LIRa session: Franz Berto

Speaker: Franz Berto (University of St Andrews & University of Amsterdam)

Date and Time: Thursday, November 10th 2022, 16:30-18:00

Venue: ILLC seminar room F1.15 in Science Park 107 and online.

Title: Cognitive Synonymy: a Dead Parrot?

Joint work with Levin Hornischer (University of Amsterdam).

Abstract. Sentences φ and ψ are cognitive synonyms for one when they play the same role in one’s cognitive life. The notion is pervasive, but elusive and subject to conflicting desiderata: it is bound to be hyperintensional, but excessive fine-graining would trivialize it. Conceptual limitations stand in the way of a natural algebra, and it should be sensitive to subject matters. Besides, a cognitively adequate individuation of content may be intransitive due to ‘dead parrot’ series: sequences of sentences φ1, . . . , φn where adjacent φi and φi+1 are cognitive synonyms while φ1 and φn are not. But finding an intransitive account is hard! In particular, a result by Leitgeb shows that it wouldn’t satisfy a minimal compositionality principle.
In spite of this mess, we come up with a formal semantics, thereby showing that the notion is coherent. Then we re-assess the desiderata in its light.