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, some videos of slideshow talks, 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.

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

McDonnell Workshop on Entailment, Brown University (Dec. 5-7)

"Universal but Unrelational"
NYU Semantics Group (December 3)
"The Extension Dogma"
Guest Lecture in course at the University of Arizona (October 6)
Dubrovnik Conference on Cognitive Science (May 19-21) (video of the talk) (slides-45-minutes)
Oslo University, Super Linguistics Group (March 19)

"What are Linguistic Meanings, and What are Theories of Meaning Theories of?"
(video of the talk) (slides)
"One Word, One Meaning, Many Concpets" (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)
Philosophy of Linguistics conference (part of a two-day session on Conjoining Meanings), 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)
"Meanings, Homophony, and Polysemy" [Revised Slides above for "One Meaning, Many Concepts, No Extension" in Spring 2020]
--Workshop at Tokyo University (Nov. 24)
--Revised version at USC (Dec. 6)
"Meanings, Concepts, and Composition" (.pptx)
--Workshop at Nanzan University in Nagoya (Nov. 30)

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

"Human Languages: What are They?" (.pptx)
Dept. of Philosophy (Break it Down series), 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, thanks 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 (Inaugural, 2014). For this talk, in honor of Jim, a handout.