowledge have been proposed, but they are, in their essence, just various alterations of the possible worlds semantics. The latest contributions are the so called logics of justifications which, at the syntactic level, work not just with propositions as such but explicitly also with justifications of propositions.
The classical studies by Prior (1967) and Kamp (1968) are the key sources in investigating the theoretical properties of the current semantic models concerning time. They offer satisfactory foundations for analysis and permit the wide framework and theoretical foundation for solving the problems. Various practical and pragmatic techniques are not developed enough in order to enable a conclusive choice from the hypotheses on the market – these problems that well known from the antiquity still present classical examples for testing the explanatory force of current theories (Reaping Argument, Master Argument, Idle Argument, etc.)
Output Published in English
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