Paul M. Pietroski

Dept. of Philosophy

106 Somerset St. (5th Floor)

New Brunswick, NJ 08901



I teach at Rutgers University, as a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Center for Cognitive Science. My primary research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and psychology.

For a while now, I've been thinking about how grammatical structure is related to linguistic meaning, and how words are related to concepts. Events and Semantic Architecture (OUP 2005) was an initial progress report. In various papers, often collaborative, I have defended a nativist approach to the study of human languages and an internalist conception of what these languages are. In Conjoining Meanings: Semantics without Truth Values (OUP 2018), I argue that meanings are instructions for how to build concepts of a special kind; here is a précis and some links to reviews. A sequel, The Vocabulary of Meanings: Semantics with Constituents, is in the works. A recurring theme is that with regard to how words are used and understood, representational format matters a lot, and meanings are distinct from any format-neutral contents that are represented or communicated.

I received my B.A. from Rutgers College in 1986, did my graduate work at MIT, and joined the department of philosophy at McGill University in 1990. Causing Actions (OUP, 2000) reflected my initial interests in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. From 1998 to 2017, I taught in the departments of linguistics and philosophy at the University of Maryland, where I am now a professor emeritus. In returning to my alma mater, despite the fact that my college no longer exists, I moved from one of the fourteen Big Ten schools to another; yet I never attended a Big Ten school, and I had never before been hired by one. Seems appropriate for a philosopher who thinks about language.

When time permits, I spend a lot of it here, sometimes doing other things.

Talks, Recent and Upcoming
    If you find the slides useful, feel free to use them, and likewise for these older talks.

Fall 2019:
"Conjoining Meanings: sneaking up on truth," (.pptx) an introductory talk for a two-day session on Conjoining Meanings,
            as part of a larger philosophy of language conference in Dubrovnik (Sept. 9-13)
"Types of Meanings: Two is Better than Too Many," (revised slides below) Institute of Philosophy, London (Sept. 17)
--a series of talks in Japan (abstracts)
"Types of Meanings: Two is Better than Too Many," (.pptx) invited talk at LENLS (Nov. 10-12)
        (b) "Meanings, Homophony, and Polysemy"
for a workshop at Tokyo University (Nov. 24)
                    [Revised Slides below for "One Meaning, Many Concepts, No Extension"]
        (c) "Meanings, Concepts, and Composition" (.pptx) for a workshop at Nanzan University in Nagoya (Nov. 30)
                                and a few slides
(.pptx), as reminders of themes in the talks, for the final discussion session (Dec. 1)
    --a version of talk (b)
at USC (Dec. 6)

Spring 2020:
    --"One Meaning, Many Concepts, No Extension: Polysemy as Valuable Equivocality," (.pptx)
        New York Philosophy of Language Workshop
(Feb 3)


Some Less Recent Talks

Meanings as Composable Scores  
    Cognitive Science Colloquium,
Rutgers University (March 2019, .pptx)
Human Languages: What are They?   
    "Break it Down" series, Dept. of Philosophy,
Rutgers University (March 2019, .pptx)
Syntactic Structures and Semantic Internalism, Generative Grammar at the Speed of 90.
    University of Arizona (December 2018, .pptx) (EP-version, .pptx)
Confronting Existential Angst (October 2018,
  Amsterdam, Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation
Meanings and Minds: Most, Mass, and maybe More (October 2018, slides .pptx)   
    Amsterdam, Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation
    Northwestern University, Cognitive Science Colloquium (October 2018)
Fostering Liars
Topoi Conference (June 2018, slides .pptx)
Rutgers-Bochum Workshop (April 2018)
Meaning Internalism and Natural History
    Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science,
    Univ. of Michigan (April 1, 2017
.pptx, .pdf)
Meanings, Concepts, and Natural Kinds: What Were People Thinking?
    Rutgers Anniversary (Nov. 10, 1766+250,
.pptx .pdf)
Locating Human Meanings: Less Typology, More Constraint
    Rutgers Workshop (October 2015, .pptx  .pdf)
Semantic Internalism
    Univ. of Arizona (October 2015,
.pptx  .pdf)
Also in Panopto form, thanks to the Arizona linguistics department.
Semantic Framing: the meaning of 'most'
Simon Frasier University produced a video of this 2014 talk,
whch was for their Linguistics and Cognitive Science programs.
Form and Composition
    Higginbotham Lecture at USC (2014).
    For this talk, in honor of Jim, a handout.