Universiteit Antwerpen

December 2-3, 2013 | Scott Soames on Law and Language

The Centre for Law and Cosmopoitan Values is pleased to announce that Professor Scott Soames (University of Southern California, LA) will deliver two talks - on legal interpretation and philosophy of language - entitled "Deferentialism: A Post-Originalist Theory of Legal Interpretation " and "Cognitive Propositions" on December 2nd and December 3rd respectively.

Scott Soames is renowned for his contributions to philosophy of language and (the history of) analytic philosophy. He has published extensively on truth, reference, meaning, the relationship between semantics and pragmatics, and the nature of syntactic and semantic theories of natural language. Specific topics of his scholarly interest include names, natural kind terms, descriptions, pronominal anaphora, propositions and propositional attitudes, vagueness, presupposition, partially defined predicates, the rule following paradox, and the indeterminacy of translation.

In recent years, Professor Soames has also contributed to the interdisciplinary debate on legal interpretation - applying his take on philosophy of language.


15:00-17:00: I. Law and Language Lecture: ‘Deferentialism: A Post-Originalist Theory of Legal Interpretation’
Room S.004 Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp.

The paper presents a new conception of legal interpretation that has close affinities with originalism while shedding much of its accumulated baggage. The new conception includes two dimensions of deference to original sources: one to a species of original meaning, the other to a species of original intent. The dimensions are ordered. The first task is to identify the relevant original meaning; intent becomes constitutive, as opposed to merely evidential, only after that meaning has been identified. The theory is illustrated by applying it to the Due Process Clauses of the 5th and the 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and using it as a source of criticism of recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.

11:00-13:00: II. Philosophy of Language Lecture: ‘Cognitive Propositions’
Room S.004 Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp.

The paper presents a new conception of propositions and the epistemic relations agents bear to them, according to which propositions have both representational and cognitive content. Every proposition represents the world as being some way, and so imposes conditions it must satisfy if the proposition is to be true. Propositions also impose cognitive conditions on agents who entertain them. Because the two types of content are partially independent they generate representationally identical but cognitively distinct propositions. These expand the solution-space for several outstanding problems involving language and mind. Just as structured propositions make analyses available that are wrongly excluded when propositions are identified with sets of possible world-states, so cognitive propositions make needed analyses available that are excluded by traditional conceptions of structured propositions.