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« Analogical Uses of the First Person Pronoun: a Difficulty in Philosophical Semantics »

Abstract : Analogical counterfactuals such as “If I were you, I would do so and so...” create a puzzle for philosophical semantics. Whereas the ‘received view' in philosophical semantics has it that the first person pronoun always refers to its utterer, one may wonder whether this is still the case when the first person pronoun is embedded in analogical counterfactuals such as (2) “If I were you, I would stay away from me”. I suggest that the intelligibility of (2) lies in the fact that the token of the expression ‘I' in the consequent of the counterfactual does not refer to its utterer. Should one then conclude, following the ‘anaphoric theory' that the second occurrence of ‘I' in (2) does refer to its addressee? For the ‘anaphoric theory', ‘I' in ‘I would stay away from me' refers anaphorically, thanks to the linguistic context, to the referent of ‘you' in ‘If I were you'. On the basis of an analysis of the imaginative project involved in uttering a practical advise in the form of (2), I suggest contra the ‘anaphoric theory' that the first pronoun ‘I' in the consequent of (2) behaves as an indexical and that its content is obtained by the application of its character to a pretend context differing from the context of its utterance. According to the so-called ‘pretence theory', the first person pronoun in its second occurrence in (2) pretends to refer to a fictional composite of the utterer and the addressee.
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Submitted on : Saturday, January 24, 2009 - 4:38:14 PM
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Jérôme Pelletier. « Analogical Uses of the First Person Pronoun: a Difficulty in Philosophical Semantics ». The Journal of Cognitive Science, 2004, 5 (2), pp.139-155. ⟨ijn_00355814⟩

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