Eric Swanson

Eric Swanson
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Department of Philosophy

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I’m an associate professor of philosophy at Uni­ver­sity of Mich­igan, Ann Arbor, and I work on ‘might,’ ‘may,’ ‘should,’ ‘must,’ ‘cause,’ ‘be­lieves,’ ‘sus­pects,’ ‘if,’ ‘would,’ and ‘knows.’

I’m interested in these words be­cause I think that in­ves­tigating them can shed light on more gen­eral features of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. My work on them has led me to de­velop con­straint sem­an­tics, a frame­work according to which sen­tences ex­press not prop­o­si­tions but con­straints, and a given asser­tion is like ad­vice to con­form to a par­tic­ular con­straint. I think con­straint sem­an­tics can be fruit­fully applied to many of the as­pects of our dox­astic, affec­tive, and con­ative lives that we com­mun­i­cate to others.

My work on these words has also led me to devel­op or­dering super­val­uation­ism. Like tra­ditional super­val­uation­ism, or­dering super­val­uation­ism han­dles cases in which some interpretations of an ex­pres­sion are tied for best. But or­dering super­val­uation­ism also de­liv­ers attractive results when for each of the pos­sible interpretations of an ex­pres­sion, an­oth­er interpretation is better. I’m currently working out treat­ments of such cases in se­mantics, formal epis­temology, and metaphysics.

Over the last several years Franz Huber, Jonathan Weisberg, and I or­gan­ized three Formal Epis­tem­ology Fes­tivals, on con­di­tionals and ranking functions, causal decision theory and scoring rules, and learning from experience and defeasible reasoning. Ezra Keshet and I organized an inter­disciplinary con­ference and sem­i­nar on dis­course con­straints on anaphora in 2009.