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Property theory and the revision theory of definitions

  • Francesco Orilia

§1. Introduction. Russell's type-theory can be seen as a theory of properties, relations, and propositions (PRPs) (in short, a property theory). It relies on rigid type distinctions at the grammatical level to circumvent the property theorist's major problem, namely Russell's paradox, or, more generally, the paradoxes of predication. Type theory has arguably been the standard property theory for years, often taken for granted, and used in many applications. In particular, Montague [27] has shown how to use a type-theoretical property-theory as a foundation for natural language semantics.

In recent years, it has been persuasively argued that many linguistic and ontological data are best accounted for by using a type-free property theory. Several type-free property theories, typically with fine-grained identity conditions for PRPs, have therefore been proposed as potential candidates to play a foundational role in natural language semantics, or for related applications in formal ontology and the foundations of mathematics (Bealer [6], Cocchiarella [18], Turner [35], etc.).

Attempts have then been made to combine some such property theory with a Montague-style approach in natural language semantics. Most notably, Chierchia and Turner [15] propose a Montague-style semantic analysis of a fragment of English, by basically relying on the type-free system of Turner [35]. For a similar purpose Chierchia [14] relies on one of the systems based on homogeneous stratification due to Cocchiarella. Cocchiarella's systems have also been used for applications in formal ontology, inspired by Montague's account of quantifier phrases as, roughly, properties of properties (see, e.g., Cocchiarella [17], [19], Landini [25], Orilia [29]).

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