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Summary

Assertion is a kind of speech act which plays a central role in both philosophy of language and epistemology. The main philosophical issues concerning assertion include: How to characterize which utterances of (declarative) sentences count as assertions? What, if any, are the norms governing assertion?  What effects do assertions have on the dynamics of conversation? What is the connection between assertion and the semantic content, meaning, or truth of sentences? What is the connection between what one asserts and what one believes or knows? How can we separate between what is asserted by an utterance and what is conveyed by it in more indirect means – such as presupposition or implicature? Are utterances of conditional sentences a kind of assertion, or a different type of speech act (a conditional assertion)?

These questions help to see why assertion plays such a central role in philosophy: for example, assertion plays a central role in the philosophy of language for anyone who thinks that there is a close connection between what is asserted by an utterance and what its semantic content or meaning is, and plays a central role in epistemology for anyone who thinks that assertions are governed by a norm involving knowledge or belief (e.g. assert only what you know or only what you believe). 

Key works

The classic text on speech acts in general is Austin 1975. For a central discussion on the norms of assertion, and a defence of the knowledge norm of assertion see Williamson 2000. The classic text on the distinction between assertion and presupposition is Strawson 1950, and between assertion and implicature Grice 1967Stalnaker 1978 is the key work on the effects that assertion has on the dynamics of conversation, and how assertion, context, and semantic content interact with each other. For a defence of the claim that utterances of conditionals are not assertions, but rather involve a special kind of speech act see Edgington 1995.

Introductions For general introductions see Pagin 2008 and also the introduction in Brown & Cappelen 2011. For an introduction on the issue of norms of assertion in particular see Weiner 2007.
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  1. Boris Rähme (2002). Behauptung, Wahrheitsanspruch und Begründung. Überlegungen zum Wahrheitsproblem. In Holger Burckhart & Horst Gronke (eds.), Philosophieren aus dem Diskurs. Königshausen und Neumann.
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  2. Boris Rähme & Micha H. Werner (1997). Die Vielfalt der Lebensformen und die Einheit der Vernunft. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 45 (3):439-454.
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Moore's Paradox
  1. Jonathan E. Adler & Bradley Armour-Garb (2007). Moore's Paradox and the Transparency of Belief. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  2. Rogers Albritton (1995). Comments on Moore's Paradox and Self-Knowledge. Philosophical Studies 77 (2-3):229-239.
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  3. Peter Alexander (1950). Pragmatic Paradoxes. Mind 59 (236):536-538.
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  4. Claudio Almeida (2001). What Moore's Paradox Is About. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (1):33 - 58.
    On the basis of arguments showing that none of the most influential analyses of Moore's paradox yields a successful resolution of the problem, a new analysis of it is offered. It is argued that, in attempting to render verdicts of either inconsistency or self-contradiction or self-refutation, those analyses have all failed to satisfactorily explain why a Moore-paradoxical proposition is such that it cannot be rationally believed. According to the proposed solution put forward here, a Moore-paradoxical proposition is one for which (...)
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  5. Lennart Åqvist (1964). A Solution to Moore's Paradox. Philosophical Studies 15 (1-2):1 - 5.
    Moore's paradox pits our intuitions about semantic oddness against the concept of truth-functional consistency. Most solutions to the problem proceed by explaining away our intuitions. But "consistency" is a theory-laden concept, having different contours in different semantic theories. Truth-functional consistency is appropriate only if the semantic theory we are using identifies meaning with truth-conditions. I argue that such a framework is not appropriate when it comes to analyzing epistemic modality. I show that a theory which accounts for a wide variety (...)
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  6. Jay David Atlas (2007). What Reflexive Pronouns Tell Us About Belief : A New Moore's Paradox de Se, Rationality, and Privileged Access. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  7. Thomas Baldwin (2007). The Normative Character of Belief. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  8. Dorit Bar-On (2010). Avowals: Expression, Security, and Knowledge: Reply to Matthew Boyle, David Rosenthal, and Maura Tumulty. [REVIEW] Acta Analytica 25 (1):47-63.
    In my reply to Boyle, Rosenthal, and Tumulty, I revisit my view of avowals’ security as a matter of a special immunity to error, their character as intentional expressive acts that employ self-ascriptive vehicles (without being grounded in self-beliefs), Moore’s paradox, the idea of expressing as contrasting with reporting and its connection to showing one’s mental state, and the ‘performance equivalence’ between avowals and other expressive acts.
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  9. Matthew A. Benton (2013). Dubious Objections From Iterated Conjunctions. Philosophical Studies 162 (2):355-358.
    The knowledge account of assertion—-roughly: one should not assert what one does not know—-can explain a variety of Moorean conjunctions, a fact often cited as evidence in its favor. David Sosa ("Dubious Assertions," Phil Studies, 2009) has objected that the account does not generalize satisfactorily, since it cannot explain the infelicity of certain iterated conjunctions without appealing to the controversial "KK" principle. This essay responds by showing how the knowledge account can handle such conjunctions without use of the KK principle.
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  10. Matthew A. Benton (2011). Two More for the Knowledge Account of Assertion. Analysis 71 (4):684-687.
    The Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA) has received added support recently from data on prompting assertion (Turri 2010) and from a refinement suggesting that assertions ought to express knowledge (Turri 2011). This paper adds another argument from parenthetical positioning, and then argues that KAA’s unified explanation of some of the earliest data (from Moorean conjunctions) adduced in its favor recommends KAA over its rivals.
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  11. Max Black (1952). Saying and Disbelieving. Analysis 13 (2):25-33.
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  12. Luc Bovens (1995). [Double Quotes] P and I Will Believe That Not-P [Double Quotes]: Diachronic Constraints on Rational Belief. Mind 104 (416):737-760.
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  13. Anthony Brueckner (2009). Moore-Paradoxicality and the Principle of Charity. Theoria 75 (3):245-247.
    In a recent article in Theoria , Hamid Vahid offered an explanation of the phenomenon of Moore-paradoxicality which employed Davidson's Principle of Charity regarding radical interpretation. I argue here that Vahid's explanation fails.
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  14. Anthony Brueckner (2009). More on Justification and Moore's Paradox. Analysis 69 (3):497-499.
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  15. Anthony Brueckner (2006). Justification and Moore's Paradox. Analysis 66 (291):264–266.
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  16. Timothy Chan (2013). Introduction: Aiming at Truth. In , The Aim of Belief. Oxford University Press. 1-16.
    In this introductory chapter to the volume The Aim of Belief, the editor surveys the fundamental questions in current debates surrounding the aim of belief, and identifies the major theoretical approaches. The main arguments of the ten contributions to the volume are outlined and located in the context of the existing literature.
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  17. Timothy Chan (2010). Moore's Paradox is Not Just Another Pragmatic Paradox. Synthese 173 (3):211 - 229.
    One version of Moore’s Paradox is the challenge to account for the absurdity of beliefs purportedly expressed by someone who asserts sentences of the form ‘p & I do not believe that p’ (‘Moorean sentences’). The absurdity of these beliefs is philosophically puzzling, given that Moorean sentences (i) are contingent and often true; and (ii) express contents that are unproblematic when presented in the third-person. In this paper I critically examine the most popular proposed solution to these two puzzles, according (...)
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  18. Timothy Chan (2008). Belief, Assertion and Moore's Paradox. Philosophical Studies 139 (3):395 - 414.
    In this article I argue that two received accounts of belief and assertion cannot both be correct, because they entail mutually contradictory claims about Moore’s Paradox. The two accounts in question are, first, the Action Theory of Belief (ATB), the functionalist view that belief must be manifested in dispositions to act, and second, the Belief Account of Assertion (BAA), the Gricean view that an asserter must present himself as believing what he asserts. It is generally accepted also that Moorean assertions (...)
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  19. Michael Cholbi (2009). Moore's Paradox and Moral Motivation. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (5):495-510.
    Assertions of statements such as ‘it’s raining, but I don’t believe it’ are standard examples of what is known as Moore’s paradox. Here I consider moral equivalents of such statements, statements wherein individuals affirm moral judgments while also expressing motivational indifference to those judgments (such as ‘hurting animals for fun is wrong, but I don’t care’). I argue for four main conclusions concerning such statements: 1. Such statements are genuinely paradoxical, even if not contradictory. 2. This paradoxicality can be traced (...)
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  20. Ron Clark (1994). Pragmatic Paradox and Rationality. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 24 (2):229 - 242.
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  21. L. Jonathan Cohen (1950). Mr. O'Connor's "Pragmatic Paradoxes". Mind 59 (233):85-87.
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  22. Arthur W. Collins (1996). Moore's Paradox and Epistemic Risk. Philosophical Quarterly 46 (184):308-319.
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  23. Claudio de Almeida (2007). Moorean Absurdity : An Epistemological Analysis. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  24. Claudio de Almeida (2001). What Moore's Paradox is About. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (1):33-58.
    On the basis of arguments showing that none of the most influential analyses of Moore’s paradox yields a successful resolution of the problem, a new analysis of it is offered. It is argued that, in attempting to render verdicts of either inconsistency or self-contradiction or self-refutation, those analyses have all failed to satisfactorily explain why a Moore-paradoxical proposition is such that it cannot be rationally believed. According to the proposed solution put forward here, a Moore-paradoxical proposition is one for which (...)
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  25. David DeVidi & Tim Kenyon (2003). Analogues of Knowability. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):481 – 495.
    An interesting recent reply to the Paradox of Knowability is Neil Tennant's proposal: to restrict the anti-realist's knowability thesis to truths the knowing of which is logically consistent. However, this proposal is egregiously ad hoc unless motivated by something other than the wish to save anti-realism from embarrassment. We examine Tennant's argument that his restriction is motivated by parallel considerations in cases that are neutral with respect to debates about realism. We conclude that the cases are not neutral, nor the (...)
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  26. Katheryn Doran (1995). Moore's Paradox, Asserting and Skepticism. Southwest Philosophy Review 11 (1):41-48.
  27. Igor Douven (2009). Assertion, Moore, and Bayes. Philosophical Studies 144 (3):361 - 375.
    It is widely believed that the so-called knowledge account of assertion best explains why sentences such as “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t believe it” and “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t know it” appear odd to us. I argue that the rival rational credibility account of assertion explains that fact just as well. I do so by providing a broadly Bayesian analysis of the said type of sentences which shows that such sentences cannot express rationally held beliefs. (...)
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  28. J. Fernandez & T. Bayne (eds.) (forthcoming). Delusions, Self-Deception and Affective Influences on Belief-Formation. Psychology Press.
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  29. Jordi Fernández (2005). Self-Knowledge, Rationality and Moore's Paradox. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (3):533-556.
    I offer a model of self-knowledge that provides a solution to Moore’s paradox. First, I distinguish two versions of the paradox and I discuss two approaches to it, neither of which solves both versions of the paradox. Next, I propose a model of self-knowledge according to which, when I have a certain belief, I form the higher-order belief that I have it on the basis of the very evidence that grounds my first-order belief. Then, I argue that the model in (...)
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  30. Bas C. Van Fraassen (2011). Thomason's Paradox for Belief, and Two Consequence Relations. Journal of Philosophical Logic 40 (1):15 - 32.
    Thomason (1979/2010)'s argument against competence psychologism in semantics envisages a representation of a subject's competence as follows: he understands his own language in the sense that he can identify the semantic content of each of its sentences, which requires that the relation between expression and content be recursive. Then if the scientist constructs a theory that is meant to represent the body of the subject's beliefs, construed as assent to the content of the pertinent sentences, and that theory satisfies certain (...)
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  31. André Gallois (2007). Consciousness, Reasons, and Moore's Paradox. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  32. Anthony S. Gillies (2001). A New Solution to Moore's Paradox. Philosophical Studies 105 (3):237-250.
    Moore's paradox pits our intuitions about semantic oddnessagainst the concept of truth-functional consistency. Most solutions tothe problem proceed by explaining away our intuitions. But``consistency'' is a theory-laden concept, having different contours indifferent semantic theories. Truth-functional consistency is appropriateonly if the semantic theory we are using identifies meaning withtruth-conditions. I argue that such a framework is not appropriate whenit comes to analzying epistemic modality. I show that a theory whichaccounts for a wide variety of semantic data about epistemic modals(Update Semantics) buys (...)
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  33. Laurence Goldstein (1988). Wittgenstein's Late Views on Belief, Paradox and Contradiction. Philosophical Investigations 11 (1):49-73.
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  34. D. Goldstick (1967). On Moore's Paradox. Mind 76 (302):275-277.
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  35. Robert M. Gordon (2007). Moorean Pretense. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  36. Mitchell Green (2007). Moorean Absurdity and Showing What's Within. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
    Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the University of Virginia and at Texas A&M University. I thank audiences at both institutions for their insightful comments. Special thanks to John Williams for his illuminating comments on an earlier draft. Research for this paper was supported in part by a Summer Grant from the Vice Provost for Research and Public Service at the University of Virginia. That support is here gratefully acknowledged.
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  37. Mitchell S. Green (1999). Moore's Many Paradoxes. Philosophical Papers 28 (2):97-109.
    Over the last two decades J.N. Williams has developed an account of the absurdity of such utterances as Its raining but I dont believe it that is both intuitively plausible and applicable to a wide variety of forms that this so-called Moorean absurdity can take. His approach is also noteworthy for making only minimal appeal to principles of epistemic or doxastic logic in its account of such absurdity. We first show that Williams places undue emphasis upon assertion and belief: It (...)
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  38. Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (2011). Moore's Paradox, Truth and Accuracy. Acta Analytica 26 (3):243-255.
    G. E. Moore famously observed that to assert ‘I went to the pictures last Tuesday but I do not believe that I did’ would be ‘absurd’. Moore calls it a ‘paradox’ that this absurdity persists despite the fact that what I say about myself might be true. Krista Lawlor and John Perry have proposed an explanation of the absurdity that confines itself to semantic notions while eschewing pragmatic ones. We argue that this explanation faces four objections. We give a better (...)
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  39. Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.) (2007). Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
    G. E. Moore observed that to assert, 'I went to the pictures last Tuesday but I don't believe that I did' would be 'absurd'. Over half a century later, such sayings continue to perplex philosophers. In the definitive treatment of the famous paradox, Green and Williams explain its history and relevance and present new essays by leading thinkers in the area.
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  40. Mitchell Green & John N. Williams (2007). Introduction. In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.
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  41. Patrick Greenough (2011). Truth-Relativism, Norm-Relativism, and Assertion. In Brown J. & Cappelen H. (eds.), Assertion: New Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press.
    The main goal in this paper is to outline and defend a form of Relativism, under which truth is absolute but assertibility is not. I dub such a view Norm-Relativism in contrast to the more familiar forms of Truth-Relativism. The key feature of this view is that just what norm of assertion, belief, and action is in play in some context is itself relative to a perspective. In slogan form: there is no fixed, single norm for assertion, belief, and action. (...)
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  42. Jiahong Guo (2009). The Incorporation of Moorean Type Information by Introspective Agents. Frontiers of Philosophy in China 4 (3):470-482.
    The main task is to discuss the issue in belief dynamics in which philosophical beliefs and rational introspective agents incorporate Moorean type new information. First, a brief survey is conducted on Moore’s Paradox, and one of its solutions is introduced with the help of Update Semantics. Then, we present a Dynamic Doxastic Logic (DDL) which revises the belief of introspective agents put forward by Lindström & Rabinowicz. Next, we attempt to incorporate Moorean type new information within the DEL (DDL) framework, (...)
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  43. Alan Hájek (2007). My Philosophical Position Says

    and I Don't Believe

    . In Mitchell S. Green & John N. Williams (eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. Oxford University Press.

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  44. Alan Hajek (2001). Crimmins, Gonzales and Moore. Analysis 61 (271):208-213.
    Gonzales tells Mark Crimmins (1992) that Crimmins knows him under two guises, and that under his other guise Crimmins thinks him an idiot. Knowing his cleverness, but not knowing which guise he has in mind, Crimmins trusts Gonzales but does not know which of his beliefs to revise. He therefore asserts to Gonzales.
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  45. Robert Hambourger (1984). Moore's Paradox and Epistemic Justification. Philosophy Research Archives 10:1-12.
    The author discusses solutions to Moore’s Paradox by Moore and Wittgenstein and then offers one of his own: ‘I believe that P’ and ‘not-P’ can both be true but nonetheless are not epistemically compatible; that is, it is logically impossible simultaneously to have sufficient evidence to justify assertions of each. The author then argues that similar transgressions are committed by other “paradoxical” utterances whose paradoxicality cannot be explained by the Moore or Wittgenstein solutions and also that this provides a technique (...)
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  46. Jane Heal (1994). Moore's Paradox: A Wittgensteinian Approach. Mind 103 (409):5-24.
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  47. Benj Hellie (forthcoming). On Tests of Context. Inquiry.
    Assume a 'Stalnakean' conception of contexts as mental states. A /test of context/ is a context-dependent sentence with semantic values limited to the /trivial/ and /vacuous/ propositions: perhaps 'I believe that P' is trivial if I do believe that P, vacuous if I don't. Tests of context solve the 'Frege-Geach' problem for expressivism (see my 'There it is' and 'How we do'; also seminal work by Seth Yalcin and Nate Charlow): kind of a big deal. But Cian Dorr and Geoff (...)
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  48. Stephen Hetherington (2007). Review of Mitchell Green, John N. Williams (Eds.), Moore's Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality, and the First Person. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2007 (8).
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