Language as Decision-Making


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Linguistics and Philosophy


For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2009-2010


Philosophers tend to believe that our use of language is governed by rules. Although this way of thinking is useful for certain purposes, it is inaccurate as a description of our everyday discourse, which is inevitably vague. This project proposes a conception of language which is based on decision-making (rather than rule-following), and shows that it dovetails with current linguistic theory. A distinctive feature of the project is that it based on an unorthodox methodology: the idea that traditional concerns in metaphysics should be disallowed as admissible constraints on philosophical theorizing. When metaphysical baggage is set aside, novel avenues of investigation become available, and long-standing philosophical problems can be addressed in natural and systematic ways.