Elisabeth Camp
Who Am I?

Rutgers University
Department of Philosophy
Gateway Building

106 Somerset Street, Room 514

New Brunswick NJ 08901

Department telephone: 848.932.9861

Department fax: 848.932.8617


I am interested in forms of thought and talk that don't fit the standard philosophical model of mind and language.    

In caricature, the standard philosophical model treats minds and languages as what Leibniz called a rational calculus: an abstract logical system that encodes and connects truth-assessable thoughts in a reliable, rule-governed way. I aim to do justice both to the ways in which much human cognition and language is systematic, abstract, and truth-conditional; and also to the ways in which it is contextually malleable, holistic, intuitive, and/or experientially- and affectively-laden.  I argue that the power of distinctively human thought, in domains ranging from science to literature, arises from an intimate interaction between logic and imagination. 

More specifically, much of my work can be divided into three distinct but overlapping strands.

I am interested in cognitive "perspectives", in which one thought structures our overall intuitive interpretation of a subject, much as a concept can structure our perceptual experience, as with this famous figure:
As I think of it, a perspective is an open-ended interpretive principle, which guides what we notice about a subject, how we organize and explain what we think about it, and thus how we evaluate and respond to it I've investigated perspectives especially in our understanding of metaphor and other 'poetic' uses of language, and with slurs.  I've also applied perspectives to our engagement with fiction, to scientific inquiry, and to the construction of a self.  

Second, I am interested in concepts.  Concepts, I argue, are abilities to think about the world that are systematically recombinable and stimulus independent.  Some but not all human thought exemplifies these features; but they are also found, at least to a significant degree, in some non-human animals. The fact that language is also systematically recombinable and stimulus independent has led many theorists to tie concepts tightly to language; I argue that these features can also be satisfied, at least to a significant degree, by maps and diagrams.  More generally, I aim to identify the distinctive profile of expressive, inferential, and implementational strengths and weaknesses of various representational systems, in order to make sense of their operative functional structure.

Third, I am interested in language in use, specifically in the interplay between encoded, conventional, semantic meaning and context-local, pragmatic modulations and manipulations of that meaning.  I have argued that the role of figurative language and insinuation in ordinary discourse pushes us to reconsider standard ways of drawing the distinctions between semantics and pragmatics, and between speaker's meaning, common ground, and conversational score or record.  Recently, I've been especially interested in strategic and/or antagonistic conversations, in which the interlocutors' interests are not assumed to be fully aligned, especially with respect to metaphorical insults, slurs, and insinuation. 

You can get a more in-depth, non-technical sense for my thoughts on some of these topics at "Metaphors and Minds", an interview with Richard Marshall at 3AM Magazine

I offer some philosophical ruminations on the socio-cultural significance of pink, filtered through my experience as the mother of a pink-loving child, at
Aeon: “Pretty in Pink”.  (A slightly more philosophy-heavy version was originally published as  The Socio-Aesthetics of Pink” at Aesthetics for Birds.)

Elizabeth Harman, Jill North and I co-organized Athena in Action's Mentoring and Networking Workshop for Women in Philosophy in 2014 and 2016.  The next workshop will be held in June 2018.


I got my PhD from the Philosophy Department at UC Berkeley in 2003; my advisors were Richard Wollheim, John Searle, and John MacFarlane.  I spent the next three years at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and then taught in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania from 2006 to 2013, when I joined the Philosophy Department at Rutgers, New Brunswick, where I am also affiliated with the Center for Cognitive Science

I went to to college at the University of Michigan, and graduated in 1993 with a double major in Philosophy and English.  In the years between college and grad school, I worked in Chicago, designing and implementing programs for GED instruction in public housing and for ESL instruction in the Latino community.


Papers on Perspectives: Science, Fiction, Metaphor, Imagination, and the Self
* Imaginative Frames for Scientific Inquiry: Metaphors, Telling Facts, and Just-So Stories
in The Scientific Imagination, ed. P. Godfrey-Smith and A. Levy, OUP (in press). 
I distinguish among a range of distinct representational devices, which I call ‘frames’, all of which have the function of providing a perspective on a subject: an overarching intuitive principle or for noticing, explaining, and responding to it. Starting with Max Black’s metaphor of metaphor as etched lines on smoked glass, I explain what makes frames in general powerful cognitive toolsI distinguish metaphor from some of its close cousins, especially telling details, just-so stories, and analogies, in ordinary cognition and communication.  And I use these distinctions to illustrate different sorts of gaps that frames or models can open up between representation and reality.

* " Wordsworth’s Prelude, Poetic Autobiography, and Narrative Constructions of the Self"
    Nonsite.org vol. 3, (October 2011), 34 pp.
Humans are inveterate storytellers. We make incessant and insistent narrative sense of the world around us and of our place in itso much so that some scholars have suggested “homo narrans as a more appropriate identifying description for our species than “homo sapiens". Indeed, a long-standing tradition holds that our very self-identities have an essentially narrative shape: that who each of us is is determined by the stories of our lives, and that in some sense we create our selves by crafting those stories.  In this essay, I focus on an especially compelling case of narrative self-construction: Wordsworth’s Prelude.  I argue that we do need rich, substantive selves of the sort delivered by narratives like The Prelude, both in order to evaluate our past actions and to guide future ones.  However, the very feature which makes Wordsworth’s poem so rhetorically powerful as an autobiography—his invocation of a robust teleological structure, which is imposed on him from infancy by Nature—also prevents us from embracing it as a model for our own self-understanding, because it conflicts sharply with modern views about ontology.  Contemporary advocates of a narrative conception of the self, such as Jerome Bruner, Alasdair MacIntyre and Marya Schectman, drop The Prelude’s objectionable ontological assumptions.  But rather than placing the narrative conception of self on a firm metaphysical foundation, this actually intensifies the threat of fictionalism: the risk that the selves we fashion through stories are mere self-deluding illusions. I conclude by gesturing toward the characters within stories as an alternative literary model which avoids many of these problems.

* See also: Personal Identity: The Narrative Self (a Wi-Phi video), February 2016.

* "Perspectives in Imaginative Engagement with Fiction"  
Recent philosophical attention to fiction has focused on imaginative resistance, especially with respect to moral matters. But we also need to explain the phenomenon of ‘disparate response’: readers’ frequent willingness and ability to shift their emotional, evaluative and other interpretive responses from those they would have to the same situation in reality.  I argue that an adequate explanation of both imaginative resistance and disparate response must appeal to perspectives. Trying on a perspective involves more than imagining that a set of propositions is true or experiencing something: it requires actually structuring one’s intuitive thinking in the relevant way. A perspectival account comports better with empirical evidence of malleability in readers’ responses to both fiction and non-fiction, and more accurately predicts when imaginative resistance does arise..

* "Two Varieties of Literary Imagination: Metaphor, Fiction, and Thought Experiments"
Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Poetry and Philosophy 33:1 (2009), 107-130.
I contrast the imaginative activity involved in pretending something to be true with that involved in metaphorical construal, arguing that the two activities differ in their direction of fit, mechanism of interpretation, and phenomenology.  More generally, pretense involves the imaginative manipulation of what we take to be so, while metaphor reconfigures how we think about what is so.  I show that fiction and poetry both make use of both interpretive activities; in particular, both can provide us with ‘metaphors for life’ by inviting us to use an imagined scenario as a frame through which to interpret our own lives. Finally, there may be an appropriate role for both species of imagination within philosophy itself.

* "Showing, Telling, and Seeing: Metaphor and 'Poetic' Language
        The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication (August 2008), 1-24.
Theorists often associate certain “poetic” qualities with metaphor – most especially, producing an open-ended, holistic perspective which is evocative, imagistic and affectively-laden. I argue that, on the one hand, non-cognitivists are wrong to claim that metaphors only produce such perspectives: like ordinary literal speech, they also serve to undertake claims and other speech acts with propositional content. On the other hand, contextualists are wrong to assimilate metaphor to literal loose talk: metaphors depend on using one thing as a perspective for thinking about something else. I bring out the distinctive way that metaphor works by contrasting it with two other poetic uses of language, juxtapositions and “telling details,” that do fit the accounts of metaphor offered by non-cognitivists and contextualists, respectively.

* "Metaphor and That Certain 'Je Ne Sais Quoi'"
Philosophical Studies 129:1 (May 2006), 1-25.
Contrary to what many proponents of metaphor have claimed, metaphors don't do anything different in kind from what can be done with literal speech. But this does not render metaphor theoretically dispensable or irrelevant, as many analytic philosophers have assumed. In certain circumstances, I argue, metaphors can enable speakers to communicate contents that cannot be stated in fully literal and explicit terms. These cases thus serve as counterexamples to John Searle's 'Principle of Expressibility', the idea that whatever can be meant can be said. Indeed, metaphors can sometimes provide us with our only cognitive access to certain properties. Thinking about metaphor is useful because it draws our attention to patterns and processes of thought that play a pervasive role in our ordinary thought and talk, and that extend our basic communicative and cognitive resources.

* An abstract of my dissertation, Saying and Seeing-as: The Linguistic Uses and Cognitive Effects of Metaphor.

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Papers on Meaning: Metaphor, Sarcasm, Slurs, and the Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction
* Insinuation, Common Ground, and the Conversational Record
in New Work in Speech Acts, ed. D. Fogal, D. Harris and M. Moss, OUP (in press).
Most philosophical and linguistic theorizing about meaning focuses on cooperative forms of communication. However, much verbal communication involves parties whose interests are not fully aligned, or who do not know their degree of alignment. In such contexts, speakers sometimes turn to insinuation: implicatures that permit deniability about risky attitudes and contents. I argue that insinuation is a form of speaker’s meaning in which speakers communicate potentially risky attitudes and contents without adding them to the conversational record, or sometimes even to the common ground.

* Metaethical Expressivism” 
in The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, ed. T. McPherson and D. Plunkett (2017), 87-101 (in press).
I consider what it might mean for an utterance to ‘express’ an attitude in way that differentiates expressive from descriptive speech, and how individual words might have the conventional function of performing such acts of expression.  Drawing on recent work in formal semantics, I argue that while there are promising models for implementing the intuition that certain expressions and constructions – for instance, deontic and epistemic modals, pejoratives like ‘damn’, and slurs – express non-cognitive states and/or have dynamic non-truth-conditional effects, these models are not easily extended to the classic case of ‘thin’ ethical terms.

* Pragmatic Force in Semantic Context: Robert Stalnaker’s Context
Philosophical Studies (September 2016), DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0781-5
Stalnaker’s Context deploys the core machinery of common ground, possible worlds, and epistemic accessibility to mount a powerful case for the ‘autonomy of pragmatics’: the utility of theorizing about discourse function independently of specific linguistic mechanisms. Illocutionary force lies at the peripherybetween pragmatics—as the rational, non-conventional dynamics of context change—and semantics—as a conventional compositional mechanism for determining truth-conditional contents—in an interesting way. I argue that the conventionalization of illocutionary force, most notably in assertion, has crosscontextual consequences that are not fully captured by a specification of dynamic effects on common ground. More generally, I suggest that Stalnaker’s purely informational, propositional analysis of both semantic content and dynamic effects distorts our understanding of the function of language, especially of the real-world commitments and consequences engendered by robustly ‘expressive’ language like slurs, honorifics, and thick terms.

* Conventions’ Revenge: Davidson, Derangement, and Dormativity
Inquiry 59:1 (January 2016), 113-138.
Davidson advocates a radical and powerful form of anti-conventionalism, on which the scope of a semantic theory is restricted to the most local of contexts: a particular utterance by a particular speaker. I argue that this hyper-localism undercuts the explanatory grounds for his assumption that semantic meaning is systematic, which is central, among other things, to his holism. More importantly, it threatens to undercut the distinction between word meaning and speaker’s meaning, which he takes to be essential to semantics. I argue that a moderate form of conventionalism can restore systematicity and the word/speaker distinction while accommodating Davidson’s insights about the complexities and contextual variability of language use.

* "Why Metaphors Make Good Insults: Perspectives, Presupposition, and Pragmatics"
Philosophical Studies 174:1 (January 2017), 47-64.
Metaphors are powerful communicative tools because they produce ‘framing effects’. These effects are especially palpable when the metaphor is an insult that denigrates the hearer or someone he cares about. In such cases, just comprehending the metaphor produces a kind of ‘complicity’ that cannot easily be undone by denying the speaker’s claim. Several theorists have taken this to show that metaphors are engaged in a different line of work from ordinary communication. Against this, I argue that metaphorical insults are rhetorically powerful because they combine perspectives, presupposition, and pragmatics in the service of speech acts with assertoric force.

* "Metaphor and Varieties of Meaning"
A Companion to Donald Davidson, ed. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 361-378.
In discussions of metaphor, Davidson is (in)famous for claiming that metaphorical utterances lack any distinctive, nonliteral meaning. But there is much less agreement about just what he means by this. I explicate this claim as it occurs in “What Metaphors Mean” (1978) and relate it to his reflections on language in “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs” (1986). First, I argue that despite some puzzling inconsistencies, the overall thrust of “What Metaphors Mean” is a radical form of noncogitivism. Second, I argue that in “Nice Derangement,” Davidson applies several of the arguments offered against metaphorical meanings in “What Metaphors Mean” to linguistic meaning more generally; but his criteria for what counts as “meaning” have shifted to include context-local word meaning alongside Gricean speaker’s meaning. With respect to metaphor, he appears to have abandoned his previous noncognitivism for an analysis in terms of speaker’s meaning, but it is not clear that this new view is justified by his new model of meaning. Finally, I articulate and evaluate a neo-Davidsonian view of metaphor, which retains as much as possible from both papers.

* Slurs as Dual-Act Expressions
in Bad Words, ed. D. Sosa, OUP (in press)
Slurs are incendiary terms – so much that many ordinary speakers and theorists deny that sentences containing them can ever be true, and utterances where they occur embedded within normally ‘quarantining’ contexts, like conditionals and indirect reports, are still typically offensive. At the same time, however, many speakers and theorists also find it obvious that sentences containing slurs can be true; and there are clear cases where embedding does inoculate a speaker from the slur’s offensiveness. I argue that four standard accounts of the ‘other’ element that differentiates slurs from their more neutral counterparts – semantic content, perlocutionary effect, presupposition, and conventional implicature – all fail to account for this puzzling mixture of intuitions about truth, and for this mixture of projection and quarantining. Instead, I propose that slurs make two distinct, coordinated contributions to a sentence’s conventional communicative role: predication of group membership and endorsement of a derogating perspective on the group. Predication of group membership is ‘at issue’ by default, but different semantic and conversational contexts can alter the relative prominence and scope of the two contributions. 

* "Slurring Perspectives"
Analytic Philosophy 54:3 (September 2013), 330-349.
Slurs are rhetorically insidious and theoretically interesting because they communicate something above and beyond the truth-conditional predication of group membership, something which typically – though not always – projects across 'blocking' constructions like negation, conditionals, and indirect quotation, and which is exceptionally resistant to direct challenge.  I argue that neither pure expressivism nor straightforward truth-conditionalism can account for the sort of commitment that speakers undertake by using slurs.  Instead, I claim, users of slurs endorse a denigrating perspective on the targeted group.

* "Sarcasm, Pretense, and The Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction"
Nous 46:4 (December 2012), 587–634.
Traditional theories of sarcasm treat it as a case of speakers meaning the opposite of what they say. Recently, ‘expressivists’ have argued that sarcasm is not a type of speaker meaning at all, but merely the expression of a dissociative attitude toward an evoked thought or perspective. I argue that we should analyze sarcasm in terms of meaning inversion, as the traditional theory does; but that we need to construe ‘meaning’ more broadly, to include illocutionary force and evaluative attitudes. I distinguish four subclasses of sarcasm, individuated in terms of the target of inversion. Three of these classes raise serious challenges for a standard implicature analysis.

* "Sarcastic 'Like': A Case Study in the Interface of Syntax and Semantics" (with John Hawthorne)
Philosophical Perspectives 22:1 (2008), 1-21.
In American English (and also in e.g. German, Russian, and French), one can indicate sarcasm by prefixing a sentence with 'Like' or 'As if', as in "Like/As if she's going to believe you."  We argue that 'Like'-prefixed sarcasm displays a distinctive pattern of semantic and syntactic constraints which are not shared with bare sarcasm; most notably, 'Like'-prefixed sarcasm licenses Negative Polarity Items, such as 'ever', 'yet', and 'lift a finger'.  We sketch two possible semantic theories of sarcastic 'Like', and conclude that the most promising option is to treat 'Like' as semantically expressing an illocutionary force of denial.

* "Prudent Semantics Meets Wanton Speech Act Pluralism"
Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism,  ed. G. Preyer and G. Peter, OUP (2007), 194-213.
Ernie Lepore and Herman Cappelen (2005) argue that contextual influences on semantic content are much more restricted than most theorists assume, by presenting three tests for semantic context-sensitivity and concluding that only a very restricted class of expressions pass them.  They combine this extreme semantic minimalism with an even more extreme speech-act pluralism, according to which a speaker has said anything that she can be reported as having said.  I argue that because Lepore and Cappelen refuse to distinguish what is said from what is claimed, their tests wrongly classify metaphor as semantically context-sensitive.  I then argue that our ordinary linguistic practices support a distinction between what is said and what is claimed, and that underwrites a much more moderate form of speech act pluralism.

* "Contextualism, Metaphor, and What is Said"
Mind & Language 21:3 (June 2006), 280–309.
On a familiar and prima facie plausible view of metaphor, speakers who speak metaphorically say one thing in order to mean another. Several theorists have recently challenged this view; they offer criteria to distinguish what is said from what is merely meant, and argue that these criteria support classifying metaphor within 'what is said'. I consider four such criteria, and argue that when properly understood, they support the traditional classification instead. I conclude by sketching how we might extract a workable notion of ‘what is said’ from ordinary intuitions about saying.

* "Critical Study of Josef Stern’s Metaphor in Context"
Nous 39:4 (December 2005), 715-731.
A critical discussion of Stern's 2000 book postulating a metaphoricity operator 'Mthat' modeled on Kaplan's 'Dthat'. I focus on Stern's claim that we need to adopt a semantic analysis of metaphor because metaphor exhibits interpretive constraints which cannot be explained on a pragmatic view; I argue that in each case the 'constraint' is merely defeasible, and that a pragmatic analysis can accommodate the data more parsimoniously and in greater generality than Stern's theory can.

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Papers on Concepts: Systematicity, Animals, and the Format of Thought
* Instrumental Reasoning in Non-Human Animals” (with Eli Shupe)  
in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds, ed. J. Beck and K. Andrews (2017), 100-108.
Instrumental reasoning is not just practically but also theoretically important.  An agent capable of instrumental reason represents a state of affairs which they simultaneously realize does not actually obtain and have no inherent interest in obtaining, because they take its actualization to contribute to achieving a state they do desire.  This makes it intuitive to treat instrumental reasoning as involving the sorts of abstract relations that are easy to encode linguistically, for instance with sentential modal operators, but that are more challenging for other, more expressively restricted formats. We offer an analysis of the cognitive capacities required for instrumental reasoning, review empirical evidence that some non-human animals possess at least some of each of these capacities, and suggest non-linguistic mechanisms by which they might be implemented. 

* “Logical Concepts and Associative Characterizations”
in The Conceptual Mind: New Directions in the Study of Concepts, ed. E. Margolis S. Laurence (MIT, 2014), 591-621.
Recent theorizing about concepts has been dominated by two general models: crudely speaking, a philosophical one on which concepts are rule-governed atoms, and a psychological one on which they are associative networks.  The debate between these two models is often framed in terms of competing answers to the question of ‘how the mind works’ or ‘the nature of thought’. I argue that this is a false dichotomy, because thought operates in both these ways. Human thought utilizes representational structures that function as arbitrary re-combinable bits. This supports a version of the Language of Thought Hypothesis – though a significantly more modest one than is typically advanced by advocates of that view. But human thought also employs representational structures that are contextually malleable, intuitive, and holistic; I call these ‘characterizations’. ‘Dual systems’ models of cognition recognize this multiplicity of mental processes, but typically posit largely separate structures, and emphasize conflicts between them. By contrast, I argue that the two forms of representation are more closely integrated, and more symbiotic, than talk of duality suggests.

* "Putting Thoughts to Work: Concepts, Systematicity, and Stimulus-Independence"
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78.2 (March 2009), 275-311.
I argue that we can reconcile two seemingly incompatible traditions for thinking about conceptual thought.  On the one hand, many cognitive scientists maintain that the systematic deployment of representational capacities is sufficient for conceptual thought; on the other hand, a long philosophical tradition claims that language is necessary for conceptual thought. I argue that it is necessary and sufficient for conceptual thought that one be able to entertain many of the thoughts produced by recombining one’s representational capacities apart from a direct confrontation with the states of affairs being represented.

* Why Maps Are Not Propositional
in Non-Propositional Intentionality, ed. A. Grzankowski and M. Montague, Oxford University Press (in press).
A number of philosophers and logicians have argued for the conclusion that maps are logically tractable modes of representation by analyzing them in propositional terms.  But in doing so, they have often left what they mean by ‘propositional’ undefined or unjustified.  I argue that propositions are characterized by a structure that is digital, universal, asymmetrical, and recursive.  There is little positive evidence that maps exhibit these features.  Instead, we can better explain their functional structure by taking seriously the observation that maps arrange their constituent elements in a non-hierarchical, holistic structure.  This is compatible with the more basic claim advanced by defenders of a propositional analysis: that (many) maps do have a formal semantics and logic.

*  A Language of Baboon Thought?
Philosophy of Animal Minds, ed. R. Lurz (Cambridge, 2009), 108-127.
In Baboon Metaphysics (2007), Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth argue that baboons think in a language-like representational medium, which is propositional, discrete-valued, rule-governed, open-ended, and hierarchically structured.  Their evidence for this conclusion derives largely from the fact that baboons appear to represent a complex social structure, in which a female’s dominance ranking depends both on her birth order within her family and on her family’s rank order within the overall troop.  I argue that a diagrammatic representational medium for social thought, with the structure of a branching tree but with the branches having a dedicated semantic function, better captures the distinctive abilities and limitations of baboon cognition.

* Thinking with Maps
Philosophical Perspectives 21:1 (2007), 145-182.
Various philosophers have argued that thought must be language-like.  I argue that thought can take other forms as well.  Specifically, if a thinker’s representational needs were sufficiently simple, it might think entirely with maps.  The distinction between sentential and cartographic representational systems is not trivial: differences in their combinatorial principles produce substantive differences in how they represent and subserve reasoning.  These differences in turn suggest predictions about distinct patterns of cognitive ability and breakdown.

* Ofra Magidor’s Category Mistakes

Mind 125:498 (April 2016), 611-615.
Category mistakes – sentences like ‘Julius Caesar is a prime number’, ‘Colourless green ideas sleep furiously’, or ‘Saturday is in bed’ – are theoretically interesting precisely because they are marginal: as by-products of our linguistic and conceptual systems lacking any obvious function, they reveal the limits of, and interactions among, those systems. Do syntactic or semantic restrictions block ‘is green’ from taking ‘Two’ as a subject? Does the compositional machinery proceed smoothly, but fail to generate a coherent proposition or delimit a coherent possibility? Or is the proposition it produces simply one that our paltry minds cannot grasp, or that fails to arouse our interest? One’s answers to these questions depend on, and constrain, one’s conceptions of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, of language and thought, and of the relations among them and between them and the world.

"The Generality Constraint and Categorial Restrictions"
Philosophical Quarterly 54:215 (April 2004), 209-231.
We should not admit categorial restrictions on the significance of syntactically well-formed strings. Syntactically well-formed but semantically absurd strings, such as 'Life's but a walking shadow' and 'Caesar is a prime number', can express thoughts; and competent thinkers both are able to grasp these thoughts and should to be able to grasp them. Gareth Evans' Generality Constraint should be viewed as a fully general constraint on concept possession and propositional thought, even though Evans himself restricted it. This is because (a) even well-formed but semantically cross-categorial strings typically do possess substantive inferential roles; (b) hearers exploit these inferential roles in interpreting such strings metaphorically; (c) there is no good reason to deny truth-conditions to strings that have inferential roles.

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Surveys of Metaphor
* "Metaphors in Literature"
in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature, ed. N. Carroll and J. Gibson (2015), 334-346.
What is distinctive about literary metaphors?  Why do authors use metaphors in literature? I argue that metaphors in literature, like metaphors elsewhere, allow authors to communicate thoughts and stake claims about how the world is.  To make this claim plausible, we need, first, to free ourselves of an overly restrictive conception of ordinary discourse, which can be open-ended, nuanced, and imagistically and emotionally evocative, just like literary metaphors; and in particular which can also present contents through perspectives.  Second, we need to recognize the interpretive differences that are generated by the literary context: because literary texts are published works of art, literary meaning is constructed as a collaboration between a 'model author' and a 'model reader', each of whom has access to both more and fewer interpretive assumptions than the actual writer and recipient do.  Third, we need to attend to the diversity among literary metaphors, which can be laser-focused as well as open-ended, abstract as well as concretely imagistic and emotional, and which can stake truth-evaluable claims while also presenting non-propositional perspectives.  Finally, metaphors differ from other perspectival tropes, like exemplification, in presenting one thing through the lens or filter of something else, producing a kind of twofoldness that gives metaphors a distinctive rhetorical and cognitive power.

* "Metaphor" (with Marga Reimer)
in Handbook of Philosophy of Language, ed. E. Lepore & B. Smith (OUP, 2006), 845-863.
A survey of four influential theories of metaphor in the philosophy of language – simile theories (e.g. Fogelin), interaction theories (e.g. Black), Gricean theories (e.g. Searle), and noncognitivist theories (e.g. Davidson) – in terms of their answers to four central questions: What are metaphors?  What is metaphorical meaning?  How do metaphors work?  And what is the nature of metaphorical truth?

* "Metaphor in the Mind: The Cognition of Metaphor"
Philosophy Compass 1:2 (March 2006), 154-170.
The most sustained and innovative recent work on metaphor has occurred in cognitive science and psychology. Psycholinguistic investigation suggests that novel, poetic metaphors are processed differently than literal speech, while relatively conventionalized and contextually salient metaphors are processed more like literal speech. This conflicts with the view of ‘cognitive linguists’ like George Lakoff that all or nearly all thought is essentially metaphorical. There are currently four main cognitive models of metaphor comprehension: juxtaposition, category-transfer, feature-matching, and structural alignment. Structural alignment deals best with the widest range of examples; but it still fails to account for the complexity and richness of fairly novel, poetic metaphors.

* Metaphor
The Pragmatics Encyclopedia, ed. L. Cummings (Routledge, 2009), 264-266.
A survey of recent work on metaphor in cognitive science, linguistics, and pragmatic theory, with special attention to challenges to the ‘standard’ Gricean model of metaphor as implicature.

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Courses (old syllabi in .pdf; handouts and readings for current classes available on course website)

* Philosophy of Art

* What is Meaning?

* Philosophy of Mind

* Wittgenstein

* Graduate Seminar: Assertion and Other Speech Acts

* Graduate Seminar: Concepts

* Graduate Seminar: Creativity in Language Use
(with Ernie Lepore & Matthew Stone

* Graduate Seminar: Emotions and the Arts
(with Paul Guyer, at Penn)

* Graduate Seminar: Expressivism and Slurs (at Penn)

* Graduate Seminar: Philosophy and/of Literature (at Penn)

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© 2017 Elisabeth Camp; last modified: 16 April 2017