Philosophy colloquium: David Nicolas

Title: Collective nouns and the distribution problem

By David Nicolas (Institut Jean Nicod) & Jonathan Payton (Bilkent, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday May 4, 2023

Time: 15.30-17.00 

Room: H232

Abstract: Intuitively, collective nouns are pseudo-singular: a collection of things (a pair of people, a flock of birds, etc.) just is the things that make ‘it’ up. But certain facts about natural language seem to count against this view. In short, distributive predicates and numerals interact with collective nouns in ways that they seemingly shouldn’t if those nouns are pseudo-singular. We call this set of issues ‘the distribution problem’. To solve it, we propose a modification to cover-based semantics. On this semantics, the interpretation of distributive predicates and numerals depends on a cover, where the choice of cover is strongly semantically constrained by the noun with which they interact.

About the speakers: David Nicolas is a CNRS Researcher at Institut Jean Nicod in Paris, France. His research focuses on issues in semantics, philosophical logic, and ontology. Most notably, he has worked on the interpretation of mass and count nouns, plural logic and superplurals, telicity, and gradeable expressions. His work has appeared in such journals as Analysis, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, the Journal of Philosophical Logic, and Linguistics and Philosophy. In 2002 his book, La distinction entre noms massifs et noms comptables: Aspects linguistiques et conceptuels was published by Leuven.

Jonathan D. Payton is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bilkent University. His research focuses on issues in metaphysics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of action. Most recently, he has worked on the metaphysics of parts and wholes and related issues about the meaning and logic of plurals. His work has appeared in such journals as Analysis, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Studies, and Synthese. In 2021 his book, Negative actions: Events, absences, and the metaphysics of agency was published by Cambridge University Press.





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