BOOKS & Papers

Note: placement under one or another category below is often somewhat arbitrary.

Please access and cite papers appropriately in their final versions.

Papers on Perspectives

"Imaginative Frames for Scientific Inquiry: Metaphors, Telling Facts, and Just-So Stories"

in The Scientific Imagination, ed. P. Godfrey-Smith and A. Levy (OUP 2019), 304-336.

I distinguish among a range of distinct representational devices, which I call "frames", all of which have the function of providing a perspective on a subject: an overarching intuitive principle or for noticing, explaining, and responding to it. Starting with Max Black's metaphor of metaphor as etched lines on smoked glass, I explain what makes frames in general powerful cognitive tools. I distinguish metaphor from some of its close cousins, especially telling details, just-so stories, and analogies, in ordinary cognition and communication. And I use these distinctions to illustrate different sorts of gaps that frames or models can open up between representation and reality.

Perspectives and Frames in Pursuit of Ultimate Understanding"

in Varieties of Understanding: New Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology, ed. S. Grimm (OUP 2019), 17-45.

Our ordinary and theoretical talk are rife with “framing devices”: expressions that function, not just to communicate factual information, but to suggest an intuitive way of thinking about their subjects. Framing devices can also play an important role in individual cognition, as slogans, precepts, and models that guide inquiry, explanation, and memory. At the same time, however, framing devices are double-edged swords. Communicatively, they can mold our minds into a shared pattern, even when we would rather resist. Cognitively, the intuitive power of a frame can blind us both to known features that don’t fit easily within the frame, and also to “unknown unknowns” we have not yet encountered. Thus, perhaps Locke is right to disavow such “eloquent inventions” as “perfect cheats” that “insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and thereby mislead the judgment.” Against this, I argue that while the metaphor of double-edged swords is indeed apt, this is because frames are tools for thought. Like any tool, they can be used well or badly; but they do not fall outside the realm of rationality altogether. I describe how framing devices express open-ended perspectives, which produce structured intuitive characterizations of particular subjects. I argue that frames can make effective, distinctive epistemic contributions in the course of inquiry, and that the cognitive structures that frames produce can contribute to, and constitute, epistemic achievements in their own right, even in highly idealized circumstances at the nominal end of inquiry. Throughout, I focus especially on scientific understanding, because it serves as a paradigm case of rational inquiry, from which frames and perspectives are most likely to be excluded.

"Perspectives in Imaginative Engagement with Fiction"

Philosophical Perspectives: Philosophy of Mind 31:1, ed. J. Hawthorne (2017) 31:1, 73-102.

Recent philosophical attention to fiction has focused on imaginative resistance, especially with respect to moral matters, and has concluded that moral attitudes are distinctively hard to shift, even in imagination. However, we also need to explain ‘disparate response’: readers’ ability and willingness to alter their emotional, moral and other evaluative responses from those they would have to the same situation in real life. I argue that a unified explanation of both imaginative resistance and disparate response needs to appeal to perspectives. Trying on a perspective involves more than imagining an experience or the truth of a set of propositions: it requires actually structuring one’s intuitive thinking in the relevant way. A perspectival account better comports with empirical evidence of malleability in readers’ responses to both fiction and non-fiction, and more accurately predicts when imaginative resistance and accommodation actually arise.

"Wordsworth's Prelude, Poetic Autobiography, and Narrative Constructions of the Self" vol. 3, (2011), 34 pp.

Humans are inveterate storytellers. We make incessant and insistent narrative sense of the world around us and of our place in it, so much so that some scholars have suggested "homo narrans" as a more appropriate identifying description for our species than "homo sapiens". Indeed, a long-standing tradition holds that our very self-identities have an essentially narrative shape: that who each of us is is determined by the stories of our lives, and that in some sense we create ourselves by crafting those stories. In this essay, I focus on an especially compelling case of narrative self-construction: Wordsworth's Prelude. I argue that we do need rich, substantive selves of the sort delivered by narratives like The Prelude, both in order to evaluate our past actions and to guide future ones. However, the very feature which makes Wordsworth's poem so rhetorically powerful as an autobiography—his invocation of a robust teleological structure, which is imposed on him from infancy by Nature also prevents us from embracing it as a model for our own self-understanding, because it conflicts sharply with modern views about ontology. Contemporary advocates of a narrative conception of the self, such as Jerome Bruner, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Marya Schectman, drop The Prelude's objectionable ontological assumptions. But rather than placing the narrative conception of self on a firm metaphysical foundation, this actually intensifies the threat of fictionalism: the risk that the selves we fashion through stories are mere self-deluding illusions. I conclude by gesturing toward the characters within stories as an alternative literary model that avoids many of these problems.

"Two Varieties of Literary Imagination: Metaphor, Fiction, and Thought Experiments"

Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Poetry and Philosophy 33:1 (2009), 107-130.

I contrast the imaginative activity involved in pretending something to be true with that involved in metaphorical construal, arguing that the two activities differ in their direction of fit, mechanism of interpretation, and phenomenology. More generally, pretense involves the imaginative manipulation of what we take to be so, while metaphor reconfigures how we think about what is so. I show that fiction and poetry both make use of both interpretive activities; in particular, both can provide us with "metaphors for life" by inviting us to use an imagined scenario as a frame through which to interpret our own lives. Finally, there may be an appropriate role for both species of imagination within philosophy itself.

"Showing, Telling, and Seeing: Metaphor and 'Poetic' Language"

The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication (2008), 1-24.

Theorists often associate certain "poetic" qualities with metaphor, most especially, producing an open-ended, holistic perspective which is evocative, imagistic, and affectively-laden. I argue that, on the one hand, non-cognitivist's are wrong to claim that metaphors only produce such perspectives: like ordinary literal speech, they also serve to undertake claims and other speech acts with propositional content. On the other hand, contextualists are wrong to assimilate metaphor to literal loose talk: metaphors depend on using one thing as a perspective for thinking about something else. I bring out the distinctive way that metaphor works by contrasting it with two other poetic uses of language, juxtapositions and "telling details," that do fit the accounts of metaphor offered by non-cognitivist's and contextualists, respectively.

"Metaphor and That Certain 'Je Ne Sais Quoi'"

Philosophical Studies 129:1 (2006), 1-25.

Contrary to what many proponents of metaphor have claimed, metaphors don't do anything different in kind from what can be done with literal speech. But this does not render metaphor theoretically dispensable or irrelevant, as many analytic philosophers have assumed. In certain circumstances, I argue, metaphors can enable speakers to communicate contents that cannot be stated in fully literal and explicit terms. These cases thus serve as counterexamples to John Searle's 'Principle of Expressibility', the idea that whatever can be meant can be said. Indeed, metaphors can sometimes provide us with our only cognitive access to certain properties. Thinking about metaphor is useful because it draws our attention to patterns and processes of thought that play a pervasive role in our ordinary thought and talk, and that extend our basic communicative and cognitive resources.

An abstract of my dissertation, Saying and Seeing-as: The Linguistic Uses and Cognitive Effects of Metaphor.

Papers on Meaning

"Insinuation, Common Ground, and the Conversational Record"

in New Work on Speech Acts, ed. D. Harris, D. Fogal and M. Moss (OUP 2018), 40-66.

Most philosophical and linguistic theorizing about meaning focuses on cooperative forms of communication. However, much verbal communication involves parties whose interests are not fully aligned, or who do not know their degree of alignment. In such contexts, speakers sometimes turn to insinuation: implicatures that permit deniability about risky attitudes and contents. I argue that insinuation is a form of speaker's meaning in which speakers communicate potentially risky attitudes and contents without adding them to the conversational record, or sometimes even to the common ground.

"Slurs as Dual-Act Expressions"

in Bad Words: Philosophical Perspectives on Slurs, ed. D. Sosa (OUP 2018), 29-59.

Slurs are incendiary terms so much that many ordinary speakers and theorists deny that sentences containing them can ever be true, and utterances where they occur embedded within normally "quarantining" contexts, like conditionals and indirect reports, are still typically offensive. At the same time, however, many speakers and theorists also find it obvious that sentences containing slurs can be true; and there are clear cases where embedding does inoculate a speaker from the slur's offensiveness. I argue that four standard accounts of the "other" element that differentiates slurs from their more neutral counterparts semantic content, perlocutionary effect, presupposition, and conventional implicature all fail to account for this puzzling mixture of intuitions about truth, and for this mixture of projection and quarantining. Instead, I propose that slurs make two distinct, coordinated contributions to a sentence's conventional communicative role: predication of group membership and endorsement of a derogating perspective on the group. Predication of group membership is "at issue" by default, but different semantic and conversational contexts can alter the relative prominence and scope of the two contributions.

"Why Metaphors Make Good Insults: Perspectives, Presupposition, and Pragmatics"

Philosophical Studies 174:1 (2017), 47-64.

Metaphors are powerful communicative tools because they produce "framing effects". These effects are especially palpable when the metaphor is an insult that denigrates the hearer or someone he cares about. In such cases, just comprehending the metaphor produces a kind of "complicity" that cannot easily be undone by denying the speaker's claim. Several theorists have taken this to show that metaphors are engaged in a different line of work from ordinary communication. Against this, I argue that metaphorical insults are rhetorically powerful because they combine perspectives, presupposition, and pragmatics in the service of speech acts with assertoric force.

"Conventions' Revenge: Davidson, Derangement, and Dormativity"

Inquiry 59:1 (2016), 113-138.

Davidson advocates a radical and powerful form of anti-conventionalism, on which the scope of a semantic theory is restricted to the most local of contexts: a particular utterance by a particular speaker. I argue that this hyper-localism undercuts the explanatory grounds for his assumption that semantic meaning is systematic, which is central, among other things, to his holism. More importantly, it threatens to undercut the distinction between word meaning and speaker's meaning, which he takes to be essential to semantics. I argue that a moderate form of conventionalism can restore systematicity and the word/speaker distinction while accommodating Davidson's insights about the complexities and contextual variability of language use.

"Metaphor and Varieties of Meaning"

A Companion to Donald Davidson, ed. E. Lepore and K. Ludwig (Wiley-Blackwell 2013), 361-378.

In discussions of metaphor, Davidson is (in)famous for claiming that metaphorical utterances lack any distinctive, nonliteral meaning. But there is much less agreement about just what he means by this. I explicate this claim as it occurs in “What Metaphors Mean” (1978) and relate it to his reflections on language in 'A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs' (1986). First, I argue that despite some puzzling inconsistencies, the overall thrust of "What Metaphors Mean" is a radical form of noncogitivism. Second, I argue that in "Nice Derangement," Davidson applies several of the arguments offered against metaphorical meanings in "What Metaphors Mean" to linguistic meaning more generally; but his criteria for what counts as "meaning" have shifted to include context-local word meaning alongside Gricean speaker's meaning. With respect to metaphor, he appears to have abandoned his previous noncognitivism for an analysis in terms of speaker's meaning, but it is not clear that this new view is justified by his new model of meaning. Finally, I articulate and evaluate a neo-Davidsonian view of metaphor, which retains as much as possible from both papers.

"Slurring Perspectives"

Analytic Philosophy 54:3 (2013), 330-349.

Slurs are rhetorically insidious and theoretically interesting because they communicate something above and beyond the truth-conditional predication of group membership, something which typically though not always projects across 'blocking' constructions like negation, conditionals, and indirect quotation, and which is exceptionally resistant to direct challenge. I argue that neither pure expressivism nor straightforward truth-conditionalism can account for the sort of commitment that speakers undertake by using slurs. Instead, I claim, users of slurs endorse a denigrating perspective on the targeted group.

"Sarcasm, Pretense, and The Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction"

Nous 46:4 (2012), 587-634.

Traditional theories of sarcasm treat it as a case of speakers meaning the opposite of what they say. Recently, ‘expressivists’ have argued that sarcasm is not a type of speaker meaning at all, but merely the expression of a dissociative attitude toward an evoked thought or perspective. I argue that we should analyze sarcasm in terms of meaning inversion, as the traditional theory does; but that we need to construe ‘meaning’ more broadly, to include illocutionary force and evaluative attitudes. I distinguish four subclasses of sarcasm, individuated in terms of the target of inversion. Three of these classes raise serious challenges for a standard implicature analysis.

"Sarcastic 'Like': A Case Study in the Interface of Syntax and Semantics" (with John Hawthorne)

Philosophical Perspectives: Philosophy of Language, 22:1, ed. J. Hawthorne (2008), 1-21.

In American English (and also in e.g. German, Russian, and French), one can indicate sarcasm by prefixing a sentence with 'Like' or 'As if', as in "Like/As if she's going to believe you." We argue that 'Like'-prefixed sarcasm displays a distinctive pattern of semantic and syntactic constraints which are not shared with bare sarcasm; most notably, 'Like'-prefixed sarcasm licenses Negative Polarity Items, such as 'ever', 'yet', and 'lift a finger'. We sketch two possible semantic theories of sarcastic 'Like', and conclude that the most promising option is to treat 'Like' as semantically expressing an illocutionary force of denial.

"Prudent Semantics Meets Wanton Speech Act Pluralism"

Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism, ed. G. Preyer and G. Peter (OUP 2007), 194-213.

Ernie Lepore and Herman Cappelen (2005) argue that contextual influences on semantic content are much more restricted than most theorists assume, by presenting three tests for semantic context-sensitivity and concluding that only a very restricted class of expressions pass them. They combine this extreme semantic minimalism with an even more extreme speech-act pluralism, according to which a speaker has said anything that she can be reported as having said. I argue that because Lepore and Cappelen refuse to distinguish what is said from what is claimed, their tests wrongly classify metaphor as semantically context-sensitive. I then argue that our ordinary linguistic practices support a distinction between what is said and what is claimed, and that underwrites a much more moderate form of speech act pluralism.

"Contextualism, Metaphor, and What is Said"

Mind & Language 21:3 (2006), 280:309.

On a familiar and prima facie plausible view of metaphor, speakers who speak metaphorically say one thing in order to mean another. Several theorists have recently challenged this view; they offer criteria to distinguish what is said from what is merely meant, and argue that these criteria support classifying metaphor within 'what is said'. I consider four such criteria, and argue that when properly understood, they support the traditional classification instead. I conclude by sketching how we might extract a workable notion of "what is said" from ordinary intuitions about saying.

Papers on Concepts, Animals, & Formats

"Why Maps Are Not Propositional"

in Non-Propositional Intentionality, ed. A. Grzankowski and M. Montague (OUP 2018), 19-45.

A number of philosophers and logicians have argued for the conclusion that maps are logically tractable modes of representation by analyzing them in propositional terms. But in doing so, they have often left what they mean by "propositional" undefined or unjustified. I argue that propositions are characterized by a structure that is digital, universal, asymmetrical, and recursive. There is little positive evidence that maps exhibit these features. Instead, we can better explain their functional structure by taking seriously the observation that maps arrange their constituent elements in a non-hierarchical, holistic structure. This is compatible with the more basic claim advanced by defenders of a propositional analysis: that (many) maps do have formal semantics and logic.

"Instrumental Reasoning in Non-Human Animals" (with Eli Shupe)

in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds, ed. J. Beck and K. Andrews (Routledge 2017), 100-108.

Instrumental reasoning is not just practically but also theoretically important. An agent capable of instrumental reason represents a state of affairs which they simultaneously realize does not actually obtain and have no inherent interest in obtaining, because they take its actualization to contribute to achieving a state they do desire. This makes it intuitive to treat instrumental reasoning as involving the sorts of abstract relations that are easy to encode linguistically, for instance with sentential modal operators, but that are more challenging for other, more expressively restricted formats. We offer an analysis of the cognitive capacities required for instrumental reasoning, review empirical evidence that some non-human animals possess at least some of each of these capacities, and suggest non-linguistic mechanisms by which they might be implemented.

"Logical Concepts and Associative Characterizations"

in The Conceptual Mind: New Directions in the Study of Concepts, ed. E. Margolis & S. Laurence (MIT 2015), 591-621.

Recent theorizing about concepts has been dominated by two general models: crudely speaking, a philosophical one on which concepts are rule-governed atoms, and a psychological one on which they are associative networks. The debate between these two models is often framed in terms of competing answers to the question of "how the mind works" or "the nature of thought". I argue that this is a false dichotomy, because thought operates in both these ways. Human thought utilizes representational structures that function as arbitrary re-combinable bits. This supports a version of the Language of Thought Hypothesis though a significantly more modest one than is typically advanced by advocates of that view. But human thought also employs representational structures that are contextually malleable, intuitive, and holistic; I call these "characterizations". "Dual systems" models of cognition recognize this multiplicity of mental processes, but typically posit largely separate structures, and emphasize conflicts between them. By contrast, I argue that the two forms of representation are more closely integrated, and more symbiotic, than talk of duality suggests.

"Putting Thoughts to Work: Concepts, Systematicity, and Stimulus-Independence"

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78:2 (2009), 275-311.

I argue that we can reconcile two seemingly incompatible traditions for thinking about conceptual thought. On the one hand, many cognitive scientists maintain that the systematic deployment of representational capacities is sufficient for conceptual thought; on the other hand, a long philosophical tradition claims that language is necessary for conceptual thought. I argue that it is necessary and sufficient for conceptual thought that one be able to entertain many of the thoughts produced by recombining one's representational capacities apart from a direct confrontation with the states of affairs being represented.

"A Language of Baboon Thought?"

Philosophy of Animal Minds, ed. R. Lurz (Cambridge UP 2009), 108-127.

In Baboon Metaphysics (2007), Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth argue that baboons think in a language-like representational medium, which is propositional, discrete-valued, rule-governed, open-ended, and hierarchically structured. Their evidence for this conclusion derives largely from the fact that baboons appear to represent a complex social structure, in which a female's dominance ranking depends both on her birth order within her family and on her family's rank order within the overall troop. I argue that a diagrammatic representational medium for social thought, with the structure of a branching tree but with the branches having a dedicated semantic function, better captures the distinctive abilities and limitations of baboon cognition.

"Thinking with Maps"

Philosophical Perspectives 21:1 Philosophy of Mind, ed. J. Hawthorne (2007), 145-182.

Various philosophers have argued that thought must be language-like. I argue that thought can take other forms as well. Specifically, if a thinker's representational needs were sufficiently simple, it might think entirely with maps. The distinction between sentential and cartographic representational systems is not trivial: differences in their combinatorial principles produce substantive differences in how they represent and subserve reasoning. These differences in turn suggest predictions about distinct patterns of cognitive ability and breakdown.

"The Generality Constraint and Categorial Restrictions"

Philosophical Quarterly 54:215 (2004), 209-231.

We should not admit categorial restrictions on the significance of syntactically well-formed strings. Syntactically well-formed but semantically absurd strings, such as 'Life's but a walking shadow' and 'Caesar is a prime number', can express thoughts; and competent thinkers both are able to grasp these thoughts and should to be able to grasp them. Gareth Evans' Generality Constraint should be viewed as a fully general constraint on concept possession and propositional thought, even though Evans himself restricted it. This is because (a) even well-formed but semantically cross-categorial strings typically do possess substantive inferential roles; (b) hearers exploit these inferential roles in interpreting such strings metaphorically; (c) there is no good reason to deny truth-conditions to strings that have inferential roles.

Surveys, Reviews, and other miscellanea

Agency, Stability, and Permeability in 'Games'

forthcoming in Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.

In “Games and the Art of Agency,” Thi Nguyen argues that games highlight and foster a profound complexity in human motivation, of “purposeful and managed agential disunity.” I agree that human agency is “fluid and fleeting,” but argue that Nguyen’s analysis relies on a traditional conception of selves as stable, goal-driven agents, which his discussion rightly throws into question. Without this conception, games look more like life, and both look riskier, than we might otherwise hope.

Organization and Structure in the Service of Systematicity and Productivity

forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

Nick Shea’s Representation in Cognitive Science (OUP 2018) places a broadly teleosemantic account of mental representation on a realist footing by stressing the need to explain how a representational system tracks information, with different formats exploiting structural correspondences between vehicles and contents in different ways. I explore how realism interacts with format ecumenicalism, and more specifically how different representational systems distribute the representational burden at systemic and local levels. Varieties of systematicity and structure matter functionally, by affecting systems’ representational capacities and vulnerabilities. And they matter theoretically, by affecting where and how we posit and test for representational mechanisms.

Language: Power Plays At The Edges Of Communication

in Philosophy for Girls: An Invitation to the Life of Thought, ed. M. Shew and K. Garchar (OUP 2020), 167-180.

We do many things with words. We describe, we plan and promise, we invite and command, we hint and intimate. We also use words to wound–to demean, insult, and exclude. The fact that words can have such potent, pernicious effects is puzzling, because they are, after all, just words. As the schoolyard chant goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Words do hurt though–not only our feelings, but our social status, even our basic dignity as human beings. How can sounds and shapes do all that? Many philosophers have thought of language as a kind of game. Both games and language are complex, abstract structures that we deploy strategically to achieve serious goals, as well as for fun. Thinking through some of these similarities can illuminate how something so intangible can have such powerful effects, and seeing how people wield that power for malicious ends can reveal how to turn the tables and fight back.

Priorities and Diversities in Thought and Language

in Language and Reality From a Naturalistic Perspective: Themes From Michael Devitt, ed. A. Bianchi (Springer 2020), 45-66.

Philosophers have long debated the relative priority of thought and language, both at the deepest level, in asking what makes us distinctively human, and more superficially, in explaining why we find it so natural to communicate with words. The “linguistic turn” in analytic philosophy accorded pride of place to language in the order of investigation, but only because it treated language as a window onto thought, which it took to be fundamental in the order of explanation. The Chomskian linguistic program tips the balance further toward language, by construing the language faculty as an independent, distinctively human biological mechanism. Devitt (Ignorance of language. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2006) attempts to swing the pendulum back toward the other extreme, by proposing that thought itself is fundamentally sentential, and that there is little or nothing for language to do beyond reflecting the structure and content of thought. I argue that both thought and language involve a greater diversity of function and form than either the Chomskian model or Devitt’s antithesis acknowledge. Both thought and language are better seen as complex, mutually supporting suites of interacting abilities.

"Metaethical Expressivism"

in The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, ed. T. McPherson and D. Plunkett (Routledge 2017), 87-101.

I consider what it might mean for an utterance to "express" an attitude in a way that differentiates expressive from descriptive speech, and how individual words might have the conventional function of performing such acts of expression. Drawing on recent work in formal semantics, I argue that while there are promising models for implementing the intuition that certain expressions and constructions, for instance, deontic and epistemic modals, pejoratives like "damn", and slurs, express non-cognitive states and/or have dynamic non-truth-conditional effects, these models are not easily extended to the classic case of "thin" ethical terms.

"Pragmatic Force in Semantic Context: Robert Stalnaker's Context"

Philosophical Studies 174:6 (2017), 1617–1627.

Stalnaker's Context deploys the core machinery of common ground, possible worlds, and epistemic accessibility to mount a powerful case for the "autonomy of pragmatics": the utility of theorizing about discourse function independently of specific linguistic mechanisms. Illocutionary force lies at the periphery between pragmatics as the rational, non-conventional dynamics of context change and semantics as a conventional compositional mechanism for determining truth-conditional contents' in an interesting way. I argue that the conventionalization of illocutionary force, most notably in assertion, has cross contextual consequences that are not fully captured by a specification of dynamic effects on common ground. More generally, I suggest that Stalnaker's purely informational, propositional analysis of both semantic content and dynamic effects distorts our understanding of the function of language, especially of the real-world commitments and consequences engendered by robustly "expressive" language like slurs, honorifics, and thick terms.

"Ofra Magidor's Category Mistakes"

Mind 125:498 (2016), 611-615.

Category mistakes sentences like Julius Caesar is a prime number, Colourless green ideas sleep furiously, or Saturday is in bed are theoretically interesting precisely because they are marginal: as by-products of our linguistic and conceptual systems lacking any obvious function, they reveal the limits of, and interactions among, those systems. Do syntactic or semantic restrictions block is green from taking "Two" as a subject? Does the compositional machinery proceed smoothly, but fail to generate a coherent proposition or delimit a coherent possibility? Or is the proposition it produces simply one that our paltry minds cannot grasp, or that fails to arouse our interest? One's answers to these questions depend on, and constrain, one's conceptions of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, of language and thought, and of the relations among them and between them and the world.

"Metaphors in Literature"

in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature, ed. N. Carroll and J. Gibson (Routledge 2015), 334-346.

What is distinctive about literary metaphors? Why do authors use metaphors in literature? I argue that metaphors in literature, like metaphors elsewhere, allow authors to communicate thoughts and stake claims about how the world is. To make this claim plausible, we need, first, to free ourselves of an overly restrictive conception of ordinary discourse, which can be open-ended, nuanced, and imagistically and emotionally evocative, just like literary metaphors; and in particular which can also present contents through perspectives. Second, we need to recognize the interpretive differences that are generated by the literary context: because literary texts are published works of art, literary meaning is constructed as a collaboration between a 'model author' and a 'model reader', each of whom has access to both more and fewer interpretive assumptions than the actual writer and recipient do. Third, we need to attend to the diversity among literary metaphors, which can be laser-focused as well as open-ended, abstract as well as concretely imagistic and emotional, and which can stake truth-evaluable claims while also presenting non-propositional perspectives. Finally, metaphors differ from other perspectival tropes, like exemplification, in presenting one thing through the lens or filter of something else, producing a kind of twofoldness that gives metaphors a distinctive rhetorical and cognitive power.


The Pragmatics Encyclopedia, ed. L. Cummings (Routledge 2009), 264-266.

A survey of recent work on metaphor in cognitive science, linguistics, and pragmatic theory, with special attention to challenges to the "standard" Gricean model of metaphor as implicature.

"Metaphor" (with Marga Reimer)

in Handbook of Philosophy of Language, ed. E. Lepore & B. Smith (OUP 2006), 845-863.

A survey of four influential theories of metaphor in the philosophy of language simile theories (e.g. Fogelin), interaction theories (e.g. Black), Gricean theories (e.g. Searle), and noncognitivist theories (e.g. Davidson) in terms of their answers to four central questions: What are metaphors? What is metaphorical meaning? How do metaphors work? And what is the nature of metaphorical truth?

"Metaphor in the Mind: The Cognition of Metaphor"

Philosophy Compass 1:2 (2006), 154-170.

The most sustained and innovative recent work on metaphor has occurred in cognitive science and psychology. Psycholinguistic investigation suggests that novel, poetic metaphors are processed differently than literal speech, while relatively conventionalized and contextually salient metaphors are processed more like literal speech. This conflicts with the view of "cognitive linguists" like George Lakoff that all or nearly all thought is essentially metaphorical. There are currently four main cognitive models of metaphor comprehension: juxtaposition, category-transfer, feature-matching, and structural alignment. Structural alignment deals best with the widest range of examples; but it still fails to account for the complexity and richness of fairly novel, poetic metaphors.

"Critical Study of Josef Stern's Metaphor in Context"

Nous 39:4 (2005), 715-731.

A critical discussion of Stern's 2000 book postulating a metaphoricity operator 'Mthat' modeled on Kaplan's 'Dthat'. I focus on Stern's claim that we need to adopt a semantic analysis of metaphor because metaphor exhibits interpretive constraints which cannot be explained on a pragmatic view; I argue that in each case the 'constraint' is merely defeasible, and that a pragmatic analysis can accommodate the data more parsimoniously and in greater generality than Stern's theory can.

(Oxford Studies in Philosophy and Literature, Series Editor Richard Eldridge)

Famously precise and sparse, Emily Dickinson's poetry is often described as philosophical, both because her poetry grapples with philosophical topics like death, spirituality, and the darkening operations of the mind, and because she approaches those topics in a characteristically philosophical manner: analyzing and extrapolating from close observation, exploring alternatives, and connecting thoughts into cumulative demonstrations. But unlike Lucretius or Pope, she cannot be accused of producing versified treatises. Many of her poems are unsettling in their lack of conclusion; their disparate insights often stand in conflict; and her logic turns crucially on imagery, juxtaposition, assonance, slant rhyme, and punctuation.

The six chapters of this volume collectively argue that Dickinson is an epistemically ambitious poet, who explores fundamental questions by advancing arguments that are designed to convince. Dickinson exemplifies abstract ideas in tangible form and habituates readers into productive trains of thought--she doesn't just make philosophical claims, but demonstrates how poetry can make a distinct contribution to philosophy.

All essays in this volume, drawn from both philosophers and literary theorists, serve as a counterpoint to recent critical work, which has emphasized Dickinson's anguished uncertainty, her nonconventional style, and the unsettled status of her manuscripts. On the view that emerges here, knowing is like cleaning, mending, and lacemaking: a form of hard, ongoing work, but one for which poetry is a powerful, perhaps indispensable, tool.

Editor's Introduction: Emily Dickinson's Epistemic Ambitions for Poetry Elisabeth Camp

Chapter 1: Forms of Emotional Knowing and Unknowing: Skepticism and Belief in Dickinson's Poetry, Rick Anthony Furtak

Chapter 2: Interiority and Expression in Dickinson's Lyrics, Magdalena Ostas

Chapter 3: How to Know Everything, Oren Izenberg

Chapter 4: Form and Content in Emily Dickinson's Poetry, Antony Aumann

Chapter 5: The Uses of Obstruction, David Hills

Chapter 6: Dickinson and Pivoting Thought, Eileen John