Paul M. Pietroski

Dept. of Philosophy

106 Somerset St. (5th Floor)

New Brunswick, NJ 08901



I teach at Rutgers University, as a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Center for Cognitive Science. My primary research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and psychology.

For a while now, I've been thinking about how grammatical structure is related to linguistic meaning, and how words are related to concepts. Events and Semantic Architecture (OUP 2005) was an initial progress report. In various papers, often collaborative, I have defended a nativist approach to the study of human languages and an internalist conception of what these languages are. In Conjoining Meanings: Semantics without Truth Values (OUP 2018), I argue that meanings are instructions for how to build concepts of a special kind; a précis and some links to reviews can be found here. A sequel, The Vocabulary of Meanings, is in the works. A recurring theme is that with regard to how words are used and understood, representational format matters a lot, and linguistic meanings exhibit a format that plays an important role in distinctively human thought. Here are links to a pair of interviews about these topics and a series of papers reporting on some experimental studies of how quantificational words like 'most' and 'every' are understood.

I received my B.A. from Rutgers College in 1986, did my graduate work at MIT, and joined the department of philosophy at McGill University in 1990. Causing Actions (OUP, 2000) reflected my early interests in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. From 1998 to 2017, I taught in the departments of linguistics and philosophy at the University of Maryland, where I am now a professor emeritus. In moving from Maryland to Rutgers, I returned to my alma mater and moved from one of the fourteen Big Ten schools to another--even though my college no longer exists, I never attended a Big Ten school, and I had never before been hired by one. Seems appropriate for a philosopher who thinks about language.

When time permits, I spend a lot of it here, sometimes doing other things.

Talks, Recent and Upcoming
If you find the slides useful, feel free to use them, and likewise for these older talks.

The Extension Dogma
Dubrovnik Conference on Cognitive Science (May 19-21) (newer-slides-45-minutes)    
    Oslo University, Super Linguistics Group (Mar. 19)
One Word, One Meaning, Many Concepts (slides)
        Keele University, Philosophy of Linguistics Series (Inaugural Lecture, Feb. 2)

Subjects, Predicates, and Minimal Relations (abstract, slides)
    Online talk "at" Bochum University (
Dec. 17)
One Meaning, Many Concepts, No Extension: Polysemy as Valuable Equivocality
    New York Philosophy of Language Workshop
(Feb. 3)

Conjoining Meanings: sneaking up on truth (slides.pptx)
    Introductory talk for a two-day session on Conjoining Meanings,
    as part of a larger philosophy of language conference in Dubrovnik (Sept. 9-13)

Types of Meanings: Two is Better than Too Many (revised slides below)
    Institute of Philosophy, London (Sept. 17)

Three talks in Japan (abstracts)
Types of Meanings: Two is Better than Too Many (.pptx)
    Invited talk at LENLS (Nov. 10-12)
(b) Meanings, Homophony, and Polysemy
    [Revised Slides above for "One Meaning, Many Concepts, No Extension" in Spring 2020]
    Workshop at Tokyo University (Nov. 24)

(c) Meanings, Concepts, and Composition
    Workshop at Nanzan
University in Nagoya
(Nov. 30)
And a revised version of talk (b)
at USC (Dec. 6)

Meanings as Composable Scores (.pptx)
Cognitive Science Colloquium,
Rutgers University (March 2019)

Human Languages: What are They? (.pptx)
"Break it Down" series, Dept. of Philosophy,
Rutgers University (March 2019)

Some Less Recent Talks

Syntactic Structures and Semantic Internalism, Generative Grammar at the Speed of 90 (.pptx, EP.pptx)
University of Arizona (December 2018)

Confronting Existential Angst (handout.pdf)
Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation,
Amsterdam (October 2018)

Meanings and Minds: Most, Mass, and maybe More (.pptx)   
Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation, Amsterdam (October 2018)
Northwestern University, Cognitive Science Colloquium (October 2018)

Fostering Liars (.pptx)   
Topoi Conference, Turin (June 2018
Rutgers-Bochum Workshop (April 2018)

Meaning Internalism and Natural History (
.pptx, .pdf)   
Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science, Univ. of Michigan (April 1, 2017

Meanings, Concepts, and Natural Kinds: What Were People Thinking?
(.pptx .pdf)    
Rutgers Anniversary (Nov. 10, 1766+250

Locating Human Meanings: Less Typology, More Constraint
(.pptx  .pdf)
Rutgers Workshop (October 2015

Semantic Internalism
(.pptx  .pdf)    
Univ. of Arizona (October 2015
Also in Panopto form, t
hanks to the Arizona linguistics department.

Semantic Framing: the meaning of 'most'
Simon Frasier University produced a video of this 2014 talk for their Linguistics and Cognitive Science programs.

Form and Composition
Higginbotham Lecture at USC (2014). For this talk, in honor of Jim, a handout.