Dr Alex Silk

Department of Philosophy
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy

Contact details

Address
ERI Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
B15 2TT
UK

I am a Lecturer in Philosophy. Much of my research has investigated how incorporating insights from philosophy of language and linguistics can illuminate broader philosophical debates. My paper "Normative Language in Context" (Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 12, ed. R. Shafer-Landau), which was awarded the Marc Sanders Prize in Metaethics, applies this project to the case of normative language and metaethical debates about moral disagreement, judgment, and truth. In 2016 I completed a book, Discourse Contextualism (OUP), which defends contextualism about a range of expressions that have figured in contextualism/relativism debates (e.g., epistemic and deontic modals, gradable adjectives, and evaluative predicates). Other projects include work on questions, mood, Nietzsche, and vagueness. I am currently completing a book manuscript, Semantics with Assignment Variables, which develops a systematic compositional semantics for various linguistic shifting phenomena, such as with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, relative clauses, questions, and conditionals (view current draft).

Qualifications

  • PhD in Philosophy (University of Michigan, 2013)
  • MA in Philosophy (University of Michigan, 2010)
  • BA in Philosophy (Wheaton College, 2008)

Biography

I joined the Philosophy Department in 2013 after completing my PhD in philosophy at the University of Michigan. My research is primarily in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaethics. I recently finished a 2.5-year AHRC Research Grant with Daniel Rothschild (UCL) on "Context-Sensitivity in Natural Language." In 2019–2020 I will be taking up a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. My 2016 book, Discourse Contextualism (OUP), defends contextualism about a range of expressions that have figured in contextualism/relativism debates. I am currently completing a book developing a more rigorous syntax/semantics for various linguistic shifting phenomena, such as with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, relative clauses, questions, and conditionals (view current draft)

Teaching

  • Philosophy of Language
  • Nietzsche

Postgraduate supervision

I'm happy to supervise or co-supervise graduate students in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaethics.


Find out more - our PhD Philosophy  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.

Research

  • Specializations: Philosophy of Language, Metaethics, Formal Semantics & Pragmatics
  • Competencies: Ethics, Nietzsche, Epistemology, Logic, Philosophy of Law

Grant projects:

  • Leverhulme Research Fellowship: “Context-Sensitivity in Normative Language and Discourse,” 2019–2020
  • AHRC Early Career Research Grant: “Context-Sensitivity in Natural Language,” 2016–2018

Publications

Books

Papers

  • Forthcoming. “Expectation Biases and Context Management with Negative Polar Questions”. Journal of Philosophical Logic.
  • Forthcoming. “Normativity in Language and Law”. In D. Plunkett, S. Shapiro, K. Toh (Eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence. Oxford University Press.
  • Forthcoming. “Weak and Strong Necessity Modals: On Linguistic Means of Expressing ‘A Primitive Concept ought’ ” Forthcoming. In B. Dunaway & D. Plunkett (Eds.), Meaning, Decision, and Norms: Themes from the Work of Allan Gibbard
  • 2018. “Commitment and States of Mind with Mood and Modality”. Natural Language Semantics 26(2): 125–166.
  • 2018. “Nietzsche and Contemporary Metaethics”. In P. Katsafanas (Ed.), The Nietzschean Mind. Routledge.
  • 2017. “Normative Language in Context”. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 12, pp. 206–243.
  • 2017. “How to Embed an Epistemic Modal: Attitude Problems and Other Defects of Character”. Philosophical Studies 174: 1773–1799.
  • 2017. “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets”. Journal of Semantics 34(4): 683–707.
  • 2017. “Contextualism in Metaethics”. T. McPherson and D. Plunkett (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, pp. 102–118.
  • 2016. “The Progressive and Verbs of Creation”. Journal of Semantics 33(1): 19–48.
  • 2016. “Update Semantics for Weak Necessity Modals”. In O. Roy, A. Tamminga, M. Willer (Eds.), Deontic Logic and Normative Systems (DEON 2016), pp. 237–255. College Publications.
  • 2015. “How to Be an Ethical Expressivist”. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91(1): 47–81.
  • 2015. “Nietzschean Constructivism: Ethics and Metaethics for All and None”. Inquiry, Special Issue: Nietzsche’s Moral Psychology, 58(3): 244–280.
  • 2015. “What Normative Terms Mean and Why It Matters for Ethical Theory”. In M. Timmons (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 5, pp. 296–325.
  • 2015. “Ethics and Values” (with Peter Railton). In International Encyclopedia for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edn., pp. 71–77.
  • 2014. “Accommodation and Negotiation with Context-Sensitive Expressions”. Thought 3(2): 115–123.
  • 2014. “Evidence-Sensitivity in Weak Necessity Deontic Modals”. Journal of Philosophical Logic 43(4): 691–723.
  • 2014. “Why ‘Ought’ Detaches: Or, Why You Ought to Get With My Friends (If You Want to Be My Lover)”. Philosophers’ Imprint 14(7): 1–16.
  • 2014. “Wither Anankastics?” (with Billy Dunaway). Philosophical Perspectives 28: Ethics, 75–94.
  • 2013. “Truth-Conditions and the Meanings of Ethical Terms”. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 8, pp. 195–222.
  • 2013. “Deontic Conditionals: Weak and Strong”. In Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Linguists, University of Geneva.

Book reviews

  • 2017. “Critical Notice, G. Fletcher & M. Ridge (Eds.), Having it Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics.” Analysis 77(1): 197–211. 
  • 2013. “Review, P. Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics.” In Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. 
  • 2012. “Review, R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 6.” In Ethics 122 (2012): 622–627.

View all publications in research portal