General Talk

October 19, 16-17:30 in E20.08

Reinhard Muskens, Tilburg

Sense and the computation of reference

Abstract: In this talk I will show how ideas that explain the sense of an expression as a method or algorithm for finding its reference, preshadowed in Frege's dictum that sense is the way in which a referent is given, can be implemented on the basis of the essentials of (Thomason 1980). In order to make this work the function that sends propositions to truth values or sets of possible worlds in (Thomason 1980) is replaced by a relation, and meaning postulates governing the behaviour of this relation are given in the form of a so-called logic program. The resulting system does not only throw light on the properties of sense and their relation to computation, but also shows circular behaviour once some ingredients of the Liar Paradox are added. This connection is natural, as algorithms can be inherently circular and the Liar is explained as expressing one such algorithm. Many ideas in the talk are closely related to those in (Moschovakis 1994), but receive a formalization that is considerably lighter than the formalization they receive there. As I will make clear, the theory presented here also naturally hooks up to the computational theory of mind. The logic program that consists of meaning postulates connecting sense and reference can be viewed as modeling an interpretative module of the mind, at least to a first approximation.