Analysis 70 (3):438-446 (2010)
(Note: this is now a working pdf of the final version, March 2010)
It is uncontroversial that psychological verbs like ‘believe’, ‘think’, or ‘suspect’ have first person present tense uses that are transparent in the sense that they convey information about the world rather than about the speaker’s psychological states, as in ‘I believe it’s about to rain’. One explanation for these transparent belief reports or avowals, mainly coming from the Wittgensteinian tradition, is that the verbs in question are systematically ambiguous, or that they have an expressive rather than descriptive function in the first-personal case. I maintain, in contrast, that there is no asymmetry between transparent and other uses of psychological verbs at the level of literal meaning. Instead, belief reports convey information about the world in virtue of standard Gricean conversational principles, which also serve to predict when they fail to be transparent. Thus, semantic continuity is maintained and the anomalous behaviour of the verbs explained by a simple pragmatic story.
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