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.

Much of my work has been about how grammatical structure is related to linguistic meaning, how words are related to concepts, and how language is related to thought. 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, a mentalistic conception of what these languages are, and an internalistic account of the meanings that human linguistic expressions exhibit. 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 prĂ©cis 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.

Here are links to some interviews that cover these topics, along with some slideshow talks, and a series of papers reporting on some experimental studies of how quantificational words like 'most' and 'every' are understood. For a sampler, see these videos.

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 hadn't previously attended or been hired by any Big Ten school, and there are now more than fourteen. 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.

"Simple Negation without Variables, " Philosophy of Linguistics Workshop (September 9-13), Dubrovnik

"SMPL Meanings, Conjunctive Concepts"
CUNY Linguistics Colloquium, UMD Linguistics
Colloquium (April 11, 12)
Philang Seminars in Philosophy of Language and Argumentation (May 15)


"Quantifier Meanings and Human Minds"
Logic Seminar, Stanford University, Logic and Foundations of Mathematics (Nov. 8, 2023)

"Linguistically Expressible Concepts"
(slides) (video)
Philosophy Colloquium
(March 31), University of Southern California
Philosophy of Linguistics workshop (September 4-8), Dubrovnik

"SMPL Meanings: Towards Explanatory Adequacy" (newer slides above)
 Philosophy of
Linguistics workshop, satellite session to SALT 2023 (May 14-15), Yale University

Older Talks