Assertion is a kind of speech act which plays a central role in both philosophy of language and epistemology. The main philosophical issues concerning assertion include: How to characterize which utterances of (declarative) sentences count as assertions? What, if any, are the norms governing assertion? What effects do assertions have on the dynamics of conversation? What is the connection between assertion and the semantic content, meaning, or truth of sentences? What is the connection between what one asserts and what one believes or knows? How can we separate between what is asserted by an utterance and what is conveyed by it in more indirect means – such as presupposition or implicature? Are utterances of conditional sentences a kind of assertion, or a different type of speech act (a conditional assertion)?
These questions help to see why assertion plays such a central role in philosophy: for example, assertion plays a central role in the philosophy of language for anyone who thinks that there is a close connection between what is asserted by an utterance and what its semantic content or meaning is, and plays a central role in epistemology for anyone who thinks that assertions are governed by a norm involving knowledge or belief (e.g. assert only what you know or only what you believe).
The classic text on speech acts in general is Austin 1962. For a central discussion on the norms of assertion, and a defence of the knowledge norm of assertion see Williamson 2000. The classic text on the distinction between assertion and presupposition is Strawson 1950, and between assertion and implicature Grice 1967. Stalnaker 1978 is the key work on the effects that assertion has on the dynamics of conversation, and how assertion, context, and semantic content interact with each other. For a defence of the claim that utterances of conditionals are not assertions, but rather involve a special kind of speech act see Edgington 1995.
|Introductions||For general introductions see Pagin 2015 and also the introduction in Brown & Cappelen 2011. For an introduction on the issue of norms of assertion in particular see Weiner 2007.|
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
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