Honoring Josef Stern

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago is organizing a conference in honor of Josef Stern, William H. Colvin Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy and in the College, and Inaugural Director of the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies. The conference will be an occasion to honor Josef Stern’s work and his contributions to the University, where he retired in the Spring quarter 2016 after having taught almost continuously since 1979.

The conference will be held at the Franke Institute for the Humanities on December 4–5, 2016. More info here.

DEON 2016

Deontic Logic and Normative Systems 2016 is starting a week from today at the University of Bayreuth. It was great working on the program with Olivier Roy and Allard Tamminga, and we have a great lineup, including keynotes from John Broome, Janice Dowell, Gabriella Pigozzi, and Xavier Parent. More info here.

March Events

This March will see me attend three wonderful events as speaker or commentator:

So it will be a busy month but I look forward to spending time with a great bunch of philosophers and linguists.

Modality and Subjectivity Workshop

There'll be a one-day workshop on modality and subjectivity, free and open to the public, here at the University of Chicago on April 22nd. We managed to get a great crowd together, so it should be a lot of fun. More info here.

Central APA

Those who are interested and happen to be in the area can see me present my paper "Advice for Noncognitivists" at this year's Central APA (Thursday February 19, 12:10–2:10). Ezra Cook will chair the session and Thony Gillies kindly agreed to comment, so it promises to be a blast. Here is the abstract of the talk:

Metaethical noncognitivists have trouble arriving at a respectable semantic theory for moral language. The goal of this paper is make substantial progress toward demonstrating that these problems may be overcome. Replacing the predominant expressivist semantic agenda in metaethics with a dynamic perspective on meaning and communication allows noncognitivists to provide a satisfying analysis of negation and other constructions that have been argued to be problematic for metaethical noncognitivism, including disjunctions. The resulting proposal preserves some of the key insights from recent work on the semantics of expressivism while highlighting the widely neglected early noncognitivists' sympathies to a dynamic perspective on meaning and communication that stresses the role of moral language as a means for coordinating—rather than simply expressing—moral attitudes.

Talk, Talk, Talk Again

This busy fall season I will be delivering talks on dynamic conditionals and on metaethical noncognitivism at the following events:

  • PhLiP 2014 in Tarrytown, September 25–28 (more info here)
  • Semantic Content Workshop in Barcelona, November 6–8 (more info here)
  • Workshop on Modality and Probabilistic Semantics in Leeds, November 22–23

The material on dynamic conditionals elaborates upon my earlier work on indicative scorekeeping. The other material is brand new and tries to show that dynamic semantics has something useful to offer for those who are sympathetic to the noncognitivist agenda in metaethics.

Central APA

Those who are interested and happen to be in Chi-town at the end of February can see me present my paper "A Problem with Thinning" at this year's Central APA (Thursday February 27, 4:20–5:20, during a joyful session on Conditionals and Epistemic Modality). Here is the abstract of the talk:

I discuss a problem for the classical variably strict analysis of indicative conditionals. The problem is based on the observation, highlighted by Sobel sequences, that indicative conditionals resist thinning: a contingent indicative conditional does not retain its truth-value if one strengthens its antecedent with an arbitrary bit of information. I argue that, given minimal assumptions about the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, a variably strict analysis of indicative conditionals is empirically inadequate: it fails to account for the observation that indicative Sobel sequences are not only consistent but also assertible. The paper thus exploits data about thinning to argue against a prominent analysis of conditionals, but unlike previous discussions does not appeal to considerations about order-sensitivity to derive the problem.

Amsterdam Colloquium

This year's Amsterdam Colloquium will see me present my paper "Indicative Scorekeeping." A draft of the piece that is forthcoming in the conference proceedings is available in the Research section and the abstract is below.

Folklore has it that counterfactual Sobel sequences favor a variably strict analysis of conditionals over its plainly strict alternative. Recent discussions of the lore have focussed on the question whether data about reverse counterfactual Sobel sequences actually speak in favor of a dynamic revival of the strict analysis. This paper takes the discussion into a new direction by looking at straight indicative Sobel sequences. The observation is that a variably strict analysis fails to predict the felicity of these sequences given minimal semantic and pragmatic assumptions. A properly elaborated dynamic analysis of indicatives, in contrast, handles the data with grace.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Those who are interested can hear me talk about conditionals and deontic modals (and in some cases even deontic conditionals) at the following joyful events:

  • Workshop on Deontic Modals at Northwestern, April 19 (more info here)
  • USC Deontic Modality Workshop, May 20–22 (program here)
  • Conditionals Workshop at the MCMP, June 29–30

A bit of the material presented elaborates on my previous work on ifs and oughts, but there will also be plenty of new material for those who have listened to my stories before.

Update: the world is moving fast these days—the posting was outdated after merely 3 hours—and only two of the three events are actually going to happen.


The schedule for this year’s Semantics and Linguistic Theory is now online here, together with some other useful information. Needless to say, it is great to have such a distinguished event happening here at UChicago!