Alex Silk


I am an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. I completed my Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Michigan. I specialize in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaethics. My main research projects include work on context-sensitive language and normative and evaluative discourse. I also have projects on Nietzsche, predication, philosophy of law, and mood.

Much of my research has focused on the meaning of normative uses of language and how incorporating insights from philosophy of language and linguistics can shed light on broader philosophical debates. My paper “Normative Language in Context” (awarded the Marc Sanders Prize in Metaethics) applies this project to the case of normative language and metaethical debates about moral disagreement, judgment, and truth. My 2016 book, Discourse Contextualism (OUP), extends the account to a range of expressions that have figured in contextualism/relativism debates.

My recent work has examined the prospects for a linguistic theory that posits explicit representations of context in linguistic structure and meaning. My 2021 book, Semantics with Assignment Variables (CUP), develops the syntax and compositional semantics and applies it to diverse linguistic shifting phenomena, such as with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, relative clauses, questions, and conditionals.

In 2018 I finished a 2.5-year AHRC Research Grant with Daniel Rothschild (UCL) on Context-Sensitivity in Natural Language. In 2019–20 I took up a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

You can email me at


  1. Discourse Contextualism: A Framework for Contextualist Semantics and Pragmatics. 2016. Oxford University Press UK.

  2. Semantics with Assignment Variables. 2021. Cambridge University Press.


  1. “Hybrid Theories: Cognitivist Expressivism.” Forthcoming. In D. Copp & C. Rosati (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Meta-Ethics. Oxford University Press.

  2. “Challenges for independence-driven and context-repair responses to the proviso problem.” 2022. Natural Language Semantics.

  3. “Weak and Strong Necessity Modals.” 2022. In B. Dunaway & D. Plunkett (Eds.), Meaning, Decision, and Norms: Themes from the Work of Allan Gibbard, pp. 203–245. (This is an expanded and revised version of the sections in my 2012 SALT paper on weak and strong necessity modals, and of Chapter 3 of my 2013 dissertation.)

  4. “Evaluational Adjectives.” 2021. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research 102: 127–161.

  5. “Expectation Biases and Context Management with Negative Polar Questions.” 2020. Journal of Philosophical Logic 49: 51–92.

  6. “Normativity in Language and Law.” 2019. In D. Plunkett, S. Shapiro, & K. Toh (Eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence, pp. 287–313. Oxford University Press.

  7. “Theories of Vagueness and Theories of Law.” 2019. Legal Theory 25: 132–152.

  8. “Commitment and States of Mind with Mood and Modality.” 2018. Natural Language Semantics 26(2): 125–166.

  9. “Nietzsche and Contemporary Metaethics.” 2018. In P. Katsafanas (Ed.), The Nietzschean Mind, pp. 247–263. Routledge.

  10. “Normative Language in Context.” 2017. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 12, pp. 206–243. Winner of the 2015 Sanders Prize in Metaethics.

  11. “How to Embed an Epistemic Modal: Attitude Problems and Other Defects of Character.” 2017. Philosophical Studies 174: 1773–1799.

  12. “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets.” 2017. Journal of Semantics 34: 683–707.

  13. “Contextualism in Metaethics.” 2017. In T. McPherson & D. Plunkett (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, pp. 102–118.

  14. “The Progressive and Verbs of Creation.” 2016. Journal of Semantics 33(1): 19–48.

  15. “Update Semantics for Weak Necessity Modals.” 2016. In O. Roy, A. Tamminga, M. Willer (Eds.), Deontic Logic and Normative Systems (DEON 2016), pp. 237–255. College Publications.

  16. “How to Be an Ethical Expressivist.” 2015. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91(1): 47–81.

  17. “Nietzschean Constructivism.” 2015. Inquiry, Special Issue: Nietzsche’s Moral Psychology, 58(3): 244-280.

  18. “What Normative Terms Mean and Why It Matters for Ethical Theory.” 2015. In M. Timmons (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 5, pp. 296–325.

  19. “Accommodation and Negotiation with Context-Sensitive Expressions.” 2014. Thought 3(2): 115-123.

  20. “Evidence-Sensitivity in Weak Necessity Deontic Modals.” 2014. Journal of Philosophical Logic 43(4): 691-723.

  21. “Why ‘Ought’ Detaches.” 2014. Philosophers’ Imprint 14(7): 1-16.

  22. “Wither Anankastics?” (with Billy Dunaway). 2014. Philosophical Perspectives 28: Ethics, 75-94.

  23. “Truth-Conditions and the Meanings of Ethical Terms.” 2013. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 8, pp. 195–222.

  24. “Deontic Conditionals: Weak and Strong.” In Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Linguists, 2013.

  25. “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets.” In A. Chereches (Ed.), Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 22, pp. 43-64. 2012. (SUPERSEDED: See the drafts “Weak and Strong Necessity” and “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets” below for more up-to-date developments of the ideas in this paper.)


(Please do not cite or quote without permission.)

  1. “Comparative vagueness”

  2. “Conditional predicates”

  3. “Meaningless suffering”

  4. “Predication”


  1. Review of J. Richardson, Nietzsche's Values. 2021. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

  2. Critical Notice of G. Fletcher & M. Ridge (Eds.), Having it Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics. 2017. Analysis 77: 197–211.

  3. Review of P. Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics. 2013. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

  4. Review of R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 6. 2012. Ethics 122(3): 622–627.


  1. Recent

  2. Nietzsche (slides, handouts, On the Genealogy of Morality)

  3. Philosophy of Language and the Linguistic Study of Meaning (handouts, sample Heim & Kratzer-style exercises)

  4. Human Rights

  5. Moral and Political Philosophy

  6. Research Skills and Methods

  7. Problems of Philosophy

  8. Paradigms of Belief (Nietzsche)

  9. Metaethics

  10. Global Ethics

  11. Other materials

  12. Writing: Checklist / Handout