About this topic
Summary

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). 

Key works

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 1967Stalnaker 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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  1. Credible Futures.Andrea Iacona & Samuele Iaquinto - forthcoming - Synthese.
    This paper articulates in formal terms a crucial distinction concerning future contingents, the distinction between what is true about the future and what is reasonable to believe about the future. Its key idea is that the branching structures that have been used so far to model truth can be employed to define an epistemic property, credibility, which we take to be closely related to knowledge and assertibility, and which is ultimately reducible to probability. As a result, two kinds of claims (...)
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  2. Fragile Knowledge.Simon Goldstein - forthcoming - Mind:1-25.
    This paper explores the principle that knowledge is fragile, in that whenever S knows that S doesn't know that S knows that p, S thereby fails to know p. Fragility is motivated by the infelicity of dubious assertions, utterances which assert p while acknowledging higher order ignorance of p. Fragility is interestingly weaker than KK, the principle that if S knows p, then S knows that S knows p. Existing theories of knowledge which deny KK by accepting a Margin for (...)
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  3. No Context, No Content, No Problem.Ethan Nowak - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (2):189-220.
    Recently, philosophers have offered compelling reasons to think that demonstratives are best represented as variables, sensitive not to the context of utterance, but to a variable assignment. Variablists typically explain familiar intuitions about demonstratives—intuitions that suggest that what is said by way of a demonstrative sentence varies systematically over contexts—by claiming that contexts initialize a particular assignment of values to variables. I argue that we do not need to link context and the assignment parameter in this way, and that we (...)
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  4. Assertoric Content, Responsibility, and Metasemantics.Andrew Peet - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    That we assert things to one another, and that our doing so is central to our linguistic practice, seems beyond question. When we assert, there is typically something we can be said to have asserted. This is what we might think of as the truth conditional content of our assertion. Yet, as I will illustrate in the earlier portions of this paper, it is not immediately clear what communicative function assertoric content actually plays. I suggest that assertoric content functions as (...)
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  5. Oddness, Modularity, and Exhaustification.Guillermo Del Pinal - 2021 - Natural Language Semantics 29 (1):115-158.
    According to the `grammatical account', scalar implicatures are triggered by a covert exhaustification operator present in logical form. This account covers considerable empirical ground, but there is a peculiar pattern that resists treatment given its usual implementation. The pattern centers on odd assertions like #"Most lions are mammals" and #"Some Italians come from a beautiful country", which seem to trigger implicatures in contexts where the enriched readings conflict with information in the common ground. Magri (2009, 2011) argues that, to account (...)
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  6. Bilateral Harmony.Nils Kürbis - manuscript
    This paper formulates a bilateral account of harmony, which is an alternative to the one proposed by Francez. It builds on an account of harmony for unilateral logic proposed by Kürbis and the observation that reading some of the rules for the connectives of bilateral logic bottom up gives the grounds and consequences of formulas with the opposite speech act. Thus the consequences of asserting a formula give grounds for denying it, namely if the opposite speech act is applied to (...)
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  7. Lies, Common Ground and Performative Utterances.Neri Marsili - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-12.
    In a recent book (Lying and insincerity, Oxford University Press, 2018), Andreas Stokke argues that one lies iff one says something one believes to be false, thereby proposing that it becomes common ground. This paper shows that Stokke’s proposal is unable to draw the right distinctions about insincere performative utterances. The objection also has repercussions on theories of assertion, because it poses a novel challenge to any attempt to define assertion as a proposal to update the common ground.
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  8. A General Semantics for Logics of Affirmation and Negation.Fabien Schang - 2021 - Journal of Applied Logics - IfCoLoG Journal of Logics and Their Applications 8 (2):593-609.
    A general framework for translating various logical systems is presented, including a set of partial unary operators of affirmation and negation. Despite its usual reading, affirmation is not redundant in any domain of values and whenever it does not behave like a full mapping. After depicting the process of partial functions, a number of logics are translated through a variety of affirmations and a unique pair of negations. This relies upon two preconditions: a deconstruction of truth-values as ordered and structured (...)
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  9. Force, Content and the Unity of the Proposition.Gabriele Mras & Michael Schmitz (eds.) - forthcoming - Routledge.
  10. Hedging and the Ignorance Norm on Inquiry.Yasha Sapir & Peter van Elswyk - forthcoming - Synthese:1-23.
    What sort of epistemic positions are compatible with inquiries driven by interrogative attitudes like wonder and puzzlement? The ignorance norm provides a partial answer: interrogative attitudes directed at a particular question are never compatible with knowledge of the question’s answer. But some are tempted to think that interrogative attitudes are incompatible with weaker positions like belief as well. This paper defends that the ignorance norm is exhaustive. All epistemic positions weaker than knowledge directed at the answer to a question are (...)
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  11. Reviving the Performative Hypothesis?Peter van Elswyk - forthcoming - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy.
    A traditional problem with the performative hypothesis is that it cannot assign proper truth-conditions to a declarative sentence. This paper shows that the problem is solved by adopting a multidimensional semantics on which sentences have more than just truth-conditions. This is good news for those who want to at least partially revive the hypothesis. The solution also brings into focus a lesson about what issues to consider when drawing the semantics/pragmatics boundary.
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  12. Centred Propositions, What is Asserted, and Communication.Jakub Rudnicki - 2021 - Theoria 87 (1):187-206.
    In recent years there has been a heated debate on how to accommodate John Perry's observations about the essentiality of indexicality into our models of linguistic communication. This article is an attempt at providing a new perspective on this issue. I argue that we should jettison two elements taken for granted by the views I present, and criticize, here: no centring, uncentring, recentring and multicentring. These elements are: (1) taking the asserted content to be a part of the communication process (...)
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  13. Lob der Vermutung (In praise of conjectures).Emanuel Viebahn - forthcoming - In Romy Jaster & Geert Keil (eds.), Nachdenken über Corona. Stuttgart, Germany:
    Krisen, heißt es manchmal, erfordern klare Ansagen: Bei Behauptungen wissen wir, woran wir sind. Vermutungen hingegen sind unklar und stehen der Übernahme von Ver­ant­wor­tung entgegen. In diesem Essay wird mit den Mitteln der Sprachphilosophie ge­zeigt, dass vermutende Sprechakte für die Krisenkommunikation in der Corona-Pandemie richtig und wichtig sind. Weder sind Vermutungen anfälliger für Unklarheit als andere Sprechakte noch sind sie besser dazu geeignet, Verantwortung abzuweisen. Im Gegen­teil: In einer Situation, die durch Unsicherheit geprägt ist, sind Vermutungen besonders wertvoll für das (...)
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  14. The Lying-Misleading Distinction: A Commitment-Based Approach.Emanuel Viebahn - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    The distinction between lying and mere misleading is commonly tied to the distinction between saying and conversationally implicating. Many definitions of lying are based on the idea that liars say something they believe to be false, while misleaders put forward a believed-false conversational implicature. The aim of this paper is to motivate, spell out and defend an alternative approach, on which lying and misleading differ in terms of commitment: liars, but not misleaders, commit themselves to something they believe to be (...)
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  15. Stand‐Up Comedy, Authenticity, and Assertion.Jesse Rappaport & Jake Quilty-Dunn - 2020 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (4):477-490.
    Stand‐up comedy is often viewed in two contrary ways. In one view, comedians are hailed as providing genuine social insight and telling truths. In the other, comedians are seen as merely trying to entertain and not to be taken seriously. This tension raises a foundational question for the aesthetics of stand‐up: Do stand‐up comedians perform genuine assertions in their performances? This article considers this question in the light of several theories of assertion. We conclude that comedians on stage do not (...)
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  16. Conditionals All the Way Down.Matheus Silva - manuscript
    It is usually accepted that unconditional statements are clearer and less problematic than conditional ones. This article goes against this popular belief by advancing the contrarian hypothesis that all unconditional statements can be reduced to conditional ones due to the way our assumptions support our assertions. In fact, considering the coherentist process by which most of our different beliefs mutually support themselves, the only genuine example of unconditional statements are cases of self-justified beliefs, but these examples are controversial and few (...)
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  17. Intention and Commitment in Speech Acts.Daniel W. Harris - 2019 - Theoretical Linguistics 45 (1–2):53–67.
    What is a speech act, and what makes it count as one kind of speech act rather than another? In the target article, Geurts considers two ways of answering these questions. His opponent is intentionalism—the view that performing a speech act is a matter of acting with a communicative intention, and that speech acts of different kinds involve intentions to affect hearers in different ways. Geurts offers several objections to intentionalism. Instead, he articulates and defends an admirably clear and resolute (...)
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  18. Intentionalism and Bald-Faced Lies.Daniel W. Harris - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    In Lying and Insincerity, Andreas Stokke argues that bald-faced lies are genuine lies, and that lies are always assertions. Since bald-faced lies seem not to be aimed at convincing addressees of their contents, Stokke concludes that assertions needn’t have this aim. This conflicts with a traditional version of intentionalism, originally due to Grice, on which asserting something is a matter of communicatively intending for one’s addressee to believe it. I argue that Stokke’s own account of bald-faced lies faces serious problems (...)
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  19. ?!.Michael Schmitz - manuscript
    Frege argued for the force-content distinction not only by appealing to the logical and fictional contexts which are most closely associated with the “Frege point", but also based on the fact that an affirmative answer to a yes-no question constitutes an assertion. Supposedly this is only intelligible if the question contains a forceless thought or proposition which an affirmative answer then asserts. Against this I argue that this fact more readily supports the view that questions operate on assertions and other (...)
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  20. Assertability and Interpretability..Stephen Lester Thompson - manuscript
  21. Davidson’s Phenomenological Argument Against the Cognitive Claims of Metaphor.Richmond Kwesi - 2019 - Axiomathes 30:1-24.
    In this paper, I take a critical look at the Davidsonian argument that metaphorical sentences do not express propositions because of the phenomenological experience—seeing one thing as another thing—involved in understanding them as metaphors. According to Davidson, seeing-as is not seeing-that. This verdict is aimed at dislodging metaphor from the position of being assessed with the semantic notions of propositions, meaning, and truth. I will argue that the phenomenological or perceptual experience associated with metaphors does not determine the propositional contentfulness (...)
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  22. Review of E. Michaelson and A. Stokke (Eds.): Lying: Language, Knowledge, Ethics, and Politics. [REVIEW]Emanuel Viebahn - 2019 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 10.
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  23. Freges Urteilslehre. Ein in der Logik vergessenes Lehrstück der Analytischen Philosophie.Moritz Cordes - 2014 - XXIII. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft Für Philosophie 28. September - 2. Oktober 2014.
    Frege's philosophy of language includes detailed views on judgments. His formal logic - the Begriffsschrift - documents some of these views in the introduction and treatment of the judgment stroke. In current logic such an expression is either entirely ignored or, appearing as turnstile, plays an fundamentally different role. In this paper I put forward four claims: (i) Considering Frege's Begriffsschrift, it is methodologically palpable why the judgment stroke was omitted in nearly all logical systems developed after Frege. (ii) The (...)
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  24. When Alston Met Brandom: Defining Assertion.Matthew J. Cull - 2019 - Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio 13 (1):36-50.
    In this paper I give a definition of assertion that develops William P. Alston’s account. Alston’s account of assertion combines a responsibility condition R, which captures the appropriate socio-normative status that one undertakes in asserting something, with an explicit presentation condition, such that the speech act in some way presents the content of what is being asserted. I develop Alston’s account of explicit presentation and add a Brandomian responsibility condition. I then argue that this produces an attractive position on the (...)
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  25. Group Assertion and Group Silencing.Leo Townsend - 2020 - Language & Communication 1 (70):28-37.
    Jennifer Lackey (2018) has developed an account of the primary form of group assertion, according to which groups assert when a suitably authorized spokesperson speaks for the group. In this paper I pose a challenge for Lackey's account, arguing that her account obscures the phenomenon of group silencing. This is because, in contrast to alternative approaches that view assertions (and speech acts generally) as social acts, Lackey's account implies that speakers can successfully assert regardless of how their utterances are taken (...)
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  26. Three Epistemic Paralogisms, One Logic of Utterances.Fabien Schang - 2010 - In P.-E. Bour & M. Rebuschi & L. Rollet (ed.), Construction. Festschrift for Gerhard Heinzmann. pp. 407-416.
    Assuming that a paralogism is an unintentionally invalid reasoning, we give an exampli.
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  27. Philosophie des modalités épistémiques (la logique assertorique revisitée).Fabien Schang - 2007 - Dissertation, Nancy Université
    The relevance of any logical analysis lies in its ability to solve paradoxes and trace conceptual troubles back; with this respect, the task of epistemic logic is to handle paradoxes in connection with the concept of knowledge. Epistemic logic is currently introduced as the logical analysis of crucial concepts within epistemology, namely: knowledge, belief, truth, and justification. An alternative approach will be advanced here in order to enlighten such a discourse, as centred upon the word assertion and displayed in terms (...)
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  28. Règles de logique, Règles de discours. La pragmatique de la connaissance selon Hintikka.Fabien Schang - 2018 - Klesis 39:92-124.
    L’article qui suit a pour but de présenter un des aspects centraux de la contribution philosophique de Jaakko Hintikka : l’épistémologie formelle. Le thème choisi, le Paradoxe de Moore, permettra d’illustrer le mot d’ordre de la philosophie formelle, celui d’utiliser des outils logiques en vue de la clarification de problèmes philosophiques. Il s’agit également de mettre en évidence la nature pragmatique du discours épistémique, qui transparaît dans les résultats sémantiques de Hintikka et parle en faveur de la logique illocutoire.
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  29. Uniformity Motivated.Cameron Kirk-Giannini - 2018 - Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (6):665-684.
    Can rational communication proceed when interlocutors are uncertain which contents utterances contribute to discourse? An influential negative answer to this question is embodied in the Stalnakerian principle of uniformity, which requires speakers to produce only utterances that express the same content in every possibility treated as live for the purposes of the conversation. The principle of uniformity enjoys considerable intuitive plausibility and, moreover, seems to follow from platitudes about assertion; nevertheless, it has recently proven controversial. In what follows, I defend (...)
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  30. Lying and Insincerity.Andreas Stokke - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Andreas Stokke presents a comprehensive study of lying and insincere language use. He investigates how lying relates to other forms of insincerity and explores the kinds of attitudes that go with insincere uses of language. -/- Part I develops an account of insincerity as a linguistic phenomenon. Stokke provides a detailed theory of the distinction between lying and speaking insincerely, and accounts for the relationship between lying and deceiving. A novel framework of assertion underpins the analysis of various kinds of (...)
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  31. Force, Content and the Varieties of Unity.Michael Schmitz - manuscript
    A strict dichotomy between the force / mode of speech acts and intentional states and their propositional content has been a central feature of analytical philosophy of language and mind since the time of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell. Recently this dichotomy has been questioned by philosophers such as Peter Hanks (2015, 2016) and Francois Recanati (2016), who argue that we can't account for propositional unity independently of the forceful acts of speakers and propose new ways of responding to the (...)
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  32. LITERATURESSAY: Die Vielfalt der Lebensformen und die Einheit der Vernunft.Boris RÄhme & Micha Werner - 1997 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 45 (3):439-454.
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  33. Analyzing the Wrongfulness of Lying: A Defence of Pluralism.Arianna Falbo - 2017 - Dialogue 56 (3):431-454.
    Extant accounts, both old and new, of the wrongfulness of lying are all inadequate. The common problem with each consists in its unitary structure. Such analyses presuppose that all lies are wrongful in the same way, for the same unifying reason. This assumption, however, does not do justice to the phenomena of lying. This is because lying can be morally objectionable in diverse ways. Thus, I argue for a dialectical shift towards a pluralist approach to the wrongfulness of lying. We (...)
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  34. On the Connection Between Semantic Content and the Objects of Assertion.Una Stojnić - 2017 - Philosophical Topics 45 (2):163-179.
    The Rigidity Thesis states that no rigid term can have the same semantic content as a nonrigid one. Drawing on Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley rejects the thesis since it relies on an illicit identification of compositional semantic content and the content of assertion. I argue that Stanley’s critique of the Rigidity Thesis fails since it places constraints on assertoric content that cannot be satisfied by any plausible notion of content appropriately related to compositional semantic content. For similar reasons, I (...)
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  35. Peirce's Account of Assertion.Jaime Alfaro Iglesias - 2016 - Dissertation, University of São Paulo
    One usually makes assertions by means of uttering indicative sentences like “It is raining”. However, not every utterance of an indicative sentence is an assertion. For example, in uttering “I will be back tomorrow”, one might be making a promise. What is to make an assertion? C.S. Peirce held the view that “to assert a proposition is to make oneself responsible for its truth” (CP 5.543). In this thesis, I interpret Peirce’s view of assertion and I evaluate Peirce’s reasons for (...)
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  36. No Need for an Intention to Deceive? Challenging the Traditional Definition of Lying.Ronja Rutschmann & Alex Wiegmann - 2017 - Philosophical Psychology 30 (4):438-457.
    According to the traditional definition of lying, somebody lies if he or she makes a believed-false statement with the intention to deceive. The traditional definition has recently been challenged by non-deceptionists who use bald-faced lies to underpin their view that the intention to deceive is no necessary condition for lying. We conducted two experiments to test whether their assertions are true. First, we presented one of five scenarios that consisted of three different kinds of lies. Then we asked participants to (...)
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  37. Rascals, Triflers, and Pragmatists: Developing a Peircean Account of Assertion.Kenneth Boyd & Diana Heney - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (2):1-22.
    While the topic of assertion has recently received a fresh wave of interest from Peirce scholars, to this point no systematic account of Peirce’s view of assertion has been attempted. We think that this is a lacuna that ought to be filled. Doing so will help make better sense of Peirce’s pragmatism; further, what is hidden amongst various fragments is a robust pragmatist theory of assertion with unique characteristics that may have significant contemporary value. Here we aim to uncover this (...)
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  38. Set Size, Assertion Form, Thematic Content and Sampling in the Selection Task.Raymond S. Nickerson, Susan F. Butler & Daniel H. Barch - 2017 - Thinking and Reasoning 23 (2):134-157.
    Participants attempted to solve a modified version of Wason's selection task. Variables were: sizes of the sets referenced by a specified assertion, form of the assertion, thematic content of the assertion, and the need for sampling or not. In Experiment 1, participants were given enough information to determine the truth or falsity of the specified assertion with certainty; in Experiment 2, they had to rely on sampling and could not determine the assertion's truth or falsity with certainty. Performance was better (...)
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  39. Proposing, Pretending, and Propriety: A Response to Don Fallis.Andreas Stokke - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):178-183.
    This note responds to criticism put forth by Don Fallis of an account of lying in terms of the Stalnakerian view of assertion. According to this account, to lie is to say something one believes to be false and thereby propose that it become common ground. Fallis objects by presenting an example to show that one can lie even though one does not propose to make what one says common ground. It is argued here that this objection does not present (...)
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  40. Assertion and False-Belief Attribution.Mark Jary - 2010 - Pragmatics and Cognition 18 (1):17-39.
    The ability to attribute false-beliefs to others — the hallmark of a representational theory of mind — has been shown to be reliant on linguistic ability, specifically on competence in sentential complementation after verbs of communication and cognition such as `say that' and `think that'. The reason commonly put forward for this is that these structures provide a representational format which enables the child to think about another's thoughts. The paper offers an alternative explanation. Drawing on the work of the (...)
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  41. More Notes on Assertion.Austin Duncan-Jones - 1940 - Analysis 7 (1):51-56.
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  42. Geach and Frege's Assertion Sign.N. G. E. Harris - 1967 - Analysis 27 (6):186.
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  43. Epistemic Merit, Autonomy, and Testimony.Jesús Vega Encabo - 2008 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 23 (1):45-56.
    In this paper, it is argued that both the informer and the hearer in a testimonial situation deserve epistemic merit insofar as they contribute to the collaborative achievement of sharing knowledge. The paper introduces a distinction between the ideals of self-sufficiency and epistemic autonomy. The autonomous exerciseof our epistemic agency is very often carried out under strong conditions of epistemic dependence. Testimony exhibits a kind of social dependence that does not threaten the autonomy of the subjects that need to consider (...)
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  44. Davidson on Assertion, Convention and Belief.Eva Picardi - 1989 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 36 (1):97-107.
    The attitude of believing or "holding true" fulfils a twofold role in Davidson's theory of meaning: it provides the basic evidence for a theory of radical interpretation and it also constitutes the key notion in terms of which the linguistic act of assertion is to be characterized. It is however doubtful whether the notion of "holding true" can fulfil either of these two roles without presupposing an implicit grasp of the public significance of the practice of making assertions. The lack (...)
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  45. Belief and Assertion.Maxwell Corbin - 2014 - Binghamton Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):25-36.
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  46. Knowledge, Justification and the Norms of Assertion.Stuart Milne - unknown
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  47. Asserting.Robert Brandom - 1980 - Journal of Philosophy 77 (11):766-767.
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  48. Les Assertions Bergsoniennes.G. B. & Michel Fenart - 1936 - Journal of Philosophy 33 (20):556.
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  49. IX—Assertion and Analogy.Thomas McPherson - 1960 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60 (1):155-170.
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  50. Perceptual Dehumanization of Faces is Activated by Norm Violations and Facilitates Norm Enforcement.Katrina M. Fincher & Philip E. Tetlock - 2016 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 145 (2):131-146.
1 — 50 / 862