Josef Stern

Josef Stern is William H. Colvin Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Chicago and was the Inaugural Director of the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies. He is the author of Metaphor in Context (MIT Press), The Matter and Form of Maimonides' Guide, and other books.

  • Quotations as Pictures

    Quotations as Pictures

    Josef Stern

    The proposal of a semantics for quotations using explanatory notions drawn from philosophical theories of pictures.

    In Quotations as Pictures, Josef Stern develops a semantics for quotations using explanatory notions drawn from philosophical theories of pictures. He offers the first sustained analysis of the practice of quotation proper, as opposed to mentioning. Unlike other accounts that treat quotation as mentioning, Quotations as Pictures argues that the two practices have independent histories, that they behave differently semantically, that the inverted commas employed in both mentioning and quotation are homonymous, that so-called mixed quotation is nothing but subsentential quotation, and that the major problem of quotation is to explain its dual reference or meaning—its ordinary meaning and its metalinguistic reference to the quoted phrase attributed to the quoted subject.

    Stern argues that the key to understanding quotation is the idea that quotations are pictures or have a pictorial character. As a phenomenon where linguistic competence meets a nonlinguistic symbolic ability, the pictorial, quotation is a combination of features drawn from the two different symbol systems of language and pictures, which explains the exceptional and sometimes idiosyncratic data about quotation. In light of this analysis of verbal quotation, in the last chapters Stern analyzes scare quotation as a nonliteral expressive use of the inverted commas and explores the possibility of quotation in pictures themselves.

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  • Metaphor in Context

    Metaphor in Context

    Josef Stern

    Josef Stern addresses the question: Given the received conception of the form and goals of semantic theory, does metaphorical interpretation, in whole or part, fall within its scope?

    The many philosophers, linguists, and cognitive scientists writing on metaphor over the past two decades have generally taken for granted that metaphor lies outside, if not in opposition to, received conceptions of semantics and grammar. Assuming that metaphor cannot be explained by or within semantics, they claim that metaphor has little, if anything, to teach us about semantic theory. In this book Josef Stern challenges these assumptions. He is concerned primarily with the question: Given the received conception of the form and goals of semantic theory, does metaphorical interpretation, in whole or part, fall within its scope? Specifically, he asks, what (if anything) does a speaker-hearer know as part of her semantic competence when she knows the interpretation of a metaphor?

    According to Stern, the answer to these questions lies in the systematic context-dependence of metaphorical interpretation. Drawing on a deep analogy between demonstratives, indexicals, and metaphors, Stern develops a formal theory of metaphorical meaning that underlies a speaker's ability to interpret a metaphor. With his semantics, he also addresses a variety of philosophical and linguistic issues raised by metaphor. These include the interpretive structure of complex extended metaphors, the cognitive significance of metaphors and their literal paraphrasability, the pictorial character of metaphors, the role of similarity and exemplification in metaphorical interpretation, metaphor-networks, dead metaphors, the relation of metaphors to other figures, and the dependence of metaphors on literal meanings. Unlike most metaphor theorists, however, who take these problems to be sui generis to metaphor, Stern subsumes them under the same rubric as other semantic facts that hold for nonmetaphorical language.

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