After introducing Millianism and touching on two problems raised by genuinely empty names for Millianism (section I), I provide a brief exposition of the Gappy Proposition View (GPV) and of how different versions of this view can reply to the problems in question (section II). In the following sections I develop my reasons against the GPV. First, I will try to argue that apparently promising arguments for the claim that gappypropositions are propositions are not successful (...) (section III). Then, I will develop two arguments against GPs via demonstrating two odd consequences of the GPV: (a) that there can be an atomic proposition which contains other propositions that are not the semantic contents of any part of the .. (shrink)
In recent years a number of authors sympathetic to Referentialistaccounts of proper names have argued that utterances containingempty names express `gappy,' or incomplete, propositions. In this paper I want to take issue with this suggestion.In particular, I argue versions of this approach developedby David Braun, Nathan Salmon, Ken Taylor, and by Fred Adams,Gary Fuller, and Robert Stecker.
Against standard descriptivist and referentialist semantics for fictional reports, I will defend a view according to which fictional names do not refer yet they can be distinguished from one another by virtue of their different name-using practices. The logical structures of sentences containing fictional names inherit these distinctions. Different interpretations follow.
Philosophers often talk about the things we say, or believe, or think, or mean. The things are often called ‘propositions’. A proposition is what one believes, or thinks, or means when one believes, thinks, or means something. Talk about propositions is ubiquitous when philosophers turn their gaze to language, meaning and thought. But what are propositions? Is there a single class of things that serve as the objects of belief, the bearers of truth, and the meanings of (...) utterances? How do our utterances express propositions? Under what conditions do two speakers say the same thing, and what (if anything) does this tell us about the nature of propositions? There is no consensus on these questions—or even on whether propositions should be treated as things at all. During the second Propositions and Same-Saying workshop, which took place on July 19–21 2010 at the University of Sydney, philosophers debated these (and related) questions. The workshop covered topics in the philosophy of language, perception, and metaphysics. The present volume contains revised and expanded versions of the papers presented at the workshop. (shrink)
It is argued that propositions cannot be the compositional semantic values of sentences (in context) simply due to issues stemming from the compositional semantics of modal operators (or modal quantifiers). In particular, the fact that the arguments for double indexing generalize to multiple indexing exposes a fundamental tension in the default philosophical conception of semantic theory. This provides further motivation for making a distinction between two sentential semantic contents—what (Dummett 1973) called “ingredient sense” and “assertoric content”.
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)
According to many actualists, propositions, singular propositions in particular, are structurally complex, that is, roughly, (i) they have, in some sense, an internal structure that corresponds rather directly to the syntactic structure of the sentences that express them, and (ii) the metaphysical components, or constituents, of that structure are the semantic values — the meanings — of the corresponding syntactic components of those sentences. Given that reference is "direct", i.e., that the meaning of a name is its denotation, (...) an apparent consequence of this view is that any proposition expressed by a sentence containing a name that denotes a contingent being S is itself contingent — notably, the proposition [S does not exist]. Assuming that an entity must exist to have a property, necessarily, [S does not exist] must exist in order to be true. It seems to follow that, necessarily, [S does not exist] is not true and, hence, that S is not contingent after all. Past approaches to the problem — notably, those of Prior and Adams — lead to highly undesirable consequences for quantified modal logic. In this paper, several solutions to this puzzle are developed that preserve actualism, the structured view of propositions, the direct theory of reference, and the intuition that [S does not exist] is indeed possible without the adverse consequences for QML of previous solutions. (shrink)
I argue that there is an inherent tension in the notion of a proposition that gives us reason to doubt that there can be any single entity that plays all the roles and possesses all the features normally attributed to propositions. The tension is that some of the roles and features of propositions require them to be essentially representational, while others require them to be non-representational. I first present what I call the standard view of propositions: a (...) series of theses outlining the roles they are normally thought to play and the features they are normally thought to possess. I then highlight a number of tensions inherent in the standard view. I illustrate how this very tension creates problems for some realist theories of propositions. I discuss the distinction between the truth of a proposition and its existence, and argue that paying heed to this distinction allows us to identify, and clear up, a particular confusion that leads us to posit propositions in the first place. Finally, I consider where a rejection of propositions leaves us, ontologically and theoretically. (shrink)
Neo-Russellian theories of structured propositions face challenges to do with both representation and structure which are sometimes called the problem of unity and the Benacerraf problem. In §i, I set out the problems and Jeffrey King's solution, which I take to be the best of its type, as well as an unfortunate consequence for that solution. In §§ii–iii, I diagnose what is going wrong with this line of thought. If I am right, it follows that the Benacerraf problem cannot (...) be used to motivate the view that propositions are irreducible elements of our ontology. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss two concerns for pluralist truth theories: a concern about a key detail of these theories and a concern about their viability. The detailed-related concern is that pluralists have relied heavily upon the notion of a domain, but it is not transparent what they take domains to be. Since the notion of a domain has been present in philosophy for some time, it is important for many theorists, not only truth pluralists, to be clear on what (...) domains are and what work they can do. -/- The viability-related concern is that it's not clear how a pluralist truth theory could explain the truth-conditions of mixed atomic propositions. To address this concern, truth pluralists should recognize something to which they have not been sufficiently attentive: that some atomic propositions belong to more than one domain. But, recognizing this requires rethinking the relationships between the nature of propositions, their membership in domains, and their truth. I address these issues and propose an understanding of them that is preferable to the best existing account of them, that offered by Michael Lynch. (shrink)
This paper defends a key aspect of the Peircean conception of truth—the idea that truth is in some sense epistemically-constrained. It does so by exploring parallels between Peirce’s epistemology of inquiry and that of Wittgenstein in On Certainty. The central argument defends a Peircean claim about truth by appeal to a view shared by Peirce and Wittgenstein about the structure of reasons. This view relies on the idea that certain claims have a special epistemic status, or function as what are (...) popularly called ‘hinge propositions’. (shrink)
In the paper we build up the ontology of Leśniewski’s type for formalizing synthetic propositions. We claim that for these propositions an unconventional square of opposition holds, where a, i are contrary, a, o (resp. e, i) are contradictory, e, o are subcontrary, a, e (resp. i, o) are said to stand in the subalternation. Further, we construct a non-Archimedean extension of Boolean algebra and show that in this algebra just two squares of opposition are formalized: conventional and (...) the square that we invented. As a result, we can claim that there are only two basic squares of opposition. All basic constructions of the paper (the new square of opposition, the formalization of synthetic propositions within ontology of Leśniewski’s type, the non-Archimedean explanation of square of opposition) are introduced for the first time. (shrink)
Prior propounded a theory that, if correct, explains how it is possible for a statement about propositions to be true even if there are no propositions. The major feature of his theory is his treatment of sentence letters as bindable variables in non-referential positions. His theory, however, does not include a semantical account of the resulting quantification. The paper tries to fill that gap.
In sections 1 through 5, I develop in detail what I call the standard theory of worlds and propositions, and I discuss a number of purported objections. The theory consists of five theses. The first two theses, presented in section 1, assert that the propositions form a Boolean algebra with respect to implication, and that the algebra is complete, respectively. In section 2, I introduce the notion of logical space: it is a field of sets that represents the (...) propositional structure and whose space consists of all and only the worlds. The next three theses, presented in sections 3, 4, and 5, respectively, guarantee the existence of logical space, and further constrain its structure. The third thesis asserts that the set of propositions true at any world is maximal consistent; the fourth thesis that any two worlds are separated by a proposition; the fifth thesis that only one proposition is false at every world. In sections 6 through 10, I turn to the problem of reduction. In sections 6 and 7, I show how the standard theory can be used to support either a reduction of worlds to propositions or a reduction of propositions to worlds. A number of proposition-based theories are developed in section 6, and compared with Adams's world-story theory. A world-based theory is developed in section?, and Stalnaker's account of the matter is discussed. Before passing judgment on the proposition based and world-based theories, I ask in sections 8 and 9 whether both worlds and propositions might be reduced to something else. In section 8, I consider reductions to linguistic entities; in section 9, reductions to unfounded sets. After rejecting the possibility of eliminating both worlds and propositions, I return in section 10 to the possibility of eliminating one in favor of the other. I conclude, somewhat tentatively, that neither worlds nor propositions should be reduced one to the other, that both worlds and propositions should be taken as basic to our ontology. (shrink)
An Essay in the Metaphysics of Propositions Berit Brogaard. TRANSIENT TRUTHS An Essay in. the Metaphysics ofProposizions BERIT BROGAARD Transient Truths This page intentionally left blank Transient Truths An. Cover.
Russeilian or singular propositions are very useful in sernantics to specify "what has been said" by a literal and serious utterance of a sentence containing a proper name, an indexical or a dernonstrative, or for modeling demonstrative thoughts. Based on an example given by S. Guttenplan, I construct a case showing that if our only option for modeling dernonstrative thoughts is a singular proposition à la Russell, we run the risk of admitting infallible empirical (existential) beliefs. I defend the (...) principle of the fallibility of our (first order) representations by appealing to Perry's notionof a relational mode of presentation that allows us to generalize the proposition which is the content of the perceptual belief in cases of hallucination or misidentification, so that there is no "immunity to error through misidentification" in the province of demonstrative thought. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga gave a reductio of the conjunction of the following three theses: Existentialism (the view that, e.g., the proposition that Socrates exists can't exist unless Socrates does), Serious Actualism (the view that nothing can have a property at a world without existing at that world) and Contingency (the view that some objects, like Socrates, exist only contingently). I sketch a view of truth at a world which enables the Existentialist to resist Plantinga's argument without giving up either Serious Actualism (...) or Contingency. (shrink)
In recent years, many philosophers have supposed that perceptual representations have propositional content. A prominent rationale for this supposition is the assumption that perceptions may justify beliefs, but this rationale can be doubted. This rationale may be doubted on the grounds that there do not seem to be any viable characterizations of the belief-justifying propositional contents of perceptions. An alternative is to model perceptual representations as marks in a perceptual similarity space. A mapping can be defined between points in perceptual (...) similarity space and points in an objective quality space. The correctness of perceptual representation can then be defined as a kind of accuracy of mapping rather than as the truth of a proposition. The phenomenon of seeing-as can be accounted for as a matter of the location of marks in perceptual similarity space relative to other marks in perceptual similarity space. Perceptual representations, on this account, will not justify beliefs, but they may nonetheless guide judgment. (shrink)
In nearly forty years’ of work, Simon Blackburn has done more than anyone to expand our imaginations about the aspirations for broadly projectivist/expressivist theorizing in all areas of philosophy. I know that I am far from alone in that his work has often been a source of both inspiration and provocation for my own work. It might be tempting, in a volume of critical essays such as this, to pay tribute to Blackburn’s special talent for destructive polemic, by seeking to (...) take down that by which I’ve been most provoked over the years. But Blackburn’s biting wit has both more wit and more bite than I could hope to emulate. So instead I’ll try to emulate here what I’ve admired the most about Blackburn – the constructive vein of much of his work. (shrink)
The paper argues that philosophers commonly misidentify the substitutivity principle involved in Russell’s puzzle about substitutivity in “On Denoting” (the so-called "George IV puzzle"). This matters because when that principle is properly identified the puzzle becomes considerably sharper and more interesting than it is often taken to be. This article describes both the puzzle itself and Russell's solution to it, which involves resources beyond the theory of descriptions. It then explores the epistemological and metaphysical consequences of that solution. One such (...) consequence, it argues, is that Russell must abandon his commitment to propositions. (shrink)
Recent work in philosophy of language has raised significant problems for the traditional theory of propositions, engendering serious skepticism about its general workability. These problems are, I believe, tied to fundamental misconceptions about how the theory should be developed. The goal of this paper is to show how to develop the traditional theory in a way which solves the problems and puts this skepticism to rest. The problems fall into two groups. The first has to do with reductionism, specifically (...) attempts to reduce propositions to extensional entities-either extensional functions or sets. The second group concerns problems of fine grained content-both traditional 'Cicero'/'Tully' puzzles and recent variations on them which confront scientific essentialism. After characterizing the problems, I outline a non-reductionist approach-the algebraic approach-which avoids the problems associated with reductionism. I then go on to show how the theory can incorporate non-Platonic (as well as Platonic) modes of presentation. When these are implemented nondescriptively, they yield the sort of fine-grained distinctions which have been eluding us. The paper closes by applying the theory to a cluster of remaining puzzles, including a pair of new puzzles facing scientific essentialism. (shrink)
This is part two of a complete exposition of Logic, in which there is a radically new synthesis of Aristotelian-Scholastic Logic with modern Logic. Part II is the presentation of the theory of propositions. Simple, composite, atomic, compound, modal, and tensed propositions are all examined. Valid consequences and propositional logical identities are rigorously proven. Modal logic is rigorously defined and proven. This is the first work of Logic known to unite Aristotelian logic and modern logic using scholastic logic (...) as the instrument. (shrink)
Draft for Martinich and Hoekstra (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Hobbes. -/- Language was central to Hobbes's understanding of human beings and their mental abilities, and criticism of other philosophers' uses of language became a favorite critical tool for him. This paper connects Hobbes's theories about language to his criticisms of others' language, examining Hobbes's theories of propositions and truth, and how they relate to his claims that various sorts of proposition are absurd. It considers whether Hobbes in fact means (...) anything more by 'absurd' than 'false'. And it pays particular attention to Hobbes's categorization of causes of absurdity and of types of incoherent proposition, arguing that Hobbes's approach is only loosely related to later discussions of category mistakes. (shrink)
This paper develops a novel version of anti-platonism, called semantic fictionalism. The view is a response to the platonist argument that we need to countenance propositions to account for the truth of sentences containing `that'-clause singular terms, e.g., sentences of the form `x believes that p' and `σ means that p'. Briefly, the view is that (a) platonists are right that `that'-clauses purport to refer to propositions, but (b) there are no such things as propositions, and hence, (...) (c) `that'-clause-containing sentences of the above sort are not true-they are useful fictions. Semantic fictionalism is an extension of Hartry Field's mathematical fictionalism, but my defense of the view is not analogous to his. One of the many virtues of my defense is its generality: it explains how we can adopt a fictionalist stance towards all abstract singular terms, e.g., mathematical singular terms and `that'-clauses. (shrink)
Parts I and II of 'Conflicting Appearances, Necessity and the Irreducibility of Propositions about Colours' review the argument from 'conflicting appearances' for the view that nothing has any one colour. I take further a well-known criticism of the argument made by Austin and Burnyeat. In Part III I undertake the task of positive construction, offering a theory of what it is that all things coloured a particular colour have in common. I end, in Part IV, by arguing that the (...) resulting 'colour phenomenalism', rather than physicalism, is required to give a satisfactory account of the necessity of Wittgenstein's 'puzzle propositions' about colour. (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)
Dewey and Russell's debate over the status of logic in the twentieth-century is, by now, well-trodden ground for scholarly inquiry. However, Dewey's novel theory of propositions, first articulated in his 1938 Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, has received comparatively less attention than the debate that touched upon it. The paucity of interest among philosophers of language is probably due to a variety of reasons, such as the theory's unorthodox character and, what at least appears to be, its naive simplicity (...) when compared to other more common (syntactic and pragmatic) theories of propositions. In this paper, I would like to examine the three most extensive treatments, one by the late H.S. Thayer, another by Tom Burke, and the most recent exposition by Larry Hickman, with the intention of reviving scholarly interest in Dewey's theory of propositional form. Another objective of the present project is to situate Dewey's theory relative to more contemporary theories and debates about propositional form in the philosophy of language literature. (shrink)
Can we find propositions that cannot rationally be denied in any possible world without assuming the existence of that same proposition, and so involving ourselves in a contradiction? In other words, can we find transworld propositions needing no further foundation or justification? Basically, three differing positions can be imagined: firstly, a relativist position, according to which ultimately founded propositions are impossible; secondly, a meta-relativist position, according to which ultimately founded propositions are possible but unnecessary; and thirdly, (...) an absolute position, according to which such propositions are necessary. In this short essay I show that under the premise of modal logic S5 with constant domain there are ultimately founded propositions and that their existence is even necessary, and I will give some reasons for the superiority of S5 over other logics. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the analogical argument that the use that is made of propositions in folk psychology in the characterisation of propositional attitudes is no more puzzling than the use that is made of numbers in the physical sciences in the measurement of physical properties. It has been argued that the result of this analogy is that there is no need to postulate the existence of sentences in a language of thought which underpin the propositional characterisation of (...) propositional attitudes in order to provide a naturalistic account of their use. I argue that a closer examination of the analogy implies rather than avoids the existence of structured representations constituting a language of thought, and thus that it should be abandoned by those who wish to avoid the postulation of such internal representations. (shrink)
The paradox of propositiOns, presented in Appenclix B of Russell's The Principies of Mathernatics (1903), is usually taken as Russell's principal motive, at the time, for moving from a simple to a ramified theory of types. I argue that this view is mistaken. A closer study of Russell's correspondence with Frege reveals that Russell carne to adopt a very different resolution of the paradox, calling into question not the simplicity of his early type theory but the simplicity of his (...) early theory of propositions. (shrink)
The concept of a proposition is important in several areas of philosophy and central to the philosophy of language. This collection of readings investigates many different philosophical issues concerning the nature of propositions and the ways they have been regarded through the years. Reflecting both the history of the topic and the range of contemporary views, the book includes articles from Bertrand Russell, Gottlob Frege, the Russell-Frege Correspondence, Alonzo Church, David Kaplan, John Perry, Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, Mark Richard, (...) Scott Soames, and Nathan Salmon. (shrink)
Propositions, the abstract, truth-bearing contents of sentences and beliefs, continue to be the focus of healthy debates in philosophy of language and metaphysics. This article is a critical survey of work on propositions since the mid-90s, with an emphasis on newer work from the past decade. Topics to be covered include a substitution puzzle about propositional designators, two recent arguments against propositions, and two new theories about the nature of propositions.
When I say ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’, I seem to express a proposition. And when I say ‘Joan believes that Hesperus is Phosphorus’, I seem to ascribe to Joan an attitude to the same proposition. But what are propositions? And what is involved in ascribing propositional attitudes?
A singular thought about an object o is one that is directly about o in a characteristic way—grasp of that thought requires having some special epistemic relation to the object o, and the thought is ontologically dependent on o. One account of the nature of singular thought exploits a Russellian Structured Account of Propositions, according to which contents are represented by means of structured n-tuples of objects, properties, and functions. A proposition is singular, according to this framework, if and (...) only if it contains an object as a constituent. One advantage of the framework of Russellian Structured propositions is that it promises to provide a metaphysical basis for the notion of a singular thought about an object, grounding it in terms of constituency. In this paper, we argue that the attempt to ground the peculiar features of singular thoughts in terms of metaphysical constituency fails, and draw some consequences of our discussion for other debates. (shrink)
Accounts of propositions as sets of possible worlds have been criticized for conflating distinct impossible propositions. In response to this problem, some have proposed to introduce impossible worlds to represent distinct impossibilities, endorsing the thesis that impossible worlds must be of the same kind; this has been called the parity thesis. I show that this thesis faces problems, and propose a hybrid account which rejects it: possible worlds are taken as concrete Lewisian worlds, and impossibilities are represented as (...) set-theoretic constructions out of them. This hybrid account (1) distinguishes many intuitively distinct impossible propositions; (2) identifies impossible propositions with extensional constructions; (3) avoids resorting to primitive modality, at least so far as Lewisian modal realism does. (shrink)
believe, or know something to that which they assert believe, or know. A2. The things asserted, believed, and known are bearers of truth and falsity. A3. Propositions -- the things satisfying A1 and A2 -- are expressed by sentences. The..
This is an essay in compositional semantics: the project of understanding how the meanings of sentences depend systematically on the meanings of their parts, and the way those meanings are combined. One way to model this process is to adapt tools from the study of modal or other intensional logics (see eg (Montague, 2002), (Gamut, 1991), (von Fintel and Heim, 2007)), and that’s the method I’ll be pursuing here. My particular task in this essay is to use data about sentences (...) with embedded clauses to provide evidence for theories of what those clauses denote. Call whatever clauses denote, according to a particular theory, that theory’s ‘propositions’; then this essay tries to adduce some evidence about what propositions are like. Here’s the plan: in §1, I’ll discuss a traditional idea—that propositions are sets of possible worlds—and point out some familiar problems with such an approach. In §2, I briefly outline two possible improvements on possible-worlds propositions that solve these familiar problems—circumstantialism and structuralism. The remainder of the paper comprises arguments against structuralism and in favor of (a certain form of) circumstantialism: in §3 I present arguments against structuralism, and in §4, I consider structuralist responses to these arguments, as well as an influential argument against circumstantialism. If these arguments are correct, then some startling conclusions follow—in particular, that the negation of classical logic, whatever its other virtues, cannot provide a correct semantics for negation in natural language. Two key pieces of notational stuff: I use boldface type for quotation (cuts down on quotes everywhere), and double brackets to talk about denotations of linguistic items. So, if we think names denote their bearers, then Mary = Mary. Here we go! 1 1 Problems with the possible-worlds approach.. (shrink)
Kaplan (drawing on Montague and Prior, inter alia) made explicit the idea of world and time neutral propositions, which bear truth values only relative to world and time parameters. There was then a debate over the role of time. Temporalists sided with Kaplan in maintaining time neutral propositions with time relative truth values, while eternalists claimed that all propositions specify the needed time information and so bear the same truth value at all times. But there never was (...) much of a parallel debate over the role of worlds. Let contingentism be the view (parallel to temporalism) that sides with Kaplan in maintaining world neutral propositions with world relative truth values, and let necessitarianism be the view (parallel to eternalism) that propositions specify the needed world information and so bear the same truth value at all worlds. This is the story of how the debate between the contingentists and the necessitarians might begin. (shrink)
Although there is a vast literature on whether propositional attitudes are relations to propositions, a crucial question that ought to lie at the heart of this debate is not often enough seriously addressed. This is the question of the contribution propositions make to the ways in which we benefit from having our propositional-attitude concepts, if those concepts are concepts of relations to propositions. Unless propositions can be shown to confer a benefit that no non-propositions could (...) provide, we should probably doubt whether propositional attitudes really are relations to propositions. I believe that propositional attitudes are relations to propositions and that the role played by them in our conceptual economy cannot be played by things of any other kind, and in this paper I try to say why. This paper, in other words, offers my answer to the question posed by my title. (shrink)
Insensitive Semantics is mainly a protracted assault on semantic Contextualism, both moderate and radical. Cappelen and Lepore argue that Moderate Contextualism leads inevitably, like marijuana to heroin or masturbation to blindness, to Radical Contextualism and in turn that Radical Contextualism is misguided. Assuming that the only alternative to Contextualism is their Semantic Minimalism, they think they’ve given an indirect argument for it. But they overlook a third view, one that splits the difference between the other two. Like Contextualism it rejects (...) Propositionalism, the conservative dogma that every indexicalfree declarative sentence expresses a proposition. Unlike Contextualism, it does not invoke context to fill semantic gaps and, indeed, denies that filling those gaps is a semantic matter. In rejecting Propositionalism, it is more radical, indeed, more minimalist than Cappelen and Lepore’s brand of Semantic Minimalism. It does not imagine that sentences that intuitively seem not to express propositions at least express “minimal propositions.” Radical Semantic Minimalism, or simply Radicalism, says that the sentences in question are semantically incomplete – their semantic contents are not propositions but merely “propositional radicals.”. (shrink)
Some of the most interesting recent work in philosophy of language and metaphysics is focused on questions about propositions, the abstract, truth-bearing contents of sentences and beliefs. The aim of this guide is to give instructors and students a road map for some significant work on propositions since the mid-1990s. This work falls roughly into two areas: challenges to the existence of propositions and theories about the nature and structure of propositions. The former includes both a (...) widely discussed puzzle about propositional designators as well as direct and indirect arguments against the existence of propositions. The latter is dominated by what is currently the central debate about the metaphysics of propositions, i.e. whether they are structured, composite entities or unstructured ontological simples. This issue has eclipsed older debates about whether propositions can be identified with sets of possible worlds or other kinds of sentence intensions. Author Recommends 1. Soames, Scott. 'Direct Reference, Propositional Attitudes, and Semantic Content.' Philosophical Topics 15 (1987): 47–87. Reprinted in Propositions and Attitudes . Eds. N. Salmon and S. Soames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. 197–239. Essential groundwork for more recent work on propositions. Soames gives a careful and exacting presentation of the case against identifying propositions with sets of possible worlds or other truth-supporting circumstances. Also contains a detailed statement of the Russellian conception of propositions on which propositions are ordered sets of objects, properties and relations. 2. King, Jeffrey. 'Designating Propositions.' The Philosophical Review 111 (2002): 341–71. Sometimes substituting a definite description for a corresponding 'that'-clause can lead to bizarre changes in truth-conditions: compare 'Bill fears that Hillary will be president' with 'Bill fears the proposition that Hillary will be president'. This puzzle about propositional designators threatens the relational analysis of propositional attitude reports, the view that 'believes' expresses a relation to the proposition designated by its 'that'-clause, and thereby poses an indirect threat to the existence of propositions. King's solution posits an ambiguity in verbs like 'fear' that embed both 'that'-clauses and definite descriptions. 3. Jubien, Michael. 'Propositions and the Objects of Thought.' Philosophical Studies 104 (2001): 47–62. A direct attack on the existence of propositions. Jubien deploys an analogue of the problem that Paul Benacerraf raised for set-theoretical reductions of numbers against metaphysical reductions of propositions. Just as numbers can be reduced to sets in many different ways, any reduction of propositions brings with it equally good variants, thus making any such reduction arbitrary and unmotivated. The only alternative is to treat propositions as abstract metaphysical primitives. As Jubien argues, however, abstract primitive entities are incapable of doing what propositions must do, i.e. represent objects and states of affairs on their own, without the input of thinking subjects. The upshot is the propositions cannot be reduced and they cannot be primitive, and so they must not exist. 4. Hanks, Peter. 'How Wittgenstein Defeated Russell's Multiple Relation Theory of Judgment.' Synthese 154 (2007): 121–46. Scepticism about propositions has recently led some philosophers, Jubien included, to resuscitate Russell's multiple relation theory of judgment, the idea that judgment is a many-place relation to objects, properties and relations. This paper explains why Russell himself abandoned that theory, and why the theory is still refuted by an objection due to Wittgenstein. 5. Hofweber, Thomas. 'Inexpressible Properties and Propositions.' Oxford Studies in Metaphysics . 2 vols. Ed. D. Zimmerman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 155–206. An indirect attack on the existence of propositions. Hofweber argues that sentences like 'Bill believes something that Hillary asserted' do not commit us to the existence of propositions. His view is that propositional quantification is an instance of what he calls 'internal' or 'inferential role' quantification, a kind of quantification that carries no ontological implications. 6. Schiffer, Stephen. The Things We Mean . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. esp. chs 1–2. Schiffer defends his theory of pleonastic propositions, on which propositions are unstructured, have no parts, and are very finely grained. 7. Bealer, George. 'Propositions.' Mind 107 (1998): 1–32. Bealer defends his algebraic theory of propositions, which, like Schiffer's pleonastic account, treats propositions as unstructured metaphysical simples. 8. King, Jeffrey. The Nature of and Structure of Content . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. The best developed current theory of the structure in structured propositions. King identifies propositions with certain kinds of facts in which objects, properties and relations are bound together by amalgams of syntactic and semantic relations. 9. Hanks, Peter. 'Recent Work on Propositions.' Philosophy Compass 4 (2009): 1–18. A survey of work on propositions since the mid-1990s that complements this teaching and learning guide. Contains responses to Jubien's and Hofweber's arguments against propositions and critical discussions of Schiffer's pleonastic propositions and King's theory of propositional structure. Online Resources 1. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/propositions/ Propositions (Matthew McGrath) 2. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/propositions-structured/ Structured Propositions (Jeffrey King) 3. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/propositions-singular/ Singular Propositions (Greg Fitch) Sample Partial Syllabus The following partial syllabus can be used as a unit on recent work on propositions in graduate level courses in philosophy of language or metaphysics. Week 1: A Substitution Puzzle About Propositional Designators King, Jeffrey. 'Designating Propositions'. Moltmann, Friederike. 'Propositional Attitudes Without Propositions.' Synthese 135 (2003): 77–118. Week 2: The Benacerraf Problem and Propositional Representation Benacerraf, Paul. 'What Numbers Could Not Be.' Philosophical Review 74 (1965): 47–73. Jubien, Michael. 'Propositions and the Objects of Thought.' Week 3: Propositional Quantification Hofweber, Thomas. 'Inexpressible Properties and Propositions'. Hofweber, Thomas. 'A Puzzle about Ontology.' Noûs 39 (2005): 256–83. Week 4: Schiffer on Pleonastic Propositions Schiffer, Stephen. 'Language-Created Language-Independent Entities.' Philosophical Topics 24 (1996): 149–67. Schiffer, Stephen. The Things We Mean , chs 1–2. Week 5: King on Structured Propositions King, Jeffrey. 'Structured Propositions and Complex Predicates.' Noûs , 29 (1995): 516–35. King, Jeffrey. The Nature and Structure of Content , chs 1–3. Focus Questions 1. Why does identifying propositions with sentence intensions, e.g. sets of possible worlds, 'require the attitudes to have a particular sort of closure under logical consequence, which they clearly don't have' (Mark Richard)? 2. How does the difference between (a) and (b) pose a threat to the existence of propositions? (a) Bill fears that Hillary will be president. (b) Bill fears the proposition that Hillary will be president. 3. What is the Benacerraf problem for metaphysical reductions of propositions? 4. Why must a proposition represent 'on its own cuff' (Michael Jubien)? Why is this a problem for the view that propositions are primitive abstract entities? 5. What does it mean to say that propositions are structured ? Give two different accounts of what propositional structure might be. (shrink)
I argue that there is a conflict between two positions defended by David Lewis: counterpart theory, and the identification of propositions with sets of possible worlds. There is no adequate answer to the question whether a world where Humphrey has one winning and one losing counterpart is or is not a member of the set that is the proposition that Humphrey wins. If one says it is, it will follow that it is possible for that proposition to be true (...) without Humphrey winning; if one says that it is not, it will follow that it is possible for Humphrey to win without that proposition being true. (shrink)
Belief in propositions no longer brings about the sorts of looks it did when Quine's affinity for desert landscapes held sway in the Anglo-American philosophical scene. People are doing work in the metaphysics of propositions, trying to figure out what sorts of creatures propositions are. In philosophers like Frege, Russell, and Moore we have strong shoulders upon which to stand. But, there is much more work that needs to be done. I will try to do a bit (...) of that work here. In the paper, I will probe the notion that propositions are structured entities, and that it is useful to think of their structure as resembling the structure of the sentences which express them. First, I will speak briefly to the issue of why one might find it rational to believe that propositions exist. In the second part of the paper, I will argue that we should think of propositions as having structure. In the last section, I will examine the nature of the structure of propositions. I will consider a recent account given by Jeffrey King of the nature of the relation that unifies constituents. I conclude by sketching my own view of the relation that holds between propositional constituents in virtue of which they compose a proposition. 1 I Why Believe in Propositions? Propositions are taken to be abstract entities that are a) the primary bearers of truth and falsity, b) the objects of our propositional attitudes, and c) the referents of "that-. (shrink)
This paper concerns itself with the relation between two important semantic notions: the traditional notion of proposition and a more recent notion of context as an information state. The notion of proposition has traditionally played an important role in the theory of meaning: propositions are entities that have independent truth conditions and act as the meaning of both independent and embedded sentences as well the objects of propositional attitudes such as assertion and belief.
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)
Everyone working on metaphysical questions about properties or propositions knows the reaction that many non-philosophers, even nonmetaphysicians, have to such questions. Even though they agree that Fido is a dog and thus has the property (or feature or characteristic) of being a dog, it seems weird, suspicious, or confused to them to now ask what that thing, the property of being a dog, is. The same reservations do not carry over to asking what this thing, Fido, is. There is (...) a substantial and legitimate project to find out more about Fido, but is there a similar substantial and legitimate project to find out more about the property of being a dog? Metaphysicians know that there is a straightforward way to motivate such a project, and much of the contemporary debate in the metaphysics of properties is in the ballpark of carrying it out. If we agree that Fido has the property of being a dog, then there is something that is a property and that Fido has. Thus we can ask about what this thing is that he has. How does it relate to Fido? Is it concrete or abstract? Is it fully present in each object that has it? And so on and so forth. Maybe the nonphilosophers are merely not used to asking such questions about unusual entities such as properties, but they are equally legitimate for them as they are for any other thing. However, even metaphysicians sometimes have the nagging feeling that something has gone wrong in the metaphysics of properties, and that a substantial metaphysical investigation into their.. (shrink)
Alberto Casullo ("Necessity, Certainty, and the A Priori", Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18, 1988) argues that arithmetical propositions could be disconfirmed by appeal to an invented scenario, wherein our standard counting procedures indicate that 2 + 2 != 4. Our best response to such a scenario would be, Casullo suggests, to accept the results of the counting procedures, and give up standard arithmetic. While Casullo's scenario avoids arguments against previous "disconfirming" scenarios, it founders on the assumption, common to scenario (...) and response, that arithmetic might be independent of standard counting procedures. Here I show, by attention to tallying as the simplest form of counting, that this assumption is incoherent: given standard counting procedures, then (on pain of irrationality) arithmetical theory follows. (shrink)
In this paper I argue indirectly for Frege's semantics, in particular for his conception of propositions, by reviewing some difficulties faced by one of the main contemporary alternative approaches, i.e., the direct reference theory. While Frege's semantics can yield an explanation of cognitive value and belief-preservation, the alternative approach seems to run into trouble here. I shall also briefly consider the question of whether epistemic issues should be of any concern for semantics, i.e., whether the feature mentioned above should (...) really be regarded as an advantage of Frege's theory. (shrink)
This paper argues that understanding speech in terms of action requires dispensing with propositions. Austin's outline of speech act theory did not give any role to propositions, which were introduced into speech act theory later on, in order to cope with criticism leveled by Strawson and Searle at Austin's characterization of the locutionary act and his view of the truth/falsity assessment. The introduction of propositions had weakening effects on the claim that speech is action, foregrounding again the (...) received picture of linguistic communication. I show that, in order to make sense of Austin's characterization of the locutionary act, propositions are not needed and give some suggestions as to how one could give an account of the truth/falsity assessment, compatible with the claim that speech is action, without resorting to propositions. (shrink)
The possible-worlds analysis of propositions identifies a proposition with the set of possible worlds where it is true. This analysis has the hitherto unnoticed consequence that a proposition depends for its existence on the existence of every proposition that entails it. This peculiar consequence places the possible-worlds analysis in conflict with the conjunction of two compelling theses. One thesis is that a phrase of the form ‘the proposition that S’ is a rigid designator. The other thesis is that a (...) proposition which is directly about an object – a singular proposition – depends for its existence on the existence of the object. I defend these theses and conclude that the cost of the possible-worlds analysis is prohibitively high. (shrink)
Frege famously argued that truth is not a property or relation. In the “Notes on Logic” Wittgenstein emphasised the bi-polarity of propositions which he called their sense. He argued that “propositions by virtue of sense cannot have predicates or relations.” This led to his fundamental thought that the logical constants do not represent predicates or relations. The idea, however, has wider ramifications than that. It is not just that propositions cannot have relations to other propositions but (...) also that they cannot have relations to anything at all. The paper explores the consequences of this insight for the way in which we should read the Tractatus. In the “Notes on Logic” the insight led to Wittgenstein's emphasis on “facts” in any attempt to understand the nature of symbolism. This emphasis is continued in the Tractatus. It is central to his view that propositions are facts which picture facts which prevent us from construing such picturing as a relation between what pictures and what is pictured. It illuminates the importance of context principle with regard to the distinction between showing and saying to which Wittgenstein attached so much importance and it underlies the non-relational view of psychological propositions which he advocates. Finally, if propositions by virtue of sense cannot have predicates or relations the paradox at the end of a work which consist largely of propositions about propositions becomes intelligible. (shrink)
No semantic theory satisfying certain natural constraints can identify the semantic contents of sentences (the propositions they express), with sets of circumstances in which the sentences are true–no matter how fine-grained the circumstances are taken to be. An objection to the proof is shown to fail by virtue of conflating model-theoretic consequence between sentences with truth-conditional consequence between the semantic contents of sentences. The error underlines the impotence of distinguishing semantics, in the sense of a truth-based theory of logical (...) consequence, and semantics, in the sense of a theory of meaning. (shrink)
A first-person proposition is a proposition that only a single subject can assert or believe. When I assert ‘I am on fire’ I assert a first-person proposition that only I have access to, in the sense that no one else can assert or believe this proposition. This is in contrast to third-person propositions, which can be asserted or believed by anyone.
Most direct reference theorists about indexicals and proper names have adopted the thesis that singular propositions about physical objects are composed of physical objects and properties (and/or relations—I will use "properties" for brevity's sake).1 There have been a number of recent proponents of such a view, including Scott Soames, Nathan Salmon, John Perry, Howard Wettstein, and David Kaplan.2 Since Kaplan is the individual who (at least recently) is best known for holding such a view, let's call a proposition (...) that is composed of objects and properties a K-proposition. In this paper, I will attempt to show that (given some fairly plausible assumptions) a direct reference view about the content of proper names and indexicals leads very naturally to the position that all singular propositions about physical objects are K-propositions.3 Then, I will attempt to show that this view of propositions is false. I will spend the bulk of the paper on this latter task. My goal in the paper, then, is to show that adopting the direct reference thesis comes at a cost (or for those who thought it already came at a cost because of (alleged) problems the view has with problems such as opacity and the significance of some identity statements; it comes at even more of a cost). (shrink)
It seems that every singular proposition implies that the object it is singular with respect to exists. It also seems that some propositions are true with respect to possible worlds in which they do not exist. The puzzle is that it can be argued that there is contradiction between these two principles. In this paper, I explain the puzzle and consider some of the ways one might attempt to resolve it. The puzzle is important because it has implications concerning (...) the way we think about the relationship between a proposition and the claim that the proposition is true. (shrink)
Quine criticised the semantic notion of analyticity that is often attributed to Frege and Kant for presupposing an essentialist theory of meaning. In what follows I trace back the notion from Quine via Carnap to Frege and Kant, and eventually examine Kant's distinction between analytic and synthetic judgements in more detail. It turns out that the so called Frege-Kant-notion of analyticity can not be attributed to Kant. In contrast, Kant had a distinctly pragmatic notion of analytic judgements. According to him (...) analytic propositions elucidate certain presuppositions of our conceptual scheme, thereby serving the anti-metaphysical project of transcendental philosophy. (shrink)
If we agree with Michael Jubien that propositions do not exist, while accepting the existence of abstract sets in a realist mathematical ontology, then the combined effect of these ontological commitments has surprising implications for the metaphysics of modal logic, the ontology of logically possible worlds, and the controversy over modal realism versus actualism. Logically possible worlds as maximally consistent proposition sets exist if sets generally exist, but are equivalently expressed as maximally consistent conjunctions of the same propositions (...) in corresponding sets. A conjunction of propositions, even if infinite in extent, is nevertheless itself a proposition. If sets and hence proposition sets exist but propositions do not exist, then whether or not modal realism is true depends on which of two apparently equivalent methods of identifying, representing, or characterizing logically possible worlds we choose to adopt. I consider a number of reactions to the problem, concluding that the best solution may be to reject the conventional model set theoretical concept of logically possible worlds as maximally consistent proposition sets, and distinguishing between the actual world alone as maximally consistent and interpreting all nonactual merely logically possible worlds as submaximal. (shrink)
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)
In this paper, I’ll be concerned with propositions. Propositions have been invoked to serve many roles: they can be the compositional values of clauses, the objects of our attitudes, the bearers of truth, necessity, and possibility, components of logical arguments, and so on. It’s forgivable to wonder whether any one sort of thing can bear all these distinct roles, but that won’t be an issue for us here. As I’ll use the word, a ‘proposition’ is simply the compositional (...) value of a (closed) clause.1 A number of authors have thought that propositions must be fine-grained; that is, that propositions must be individuated more finely than coarse-grained propositions—sets of possible worlds. I agree, and will assume as much for the purposes of the paper. In §1, I’ll examine some of the arguments for this conclusion, and present two different strategies for giving a theory of fine-grained propositions—structuralism and circumstantialism. Both of these strategies have been argued for on the grounds that they address the problems faced by coarse-grained propositions. In §2, however, I’ll argue that structuralism, on its own, does not do enough; it solves only certain special cases of the trouble, and must be supplemented in some way to address the full range of problems faced by coarse-grained propositions. I’ll consider some of the supplements that structuralists have offered, and argue that where these supplements work, they undermine the fineness-of-grain motivation for structuralism. In §3, I’ll show that circumstantialism can satisfy the fineness-of-grain motivation in its full generality. Most of this section responds to an argument due to Soames, which purports to show that circumstantialism too must fall short. In the end, then, I conclude that circumstantialism is better-positioned than structuralism to address concerns about fineness of grain; unlike structuralism, it can address the full range of fineness-of-grain considerations without supplementation. This does not, on its own, mean that we should reject structuralism in favor of circumstantialism; I intend only to undermine one familiar argument for structuralism, not structuralism itself. I talk of compositional values rather than semantic values, mainly to avoid what I take to be an irrelevant debate.. (shrink)
It is argued that taken together, two widely held claims ((i) sentences express structured propositions whose structures are functions of the structures of sentences expressing them; and (ii) senteces have underlying structures that are the input to semantic interpretation) suggest a simple, plausible theory of propositional structure. According to this theory, the structures of propositions are the same as the structures of the syntactic inputs to semantics they are expressed by. The theory is defended against a variety of (...) objections. (shrink)
Michael Williams and Crispin Wright have claimed that we are epistemically justified in believing hinge propositions, such as there is an external world. In a recent paper Allan Hazlett puts forward an argument that purports to elucidate the source of such justification. This paper reconstructs Hazlett's argument and offers a criticism of it.
This paper offers an analysis of a hitherto neglected text on insoluble propositions dating from the late XiVth century and puts it into perspective within the context of the contemporary debate concerning semantic paradoxes. The author of the text is the italian logician Peter of Mantua (d. 1399/1400). The treatise is relevant both from a theoretical and from a historical standpoint. By appealing to a distinction between two senses in which propositions are said to be true, it offers (...) an unusual solution to the paradox, but in a traditional spirit that contrasts a number of trends prevailing in the XiVth century. It also counts as a remarkable piece of evidence for the reconstruction of the reception of English logic in italy, as it is inspired by the views of John Wyclif. Three approaches addressing the Liar paradox (Albert of Saxony, William Heytesbury and a version of strong restrictionism) are first criticised by Peter of Mantua, before he presents his own alternative solution. The latter seems to have a prima facie intuitive justification, but is in fact acceptable only on a very restricted understanding, since its generalisation is subject to the so-called revenge problem. (shrink)
Every fifteen years or so Stephen Schiffer writes a state of the art book on the philosophy of language, with special emphasis on belief ascriptions, meaning, and propositions. The latest is his terrific new book The Things we Mean. It is again full of ideas, insights, arguments, expositions, and theories. For us, however, who believe that that-clauses are first and foremost clauses, not referring expressions, and that they thus do not refer to propositions or anything else, The Things (...) we Mean brings home the news that our champion, the author of Remnants of Meaning, has, alas, crossed over to the dark side. Although Schiffer’s earlier book defended one of the best versions of the no-reference theory, and brought up many of the issues that need to be addressed to defend such a theory, he now has recanted and switched sides. His new theory holds that propositions do exist after all, and that-clauses do refer to them. However, some of the motivation for the no-reference theory is incorporated into his new theory. In Remnants of Meaning one of the main reasons for rejecting the reference of that-clauses was the apparent impossibility to compositionally assign that-clauses their referents, and thus to give a compositional semantics for natural language. In The Things we Mean Schiffer still finds fault with any way to compositionally determine what things propositions are. But now the conclusion is not that they are not things, but that they are things that are not reducible to certain other things: they are sui generis entities. But they are not just any kind of sui generis entities, they are pleonastic entities. The use of the term ”pleonastic” might be slightly confusing, though, since propositions according to the new theory are neither pleonastic in the sense of redundant, nor pleonastic in the sense of the pleonastic it, which suggests a no-reference theory. Rather they are pleonastic in a certain technical sense. Simply put, pleonastic entities are the ones that i) can be introduced by 1 something-from-nothing transformations, and ii) the statement that there are such entities doesn’t imply anything about other entities that wasn’t implied before.. (shrink)
This paper discusses a problem for Russellian propositions. According to Russellianism, each word in a sentence contributes its referent to the proposition expressed by the sentence. Russellian propositions have normally been conceived of as problematic for two reasons, viz. they cannot account for the unity of the proposition and they have problems with non-referring singular names. In this paper, I argue that Russellianism also faces a problem with respect to properties. It is inconsistent with both traditional realism and (...) trope-theories. The only theory of properties which is consistent with Russellianism is Platonism. Moreover, it is argued that Russellianism needs a particularly implausible version of Platonism. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to sketch a principle of individuation that is intended to serve the Fregean notion of a proposition, a notion I take for granted. A salient feature of Fregean propositions, i.e. complexes of modes of presentation of objects (individuals, properties), is that they are fine-grained items, so fine-grained that even synonymous sentences might express different Fregean propositions. My starting point is the principle labelled by Gareth Evans the Intuitive Criterion of Difference for Thoughts, (...) which states that it is impossible coherently to take different mental attitudes to the same proposition. As a logical truth (a consequence of Leibnizs Law), this is a synchronic principle, the application of which is restricted to attitudes held at a single time. I argue that such a restriction might be reasonably lifted and, on the basis of an adequate notion of attitude-retention, I propose an admissible diachronic extension of the principle. (shrink)
This paper traces a rather peculiar debate between William Ockham, Walter Chatton, and Robert Holcot over whether it is possible for God to know more than he knows. Although the debate specifically addresses a theological question about divine knowledge, the central issue at stake in it is a purely philosophical question about the nature and ontological status of propositions. The theories of propositions that emerge from the discussion appear deeply puzzling, however. My aim in this paper is to (...) show that there is a way of making sense of these views (and, by implication, of much of what is puzzling about medieval theories of propositions). The key, I argue, lies in getting clear about the precise theoretical roles these thinkers assign to propositions in their accounts of propositional attitudes. (shrink)
The authors first address two paradoxes in the theory of possible worlds and propositions stemming from Russell and Kaplan and show that these paradoxes don't affect the object-theoretic analysis of worlds and propositions. However, Kit Fine has formulated an object theoretic version of Kaplan's paradox that threatens to show that object theory is, after all, no better off. The initial, most straightforward version of the paradox is blocked by theoretical restrictions specific to object theory, but the paradox can (...) be revised so as to comport with these restrictions by redefining one of the terms in an essential premise. The authors then argue that the premise that results given the new definition is entirely implausible if propositions are understood, as they are in object theory, to be fine-grained intensional entities rather than sets of possible worlds. Object theory, therefore, can block the revised paradox as well. (shrink)
On rationalist infallibilism, a wide range of both (i) analytic and (ii) synthetic a priori propositions can be infallibly justified, i.e., justified in a way that is truth-entailing. In this paper, I examine the second thesis of rationalist infallibilism, what might be called ‘synthetic a priori infallibilism’. Exploring the seemingly only potentially plausible species of synthetic a priori infallibility, I reject the infallible justification of so-called self-justifying propositions.
Timothy Williamson in his article "Necessary Existents" presents a proof of the claim that everything necessarily exists using just three seemingly uncontroversial principles relating the notions of proposition with those of truth and existence. The argument, however, may be easily blocked once the distinction, introduced by R. M. Adams, between the notions of a proposition being true in a world and of (or at) a world is introduced. In this paper I defend the plausibility of the notion of a proposition's (...) being true of a world by rejecting two criticisms of it raised by Williamson; in the final section, I present a conception of propositions, according to which they are equivalence classes of mental representations, for which at least one of the principles comes out as false. (shrink)
Nondescriptivist views in many areas of philosophy have long been associated with the commitment that in contrast to other domains of discourse, there are no propositions in their particular domain. For example, the ‘no truth conditions’ theory of conditionals1 is understood as the view that conditionals don’t express propositions, noncognitivist expressivism in metaethics is understood as advocating the view that there are not really moral propositions,2 and expressivism about epistemic modals is thought of as the view that (...) there is no such thing as the proposition that Jack might be at home, over and above the proposition that Jack is at home.3 Of course, it is nearly always acknowledged that advocates of a nondescriptivist theory need not deny that there are conditional, moral, or modal propositions ‘at the end of the day’ – for if they also endorse a deflationary reading of talk about propositions, as famously advocated by Simon Blackburn, then they can employ such deflationary talk just as much as the rest of us. They just don’t appeal to propositions to do any of the work in their theories. Rather, they ‘earn the right’ to talk about propositions.4 It is the aim of this paper to upset this way of thinking about the proper attitude of nondescriptivists toward propositions, and to advocate a more constructive and in some ways more radical alternative on behalf of the nondescriptivist. I will begin by introducing and developing a set of problems that are faced by any nondescriptivist theory which tries to do without propositions. All of these problems are easily solved by any view which postulates propositions across the board, but none of them are solved by merely deflationary talk about propositions – their most promising solutions require propositions to do real theoretical work, and therefore the problems themselves remind us of and illustrate some of the important reasons why it is worth positing propositions in the first place.. (shrink)
Intuitively Austinian propositions are propositions that tell us something about a situation In this paper we will consider Austinian propositions and the associated notion that situations support infons which are to be found in situation theory and situation semantics We will try to tease out the consequences of taking the Austinian approach advocated in situation semantics as opposed to a very similar approach originally proposed by Davidson That is that event predicates where events are to be generally (...) conceived so as to be more like the notion of sit uation i e including states and processes are taken to have an argument position for an event We will do this comparison with respect to an area of data that was part of the original motivation for situation semantics naked in nitive perception complements see Barwise and Perry We will see that negative descriptions of events are one area where the Austinian and Davidsonian approaches make dif ferent predictions and at the end of the paper we will brie y consider negative event descriptions more generally with particular reference to the DRT analysis based on a Davidsonian approach as exempli ed by Amsili and Le Draoulec this volume.. (shrink)
This is the only complete logic for properties, relations, and propositions (PRPS) that has been formulated to date. First, an intensional abstraction operation is adjoined to first-order quantifier logic, Then, a new algebraic semantic method is developed. The heuristic used is not that of possible worlds but rather that of PRPS taken at face value. Unlike the possible worlds approach to intensional logic, this approach yields a logic for intentional (psychological) matters, as well as modal matters. At the close (...) of the paper, the origin of incompleteness in logic is investigated. The culprit is found to be the predication relation, a relation on properties and relations that is expressed in natural language by the copula. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer holds that propositions are pleonastic entities. I will argue that there is a substantial difference between propositions and fictional characters, which Schiffer presents as typical pleonastic entities. My conclusion will be that if fictional characters are typical pleonastic entities, then Schiffer fails to show that propositions are pleonastic entities.
Philosophers like to talk about propositions. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the most common is that philosophers are sometimes more interested in the content of a thought or utterance than in the particular sentence or utterance that might express it on some occasion. Propositions are offered as these contents.
Consider "Sam is sad" and "Sam exemplifies the property of being sad". The second sentence mentions a property and predicates the relation of exemplification. It belongs to a large class of sentences which mention such formal objects as propositions, states of affairs, facts, concepts and sets and predicate formal properties such as the truth of propositions, the obtaining of states of affairs and relations such as falling under concepts and being members of sets. The first sentence belongs to (...) a distinct class of sentences in which only non-formal objects are mentioned and only non-formal properties and relations are predicated. We can, it seems, infer validly from the first sentence to the second. They are also equivalent. And Sam exemplifies the property of sadness because Sam is sad. What is the relation between inference, equivalence and explanation in the case of our two sentences and in analogous cases? What right have we to assume that there are formal objects? (shrink)
One of the tasks that recent philosophy of psychiatry has taken upon itself is to extend the range of understanding to some of those aspects of psychopathology that Jaspers deemed beyond its limits. Given the fundamental difficulties of offering a literal interpretation of the contents of primary delusions, a number of alternative strategies have been put forward including regarding them as abnormal versions of framework propositions described by Wittgenstein in On Certainty. But although framework propositions share some of (...) the apparent epistemic features of primary delusions, their role in partially constituting the sense of inquiry rules out their role in helping to understand delusions. (shrink)
Unbound anaphoric pronouns or ‘E-type pronouns’ have presented notorious problems for semantic theory, leading to the development of dynamic semantics, where the primary function of a sentence is not considered that of expressing a proposition that may act as the object of propositional attitudes, but rather that of changing the current information state. The older, ‘E-type’ account of unbound anaphora leaves the traditional notion of proposition intact and takes the unbound anaphor to be replaced by a full NP whose semantics (...) is assumed to be known (e.g. a definite description). In this paper, I argue that there are serious problems with any version of the E-type account as well as the (original form of the) dynamic account. I will explore a new account based on structured propositions, which can be considered a conservative extension of a traditional proposition-based semantics, but which at the same time incorporates some crucial insights of the dynamic account. (shrink)
Soames (Philos Top 15:44–87, 1987 , J Philos Logic 37:267–276, 2008 ) has argued that propositions cannot be sets of truth-supporting circumstances. This argument is criticized for assuming that various singular terms are directly referential when in fact there are good grounds to doubt this.
Philosophical Propositions provides a fresh and lucid introduction to key philosophical problems in a classic style. Designed for students coming to philosophy for the first time, Jonathan Westphal introduces readers to the key problems in philosophy, encouraging them to work through those problems themselves. Each chapter considers a key philosophical problem: The Nature of a Philosophical Problem; Basic Concepts of Logic and Philosophy; The Problem of Evil; The Existence of God; Reality; Certainty; Time; Personal Identity; The Mind-Body Problem; Freewill (...) and Determinism; The Meaning of Life? By asking students to consider key philosophical questions such as "are people free?", "can God's existence be proved?" and "how is the mind related to the body", this book provides a firm grounding in essential philosophical problems for students at any level. (shrink)
The paper shows that the paradox of the totality of propositions rest on assumptions characteristic of some theories of structured contents (like Jeffrey King's "new account of structured propositions").
In the first section of this paper I review Measurement Theoretic Semantics – an approach to formal semantics modeled after the application of numbers in measurement, e.g., of length. In the second section it is argued that the measurement theoretic approach to semantics yields a novel, useful conception of propositions. In the third section the measurement theoretic view of propositions is compared with major other accounts of propositional content.
s view of free will. He also offers detailed justifications that he hopes are philosophically and scientifically respectable. While Hodgson doesn't state anywhere what would count as a "scientifically respectable" proposition, he seems to expect that any scientific theory of consciousness and free will must fully account for his nine propositions, not just explain them away. Or, alternatively, any scientific theory of free will that is incompatible with his nine propositions cannot serve as a possible framework for developing (...) a scientific theory of conscious free will. (shrink)
The Problem of Doxastic Shift may be stated as a dilemma: on the one hand, the distribution of nominal complements of the form `the that p strongly suggests that `that-clauses cannot be univocally assigned propositionaldenotations; on the other hand, facts about quantification strongly suggest that `that-clauses must be assigned univocal denotations. I argue that the Problem may be solved by defining the extension of a proposition to be a set of facts or, more generally, conditions. Given this, the logical operation (...) of descriptive predication can be introduced in a way that resolves the dilemma withoutsacrificing the singular term analysis of `that-clauses. (shrink)
(i) It is propositions, not sentences, that are true or false. It is true ‘Dogs bark’ does not make sense. It is true that dogs bark does. (ii) and (iii) Davidson wrong about ‘that’. (iv) The difference between ‘implies’ and ‘if ... then ...’. (v), (vi), (vii) and (viii) Russell, not Quine, right about the subject matter of logic. (ix) The objectual and substitutional interpretations of quantifiers compatible. (x), (xi), (xii), (xiii), (xiv), (xv) and (xvi) Implications for well-known theories (...) of truth; truth correspondence. (xvii), (xviii) and (xix) and (xx) Implications for the principle of bivalence, the law of excluded middle, and the principle of non-contradiction. (xxi) Recapitulation. (xxii) ‘That’ and entailment. (xxiii) Propositions not entities, subsistent or otherwise. Footnotes1 This article was stimulated by some remarks by J. J. C. Smart in criticism of a piece of work (God, Freedom and Immortality, Ashgate, 1999) that he was kind enough to read for me. I am greatly indebted to my friend David Rees for correcting the manuscript, and making some valuable suggestions concerning its content. (shrink)
Higher-order theories of properties, relations, and propositions are known to be essentially incomplete relative to their standard notions of validity. It turns out that the first-order theory of PRPs that results when first-order logic is supplemented with a generalized intensional abstraction operation is complete. The construction involves the development of an intensional algebraic semantic method that does not appeal to possible worlds, but rather takes PRPs as primitive entities. This allows for a satisfactory treatment of both the modalities and (...) the propositional attitudes, and it suggests a general strategy for developing a comprehensive treatment of intensional logic. (shrink)
To resolve putative liar paradoxes it is sufficient to attend to the distinction between liar-sentences and the propositions they would express, and to exercise the option of turning would-be deductions of paradox (of contradictions) into reductions of the existence of those propositions. Defending the coherence of particular resolutions along these lines, leads to recognition of the non-extensionality of some liar-sentences. In particular, it turns out that exchanges of terms for identicals in the open-sentence '- does not expression a (...) true proposition' are not invariably truth-preserving because they are not invariably proposition-expression preserving. All of this recommends propositions as fruitful subjects of interesting renewed research. (shrink)
Those inclined to believe in the existence of propositions as traditionally conceived might seek to reduce them to some other type of entity. However, parsimonious propositionalists of this type are confronted with a choice of competing candidates – for example, sets of possible worlds, and various neo-Russellian and neo-Fregean constructions. It is argued that this choice is an arbitrary one, and that it closely resembles the type of problematic choice that, as Benacerraf pointed out, bedevils the attempt to reduce (...) numbers to sets – should the number 2 be identified with the set Ø or with the set Ø, Ø? An “argument from arbitrary identification” is formulated with the conclusion that propositions (and perhaps numbers) cannot be reduced away. Various responses to this argument are considered, but ultimately rejected. The paper concludes that the argument is sound: propositions, at least, are sui generis entities. (shrink)
In Appendix B of Russell's The Principles of Mathematics occurs a paradox, the paradox of propositions, which a simple theory of types is unable to resolve. This fact is frequently taken to be one of the principal reasons for calling ramification onto the Russellian stage. The paper presents a detaiFled exposition of the paradox and its discussion in the correspondence between Frege and Russell. It is argued that Russell finally adopted a very simple solution to the paradox. This solution (...) had nothing to do with ramified types but marked an important shift in his theory of propositions. (shrink)
According to Frege a proposition—or, in his terms, a thought—is an abstract structured entity constituted by senses which satisfies, at least, the three following properties: it can be semantically assessed as true or as false, it is the object of so called propositional attitudes and it can be grasped. What Frege meant by 'grasping' is the peculiar way in which we can have epistemic access to propositions. The possibility for propositions to be grasped is put by Frege as (...) a warrant for their existence: to challenge their graspability would amount to jeopardise their ontological reality. But is it true, as Frege uncritically maintained, that the "graspability requirement" is satisfied as far as propositions (as he conceived them) are concerned? This is the topic of the present work. A negative answer to the above mentioned question has been given in recent time by the representatives of what has come to be labelled the "cognitive turn" in analytical philosophy. People such as Fodor and Johnson-Laird patently denied the possibility for propositions, conceived à la Frege, to be accessed by the grasping relation. What grounds their position is, to put it roughly, the following train of thought: in order for something to be the target of the grasping relation it must enter the mind. Nothing which is different from a mental entity can enter the mind. Therefore, what can be grasped must be mental. The upshot of this move implies, among other things, the rejection of that radical anti-psychologism which was characteristic of the forefathers of the analytical tradition. In our work we shall try to resist their conclusion by showing that it is not necessary to zero the distinction between propositions and mental entities in order to provide an adequate account of the grasping relation. What one has to give up, instead, is only Frege's late Platonism of the "third realm" which, in our view, is a wholly unnecessary and dispensable accretion of his picture. For, as we shall show, if Platonism is in place it is difficult to provide an account of the grasping relation which makes no use of the "representationalist hypothesis" — i.e. of the hypothesis that ideas mediate our access to whatever can be given to us. But representationalism, once in place, makes the theoretical role of the notion of sense dispensable or purely additional. (shrink)
It is fairly common, among those who think propositions exist, to think they exist necessarily. Here, I consider three arguments in support of that conclusion. What I hope to show is not that that claim is false, but, rather, that the arguments used in its defense tend to presuppose a certain kind of approach to modality: a roughly Plantingian view. What the arguments show, then, is that one cannot accept that approach to modality and accept contingently existing propositions. (...) But there are other approaches to modality – I discuss three such approaches – into which contingently existing propositions fit perfectly well. This suggests that disputes over, for example, singular propositions, must be conducted within a broader agreement over modal matters if they are to be at all productive. (shrink)
Propositions are the referents of the ‘that’-clauses that appear in the direct object positions of typical ascriptions of assertion, belief, and other binary cognitive relations. In that sense, propositions are the objects of those cognitive relations. Propositions are also the semantic contents (meanings, in one sense ) of declarative sentences, with respect to contexts. They are what sentences semantically express, with respect to contexts. Propositions also bear truth-values. The truth-value of a sentence, in a context, is (...) the truth-value of the proposition that it semantically expresses, in that context. This much is common ground among many (but not all) philosophers. I accept other claims about propositions that are more controversial. Propositions (I hold) are Russellian: they are structured entities whose constituents include individuals, properties, and relations. The contribution of a proper name to the proposition that a sentence semantically expresses (in a context) is the referent of that name. Thus, the semantic content of ‘Bill Clinton’ is Bill Clinton himself, and the semantic content of ‘Bill Clinton smokes’ is a proposition whose constituents are Bill Clinton and the property of smoking (ignoring tense, as I shall do from here on). Such 1 singular propositions are among the objects of belief, assertion, and other cognitive relations. This combination of a Millian view about proper names with a Russellian theory of propositions might appropriately be called ‘Millian Russellianism’, or ‘MR’ for short. David Chalmers, in his stimulating paper “Probability and Propositions,” defines a closely related view, Referentialism, as follows (see also the penultimate paragraph of his introduction). Referentialist views say that insofar as beliefs are about individuals (such as Nietzche), the objects of these belief are determined by those individuals. On one such view, the objects of belief are Russellian propositions composed from the individuals and properties that one’s belief is about.. (shrink)
First of all, this paper aims at a clarification of Wittgenstein's conception of grammatical propositions. Their essential characteristics will be developed and some of the central questions concerning their status will be discussed: Should grammatical propositions be seen as arbitrary conventions? How do they work in practices? And how do they relate to natural facts? Later on, the two propositions "Every rod has a length" and "Sensations are private" will be discussed in more detail, for both fulfil (...) three important features of grammatical propositions: They are not empirical descriptions, they are rules of a practice, and they are not knowledge-claims but express insights. Focussing on the grammar of pain language, it will be shown what kind of interdependency exists between grammar and natural facts. It will also turn out that some grammatical propositions are closely connected to our understanding of living a human form of life. (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)
The idea that temporal propositions are vague predicates is examined with attention to the nature of the objects over which the predicates range. These objects should not, it is argued, be identified once and for all with points or intervals in the real line (or any fixed linear order). Context has an important role to play not only in sidestepping the Sorites paradox (Gaifman 2002) but also in shaping temporal moments/extent (Landman 1991). The Russell-Wiener construction of time from events (...) (Kamp 1979) is related to a notion of context given by a string of observations, the vagueness in which is brought out by grounding the observations in the real line. With this notion of context, the context dependency functions in Gaifman 2002 are adapted to interpret temporal propositions. (shrink)
One often hears the claim that fact-based versions of the correspondence theory of truth face a disruptive dilemma: ‘if all true propositions correspond to the same fact, the notion is useless, and if every [true] proposition corresponds to a distinct fact, then the notion becomes idle’ (Engel 2002, 21). The assumption underlying this claim is that all conceptions of facts can be assigned to either of two categories. The first includes those conceptions according to which facts are so coarse-grained (...) that they collapse into the One Great Fact that is the World itself. The second includes those conceptions that, by failing to individuate facts independently of the entities they are supposed to make true, end by regarding them as so fine-grained that they become identical to (the ‘tautological accusatives’ of) true propositions. The contention that these two alternatives exhaust the options available to the correspondence theorist is not, however, beyond suspicion. In this paper I side with those who are convinced that correspondence theorists can steer clear both of the Scyilla of the One Great Fact and of the Charybdis of the Identity Theory. The third way I shall endeavour to sketch is developed by bringing Stephen Schiffer’s theory of pleonastic entities to bear on the issue of the nature of facts. I shall suggest that by regarding facts as pleonastic entities whose principles of individuation are wholly determined by the hypostatizing practices that are constitutive of the possession of the corresponding concepts, one may hope to frame a (neo-Moorean) version of the correspondence theory that avoids the dilemma. Moreover, I shall argue that the ‘pleonastic’ version of the correspondence theory is in fact but a slightly inflated variant of the ‘conjunctive’ theory of truth defended by John Mackie, William Kneale and Wolfgang Künne – a variant whose main attractive lies in the fact that it is not afflicted by the problems of interpretation raised by the quantificational structure of its ontologically more parsimonious siblings. (shrink)
This article examines the development of Russell's treatment of propositions, in relation to the topic of psychologism. In the first section, we outline the concept of psychologism, and show how it can arise in relation to theories of the nature of propositions. Following this, we note the anti-psychologistic elements of Russell's thought dating back to his idealist roots. From there, we sketch the development of Russell's theory of the proposition through a number of its key transitions. We show (...) that Russell, in responding to a variety of different problems relating to the proposition, chose to resolve these problems in ways that continually made concessions to psychologism. (shrink)
I argue that George Nakhnikian's analysis of the logic of cogito propositions (roughly, Descartes's 'cogito' and 'sum') is incomplete. The incompleteness is rectified by showing that disjunctions of cogito propositions with contingent, non-cogito propositions satisfy conditions of incorrigibility, self-certifyingness, and pragmatic consistency; hence, they belong to the class of propositions with whose help a complete characterization of cogito propositions is made possible.