Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Delia Graff Fara (Princeton University)

Spring 2011 Colloquium Series

Fri, March 11, 2011 | WAG 316

3:30 PM


Delia Graff Fara
Department of Philosophy
“Contrastive Desire”

In this paper I discuss the semantics of desire ascriptions involving the propositional attitude verb "want" as it appears in sentences such as "Maria wants the US team to win" or "Maria wants to be a poet".  I propose an analysis in terms of preference.  My development of previous such accounts, such as those due to Robert Stalnaker and Irene Heim, introduces an element of context-dependence.

The analysis is contrastive in the sense that desire reports are evaluated relative to a class of alternatives which may vary from context to context.  To say that S wants that p is to say -- in a sense that I'll spell out -- not merely that S prefers p to not-p, but that S prefers p as contrasted with other propositions in a set of salient alternatives which may vary from context to context.

The account is preferable to its alternatives because it allows for the truth conditions of desire reports to be focus-sensitive and sensitive also to the presence of presupposition triggers.


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