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Review of  Oratio Obliqua, Oratio Recta


Reviewer: Anne Louise Bezuidenhout
Book Title: Oratio Obliqua, Oratio Recta
Book Author: Fran├žois Recanati
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): Philosophy of Language
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Book Announcement: 12.481

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Review:

Francois Recanati, (2000) Oratio Obliqua, Oratio Recta: An
Essay on Metarepresentation, MIT Press, Cambridge,
Massachusetts & London, England. xviii + 360p, paperback
US$24.95.

Reviewed by: Anne Bezuidenhout, Department of Philosophy,
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, U.S.A.

1: Introductory Remarks

A metarepresentation is a representation of another
representation. Call what is represented by a
metarepresentation an object-representation. This object-
representation could be either a linguistic representation,
such as a sentence, or a mental representation, such as a
belief or a desire. It could also be a painting, a film, a
sculpture, a tapestry, a Morse code signal or some other
such thing. An object-representation represents a fact or
state-of-affairs in some possible world, and a
metarepresentation represents the fact that an object-
representation represents such a worldly fact or state-of-
affairs. Metarepresentations themselves can be either
linguistic, mental, pictorial or whatever. One can believe
or say something about a belief or a picture, a picture can
depict another picture, and so on.

The notion of metarepresentation currently plays a large
role in cognitive science. For instance, many cognitive
psychologists and philosophers of mind subscribe to the
view that humans are endowed with a special
metarepresentational faculty. This faculty is what enables
people to ascribe representational mental states (e.g.,
beliefs, wants, fears, hopes etc.) to others, and hence to
explain and predict the behavior of others. Many linguists
and philosophers of language hold that metarepresentational
capacities play a crucial role in verbal communication and
particularly in the pragmatic processes involved in
utterance interpretation. In developmental psychology there
is a great deal of current research on the question as to
when children acquire the capacity for metarepresentation.
Some researchers in neuroscience and psychopathology hold
that autistic individuals have a damaged capacity for
metarepresentation. Finally, there is an on-going debate in
cognitive science as to whether metarepresentational
capacities are a matter of being able to simulate what
others are thinking, feeling, wanting etc., or whether it
is a matter of having internalized a "theory" about what
sorts of mental causes are likely to produce what sorts of
behavioral effects.

I agree with Recanati when he says in his preface that "not
much theoretical progress can be made in this area until we
know more about the very structure of metarepresentations"
(p. xii). What cognitive science badly needs is a careful
philosophical account of the notion of metarepresentation,
but one that clearly has some relevance to the many
empirical debates that presuppose the concept.

There have been seemingly endless philosophical discussions
of one special class of metarepresentations, namely
propositional attitude ascriptions such as 'John believes
that he is being persecuted'. However, a researcher from
another field who ventures into this territory is likely to
find it pretty inhospitable. Although there are definite
philosophical camps, each advocating some general sort of
approach to the problem, it is hard to find any real
consensus, and it sometimes seems that every new paper on
the topic has a different account to offer. There is also a
lot of terminological confusion even with regards to some
of the core distinctions in the debate, such as the de
re/de dicto, relational/notional, and transparent/opaque
distinctions. These are often conflated with one another.
Moreover, it is unclear whether all parties to the debate
are using these distinctions in the same sense.

Philosophical discussions also tend to revolve around a few
hackneyed examples, such as 'Ralph believes that Ortcutt is
a spy', 'Ralph believes that Smith's murderer is insane',
'Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly'. (This last
example is usually treated as though it was a belief
ascription to a real person, when in fact it is a meta-
meta-representation, for strictly speaking it is only in
the Superman comic series that Lois Lane believes that
Superman can fly). Hence it is unclear whether and to what
degree current accounts can be generalized to other sorts
of metarepresentations. Perhaps theories of propositional
attitude reports can be readily extended to account for
indirect speech reports, such as 'Ralph said that Ortcutt
is a spy'. But rarely are there discussions of other sorts
of metarepresentations, such as 'In the film, a 3rd World
War is declared', 'In Monet's painting, the water is lilac-
colored', 'According to the Bible, God created the universe
in six days'. Moreover, all the examples given so far are
linguistic metarepresentations. One would want an account
that generalizes to other sorts of metarepresentations too,
such as mental and pictorial ones.

Recanati's book provides an excellent and sure-footed guide
through this philosophical terrain. For a cognitive
scientist interested in philosophical explorations of the
notion of metarepresentation, Recanati's book would be a
good place to start. Recanati's aim is to set out his own
highly original account of metarepresentation. But along
the way he gives very clear sketches of some of the
alternative accounts on offer. He also does an excellent
job at clarifying some of the important terminology in this
area. He discusses a range of different types of
metarepresentations, and it is clear that he is aiming for
an account that can be generalized. But most importantly,
his account seems tailor-made to fit into current cognitive
science debates about metarepresentation, because it sees a
connection between metarepresentation and simulation. Also,
at several points (p.57, pp.79-84) Recanati makes
interesting connections to discussions in psychology about
the development of children's metarepresentational
capacities.

Recanati's book is divided into six parts. In section 2 I
lay out Recanati's arguments in some detail. For those not
interested in the details, it is possible to skip to
section 3, in which I give a much briefer summary of
Recanati's book. In section 4 I give a brief critical
assessment of the book.

2. Detailed summary of book

In Part I, Recanati lays out and discusses some of the
principles that should constrain any account of
metarepresentation. From Recanati's perspective, one of the
most important constraints is that our account should
preserve "semantic innocence". In his famous paper 'On
sense and reference', Frege argued that the sentences
embedded in the complement-clauses of belief and speech
reports do not have their customary references (namely,
truth-values). Instead these embedded sentences refer to
propositions (their customary senses). In other words,
Frege accepted a thesis of semantic deviance. Words inside
attitude contexts behave differently from words outside
such contexts. Davidson (1984:108) challenged philosophers
to return to a pre-Fregean semantic innocence and recognize
that it is "plainly incredible that the words 'The Earth
moves', uttered after the words 'Galileo said that', mean
anything different, or refer to anything else, than is
their wont when they come in different environments."

Another constraint that Recanati argues for is one that he
calls the Principle of Iconicity (p.10). Syntactically,
metarepresentations (at least of the linguistic variety)
are sentences that contain other sentences. Thus 'John
believes that he is being persecuted' contains the sentence
'He is being persecuted'. One can think of such
metarepresentations as consisting of a metarepresentational
prefix 'd' and an object-representation 'S'. The Principle
of Iconicity says:

"Attitude reports and other metarepresentations contain the
object-representation not only syntactically (in the sense
that dS contains S), but also semantically: the proposition
Q expressed by dS 'contains' as a part the proposition P
expressed by S - and that's why one cannot entertain Q
without entertaining P."

Many contemporary accounts of attitude reports treat them
as expressing a relation between a person and a
proposition. On this view, the that-clause of an attitude
report refers to a proposition, and the report as a whole
says that the ascribee stands in some relation (e.g., the
relation of believing) to that proposition. In Part I,
Recanati argues that there can be no semantically innocent
analysis of this general sort. This is an important
argument, as recently Crimmins & Perry (1989), Pietroski
(1996) and others have claimed that one can treat that-
clauses as referring terms without loss of semantic
innocence. Their claim is that the sentence embedded in the
that-clause still has its normal semantic function - i.e.
it expresses a proposition and refers to a truth-value. It
is the complete that-clause, not the embedded sentence,
which refers to a proposition. In response to this proposal
Recanati (p. 18) says:

"if, in order to protect innocence, we draw a sharp
distinction between the embedded sentence (which expresses
a proposition) and the 'that'-clause (which names it), we
run the risk of making the former disappear from the
logical scene. For the relevant semantic unit is the
complete 'that'-clause. At the level of logical form the
sentence 'John believes that S' has the form aRb - it
consists of a two-place predicate and two singular terms.
The embedded sentence plays a role only via the 'that'-
clause in which it occurs. What role? Arguably a pre-
semantic role analogous to that of the demonstration which
accompanies a demonstrative... If that is right, then
semantically the complexity of the 'that'-clause matters no
more that the pragmatic complexity of a demonstrative-cum-
demonstration or the pictorial complexity of a quotation."

Recanati argues that the best way to respect the Principle
of Iconicity is to treat 'John believes that' and other
such metarepresentational prefixes as sentence forming
operators that attach to a sentence S to form a compound
sentence. Then it is clear that the object-representation S
is both syntactically and semantically a part of the
metarepresentation.

One might think that it is possible to respect Iconicity
while maintaining the standard view that that-clauses refer
to propositions. The claim would be that this is possible
if one treats that-clauses as directly referring
expressions. Since the content of a directly referring
expression just is its referent, what the that-clause
contributes to the content of the attitude report is simply
the proposition it refers to, namely the proposition
expressed by the content sentence. Thus it looks as though
one can hold that the proposition expressed by the content
sentence will be semantically a part of the proposition
expressed by the attitude report, just as Iconicity
requires.

Recanati argues that this strategy will not work, as it
requires us to hold that the content of a term (namely, the
that-clause) is the same as the content of a sentence
(namely, the embedded content sentence). But terms and
sentences belong to different semantic categories.
According to what Recanati calls the Heterogeneity
Principle (p.19), if two expressions are of different
types, their contents should be of different types also.
The direct reference approach violates this principle.

Recanati also considers the paratactic account offered by
Davidson (1984). This account appears to be both
semantically innocent and to respect Iconicity. However,
Recanati rejects it on the grounds that it violates the
Grammatical Constraint (p. 28), according to which we
should minimize discrepancies between syntactic and
semantic structure. Syntactically attitude reports of the
form 'John believes that S' are single sentences, but on
Davidson's semantic account they actually consist of two
sentences, each with its own semantic contribution. As
Recanati (p.27) puts it: "The embedded sentence S expresses
the proposition P; the prefixed sentence 'John believes
that' expresses the proposition Q which does not contain P
as a part, but refers to P (via the demonstrative 'that')
and says that John believes it."

In the remainder of his book, Recanati develops an account
of metarepresentation that satisfies the various
constraints he has laid down in Part I.

In part II he considers two kinds of theories that satisfy
the Principle of Iconicity, which he calls modal theories
and simulation theories. Modal theories regard
metarepresentations of the form 'dS' as consisting of an
object-representation 'S' and a circumstance-shifting
prefix 'd'. According to such accounts, an attitude report
of the form 'John believes that p' is true in a
circumstance c iff p holds in all circumstances c'
compatible with what John believes in c. Similarly, 'In the
film, a 3rd World War is declared' is true in circumstance c
iff a 3rd World War is declared in the circumstance c'
depicted in the film.

Modal accounts regard the content of the object-
representation as being a proper part of the content of the
metarepresentation. Simulation theories on the other hand
regard the content of the object-representation and the
content of the metarepresentation as coinciding. The
metarepresentational prefix contributes no content of its
own. It simply signals that the content of the object-
representation is not being asserted. The speaker is merely
pretending. On this view, when we say that John believes
that S, we simulate John's mental state and assert S within
this simulation or pretense. Metarepresentations are seen
as pretend assertions.

There follows a very interesting discussion of conditionals
and the sense in which they can be said to involve
simulation. The conclusion is that both with respect to
conditionals and metarepresentations a pure simulation
account is too simplistic. We need to distinguish between
metarepresentations and pretend assertions.
Metarepresentations do involve simulation in some sense. We
see things from the point of view of the believer or the
film or whatever. But metarepresentations are also serious
assertions. They require us to step outside the pretense
and to assert something about what holds in the pretense.

In Part II Recanati also presents his 'Austinian semantics'
for metarepresentations. This semantic machinery relies on
the notion of a situation and the facts supported by that
situation in a particular world. What Recanati calls a fact
is a structured entity. Facts are essentially what others
call Russellian propositions. Utterances state or are about
facts, but they also concern situations. For example,
suppose Recanati utters 'It is raining' in Paris at some
time t. This states the fact that it is raining at t, and
it concerns the situation in Paris. This can be represented
by the Austinian proposition:

(1)[Paris] |= @ << At t, it is raining >>

This says that the situation in Paris in the actual world @
supports the fact that it is raining at time t. Now if
Recanati were to reflect on his situation and make it
explicit, he might utter the sentence 'It is raining in
Paris'. He is now stating a fact that concerns a wider
situation, in the sense that implicitly he is contrasting
what is happening in Paris with what is happening
elsewhere, say in Europe. This new fact and its different,
wider situation might be represented by the following
Austinian proposition:

(2)[Europe] |= @ << Paris |= @ << At t, it is raining >> >>

The cognitive process of reflection is the converse of a
process of projection. This latter process is involved in
cases where a situation is first mentioned, and then the
speaker projects herself into the situation, and states
something with respect to that situation. An example would
be 'Berkeley is a nice place. There are bookstores and
coffee shops everywhere.' The following pair of Austinian
propositions give the analysis of these sentences:

(3) [USA] |= @ << Berkeley is a nice place >>

(4) [Berkeley] |= @ << There are bookstores and coffee
shops everywhere >>

This distinction between reflection and projection can also
be used to distinguish between metarepresentations and
pretend assertions. Pretend assertions are cases in which a
speaker projects herself into someone else's situation and
makes assertions under that pretense. Cases of free
indirect speech provide examples of this phenomenon. For
example: 'John is totally paranoid. Everybody spies on him
or wants to kill him, including his own mother.' This would
be analyzed as follows, where S and S' are situations, @ is
the actual world, and w is John's paranoid world:

(5) [S] |= @ << John is paranoid >>

(6) [S'] |= w << Everybody spies on John etc. >>

Metarepresentations on the other hand involve taking a
reflective stance on some imaginary situation. For example:
'John believes that he is being persecuted.' This could be
analyzed as follows:

(7) [S]|= @ << S' |= w << John is being persecuted >> >>

Metarepresentations depend on the dual nature of
situations. Situations can be viewed both from without as
objects and from within as supporting certain facts. In
metarepresentations we view situations in both ways
simultaneously. Although metarepresentations are not
pretend assertions they do involve an element of pretense.
As Recanati says: "Even though in metarepresentational talk
we take a reflective stance toward the imaginary situation
we are mentioning, still the content of the simulation is
displayed, and to that extent metarepresentations involve
simulation." (p.87)

Actually, Recanati's analysis of metarepresentations is
more complex than I have indicated. He introduces the
notion of a delta-structure (d-structure for short). In
such structures we simultaneously view a situation from the
outside and from within. Recanati then distinguishes
between homogeneous d-structures (such as (2) above) and
heterogeneous d-structures (such as (7) above).
Heterogeneous d-structures involve a world shift, whereas
homogeneous ones do not. It turns out that both
conditionals and metarepresentations involve a world shift
and hence both are heterogeneous d-structures. Recanati
considers various ways in which one might modify his
initial analysis in order to distinguish conditionals from
metarepresentations. His reasoning is subtle and rather
intricate, and so I will not summarize it here. Several
other considerations are in play as well, such as the need
to provide an analysis that distinguishes 'In the book,
there is a 3 page chapter' and 'In the book, there is a
winged horse'. Despite their superficial grammatical
similarity, the latter, but not the former, is a
metarepresentation.

In Part III Recanati aims to give an account of the sort of
opacity that is peculiar to metarepresentations, but in a
way that respects Iconicity and is semantically innocent -
a seemingly tall order! Recanati notes that the fact that
extensionally equivalent expressions fail to be
substitutable in attitudinals and other metarepresentations
does not establish the opacity of metarepresentations. Such
failures of substitutivity occur whenever there is a
circumstance-shifting prefix, even in cases such as 'Some
years ago, the president of the U.S.A. was an actor'. To be
freely substitutable in the embedded sentence, the
expressions must have the same extension in the shifted
circumstance introduced by the circumstance-shifting prefix
'Some time ago'. However, metarepresentations also exhibit
intensional substitution failures. Terms that have the same
intension/content may fail to be substitutable in
attitudinals such as 'According to John, lawyers are
crooks'. John may not realize that an attorney is a lawyer
(in American English), and so he may fail to believe that
attorneys are crooks. This says Recanati, is a hint that
some sort of mention takes place in attitudinals.

Before exploring the use/mention issue, Recanati tries to
bring some order to the terminological confusion
surrounding discussion of the relational/notional and the
transparent/opaque distinctions. These are often conflated
and said to be instances of the so-called de re/de dicto
ambiguity of sentences of the form 'John believes that S'.
However, Recanati argues that this is a mistake. The
relational/notional distinction should be drawn in terms of
the type of belief that is ascribed, namely whether a
singular or a general belief is being ascribed. Recanati
assumes that when the embedded sentence S contains a
genuine singular term, the only possible reading is a
relational one, since the ascribed belief must be a
singular one. However, when S contains a quantified or
descriptive term, the ascription will be ambiguous between
a relational and a notional reading. When the description
is understood to take wide scope over the
metarepresentational prefix, then we have a relational
reading, because the ascribed belief will be understood to
be singular. On the other hand, when the description has
narrow scope and falls with the scope of the
metarepresentational prefix, we will have a notional
reading, because the ascribed belief will be understood to
be general.

The transparent/opaque distinction is orthogonal to the
relational/notional one. When the embedded sentence of a
belief ascription contains a singular term the ascription
must be understood relationally, but even such an
ascription can be given either a transparent or an opaque
reading. On the opaque reading the singular term has a dual
role. It serves not only to refer to the object the
ascribed belief is about, but it also indicates how the
believer thinks about that object. Opaquely understood a
belief ascription can be thought of as saying that the
believer so-believes that S. This is reminiscent of Quine's
famous example 'Giorgione was so-called because of his
size.' So Recanati embarks on a discussion of this example.

Many people following Quine would conflate the notion of an
occurrence of a singular term being referential with its
being transparent, and both in turn with its occupying a
position that is open to substitution and that can be
quantified into. But Recanati skillfully argues that all
these notions must be kept distinct. The occurrence of a
singular term t in an embedded sentence S is purely
referential if its narrow semantic contribution to the
truth-conditions of S is simply its referent. Such an
occurrence will be "innocent". But a term t may make a
wider semantic contribution to the truth-conditions of S if
the semantic contribution of some other expression in S
depends on the identity of t. In such a case the occurrence
of the term will not be transparent. Hence transparency
entails pure referentially, but not conversely. This is
what happens in Quine's example. The occurrence of
'Giorgione' is purely referential, since its narrow
semantic contribution is simply its referent. However, it
is not transparent, since the semantic contribution of 'so-
called' depends on the identity of the term. If one
substitutes the term 'Barbarelli' one alters the truth-
conditions and hence (potentially) the truth-value of the
sentence.

Recanati introduces the concept of a reflecting context,
namely a linguistic context containing an expression whose
semantic value depends on the identity of some other term
in the context. Quine's 'Giorgione' sentence is a
reflecting context. So too claims Recanati are belief
ascriptions opaquely understood, as they have the form 'a
so-believes that S'. On the other hand, when transparently
read, belief sentences are not reflecting contexts. Such a
transparent reading Recanati calls the minimal reading,
whereas the opaque reading is an enriched one. It is a
"cumulative" reading (p.133), because the embedded sentence
expresses a proposition, but in addition says something
about the believer's way of believing.

One may think that when a belief ascription is read
transparently, a singular term in the embedded sentence
will be substitutable. That is, it can be replaced by a co-
referring expression without altering the truth-conditions
of the belief sentence. However, Recanati argues that
transparency does not entail substitutability. He says: "in
the same way in which a purely referential occurrence may
not be transparent if it occurs in a reflecting context, a
transparent occurrence may not be substitutable if it
occurs in an unstable context." (p.150) An unstable context
is one that might be turned into a reflecting one by the
substitution. Belief sentences are like this, Recanati
claims. Whether transparently read or not, a singular term
is never substitutable into the embedded portion of a
belief report.

Finally, Recanati argues contra Quine that it is always
possible to quantify into the position occupied by a
singular term in the embedded portion of a belief report.
This is because he thinks that any opacity is filtered out
in the process of existential generalization. Thus it is
always legitimate to infer from 'John believes that a is F'
to 'There is something that John believes to be F'. In the
process of generalizing one filters out all readings but
the minimal (transparent) one.

In Part IV Recanati worries that by relying on a
quotational paradigm (the 'Giogione' example) for
understanding the opaque readings of metarepresentations he
may have violated semantic innocence. Quotation can be
thought of as a context-shifting device. The terms inside
the quotes are to be interpreted with respect to a shifted
context. For instance, in direct speech reports such as:

(8) John said 'I am here now.'

the indexicals are not to be interpreted with respect to
the speaker's context (the external context) but with
respect to John's context when he uttered the quoted words
(the internal context). Do metarepresentations shift
context? Recanati says that semantic innocence can be
maintained only if they do not, so in the remainder to the
book he is concerned to explore this issue. His final
conclusion is going to be that metarepresentational
prefixes are semantically innocent. All they do is shift
the circumstance for evaluating the internal sentence (the
object-representation). However, metarepresentations do
provide an environment for the operation of certain
pragmatic processes that give rise to semantic deviance.
The primary cause of such deviance will be attributed to a
pragmatic process of deference, which is extensively
discussed in Part VI.

Part IV begins to set the stage for this discussion of
deference and deviance by discussing direct speech reports,
such as:

(9) John said 'The slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the
wabe.'

He also discusses some varieties of semi-quotation.
Recanati is particularly interested in cases of what he
calls mixed quotation, such as:

(10) Quine said that quotation 'has a certain anomalous
feature.'

In (10) the quoted material plays a dual role. It is not
simply being displayed, as in (9), but is also in active
use. Mixed quotation is a sub-class of what Sperber &
Wilson (1986) have called echoic uses. These are cases in
which one uses a word while at the same time implicitly
ascribing its use to another person or group of persons.
Cases of mixed quotation are echoic uses occurring in the
sentential complement of an indirect speech report or
attitude report.

Recanati distinguishes between cumulative and non-
cumulative instances of mixed quotation. Cumulative cases
entail the sentence with the quotation marks removed, but
not so with non-cumulative uses such as:

(11) Mr. Greenspan said he agreed with Labor secretary R.
B. Reich 'on quite a lot of things.' Their accord on this
issue, he said, has proved 'quite a surprise to both of
us.'

In non-cumulative cases it appears that there is a context-
shift. Not all the quoted material can be interpreted
relative to the speaker's context, but must be interpreted
relative to the 'internal' context. Thus the final personal
pronoun 'us' in (11) refers to Greenspan and Reich, and not
to a group of which the reporter is a member. To retain its
intended referent when unquoted, the 'us' would have to be
transposed to 'them'.

If such context-shifting can occur in metarepresentations,
then we potentially have a threat to semantic innocence.

In Part V Recanati discusses metafictional statements such
as:

(12) My children think that Santa Claus can't come until
we're all asleep.

Here there does seem to be a context-shift. The speaker of
(12) doesn't believe that 'Santa Claus' refers to anything.
He is taking up his children's perspective and pretending
that there is such a person. But Recanati doesn't want to
say that (12) is a pretend assertion, for then it couldn't
be true, whereas (12) clearly could be. Recanati considers
the idea that pretense can sometimes be used for serious
purposes. To account for attributions such as (12) Recanati
invokes Walton's (1990) idea of Meinongian pretense. The
children in thinking about Santa Claus are entertaining a
pseudo-singular proposition, since there is no such
individual. In order to ascribe such a pseudo-singular
belief the ascriber exploits the Meinongian pretense and
makes as if there were such an individual. Since it is
clear that this pretense is a pretense, this fictive
ascription amounts to the factive ascription of a pseudo-
singular belief to the children. It is only possible to
directly ascribe either a singular or a general belief to a
subject. So the only way to ascribe a pseudo-singular
belief is indirectly, by adopting the Meinongian pretense.

This account of metafictional statements treats the
pretense as global. The pretense does not occur within the
scope of an attitudinal. Rather, the attitudinal is within
the scope of the pretense, so that we don't have to see the
metarepresentational prefix as inducing the context-shift,
and hence as semantically deviant.

We've already seen instances of context-shifting in cases
of mixed quotation, such as the Greenspan example above.
Uses of untransposed indexicals are also common in free
indirect speech, such as in:

(13) After a while she gave her response. Tomorrow she
would meet me with pleasure; but she was too busy now.

At least on one possible reading, the orientational
indexicals 'tomorrow' and 'now' are untransposed. They are
to be interpreted with respect to a shifted context, namely
the context in which the woman whose response is being
reported first gave her response. They are not to be
interpreted with respect to the reporter's current context.
Although such untransposed indexicals seem quite common in
free indirect speech, they appear to be less common in
indirect speech and attitude reports, although Recanati
does give the following example from E. Szuyska's Textes
Choisis (I give an English translation):

(14) I knew that today was the day.

It is clear from the context that 'today' is not to be
interpreted with respect to the context of utterance (the
'external' context), but with respect to the context of the
remembered event that is being narrated.

Recanati argues that although metarepresentational prefixes
signal a world shift, the context shifting that goes on in
the sorts of examples given above is an additional feature,
which extends the ongoing pretense signaled by the world
shift. Thus although the context shifting introduces an
element of semantic deviance, it is not attributable to the
metarepresentational prefix per se.

Part V also contains a discussion of cases of partial
pretense, such as:

(15) 'Quine' hasn't finished his paper yet.

This is supposed to be a case in which it is clear from the
context that 'Quine' is not being used in its normal sense,
but is being used mockingly, to refer to a man McPherson
who James (the person being mocked) mistakenly thinks is
Quine. Recanati posits the idea of a context shifting
function, which is an unarticulated constituent of the
utterance of (15). It maps the character of the name
'Quine' onto a distinct character PERSON NAMED 'QUINE' BY
JAMES. What this distinct character picks out in the actual
context is just what the normal character would pick out inthe shifted context.

This sort of context shifting function looks as though it
won't work for cases such as:

(16) My 3-year-old thinks I'm a 'philtosopher'.

Here the echoed word does not have a normal character. So
it cannot be mapped into a distinct character that picks
out in the actual context what is picked out by the normal
character in the shifted context.

In Part VI Recanati proposes a way of dealing with such
cases, which he calls strongly deviant non-cumulative
echoes. (Cases such as (15) are weakly deviant non-
cumulative echoes). The strongly deviant cases can be
handled by appeal to a deferential operator. Ultimately
though Recanati wants a unified account of all cases of
mixed quotation (i.e., of echoic uses inside the object-
representation of a metarepresentation). He finally offers
an account of all such echoes (cumulative and non-
cumulative, strongly deviant and weakly deviant) in terms
of a deferential operator D x,m [S], where 'S' is an
expression of a language, 'x' the person to whom we defer
and 'm' is a way of using that expression.

I will not summarize the discussion here as it is rather
intricate. It takes a detour through an examination of the
notion of deference, and of Sperber's (1975) notion of
quasi-belief. There are also interesting connections made
to work by Burge, Millikan and others. The discussion also
takes a detour through a consideration of the notion of
context. Recanati defends a pragmatic conception of
context. Here he cites work by Travis, Searle and others in
support of his views, and contrasts his views with those of
Kaplan.

The final chapter of the book (chapter 20) ties together
the discussion of the distinction between transparent and
opaque readings in Part III with the discussion of
cumulative mixed quotation that is offered in chapter 19
section 19.5. Earlier, opaque readings were said to involve
a pragmatic enrichment of the minimal (transparent)
reading. To say that John believes that S understood
opaquely is to say that John so-believes S. The
metarepresentation has as part of its truth-conditional
content the content of the object-representation, but in
addition it contributes information about the way in which
the subject believes that content. A similar account could
be given of cases of cumulative mixed quotation, such as:

(10)Quine said that quotation 'has a certain anomalous
feature.'

This expresses the same content as its unquoted version,
but in addition it expresses information about how Quine
made his point.

However, the account of cumulative mixed quotation given in
chapter 19 in terms of the deferential operator suggests a
different picture. A sentence like (10) expresses the same
content as its unquoted version, but under a different,
metalinguistic, character. This is the character introduced
by the deferential operator. A similar account can be given
for belief sentences interpreted opaquely. They express the
same content as their transparent counterparts and differ
only in that this content is presented via a metalinguistic
character.

Can these two versions be reconciled? The earlier version
seems to say that transparent and opaque ascriptions differ
with respect to their truth-conditional content, whereas
the later version says they have the same truth-conditional
content and differ only at the level of character. Despite
this apparent contradiction, Recanati suggests that the two
version can and should both be accepted. The normal content
expressed by a belief sentence is just its minimal content,
and yet at the same time it is contextually enriched
(p.308).

Recanati's explorations in his book lead him to the overall
conclusion that metarepresentational prefixes are in and of
themselves semantically innocent. All they do is shift the
circumstance for the evaluation of the object-
representation. However, metarepresentation provides an
environment for the operation of a couple of pragmatic
processes. One of these is contextual enrichment, which is
semantically innocent. However, another is the process of
deference, and this does introduce deviance. Opaque
readings are associated with deviant, metalinguistic
characters.

3. Brief summary of book

(If you've read the detailed summary in section 2, you can
skip to section 4)

Part I: This lays out various principles that Recanati
thinks should constrain any account of metarepresentation.
The two most important of these are that the account be
semantically innocent and that it obey the Principle of
Iconicity. An account is semantically innocent if
expressions occurring in the complement clauses of
metarepresentations of the form 'John believes that S' are
assigned their normal (as opposed to deviant) semantic
roles. Iconicity is the principle that the sentence S (the
object-representation) should be not only syntactically but
also semantically a part of the metarepresentation. This
means that the content of the object representation should
be contained in the proposition expressed by the
metarepresentation. Recanati also gives an argument to the
effect that no account that treats that-clauses as
referring terms can be semantically innocent. This is an
important argument, since most contemporary accounts assume
that belief and other attitude reports express a relation
(e.g. of believing) between a subject and a proposition,
which, according to these accounts, is picked out by the
that-clause.

Part II: Think of a metarepresentation such as 'In the
film, a 3rd World War is declared' or 'John believes that a
3rd World War has been declared' as having the form 'dS'.
Here 'd' is a metarepresentational prefix (e.g., 'In the
film' or 'John believes that') and 'S' is an object-
representation (e.g., 'A 3rd World War has been declared').
Recanati considers two kinds of accounts of
metarepresentations that satisfy the Principle of
Iconicity. He calls these modal theories and simulation
theories. According to the former, the content of the
object-representation is a proper part of the content of
the metarepresentation. The metarepresentational prefix is
an operator that shifts the circumstance with respect to
which the object-representation is to be evaluated. For
example, 'In the film, a 3rd World War is declared' is true
in a circumstance c iff a 3rd World War is declared in the
circumstance c' depicted in the film. Simulation theories
on the other hand regard the metarepresentational prefix as
contributing no content of its own. It simply signals that
the speaker is projecting himself into the world of the
film or the believer or whatever, and making assertions
within that pretense. Metarepresentations on this view are
pretend assertions rather than serious assertions about
what holds within some pretense. Recanati rejects pure
simulation accounts as too simplistic. This does not mean
that the idea of simulation is completely rejected. Even in
modal accounts there is an element of simulation, since the
object-representation that is reported on is simultaneously
displayed. Recanati also introduces his 'Austinian
semantics'. This semantic apparatus invokes the notion of a
situation and the facts it supports. It allows Recanati to
represent the idea that metarepresentations involve a
world/circumstance shift. It also shows that in
metarepresentations a situation is viewed both from within
(as one that supports certain facts) and as an entity that
can be viewed from an external perspective.

Part III: This contains some important clarifications of
terminology. The relational/notional and transparent/opaque
distinctions are often conflated and said to be instances
of the so-called de re/de dicto ambiguity of sentences of
the form 'John believes that S'. Recanati argues that these
are in fact orthogonal to one another. The
relational/notional distinction should be made in terms of
the sort of belief ascribed. We have a relational reading
if the belief ascribed is singular, and notional if the
ascribed belief is general. Recanati assumes that when
there is a singular term in the embedded sentence S, then
only a relational reading will be available. Yet even such
an ascription can be given either a transparent or an
opaque reading. On the opaque reading, which has the form
'John so-believes that S', a singular term in S has a dual
role. It refers to the object the ascribed belief is about,
but it also indicates how the believer thinks of the
object. This analysis is reminiscent of Quine's famous
example 'Giorgione was so-called because of his size'. So
Recanati embarks on a discussion of this example. Here too
he offers terminological reforms. Many following Quine
conflate the notions of a singular term being referential
with its being transparent, and both in turn with its
occupying a position that is open to substitution and that
can be quantified into. Recanati argues that all those
notions must be kept distinct. The occurrence of a singular
term can be purely referential yet not be transparent,
because it occurs in a reflecting context, i.e., a
linguistic context containing an expression whose semantic
value depends on the identity of some other term in the
context. 'Giorgione' in Quine's example is a purely
referential occurrence. However, it is not transparent,
because Quine's sentence is a reflecting context. Replacing
the name 'Giorgione', even with a co-referring name, alters
the semantic value of 'so-called'. Similarly, opaque
readings of attitude reports are reflecting contexts. One
might think that if a belief report is given a transparent
reading, then any singular terms occurring in the embedded
sentence must be replaceable by co-referring terms.
However, Recanati denies this. Belief reports are unstable
contexts, and substitution can change a context from a non-
reflecting one into a reflecting one. Thus substitution is
never possible into the embedded sentences of attitude
reports and other metarepresentations. On the other hand,
and contra Quine, "quantifying in" is always possible. That
is, from 'John believes that a is F' one can infer 'There
is something of which John believes that it is F'. This is
always possible because in the act of existentially
generalizing one filters out all readings but the
transparent one.

Part IV: Recanati worries that by relying on a quotational
paradigm (the 'Giorgione' example) for understanding opaque
readings of metarepresentations, he may have violated
semantic innocence. Quotation can be thought of as a
context-shifting device. For example, in a direct speech
report such as "John said 'I am sick today'", the
indexicals are not to be interpreted with respect to the
speaker's context (the 'external' context), but with
respect to John's context when he uttered the quoted words
(the 'internal' context). A better model for the sort of
mention that goes on in opaque readings of
metarepresentations is mixed quotation. For example:

(1) Quine said that quotation 'has a certain anomalous
feature.'

Here the quoted material plays a dual role. It is not
simply being displayed (as is the case in direct
quotation), but it is also in active use. Recanati
distinguishes between cumulative and non-cumulative cases
of mixed quotation. Cumulative cases entail the sentence
with the quotes removed, but not so for non-cumulative
cases. These involve a context-shift, so that not all the
quoted material can be interpreted relative to the
speaker's context. Consider:

(2) Mr. Greenspan said he agreed with Labor Secretary R. B.
Reich 'on quite a lot of things.' Their accord on this
issue, he said, has proved 'quite a surprise to both of
us.'

Here the final 'us' refers to Greenspan and Reich, not to a
group of which the speaker is a member. If the quotes were
removed, the 'us' would have to be transposed to 'they'. If
opaque readings of metarepresentations involve such context
shifting, we potentially have a threat to semantic
innocence.

Part V: Recanati begins with a discussion of metafictional
statements such as 'My children think that Santa Claus
can't come until we're all asleep.' Here there appears to
be a context-shift. The speaker doesn't believe that 'Santa
Claus' refers to anything. He is taking up his children's
perspective and pretending that there is such a person.
Recanati doesn't want to say that metafictional statements
are pretend assertions. Rather, we exploit pretense for a
serious purpose. By pretending that there is a person
called 'Santa Claus' we are able indirectly to ascribe a
belief to the children that couldn't be ascribed directly.
In this case the pretense is global. It does not occur
within the scope of a metarepresentational prefix. On the
contrary, the latter is within the scope of the pretense,
so we don't have to see the prefix as inducing the context-
shift and hence as semantically deviant. This section of
Recanati's book also contains a discussion of context
shifting that occurs in free indirect speech and in cases
of partial pretense. An example of the latter is:

(3) 'Quine' hasn't finished his paper yet,

where it is clear from context that 'Quine' is being used
mockingly, to refer to a man McPherson who the person being
mocked mistakenly thinks is Quine. This is accounted for by
positing a context-shifting function which maps the normal
character of 'Quine' onto a distinct character PERSON NAMED
'QUINE' BY THE ADDRESSEE. In the actual context this picks
out just what the normal character would pick out in the
shifted context determined by taking up the addressee's
perspective.

Part VI: Context shifting functions of the sort just
posited won't help with cases such as:

(4) My 3-year-old believes I'm a 'philtospher'.

Here the quoted term doesn't have any normal meaning.
Recanati calls cases such as (4) strongly deviant non-
cumulative echoes. Cases such as (3) he calls weakly
deviant non-cumulative echoes. Cases such as (1) are
cumulative echoes. All these cases are now accounted for in
a unified framework by introducing the idea of deference in
language use. In this framework, cumulative echoes, which
are the closest models for opaque uses of
metarepresentations, are said to express the same content
as their unquoted versions, but under a different,
metalinguistic character. This metalinguistic character is
determined by applying the deferential operator to the
quoted expression(s). This account gives rise to a slightly
different account of the transparent/opaque distinction
than was given in Part III, where the opaque reading was
seen as a contextual enrichment of the minimal, transparent
reading. Thus Recanati discusses how these two accounts are
to be reconciled. Recanati's overall conclusion is that
metarepresentational prefixes are in and of themselves
semantically innocent. All they do is shift the
circumstance of evaluation of the object-representation.
However, metarepresentation provides an environment that is
hospitable to the operation of various pragmatic processes.
One of these is the process of enrichment, which is
semantically innocent. But another pragmatic process is the
one of deference, and this does indeed introduce semantic
deviance.

4. Critical assessment

Some of Recanati's ideas have already been presented in a
series of papers. However, having these ideas organized as
they are in this book makes one appreciate that Recanati is
in the process of developing a highly innovative and
interesting account of metarepresentation and related
phenomena, such as quotation, direct and indirect speech
reports and metafictional statements. One of the strong
points of the book is how wide-ranging it is. Topics that
may at first sight have seemed remote from one another are
linked in interesting ways. For example, a discussion of
conditionals proves to throw light on the structure of
metarepresentations, and a discussion of the idea of
deference helps to unify various sorts of echoic uses of
language, including opaque uses of metarepresentations.

Other highlights are the conceptual clarifications Recanati
proposes in Part III. His proposals for understanding the
relational/notional and transparent/opaque distinctions,
and his treatment of the notions of pure referentiality,
transparency, substitutability and existential
generalizability are likely to change the way people talk
about these topics in the future.

As I said, the discussion is wide ranging, and sometimes it
is not obvious how the discussions in the various parts
hang together. Sometimes Recanati explicitly attempts to
hook the parts together, as when in his final chapter he
connects the discussion of opacity in Part III with the
later discussions about echoic uses and the deferential
operator in Parts IV - VI. However, there are other
connections that remain unclear, or at any rate unstated.

For example, how is the semantic machinery presented in
Part II (Recanati's 'Austinian' semantics) to be applied to
opaque uses of metarepresentations? Opaque uses involve
pragmatic enrichment. Recanati admits that the process of
enrichment is one that affects the truth-conditional
content of an utterance. He agrees with Levinson (2000)
that there can be pragmatic intrusion into truth-
conditional content. Presumably d-structures (see detailed
summary) are meant to capture the truth-conditional content
of metarepresentations. So enrichments should be reflected
in d-structures. But how? The following is the d-structure
Recanati suggests for a belief report such as 'John
believes that a 3rd World War has been declared':

(1) [S] |= @ << John's belief state |= @ << Situation in
John's belief world |= w <<3rd WW has been declared >> >> >>

I assume that (1) corresponds to the transparent
interpretation of the belief report. How is the enrichment
(viz. that John so-believes that a 3rd World War has been
declared) to be incorporated? It is not a fact supported by
the situation in John's belief world, but a fact about
John's mode of believing. So it is external to John's
belief world and hence a fact (if it is a fact) supported
by some actual situation S'. One possibility is that
enrichments are given by independent Austinian
propositions, such as:

(2) [S'] |= @ << The content of John's belief is presented
under the mode 'A 3rd WW has been declared' >>

(This is just an ordinary Austinian proposition, not a d-
structure, because it doesn't involve a situation seen both
from within and from without). Thus the opaque reading of
the belief report is given by the conjunction of (1) and
(2). Recanati claims that opaque readings entail
transparent ones. If opaque readings were conjunctions of
this sort, this would support his entailment claim.

It is also unclear how context shifting is to be handled in
terms of Recanati's Austinian semantics. Recanati will
presumably say that context-shifting all takes place at the
level of character not the level of content, and thus
needn't be reflected in d-structures, unless we are dealing
with cases where we have both a context shift and pragmatic
enrichment. Suppose we want to represent the following
belief ascription:

(3) John believes that 'Quine' has finished his paper.

This is an instance of weakly deviant non-cumulative mixed
quotation. Here the (minimal) truth-conditional content is
given by the following d-structure:

(4) [S] |= @ << John's belief state |= @ << Situation in
John's belief world |= w << McPherson has finished his
paper >> >> >>

Recanati thinks that pragmatic enrichment may operate in
the case of (3). This would yield the claim (understood to
be a part of the truth-conditional content of (3)) that
John uses the name 'Quine' as a name for McPherson. If (3)
is also understood opaquely, this yields the following two
Austinian propositions:

(5) [S'] |= @ << The content of John's belief is presented
under the mode 'Quine has finished his paper' >>

(6) [S"] |= << John uses 'Quine' as a name for McPherson >>

Thus the enriched content of (3) is represented as the
conjunction of (4), (5), and (6). Actually, it is crucial
that (5) and (6) do not become decoupled, as then one may
fail to realize that 'Quine' is being used deviantly in
(5). So perhaps (5) and (6) need to be incorporated into a
single Austinian proposition.

A further question concerns how to analyze cases of
strongly deviant non-cumulative mixed quotation in
Austinian terms. Recanati allows that these too can be used
with enrichment. An example would be "My 3-year-old son
thinks I'm a 'philtosopher'". What is unclear here is
whether we are to think that the child has a deviant word
for our concept of a philosopher, or whether the child has
a deviant concept, which we have access to only through the
character associated with the expression that is formed by
attaching the deferential operator to the expression
'philtosopher'. In the example above it is plausible to
think that what is being echoed is simply the child's
strange pronunciation of our word 'philosopher'. But there
are presumably cases where we echo the child's word because
we have no idea what concept is being expressed. E.g., "My
3-year-old thinks I'm a 'pooti'." In such cases we
apparently do not know the truth-conditional contents of
our utterances.

Another quibble I have is that in several places Recanati
simply gestures at something without developing it, whereas
it would be nice to get some more details. For instance
there are hints given that pragmatic factors other than
those already mentioned play a role in the interpretation
of metarepresentations. Firstly, consider the d-structure
(1) above. One of its elements is a situation in John's
belief world that supports the fact that a 3rd World War has
been declared. Recanati says that in metarepresentations a
situation that plays this role "is either contextually
determined or left unspecified (quantified over)." (p.108)
But Recanati says nothing about the pragmatic processes
that might play a role in contextually determining such a
situation. Secondly, when talking about opaque readings of
belief reports, Recanati says that one can think of such
reports as having the form 'a believes that S like that'.
The adverbial phrase 'like that' denotes a manner of
believing. But what manner of believing is at issue will
"depend upon the dimensions of similarity which are
contextually relevant." (p. 158) Presumably is it possible
to use English words to ascribe a belief to someone who
speaks no English. Thus an ascription of the forms 'a
believes that S like that' needn't mean that the believer
thinks of the content of 'S' by means of that very
sentence-type, but rather by means of a relevantly similar
one. Here again pragmatic factors come into play in
interpreting opaque belief reports, but Recanati doesn't
spell out any details.

There are parts of the book that are likely to be more
controversial than other parts. I have in mind particularly
those sections in Part VI where Recanati defends a
pragmatic conception of context against a more traditional
Kaplanian conception. As one who has been persuaded by
Recanati's earlier work (e.g., Recanati 1991, 1993) of the
ways in which pragmatic factors intrude into what others
would regard as a purely semantic domain, I personally
liked those sections very much.

I end with one caveat. I earlier said that I thought this
book would make an excellent introduction for cognitive
scientists interested in exploring this philosophical
territory. I still believe this, but would like to stress
that this is a philosophical work and thus has a style that
some cognitive scientists may find hard to take. Recanati
(like all good philosophers) lays out all his reasoning,
including the sometimes-circuitous means by which he
arrives at his conclusions. This means exploring ideas only
to abandon them when they seem to be leading nowhere, and
even sometimes returning to ideas that had previously been
abandoned because a widened perspective can make them seem
viable again. So if you're one who prefers "just the facts,
please ma'am", this may not be the book for you!

References cited:

Crimmins, M. and J. Perry (1989). 'The prince and the phone
booth.' Journal of Philosophy 86:685-711.

Davidson, D. (1984) 'On saying that.' In Inquiries Into
Truth and Interpretation, 93-108. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Frege, G. (1970). 'On sense and reference.' In P. Geach &
M. Black (eds.) Translations from the Philosophical
Writings of Gottlob Frege. Oxford: Blackwell.

Levinson, S. (2000). Presumptive Meanings. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press.

Pietroski, P. M. (1996). 'Fregean innocence.' Mind &
Language 11:338-370.

Recanati, F. (1991). 'The pragmatics of what is said.' In
S. Davis (ed.) Pragmatics: A Reader. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Recanati, F. (1993). Direct Reference: From Language to
Thought. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sperber, D. (1975). Rethinking Symbolism. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication
and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Walton, K. (1990). Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the
Foundations of the Representational Arts. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.

Anne Bezuidenhout teaches in the Philosophy Department at
the University of South Carolina. Her research is focused
on issues in the philosophy of language and pragmatics. She
has written on topics such as the referential/attributive
distinction, the pragmatics of propositional attitude
reports, generalized conversational implicatures, and
metaphor. She is also currently engaged in a project in
experimental pragmatics with two psychologist colleagues.
The project seeks a better understanding of the factors
influencing on-line processing of sentences giving rise to
generalized conversational implicatures. Her e-mail address
is: anne1@sc.edu

Anne Bezuidenhout
Department of Philosophy
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
U.S.A
Tel (803) 777-4166
Fax (803) 777-9178
anne1@sc.edu


 
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