Category Mistakes

Category Mistakes

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Category mistakes are sentences such as 'Green ideas sleep furiously', 'Saturday is in bed', and 'The theory of relativity is eating breakfast'. Such sentences strike most speakers as highly infelicitous but it is a challenge to explain precisely why they are so. Ofra Magidor addresses this challenge, while providing a comprehensive discussion of the various treatments of category mistakes in both philosophy of language and linguistics.
The phenomenon of category mistakes is particularly interesting to both these fields because a plausible case can be (and has been) made for explaining it in terms of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics-making it a fruitful case for exploring the relations between and nature of these three fundamental realms of language. Category Mistakes follows this division. After an introduction which explains the aims and motivations for the project and provides a brief historical survey of the
(modern) treatment of category mistakes in each of philosophy, linguistics, and computer science, Magidor discusses four approaches in turn: first, the syntactic approach, which maintains that category mistakes are syntactically ill-formed; then two semantic approaches, though ones that appeal to different
semantic facets: the meaninglessness view, which maintains that category mistakes are meaningless, and the MBT view, according to which category mistakes are meaningful but truth-valueless; and finally the pragmatic approach, according to which category mistakes are syntactically well-formed, meaningful, truth-valued but nevertheless pragmatically inappropriate. Magidor argues that the first three approaches ought to be rejected, and in the final chapter addresses the
main challenge by developing and defending a particular version of the pragmatic approach: a presuppositional account of category mistakes.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 184 pages
  • 137 x 217 x 10mm | 238g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0198779267
  • 9780198779261
  • 1,273,267

Table of contents

1: Introduction
2: The Syntactic Approach
3: The meaninglessness view
4: The MBT view
5: The Pragmatic Approach
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Review quote

In place of the grand theoretical constructions and destructions of earlier eras, Magidor presents a careful, even-handed consideration of the four main explanations one might offer for what is wrong with cross-categorial sentences: that they are syntactically ill-formed, that they are semantically meaningless, that they have meaning but lack truth-values, and that they are pragmatically infelicitous. Along the way, she synthesizes discussions from linguistics,
logic, and the philosophy of language, abstracting away from a host of potentially overwhelming details to present key ideas clearly and accurately. * Elisabeth Camp, Mind * Magidor's volume sets out a broad variety of accounts grappling with the phenomenon of category mistakes in a manner that should appeal to both philosophers and linguists interested in issues of semantics and its formal treatment...Magidor's lucid and well-structured characterization of approaches and her subsequent arguments in favour of a broadly presupposition-based framework offer an excellent basis for anyone who wishes to take the discussion
further. * John A. Bateman, Philosophical Quarterly * excellent, short, clearly focused. * Manuel Garcia-Carpintero, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews *
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About Ofra Magidor

Ofra Magidor studied philosophy, mathematics, and computer science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and completed a BPhil (2004) and DPhil (2007) in philosophy at the University of Oxford. Between 2005 and 2007 she was a Junior Research Fellow at Queen's College, Oxford, and since 2007 she has held a tutorial fellowship and CUF lectureship in philosophy at Balliol College and the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on philosophy of logic and language, as
well as related issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mathematics.
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