Richard Gaskin’s work on the problem of the unity of the proposition (“the problem”, henceforth) has sometimes been called magisterial due to its vast historical and conceptual scope. Indeed, the author engages in lengthy discussions of the conceptions of propositions that have been overlooked by most previous investigations on the problem. Not only aspects of Frege’s and Russell’s theories of propositions that appear most problematic are subject to Gaskin’s investigation, it also includes Prabhākara semantics, the approach of Gregory of Rimini (...) and various parts of Abelard’s thought just to name a few. Furthermore, the purpose of this work is manifold. It is not solely a historical account of the importance of the problem, nor is it only a critique of the views explored. Gaskin ventures to provide his own original solution to the problem of the unity of the proposition. The solution and the arguments in its favour, however, are deeply embedded in the structure of the extensive historical treatment of the problem and, hence, cannot be precisely depicted due to limited space. In what follows I shall hope to provide a general idea of how Gaskin approaches the topic historically and what is his endorsement towards it. Lastly, I discuss the proposed solution to the problem. (shrink)
‘The Unity of the Proposition’ is a label for a problem which has intermittently intrigued philosophers but which for much of the last century lay neglected in the sad, lightless room under the stairs of philosophical progress, along with other casualties and bugaboos of early analytic philosophy such as the doctrine of internal relations, the identity theory of truth, and Harold Joachim. Yet it was while struggling with this problem (among others), that Bertrand Russell built one of the first steps (...) on the staircase by creating what came later to be called the theory of descriptions.1 According to that theory, statements containing definite descriptions are true only if there exists a unique thing satisfying the description. So nothing one says about ‘The Problem of the Unity of the Proposition’, for example, can be true unless there is one and only one such problem. Yet, as we shall explain below (§1), on the one hand it is unclear that there is any such problem at all, while, on the other, if there is a problem, there seem to be several. One might conclude, then, that everything we say in this paper is likely to be false. But perhaps the paper could be, in the context, appropriately treated as a ladder, to be kicked away after climbing. For Wittgenstein, too, was concerned with the problem: ‘At the centre of Wittgenstein’s project was the task of explaining the unity of the proposition’, says Michael Potter, for example.2 Wittgenstein had inherited the task from two of his philosophical mentors, Russell and Frege. Yet while Russell’s series of failed accounts of propositions, and then judgments, each of which was meant to resolve the problem, seemed ultimately to serve only as a sort of negative inspiration for him,3 Frege’s response to the problem proved a deep influence. We will outline Frege’s position as a backdrop to Wittgenstein’s below (§§2 and 3). As we will argue, one of the most important ways in which Wittgenstein’s position resembles Frege’s is precisely that his (Wittgenstein’s) solution to the problem of unity required treating his own book as an attempt to say the unsayable.. (shrink)
Propositionalism is the view that intentional attitudes, such as belief, are relations to propositions. Propositionalists argue that propositionalism follows from the intuitive validity of certain kinds of inferences involving attitude reports. Jubien (2001) argues powerfully against propositions and sketches some interesting positive proposals, based on Russell’s multiple relation theory of judgment, about how to accommodate “propositional phenomena” without appeal to propositions. This paper argues that none of Jubien’s proposals succeeds in accommodating an important range of propositional phenomena, such as the (...) aforementioned validity of attitude-report inferences. It then shows that the notion of a predication act-type, which remains importantly Russellian in spirit, is sufficient to explain the range of propositional phenomena in question, in particular the validity of attitude-report inferences. The paper concludes with a discussion of whether predication act-types are really just propositions by another name. (shrink)
On a traditional or default view of the grasping or understanding of a singular proposition by an individual, it is assumed to be a unitary or holistic activity. However, naturalistic views of cognition plausibly could analyze propositional thinking in terms of more than one distinctive functional stage of cognitive processing, suggesting at least the potential legitimacy of a non-unitary analysis of propositional grasping. We outline a novel dual-component view of this kind, and show that it is well supported by current (...) cognitive science research. (shrink)
§1. Here is a familiar regress argument: Take the fact that Ed runs. What is the nature of this fact? If we think ‘runs’ stands for a property, the property of running (call it Running), then, arguably, Ed and this property are constituents of this fact. But the fact cannot simply consist of Ed and Running. For Ed can exist and Running can exist even if Ed doesn’t run. For it to be a fact that Ed runs, Ed must instantiate (...) Running. But adding the talk of instantiation just gets us another constituent of the fact: the relation of instantiation, call it Inst. But Ed can exist, Running can exist, and the relation Inst can exist even if Ed doesn’t run. Trying the same strategy as before we can say that Ed, Running and Inst must stand in the right relation for it to be a fact that Ed runs. But it should be clear that we are off on a vicious regress. As stated, the regress concerns facts, and I will keep referring to as the fact regress. But it is not obvious, at least, that we need to reify facts to get the regress going. All we need is a notion of something’s being the case, and the legitimacy of asking how, or in virtue of what, something is the case: Suppose it is the case that Ed runs. In virtue of what is it so? The existence of Ed and Running are not sufficient for it to be the case that Ed runs. For it to be the case that Ed runs, Ed must instantiate Running. But the existence of Ed, Running, and Inst is not sufficient for it to be the case that Ed runs. Etc. The regress argument given is sometimes called Bradley’s regress. But both because Bradley interpretation is controversial and because there are many different regress arguments bearing family resemblances to each other, I will by and large avoid that label. I think that the regress displayed by this argument brought up clearly is vicious, so some way of blocking the argument must be found. At no stage of the reasoning do we actually find ourselves in a position to say that a fact exists – or that something is the case – but we just add more and more entities, to no avail. Sometimes it is insisted that the regresses established by arguments like the one I have presented are not vicious.. (shrink)
Frege proposed his doctrine of unsaturatedness as a solution to the problems of the unity of the proposition and the unity of the sentence. I explain the traditional solution to the problem of the unity of the sentence, as expounded by Mill, which invokes a syncategorematic sign of predication and the connotation and denotation of terms. I streamline this solution and bring it up to date. I contrast this conventionalist theory with Frege’s unsaturatedness theory. I show that Frege’s theory is (...) mystical, ad hoc, ineffective and paradoxical, and that it entails that singular terms cannot be predicates. I argue that the conventionalist account is free of these defects and that it provides a clear and intelligible solution to the problem of the unity of the sentence. I suggest that the problem of the unity of the proposition is spurious. I recommend that the notion of unsaturatedness be extruded from serious debate. (shrink)
This is a (moderately long) book-length discussion of a problem that exercised the fathers of Analytic Philosophy, following a distinguished tradition in fact traceable to Plato’s later dialogues, the Parmenides and the Sophist . It is a problem that is not often discussed these days (but see King 2007, whose views are not explicitly discussed in this book – curiously, for a work otherwise as scholarly as any I have come across, countenancing proposals about the issues it discusses not just (...) from the whole Western philosophical tradition, but even from Indian sources). The problem is: what is it that holds the constituents of a proposition together? As this way of putting it shows, the problem presupposes that there are propositions and that they have constituents. The book takes up these presuppositions in the first two chapters, justifying the commitment to propositions, explaining their role and their nature, and arguing for their structured character; then, in the two following chapters, it critically discusses well-known proposals for solving the unity problem, especially the one by Frege, according to which what holds the propositional constituents together is the fact that at least one of them has a functional or “unsaturated” character, and variants thereof in Russell, Strawson and others; and finally, in the last two chapters, it moves on to offer a boldly original solution, elaborates on it, and defends it from potential criticisms. All in all, it is, as the author advertises, “a fuller treatment of its topic than has ever been undertaken” – and a very interesting and rewarding read at that. (shrink)
Truth, falsity, and unity -- Sentences, lists, and collections -- Declarative and other kinds of sentence -- Declarative sentences and propositions -- Sentences, propositions, and truth-values -- Sentences, propositions, and unity -- Unity and complexity -- Reference and supposition -- Reference and signification -- Linguistic idealism and empirical realism -- Russell on truth, falsity, and unity (I) : 1903 -- Russell on truth, falsity, and unity (II) : 1910-13 -- Russell on truth, falsity, and unity (III) : 1918 -- Sense, (...) reference, and propositions -- Russellian propositions, Fregean thoughts, and facts -- The location of propositions -- Proper names, concept-expressions, and definite descriptions -- Concept-expressions and Carnapian intensions -- Carnapian intensions and understanding -- Carnapian intensions and Russellian propositions -- Russellian propositions and functionality -- A revised semantic map -- Sentences as referring expressions -- False propositions at the level of reference -- The world's own language -- Signification and supposition revisited -- Frege and Russell on unity -- Saturatedness and unsaturatedness -- The copula as secundum adiacens and as tertium adiacens -- Frege and the Copula -- The paradox of the concept horse -- Russell on unity and the paradox -- An unsuccessful attempt to avoid the paradox -- The paradox and the level of language -- Reforming Frege's treatment of concept-expressions -- Concepts and functions -- The reformed Frege : refinements and objections -- Frege, Russell, and the anti-fregean strategy -- The anti-fregean strategy : the case of names -- Disquotation and propositional form -- The context principle -- Prabhakara semantics and the related designation theory -- For that is not a word which is not the name of a thing -- The impartial strategy -- Secundum and tertium adiacens, matter and form -- The hierarchy of levels and the syntactic priority thesis -- Fregean and anti-fregean strategies -- The anti-fregean strategy and relations (I) -- Interlude: The subject--predicate distinction -- The anti-fregean strategy and relations (II) -- The reality of relations -- Polyadicity, monadicity, and identity -- The anti-fregean strategy and Montague grammar -- Fregean and anti-fregean strategies : further comparison -- Ramsey on the subject : predicate distinction -- Dummett's attack on the anti-fregean strategy -- Linguistic idealism revisited -- Alternative hierarchies and the context principle -- The linguistic hierarchy and categorial nonsense -- Logical syntax and the context principle -- Proper names, singular terms, and the identity test -- Proper names, Leibniz's law, and the identity of indiscernibles -- The negation asymmetry test -- Dummett's tests for singular termhood -- Discarding the syntactic priority thesis -- Logical predication, logical form, and Bradley's regress -- Names, verbs, and the replacement test -- Analysis and paradox -- Simple, complex, and logical predicates -- The grammatical copula and the logical copula -- Predication in Frege -- Two exegetical problems in Frege -- Inference and the logical predicate -- Unity and the logical predicate -- Bradley's regress and the tradition -- Russell and the general form of the proposition -- Wittgenstein's criticism of Russell -- Logical form in theTractatus -- Bradley's regress and the unity of the proposition -- The logical copula and theories of meaning -- Reference and the logical copula -- Bradley's regress and the analysis of meaning -- Vicious practical regresses -- Bradley's regress and the solution to the unity problem -- Propositions, sets, sums, and the objects themselves -- Bradley's regress and the infinite -- Vallicella's onto-theology -- A comparison with other innocent regresses -- Truth, falsity, and unity revisited -- Bradley's regress, realism, and states of affairs -- Unity and use -- The unity of sentences and the unity of complex names (I) -- The unity of sentences and the unity of complex names (II) -- Congruence, functionality, and propositional unity -- Davidson on predication -- Epilogue: The limits of language. (shrink)
Between 1903 and 1918 Russell made a number of attempts to understand the unity of the proposition, but his attempts all foundered on his failure clearly to distinguish between different senses in which the relation R might be said to relate a and b in the proposition aRb: he failed to distinguish between the relation as truth-maker and the relation as unifier, and consequently committed himself again and again to the unacceptable consequence that only true propositions are genuinely unified. There (...) is an anticipation of this confusion in the writings of the fourteenth-century philosopher Richard Brinkley. (shrink)
If we make the basic assumption that the components of a proposition have reference on the model of proper name and bearer, we face the problem of distinguishing the proposition from a mere list' of names. We neutralize the problem posed by that assumption of we first of all follow Wiggins and distinguish, in every predicate, a strictly predicative element (the copula), and a strictly non-predicative conceptual component (available to be quantified over). If we further allow the copula itself to (...) conform to the basic assumption, a regress ( Bradley's regress') arises: the referent of the copula will be instantiation, the instantiation of instantiation etc. To avert the regress, Wiggins simply legislates that the basic assumption is to fail for the copula. But we are entitled to regard the regress as constitution not a difficulty, but the solution: the infinitism it imports (capturable in a finitistic theory of meaning) is just what the unity of the proposition "is". (edited). (shrink)
Are Fregean thoughts compositionally complex and composed of senses? We argue that, in Begriffsschrift, Frege took 'conceptual contents' to be unstructured, but that he quickly moved away from this position, holding just two years later that conceptual contents divide of themselves into 'function' and 'argument'. This second position is shown to be unstable, however, by Frege's famous substitution puzzle. For Frege, the crucial question the puzzle raises is why "The Morning Star is a planet" and "The Evening Star is a (...) planet" have different contents, but his second position predicts that they should have the same content. Frege's response to this antinomy is of course to distinguish sense from reference, but what has not previously been noticed is that this response also requires thoughts to be compositionally complex, composed of senses. That, however, raises the question just how thoughts are composed from senses. We reconstruct a Fregean answer, one that turns on an insistence that this question must be understood as semantic rather than metaphysical. It is not a question about the intrinsic nature of residents of the third realm but a question about how thoughts are expressed by sentences. (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension of it that readily solves the Frege–Geach problem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, but it (...) does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity, and embedding. (shrink)
In Bertrand Russell’s The Principles of Mathematics and related works, the notion of a proposition plays an important role; it is by analyzing propositions, showing what kinds of constituents they have, that Russell arrives at his core logical concepts. At this time, his conception of proposition contains both a conventional and an unconventional part. The former is the view that propositions are the ultimate truth-bearers; the latter is the view that the constituents of propositions are “worldly” entities. In the latter (...) respect, Russellian propositions are akin to states-of-affairs on some robust understanding of these entities. The idea of Russellian propositions is well known, at least in outline. Not so well known is his treatment of truth, which nevertheless grows directly out of this notion of proposition. For the early Russell, the import of truth is primarily metaphysical, rather than semantic; reversing the usual direction of explanation, he holds that truth is explanatory of what is the case rather than vice versa. That is, what properties a thing has and what relations it bears to other things is determined, metaphysically speaking, by there being a suitable array of true and false propositions. In the present paper, this doctrine is examined for its content and motivation. To show that it plays a genuine role in Russell’s early metaphysics and logic, I examine its consequences for (1) the possibility of truth-definitions and (2) the problem of the unity of the proposition. I shall draw a few somewhat tentative conclusions about where Russell stood vis-à-vis his metaphysics of propositions, suggesting a possible source of dissatisfaction that may have played a role in his eventual rejection of his early notion of proposition. (shrink)
This paper presents an account of the manner in which a proposition’s immediate structural features are related to its core truth-conditional features. The leading idea is that for a proposition to have a certain immediate structure is just for certain entities to play certain roles in the correct theory of the brute facts regarding that proposition’s truth conditions. The paper explains how this account addresses certain worries and questions recently raised by Jeffery King and Scott Soames.
This paper explores a notion of a truth-bearing entity that is distinct both from a proposition and from an intentional event, state, or action, namely the notion of an attitudinal object. Attitudinal objects are entities like ‘John’s belief that S’, John’s claim that S’, ‘John’s desire that S’, or ‘John’s request that S’. The notion of an attitudinal object has an important precedent in the work of the Polish philosopher Twardowski (1912), who drew a more general distinction between ‘actions’ and (...) ‘products’, such as screaming, judging, and thinking on the one hand and a scream, a judgment, and a thought on the other hand. The paper argue that the action-product distinction is the distinction between actions and the abstract or physically realized artifacts that they may create. (shrink)
Propositions as mind-independent truth-bearing entities play a central role in contemporary philosophy of language. At the same time, propositions conceived as abstract objects have been subject to a range of recent criticism. A recent alternative approach, pursued by P. Hanks and S. Soames, is to consider propositions types of cognitive acts. This paper will argue for a notion of a truth-bearing entity that is distinct both from a proposition and a cognitive event, state, or action, and that is the notion (...) of an attitudinal object – or the product of a mental or illocutionary event. (shrink)
The most common account of attitude reports is the relational analysis according towhich an attitude verb taking that-clause complements expresses a two-placerelation between agents and propositions and the that-clause acts as an expressionwhose function is to provide the propositional argument. I will argue that a closerexamination of a broader range of linguistic facts raises serious problems for thisanalysis and instead favours a Russellian `multiple relations analysis' (which hasgenerally been discarded because of its apparent obvious linguistic implausibility).The resulting account can be (...) given independent philosophical motivations within anintentionalist view of truth and predication. (shrink)
Ever since Frege, propositions have played a central role in philosophy of language. Propositions are generally conceived as abstract objects that have truth conditions essentially and fulfill both the role of the meaning of sentences and of the objects or content of propositional attitudes. More recently, the abstract conception of propositions has given rise to serious dissatisfaction among a number of philosophers, who have instead proposed a conception of propositional content based on cognitive acts (Hanks, Moltmann, Soames). This approach is (...) not entirely new, though, but has important precedents in early analytic philosophy and phenomenology. The aim of this volume is bring together some of the most important texts from the relevant historical literature and new contributions from contemporary proponents of act-based conceptions of propositional content. (shrink)
La tesis que plantea Gaetano Chiurazzi en Teorías del juicio llamará la atención del lector interesado tanto en las cuestiones filosóficas esenciales como en su dilucidación y exposición en el curso de la historia. El profesor de hermenéutica filosófica en la Universidad de Turín plantea el análisis del discurso apofántico que, desde la filosofía aristotélica, se distingue por estar formado por proposiciones en las que, por medio de la función atributiva, se expresa la relación predicativa «S es P». Reparar en (...) la idea de que la reflexión filosófica no puede eludir el problema de la naturaleza del discurso apofántico, ya sea desde disciplinas como la metafísica, la ontología o la teoría del conocimiento es ya una cuestión fundamental, por lo que, como consecuencia de ello, no le ha resultado difícil a su autor presentarla como hilo conductor de algunos de los más afamados problemas especulativos de la filosofía occidental. Para muestra un botón: junto al problema del juicio puede hallarse una línea discursiva que atraviesa la historia de la filosofía si atendemos, por ejemplo, a su definición más convencional según la cual de éste cabe decir si es verdadero o falso. (shrink)
Originally motivated by a sophism, Pardo's discussion about the unity of mental propositions allows him to elaborate on his ideas about the nature of propositions. His option for a non-composite character of mental propositions is grounded in an original view about syncategorems: propositions have a syncategorematic signification, which allows them to signify aliquid aliqualiter, just by virtue of the mental copula, without the need of any added categorematic element. Pardo's general claim about the simplicity of mental propositions is developed into (...) several specific thesis about mental propositions: a) it is not judgement which gives its unity to mental propositions, but judicative acts always follow some previous apprehensive act that is simple in its own right; b) this simplicity is compatible with a certain kind of complexity, that can be explained in terms of the "causal history" of the acts of knowing; c) traditional conceptions about subject and predicate must be recast, while keeping their usual explicative power concerning logical properties; d) of course, the traditional conception about the copula has been modified, giving rise to a fully innovative conception of the nature of mental propositions. Nevertheless, this innovative conception of mental language seems still infected by certain "common sense" prejudices, which lead Pardo to propose also a provocative conception of vocal language, which I consider unnecessary. (shrink)
The first section of this article offers a reconstruction of Buridan's theory of propositions, along the following lines: on the syntactic plane, propositions obtain a special type of unity from the presence of a copula; on the semantic plane, the fact that a proposition does not have any specific significate (different from the significate of terms), does not erase the distinction between propositions and terms: the copula performs an act of saying, in virtue of which propositions can be true or (...) false. The second section sumarises Pardo's theory of propositions, showing how in this case a Buridanian starting point led to a result very different from that which Buridan reached. (shrink)
Peter Hanks and Scott Soames have recently developed similar views of propositional attitudes on which they consist at least partly of being disposed to perform mental acts. Both think that to believe a proposition is at least partly to be disposed to perform the primitive propositional act: one the performance of which is part of the performance of any other propositional act. However, they differ over whether the primitive act is the forceless entertaining or the forceful judging. In this paper (...) I argue that Soames’s “forceless” approach has an advantage over Hanks’s “forceful” approach which faces a serious problem. (shrink)
Gaskin's book The Unity of the Proposition is very rich in material. I will focus only on its central thesis: Gaskin holds that Bradley's regress (more precisely, one particular version of it) is not only innocent, but in fact philosophically significant because it plays a crucial role in solving what Gaskin calls the problem of the unity of the proposition . In what follows, I first explain what that problem is meant to be ( section 1 ), then I present (...) and criticise Gaskin's proposal about how Bradley's regress bears on the problem ( section 2 ), and finally I sketch an alternative approach to the problem ( section 3 ). (shrink)
In this paper, I introduce and discuss a series of problems associated with answering the question of semantic unity, and argue that the truth theoretical approach to semantics put forward by Donald Davidson suggests a possible solution. Although not put forward explicitly as such by Davidson, it is argued that we in Davidson's interpretation of Tarski's definition of truth find the resources to illuminate and resolve the problem of unity.
In this article I present a summary of Bertrand Russell's protracted attempts to solve the problem of the unity of the proposition, and explain the significance of the problem for Russell's philosophy. Unlike many other accounts which take the problem to be confined to Russell's early theories of propositional content, I argue that the problem (or variants of it) is a recurring theme throughout the whole of Russell's career.
This monograph offers a reappraisal of the role of Bertrand Russell's philosophical works in establishing the analytical tradition in philosophy. It's main aims are to improve our understanding of the history of analytical philosophy, to engage in the important disputes surrounding the interpretation of Russell's philosophy, and to make a contribution to central issues in current analytical philosophy. Hence, this book will find a place on the bookshelf of many philosophers across the world.
It is plausible that the universe exists: a thing such that absolutely everything is a part of it. It is also plausible that singular, structured propositions exist: propositions that literally have individuals as parts. Furthermore, it is plausible that for each thing, there is a singular, structured proposition that has it as a part. Finally, it is plausible that parthood is a partial ordering: reflexive, transitive, and anti-symmetric. These plausible claims cannot all be correct. We canvass some costs of denying (...) each claim and conclude that parthood is not a partial ordering. Provided that the relevant entities exist, parthood is not anti-symmetric and proper parthood is neither asymmetric nor transitive. (shrink)
According to Vallicella's 'Relations, Monism, and the Vindication of Bradley's Regress' (2002), if relations are to relate their relata, some special operator must do the relating. No other options will do. In this paper we reject Vallicella's conclusion by considering an important option that becomes visible only if we hold onto a precise distinction between the following three feature-pairs of relations: internality/externality, universality/particularity, relata-specificity/relata-unspecificity. The conclusion we reach is that if external relations are to relate their relata, they must be (...) relata-specific (and no special operator is needed). As it eschews unmereological complexes, this outcome is of relevance to defenders of the extensionality of composition. (shrink)