Matthew Mandelkern

Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
77 Massachusetts Avenue, 32-D808
Cambridge, MA 02139

email: mandelk AT
I'm a graduate student in philosophy at MIT. I was an undergraduate at Deep Springs College and at the University of Chicago. I work mainly on philosophy of language, epistemology, and meta-ethics. I am also interested in ethics and ancient philosophy.

I study the way that information is communicated: the way that abstract representations of the world interact with concrete practices of conversation. In my dissertation I argue that careful attention to the attitudes that structure conversational practices can help untangle a number of puzzles about the behavior of epistemic modals. I propose an account of epistemic modal claims according to which they are performatives which we use to negotiate what possibilities are treated as live in a conversation. I give this treatment within a truth-conditional contextualist framework, and I argue that it provides a more general truth-conditional model for performative language. This approach also sheds light on the kind of contextual negotiation that has played a central role in contemporary debates in philosophy of language, epistemology, and meta-ethics

Other current projects are on moral and epistemic luck; abilities and ability ascriptions; semantic presupposition; and the representation of local contexts.

Papers: (Email for a draft if not posted; comments welcome!)

Semantic Presuppositions and Questions [abstract]

A Note on Epistemic Modals [abstract]

I Believe I Can Φ (with David Boylan and Ginger Schultheis) [abstract]

Epistemic and Moral Luck [abstract]

A Solution to Karttunen’s Problem [abstract]

Pointwise Semantics for Natural Language Modality [abstract]

Knowledge of Epistemic Possibility [abstract]