Insensitive enough semantics


  • Richard Vallée Université de Moncton



According to some philosophers, sentences like (1) “It is raining” and (2) “John is ready” are context sensitive sentences even if they do not contain indexicals or demonstratives. That view initiated a context sensitivity frenzy. Cappelen and Lepore (2005) summarize the frenzy by the slogan “Every sentence is context sensitive” (Insensitive Semantics, p. 6, note 5). They suggest a view they call Minimalism according to which the truth conditions of utterances of sentences like (1)/(2) are exactly what Convention T gives you. I will distinguish different propositions, and refocus semantics on sentences. As distinct from what the protagonists in the ongoing debate think, I argue that the content or truth conditions of utterances of both context sensitive sentences and sentences like (1)/(2) are not interesting from a semantic point of view, and that the problem sentences like (1)/(2) raises is not about context sensitivity or context insensitivity of sentences, but relevance of the content of utterances.