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Philosophy of Language$
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Scott Soames

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780691138664

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691138664.001.0001

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Meaning, Modality, and Possible Worlds Semantics

Meaning, Modality, and Possible Worlds Semantics

Chapter Three Meaning, Modality, and Possible Worlds Semantics
Philosophy of Language

Scott Soames

Princeton University Press

This chapter begins with a discussion of Kripke-style possible worlds semantics. It considers one of the most important applications of possible worlds semantics, the account of counterfactual conditionals given in Robert Stalnaker and David Lewis. It then goes on to examine the work of Richard Montague. Montague specified syntactic rules that generate English, or English-like, structures directly, while pairing each such rule with a truth-theoretic rule interpreting it. This close parallel between syntax and semantics is what makes the languages of classical logic so transparently tractable, and what they were designed to embody. Montague's bold contention is that we do not have to replace natural language natural languages with formal substitutes to achieve such transparency. The same techniques employed to create formal languages can be used to describe natural languages in mathematically revealing ways.

Keywords:   Saul Kripke, possible worlds semantics, language, philosophy, Robert Stalnaker, David Lewis, Robert Montague, counterfactual conditionals, logic

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