Stephen Yablo, "Aboutness" (Princeton UP, 2014 )


A day after Stephen Yablo bought his daughter Zina ice cream for her birthday, Zina complained, "You never take me for ice cream any more." Yablo initially responded that this was obviously false. But Yablo, who is professor of philosophy and linguistics at MIT, also noticed something interesting: that Zina said something true about their formerly regular activity of going for ice cream, and that she expressed this truth by saying something false. Wrapping truth in falsehood is common in ordinary conversation, but hard to reconcile with standard philosophical semantics, in which sentences only have truth conditions. In Aboutness (Princeton University Press, 2014), Yablo argues that sentences also have and are about subject matters, and that their subject matters are constrained but not determined by their truth conditions. To express and grasp truths, we often use language that goes beyond what we want to say and then subtract from the whole of what is said to expose the part we really care about: its subject matter.

Your Host

Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

View Profile