Eliot Michaelson F'12

Eliot  Michaelson
King's College London

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2012
Doctoral Candidate
University of California, Los Angeles
This and That: An Inquiry into the Meaning and Use of Highly Context-Sensitive Terms

This dissertation proposes a new theory of what context-sensitive terms pick out, or refer to, relative to a context, and of how such terms are used to effectively transmit thoughts about objects. Standardly, the reference of such terms has been explained by appealing to speakers' mental states—in particular, to objects that speakers have in mind. Contrary to what this standard theory predicts, speakers can succeed in referring despite being confused about the world in ways that prevent them from having a single object in mind. On the alternative presented in this dissertation, speakers' mental states exhibit a distinctly plan-like structure. Careful attention to this structure allows for both the identification of a referent amidst ordinary confusion and for the development of a significantly improved theory of communication.