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Dr. Michael Johnson

I'm an Honorary/ Visiting Assistant Professor in the department of philosophy at Hong Kong University. I got my PhD from Rutgers University in 2011.

Contact: michael.dracula.johnson


I care a lot about the following question: In virtue of what does an expression of a language mean/ refer to what it does, rather than something else or nothing at all? The problem of naturalizing intentionality is the problem of giving an answer to that question that doesn't advert to other semantic properties and relations (like meaning, reference, and truth). My research focuses on the naturalization of intentionality for natural and mental languages, as well as on a constellation of related issues.

Example 1 of a related issue: Suppose, as is not implausible, that the answer to the naturalization question is something like a causal/ historical account of the Kripkean variety. We don't have epistemic access to, or we have limited epistemic access to, the causal and historical relations our expressions bear to their contents. Yet we do have excellent epistemic access to the contents of our expressions (typically, we know what we mean). How is this possible? A naturalized metaphysics of intentionality should come with a naturalized epistemology of intentionality. So I'm in the business of naturalizing the epistemology of intentionality.

Example 2 of a related issue: Presumably, meaning is that which plays an important explanatory role in cognition and communication. Let R be the relation an expression bears to its content in virtue of which it has that content, and let T(R) be the theory of cognition/ communication that R enters into. Question: what is T(R)? What role does meaning have to play in cognition and communication? Presumably, an answer to this question precipitates an answer to the naturalization question: if you know what T(R) is, you can find out what R is: it's whatever it is that plays that role in the theory. But this question, the question of what T(R) is, looks even harder than the question of what R is. Semantic eliminativists like Stephen Stich, Hartry Field, and Noam Chomsky have all denied that meaning has any role to play in explaining cognition and communication. So I'm in the business of arguing against semantic eliminativism.

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