Superman Semantics

  • Paul Saka
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)


Jennifer Saul’s puzzle, a generalized version of Frege’s puzzle concerning opacity, poses troublesome triads such as: (i) Superman = Clark Kent; (ii) Superman does not wear glasses; (iii) Clark Kent does wear glasses. Proposed resolutions of the puzzle variously deny the identity claim (i) (Graeme Forbes, Joseph Moore, David Pitt); deny one or other of the predication claims (ii)/(iii) (Jennifer Saul, David Braun, Alex Barber, Alessandro Capone); or postulate equivocation (Stefano Predelli, Laurence Goldstein). I myself develop an equivocation account, using the resources of cognitive semantics (e.g. Gilles Fauconnier, George Lakoff, and Ray Jackendoff). My work shares Saul’s psychologistic turn but reaches very different conclusions. Whereas Saul regards (i) as semantically true, and others regard it as false, I regard each of (i–iii) as both true and false (true in one way and false in another). This is not to say that they are lexically, structurally, or illocutionarily ambiguous; but they do possess a kind of pragmatic indeterminacy that generates what I call ambivalence ambiguity. If my account is correct, ambivalence ambiguity is due to inconsistencies intrinsic to our mental models. My mentalist account of linguistic interpretation is both clarified and supported by analogy to cartographic interpretation, and it is additionally supported by virtue of its power to solve problems that confront referential semantics: the notorious aspect problem and the heretofore unrecognized parity problem.


Opacity Ambiguity Mental maps Cognitive semantics Jennifer Saul 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Saka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Texas, Rio GrandeEdinburgUSA

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