about

I'm a Humboldt Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy of FU Berlin, and an associate member of the KFG Human Abilities. I work mostly on language, with various interests in metaphysics, natural language semantics, philosophy of mind, and Eastern philosophy. I did a PhD at the Institut Jean Nicod under François Recanati. Prior to that, I spent a few years of somewhat scattered graduate work across Italy (San Raffaele), France (EHESS, FMSH), and the United States (Harvard, MIT). Before turning to contemporary philosophy, I've done research in the history of philosophy, the history of ideas, and classical studies.

research

Below some of the things I've written, with links to external archives for preprints.

A pluralistic theory of wordhood
Mind & Language
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What are words and how should we individuate them? There are two main answers on the philosophical market. For some, words are bundles of structural-functional features defining a unique performance profile. For others, words are noneternal continuants individuated by their causal-historical ancestry. These conceptions offer competing views of the nature of words, and it seems natural to assume that at most one of them can capture the essence of wordhood. This paper makes a case for pluralism about wordhood: the view that there is a plurality of acceptable conceptions of the nature of words, none of which is uniquely entitled to inform us as to what wordhood consists in.

Hearing meanings: the revenge of context
Synthese (with Michael Murez)
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According to the perceptual view of language comprehension, listeners typically recover high-level linguistic properties such as utterance meaning without inferential work. The perceptual view is subject to the Objection from Context: since utterance meaning is massively context-sensitive, and context-sensitivity requires cognitive inference, the perceptual view is false. In recent work, Berit Brogaard provides a challenging reply to this objection. She argues that in language comprehension context-sensitivity is typically exercised not through inferences, but rather through top-down perceptual modulations or perceptual learning. This paper provides a complete formulation of the Objection from Context and evaluates Brogaard’s reply to it. Drawing on conceptual considerations and empirical examples, we argue that the exercise of context-sensitivity in language comprehension does, in fact, typically involve inference.

A numeral oddity
Journal of Semantics
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Natural language appears to allow the ascription of properties of numeral symbols to the denotation of number referring phrases. The paper describes the phenomenon and presents two alternative explanations for why it obtains. One combining an intuitive semantics for number referring phrases and a predicate-shifting mechanism, the other assigning number referring phrases a structured denotation consisting of two parts: a mathematical object (the number) and a contextually determined numeral symbol. Some preliminary observations in favor of the second analysis are offered.

Pronominal anaphora, coreference, and closed quotation marks
Mind & Language
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Consider the following sentence: "Mary meditated on the sentence 'Bill is a good friend' and concluded that he was a good friend". It is standardly assumed that in sentences of this sort, containing so‐called "closed" quotations, the expressions occurring between quotation marks are mentioned and do not take their ordinary referents. The quoted NP "Bill" refers, if anything, to the name 'Bill', not to the individual Bill. At the same time, the pronoun "he", apparently anaphoric on quoted "Bill", refers to the individual Bill. The case seems thus to invalidate the intuitive principle that pronouns anaphoric on referential expressions inherit their reference from their antecedents. The paper formulates the argument, argues that sentences exhibiting the described pattern do not constitute evidence against the intuitive principle, and proposes an alternative account of the anaphoric relation involved.

Phonetic segments and the organization of speech
Philosophy of Science
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According to mainstream linguistic phonetics, speech can be modeled as a string of discrete sound segments or “phones” drawn from a universal phonetic inventory. Recent work has argued that a mature phonetics should refrain from theorizing about speech and speech processing using sound segments, and that the phone concept should be eliminated from linguistic theory. The paper lays out the tenets of the phone methodology and evaluates its prospects in light of the eliminativist arguments. I claim that the eliminativist arguments fail to show that the phone concept should be eliminated from linguistic theory.

Priority cosmopsychism and the Advaita Vedānta
Philosophy East and West
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The combination of panpsychism and priority monism leads to priority cosmopsychism, the view that the consciousness of individual sentient creatures is derivative of an underlying cosmic consciousness. It has been suggested that contemporary priority cosmopsychism parallels central ideas in the Advaita Vedānta tradition. The paper offers a critical evaluation of this claim. It argues that the Advaitic account of consciousness cannot be characterized as an instance of priority cosmopsychism, points out the differences between the two views, and suggests an alternative positioning of the Advaitic canon within the contemporary debate on monism and panpsychism.

Originalism about word types
Thought: A Journal of Philosophy
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According to Originalism, word types are non-eternal continuants which are individuated by their causal-historical lineage and have a unique possible time of origination. This view collides with the intuition that individual words can be added to the lexicon of a language at different times, and generates other problematic consequences. The paper shows that such undesired results can be accommodated without abandoning Originalism.

Word meaning
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (with Diego Marconi)
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The entry provides an overview of the way the issues surrounding the nature of lexical meaning have been explored in analytic philosophy, and a summary of relevant research on the subject in neighboring scientific domains. Though the main focus of the entry is on philosophical problems, contributions from linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence are also considered.

Mental files and the lexicon
Review of Philosophy and Psychology
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This paper presents the hypothesis that the representational repertoire underpinning our ability to process the lexical items of a natural language can be modeled as a system of mental files. To start, I clarify the basic phenomena that an account of lexical knowledge should be able to elucidate. Then, I propose to evaluate whether the mental files theory can be brought to bear on an account of the representational format of lexical knowledge by modeling mental words as recognitional files.

Minimal semantics and word sense disambiguation
Disputatio: International Journal of Philosophy
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Emma Borg has defined semantic minimalism as the thesis that the literal content of well-formed declarative sentences is truth-evaluable, fully determined by their lexico-syntactic features, and recoverable by language users with no need to access non-linguistic information. The task of this article is threefold. First, I shall raise a criticism to Borg's minimalism based on how speakers disambiguate homonymy. Second, I will explore some ways Borg might respond to my argument and maintain that none of them offers a conclusive reply to my case. Third, I shall suggest that in order for Borg’s minimalism to accommodate the problem discussed in this paper, it should allow for semantically incomplete content and be converted into a claim about linguistic competence.

Lactantius, De Ira Dei
Bompiani [book]
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[Original title: “La Collera di Dio”]. The “De ira Dei” was composed at the beginning of the 4th century AD. In this treatise, Lactantius (ca. 240-320), a pupil of Arnobius who converted to Christianity and went on to become a prominent intellectual at the court of Constantine, reflects on the problem of divine anger. Stoics and Epicureans would have it that anger is unworthy of a divine being and can affect only irrational, malevolent, or ontologically deficient creatures. Yet, the scriptures repeatedly describe God as irate. How can these two premises be reconciled? According to Lactantius, we should shift away from the “pagan” dogma that anger is unworthy of a divine being, and consider instead God's capacity to become irate as a defining feature of her moral and ontological perfection. In other words, God's anger is not a failure of rationality or a sign of malevolence: it is the manifestation of a perfect pedagogy tirelessly laboring to foster the moral progress of mankind. This was the first complete edition of the De Ira Dei in Italian. I wrote the introduction, translated the Latin text, and compiled a commentary.

Filosofia dell'Illusione
Mimesis [book]
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A concise history of the idea of illusion. The book has three parts. The first part is about the history of the word illusion from its early origins in the Indo-European tree to present-day Romance and Germanic languages. The second part chronicles the role played by the notion of illusion in the Western philosophical canon, from the Presocratics to the beginning of the 20th century. The third part concludes with a bit of conceptual analysis. I try to shed light on what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for something to qualify as an “illusion”, and argue that illusions typically combine three ingredients: representational error, encapsulation, and an element of surprise.

misc

I have refereed for: Mind & Language, the Philosophers' Imprint, Analysis, Philosophical Studies, Synthese, Erkenntnis, The Philosophical Quarterly, Inquiry, Dialectica, Topoi, the International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Acta Analytica, the Review of Philosophy and Psychology, Idealistic Studies, Sistemi Intelligenti, and Bloomsbury Publishing.

I'm a member of the American Philosophical Association, the Aristotelian Society, the European Society for Analytic Philosophy, the EHESS Alumni Association, and the Harvard Alumni Association.

I speak Italian, English, French, and some basic German.
I read Latin and Ancient Greek.
I write Python 2.x & 3.x, HTML, CSS, Javascript, LaTeX, and Markdown.

contact

My email is my first name, dot, my last name, at sign, protonmail, dot, com.

Institut für Philosophie
Fachbereich Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften
Freie Universität Berlin
Habelschwerdter Allee 30
14195 Berlin [map]