It is argued that taken together, two widely held claims ((i) sentences express structuredpropositions whose structures are functions of the structures of sentences expressing them; and (ii) sentences 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)
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 structuredpropositions, 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)
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 structuredpropositions").
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)
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)
In this paper I defend an account of the nature of propositional content according to which the proposition expressed by a declarative sentence is a certain type of action a speaker performs in uttering that sentence. On this view, the semantic contents of proper names turn out to be types of reference acts. By carefully individuating these types, it is possible to provide new solutions to Frege’s puzzles about names in identity- and belief-sentences.
It is widely held that propositions are structured entities. In The Nature and Structure of Content (2007), Jeff King argues that the structure of propositions is none other than the syntactic structure deployed by the speaker/hearers who linguistically produce and consume the sentences that express the propositions. The present paper generalises from King’s position and claims that syntax provides the best in-principle account of propositional structure. It further seeks to show, however, that the account faces serve (...) problems pertaining to the fine individuation of propositions that the account entails. The ‘fineness of cut’ problem has been raised by Collins (The unity of linguistic meaning, 2007) and others. King (Philos Stud 163(3):763–781, 2013) responds to these complaints in ways this paper rebuts. Thus, the very idea of structuredpropositions is brought into doubt, for the best in-principle account of such structure appears to fail. (shrink)
There is a long-standing and rarely contested view that Gricean conversational reasoning—the kind of reasoning that supports the identification of conversational implicatures—cannot produce pragmatically generated modification of the contents of embedded clauses. The goal of this paper is to argue against this view: to argue that embedded pragmatic effects can be seen as continuous with ordinary, utterance-level, conversational implicature. I will further suggest, though, that embedded pragmatic effects do force on us a particular conception of semantics. Specifically, I will argue (...) that an adequate account of the data requires a semantic framework that posits structured contents. (shrink)
Neo-Russellian theories of structuredpropositions 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 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)
Ever since Frege, propositions have played a central role in philosophy of language. Propositions are generally conceived as abstract objects that have truth conditions essentially and fulfill both the role of the meaning of sentences and of the objects or content of propositional attitudes. More recently, the abstract conception of propositions has given rise to serious dissatisfaction among a number of philosophers, who have instead proposed a conception of propositional content based on cognitive acts (Hanks, Moltmann, Soames). (...) This approach is not entirely new, though, but has important precedents in early analytic philosophy and phenomenology. The aim of this volume is bring together some of the most important texts from the relevant historical literature and new contributions from contemporary proponents of act-based conceptions of propositional content. (shrink)
A central job for propositions is to be the objects of the attitudes. Propositions are the things we doubt, believe and suppose. Some philosophers have thought that propositions are sets of possible worlds. But many have become convinced that such an account individuates propositions too coarsely. This raises the question of how finely propositions should be individuated. An account of how finely propositions should be individuated on which they are individuated very finely is sketched. (...) Objections to the effect that the account individuates propositions too finely are raised and responses to the objections are provided. It is also shown that theories that try to individuate propositions less finely have serious problems. (shrink)
This paper argues for a possible worlds theory of the content of pictures, with three complications: depictive content is centred, two-dimensional and structured. The paper argues that this theory supports a strong analogy between depictive and other kinds of representation and the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance.
In this report I motivate and develop a type-free logic with predicate quantifiers within the general ontological framework of (nonextensional) properties, relations, and propositions. In Part I, I present the major ideas of the system informally and discuss its philosophical significance, especially with regard to Russell's paradox. In Part II, I prove the soundness, consistency, and completeness of the logic.
Taking the lead from orthodox quantum theory, I will introduce a handy generalization of the Boolean approach to propositions and questions: the orthoalgebraic framework. I will demonstrate that this formalism relates to a formal theory of questions (or ‘observables’ in the physicist’s jargon). This theory allows formulating attitude questions, which normally are non-commuting, i.e., the ordering of the questions affects the answer behavior of attitude questions. Further, it allows the expression of conditional questions such as “If Mary reads the (...) book, will she recommend it to Peter?”, and thus gives the framework the semantic power of raising issues and being informative at the same time. In the case of commuting observables, there are close similarities between the orthoalgebraic approach to questions and the Jäger/Hulstijn approach to question semantics. However, there are also differences between the two approaches even in case of commuting observables. The main difference is that the Jäger/Hulstijn approach relates to a partition theory of questions whereas the orthoalgebraic approach relates to a ‘decorated’ partition theory (i.e. the elements of the partition are decorated by certain semantic values). Surprisingly, the orthoalgebraic approach is able to overcome most of the difficulties of the Jäger/Hulstijn approach. Furthermore, the general approach is suitable to describe the different types of (non-commutative) attitude questions as investigated in modern survey research. Concluding, I will suggest that an active dialogue between the traditional model-theoretic approaches to semantics and the orthoalgebraic paradigm is mandatory. (shrink)
This paper discusses two distinct strategies that have been adopted to provide fine-grained propositions; that is, propositions individuated more finely than sets of possible worlds. One strategy takes propositions to have internal structure, while the other looks beyond possible worlds, and takes propositions to be sets of circumstances, where possible worlds do not exhaust the circumstances. The usual arguments for these positions turn on fineness-of-grain issues: just how finely should propositions be individuated? Here, I compare (...) the two strategies with an eye to the fineness-of-grain question, arguing that when a wide enough range of data is considered, we can see that a circumstance-based approach, properly spelled out, outperforms a structure-based approach in answering the question. (Part of this argument involves spelling out what I take to be a reasonable circumstance-based approach.) An argument to the contrary, due to Soames, is also considered. (shrink)
In this paper I rehearse two central failings of traditional possible world semantics. I then present a much more robust framework for intensional logic and semantics based liberally on the work of George Bealer in his book Quality and Concept. Certain expressive limitations of Bealer's approach, however, lead me to extend the framework in a particularly natural and useful way. This extension, in turn, brings to light associated limitations of Bealer's account of predication. In response, I develop a more general (...) and intuitively more adequate account of the logical form of predication. (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)
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 Structuredpropositions 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)
This paper presents an account of the manner in which a proposition’s immediate structural features are related to its core truth-conditional features. The leading idea is that for a proposition to have a certain immediate structure is just for certain entities to play certain roles in the correct theory of the brute facts regarding that proposition’s truth conditions. The paper explains how this account addresses certain worries and questions recently raised by Jeffery King and Scott Soames.
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 structuredpropositions. 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/ StructuredPropositions (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 StructuredPropositions King, Jeffrey. 'StructuredPropositions 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)
It is plausible that the universe exists: a thing such that absolutely everything is a part of it. It is also plausible that singular, structuredpropositions 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)
We describe a knowledge representation and inference formalism, based on an intensional propositional semantic network, in which variables are structures terms consisting of quantifier, type, and other information. This has three important consequences for natural language processing. First, this leads to an extended, more natural formalism whose use and representations are consistent with the use of variables in natural language in two ways: the structure of representations mirrors the structure of the language and allows re-use phenomena such as pronouns and (...) ellipsis. Second, the formalism allows the specification of description subsumption as a partial ordering on related concepts (variable nodes in a semantic network) that relates more general concepts to more specific instances of that concept, as is done in language. Finally, this structured variable representation simplifies the resolution of some representational difficulties with certain classes of natural language sentences, namely, donkey sentences and sentences involving branching quantifiers. The implementation of this formalism is called ANALOG (A NAtural LOGIC) and its utility for natural language processing tasks is illustrated. (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)
Propositions as mind-independent truth-bearing entities play a central role in contemporary philosophy of language. At the same time, propositions conceived as abstract objects have been subject to a range of recent criticism. A recent alternative approach, pursued by P. Hanks and S. Soames, is to consider propositions types of cognitive acts. This paper will argue for a notion of a truth-bearing entity that is distinct both from a proposition and a cognitive event, state, or action, and that (...) is the notion of an attitudinal object – or the product of a mental or illocutionary event. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
Richard's Propositional Attitudes contains a novel theory of belief-sentences in the Russellian tradition of'direct reference'. It distances itself critically from model-theoretic approaches, the tradition of Fregean sense theory, and also from more psychologically orientated semantics. The theory can be described as a compromise between a referential and a linguistic view of propositions, taken to be fine-grained as in a Structured-Intensions approach. The way terms in a that-chuse represent the 'how' of someone's belief are seen as determined by speakers' (...) intentions, this being made explicit by stating restrictions on possible translations of those terms into different contexts. Propositions are formally reconstructed as Russellian annotated matrixes (RAMs), Le. sequences of pairs consisting of sentential constituents and their respective Russellian interpretations. For a propositional attitude ascription to be true, the RAM of the ascriber's that-clause has to match, in accordance with the contextual restrictions in force, one of the RAMs in the ascri bee's belief system. The theory is criticized on several counts, most importantly as being incomplete in not sufficiently spelling out how to get to the believer's RAM Further, it is argued that–due to their hybrid nature–RAMs can hardly be taken as explaining the notion of a uclause's content. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer 2003 presents six arguments against the Fregean model of propositions, according to which propositions are (a) the referents of that-clauses and (b) structured entities made out of concepts. Schiffer advances an alternative view: propositions are unstructured pleonastic entities. My purpose is to argue in favour of the main tenets of the Fregean model by countering each of Schiffer�s arguments and sketching the guidelines for a theory of concepts as basic components of propositions.
I defend the Fregean model of propositions: propositions are (a) the referents of that-clauses and (b) structured entities made of concepts. Schiffer (2003) has presented a group of arguments against the Fregean model and advanced an alternative view: propositions are unstructured pleonastic entities. My purpose is twofold: (i) to counter each of his arguments sketching the guidelines for a theory of concepts as basic constituents of propositions; (ii) to maintain that the notion of pleonastic entity (...) is not robust enough for claiming the existence of propositions. (shrink)
Belief in propositions has had a long and distinguished history in analytic philosophy. Three of the founding fathers of analytic philosophy, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and G. E. Moore, believed in propositions. Many philosophers since then have shared this belief; and the belief is widely, though certainly not universally, accepted among philosophers today. Among contemporary philosophers who believe in propositions, many, and perhaps even most, take them to be structured entities with individuals, properties, and relations as (...) constituents. For example, the proposition that Glenn loves Tracy has Glenn, the loving relation, and Tracy as constituents. What is it, then, that binds these constituents together and imposes structure on them? And if the proposition that Glenn loves Tracy is distinct from the proposition that Tracy loves Glenn yet both have the same constituents, what is about the way these constituents are structured or bound together that makes them two different propositions? In The Nature and Structure of Content, Jeffrey C. King formulates a detailed account of the metaphysical nature of propositions, and provides fresh answers to the above questions. In addition to explaining what it is that binds together the constituents of structuredpropositions and imposes structure on them, King deals with some of the standard objections to accounts of propositions: he shows that there is no mystery about what propositions are; that given certain minimal assumptions, it follows that they exist; and that on his approach, we can see how and why propositions manage to have truth conditions and represent the world as being a certain way. The Nature and Structure of Content also contains a detailed account of the nature of tense and modality, and provides a solution to the paradox of analysis. Scholars and students working in the philosophy of mind and language will find this book rewarding reading. (shrink)
Originally motivated by a sophism, Pardo's discussion about the unity of mental propositions allows him to elaborate on his ideas about the nature of propositions. His option for a non-composite character of mental propositions is grounded in an original view about syncategorems: propositions have a syncategorematic signification, which allows them to signify aliquid aliqualiter, just by virtue of the mental copula, without the need of any added categorematic element. Pardo's general claim about the simplicity of mental (...)propositions is developed into several specific thesis about mental propositions: a) it is not judgement which gives its unity to mental propositions, but judicative acts always follow some previous apprehensive act that is simple in its own right; b) this simplicity is compatible with a certain kind of complexity, that can be explained in terms of the "causal history" of the acts of knowing; c) traditional conceptions about subject and predicate must be recast, while keeping their usual explicative power concerning logical properties; d) of course, the traditional conception about the copula has been modified, giving rise to a fully innovative conception of the nature of mental propositions. Nevertheless, this innovative conception of mental language seems still infected by certain "common sense" prejudices, which lead Pardo to propose also a provocative conception of vocal language, which I consider unnecessary. (shrink)
The overwhelming majority of those who theorize about implicit biases posit that these biases are caused by some sort of association. However, what exactly this claim amounts to is rarely specified. In this paper, I distinguish between understandings of association as a theory of learning, a theory of cognitive structure, a theory of mental processes, and as an implementation base for cognition. I then argue that the crucial senses of association for elucidating implicit bias are the cognitive structure and mental (...) process senses. A hypothesis is subsequently derived: if associations really underpin implicit biases, then implicit biases should be modulated by counterconditioning or extinction but should not be modulated by rational argumentation. This hypothesis is false; implicit biases are not, at heart, predicated on any associative structures or associative processes but instead arise because of unconscious propositionally structured beliefs. I conclude by discussing how the case study of implicit bias illuminates problems with popular dual process models of cognitive architecture. (shrink)
Do Russellian propositions have their constituents as parts? One reason for thinking not is that if they did, they would generate apparent counterexamples to plausible mereological principles. As Frege noted, they would be in tension with the transitivity of parthood. A certain small rock is a part of Etna but not of the proposition that Etna is higher than Vesuvius. So, if Etna were a part of the given proposition, parthood would fail to be transitive. As William Bynoe has (...) noted (speaking of facts rather than propositions), they would seem to violate certain supplementation principles. Consider the singular proposition, concerning identity, that it is identical with itself. Given the relevant form of Russellianism, this proposition would have identity as a proper part, but it would not have any parts disjoint from identity, and indeed it would not have even a single pair of disjoint parts, in violation of various supplementation principles. This chapter offers a unified solution to the problems about transitivity and supplementation. One key ingredient in the solution is the view that parthood is a four-place relation expressed by ‘x at y is a part of z at w’. Another key ingredient is the view that the semantic contents of predicates and sentential connectives have ‘slots’ or ‘argument positions’ in them. (Both ingredients are independently motivated elsewhere.) Four-place analogues of the transitivity and supplementation principles are set out, and it is argued that these are not threatened by the examples from Frege and Bynoe. (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)
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”.
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)
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)
It is our contention that an ontological commitment to propositions faces a number of problems; so many, in fact, that an attitude of realism towards propositions—understood the usual “platonistic” way, as a kind of mind- and language-independent abstract entity—is ultimately untenable. The particular worries about propositions that marshal parallel problems that Paul Benacerraf has raised for mathematical platonists. At the same time, the utility of “proposition-talk”—indeed, the apparent linguistic commitment evident in our use of 'that'-clauses (in offering (...) explanations and making predictions)—is also in need of explanation. We account for this with a fictionalist analysis of our use of 'that'-clauses. Our account avoids certain problems that arise for the usual error-theoretic versions of fictionalism because we apply the notion of semantic pretense to develop an alternative, pretense-involving, non-error-theoretic, fictionalist account of proposition-talk. (shrink)
The authors provide an object-theoretic analysis of two paradoxes in the theory of possible worlds and propositions stemming from Russell and Kaplan. After laying out the paradoxes, the authors provide a brief overview of object theory and point out how syntactic restrictions that prevent object-theoretic versions of the classical paradoxes are justified philosophically. The authors then trace the origins of the Russell paradox to a problematic application of set theory in the definition of worlds. Next the authors show that (...) an object-theoretic analysis of the Kaplan paradox reveals that there is no genuine paradox at all, as the central premise of the paradox is simply a logical falsehood and hence can be rejected on the strongest possible grounds—not only in object theory but for the very framework of propositional modal logic in which Kaplan frames his argument. The authors close by fending off a possible objection that object theory avoids the Russell paradox only by refusing to incorporate set theory and, hence, that the object-theoretic solution is only a consequence of the theory’s weakness. (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.
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)