Mark McCullagh | College of Arts

Mark McCullagh

Photo of Mark McCullagh
Associate Professor
MacKinnon 332


My academic training was at the University of Toronto and the University of Pittsburgh where I completed my PhD in 1997 under the direction of Robert Brandom.


I work in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. I'm interested in some non-central uses that people make of words and concepts. Understanding these, I think, helps us to understand what is really going on in the central cases. Under the heading of non-central uses of words, I'm interested in the phenomenon of scare-quoting, as a way of distancing oneself from a word one uses. This is a very common device in writing and in speech, yet its pervasiveness puts in question some received claims about the nature of assertion, e.g. that one must understand the words in one's assertions. Under the heading of non-central uses of concepts, I'm interested in how we use concepts to specify others' thoughts, as in using the concept LIVELY in a thought that Susan thinks that New Orleans is lively as opposed to using it in a thought that New Orleans is lively. Here too, I think, there are differences that cast light on the nature of concept possession. My view is that it comes in grades, and that the lower grades, in which we use a concept in a thought-specifying way, give us an initial grasp of a concept, which we can improve to the point where we can use it on our own. This sheds light on how it is possible to learn a concept. And it problematizes philosophers' very freely appealing to hypothetical scenarios in order to support claims they make about concepts. For from the fact that one believes that someone can use a concept in some particular way, it does not at all follow that it is in fact possible to use it in that way.


Recent publications:

Distributed utterances. In The architecture of context and context-sensitivity, edited by Tadeusz Ciecierski and Paweł Grabarczyk, 113-24. Dordrecht: Springer, 2020.

Kinds of monsters and kinds of compositionality. Analysis 78 (2018): 657–66.

Russellianism unencumbered. Philosophical Studies 174 (2017): 2819–43.

Scare-quoting and incorporation. In The semantics and pragmatics of quotation, edited by Paul Saka and Michael Johnson, 3–34. Dordrecht: Springer, 2017.

For full list see my PhilPeople page.


The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.