The reformulation argument: reining in Gricean pragmatics
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- Miller, Z. Philos Stud (2016) 173: 525. doi:10.1007/s11098-015-0505-2
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A semantic theory aims to make predictions that are accurate and comprehensive. Sometimes, though, a semantic theory falls short of this aim, and there is a mismatch between prediction and data. In such cases, defenders of the semantic theory often attempt to rescue it by appealing to Gricean pragmatics. The hope is that we can rescue the theory as long as we can use pragmatics to explain away its predictive failures. This pragmatic rescue strategy is one of the most popular moves in philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and formal semantics. In this paper I argue that this strategy fails whenever the predictive failures at issue can be recast in epistemological or metaphysical terms. This general “reformulation argument” undermines a wide variety of pragmatic rescue attempts.