About this topic

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.
Related categories

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Material to categorize
  1. Intención y aserción.Juan José Acero - 2007 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 26 (2):19-39.
  2. Truth, Sense and Assertion.G. E. M. Anscombe - 2016 - Philosophy 91 (1):3-14.
  3. Assertion and Conditionals.Anthony Appiah - 2008 - Cambridge University Press.
    This book develops in detail the simple idea that assertion is the expression of belief. In it the author puts forward a version of 'probabilistic semantics' which acknowledges that we are not perfectly rational, and which offers a significant advance in generality on theories of meaning couched in terms of truth conditions. It promises to challenge a number of entrenched and widespread views about the relations of language and mind. Part I presents a functionalist account of belief, worked through a (...)
  4. Les Assertions Bergsoniennes.G. B. & Michel Fenart - 1936 - Journal of Philosophy 33 (20):556.
  5. Psychology and the Norms of Knowledge.Lewis White Beck - 1953 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14 (4):494-506.
  6. Questions, Answers, and Presuppositions.Nuel D. Belnap Jr - 1966 - Journal of Philosophy 63 (20):609-611.
  7. Crombie's Defense of the Assertion-Status of Religious Claims.William T. Blackstone - 1963 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2):220.
  8. Saying and believing.F. Robert Bohl - 1978 - Logique Et Analyse 21 (82):293.
  9. 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 (...)
  10. The Status of Empirical Assertion Theories in Ethics.Richard B. Brandt - 1952 - Mind 61 (244):458-479.
  11. Meaning as the Norm of its Own Knowledge. Synonymy as Identity of a Norm.Maurizio Candiotto - 2009 - Epistemologia 32 (1).
  12. Meaning, Assertion and Proposal.Rudolf Carnap - 1934 - Philosophy of Science 1 (3):359-360.
  13. Assertion. New Philosophical Essays, de Jessica Brown.Manuel García Carpintero - 2011 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 30 (3):167-175.
  14. Prescribed Mental Attitudes in Goal-Adoption and Norm-Adoption.Cristiano Castelfranchi - 1999 - Artificial Intelligence and Law 7 (1):37-50.
    The general aim of this work is to show the importance of the adressee's mind as planned by the author of a speech act or of a norm; in particular, how important are the expected motivations for goal adoption. We show that speech acts differ from one another for the different motivations the speaker is attempting to obtain from the hearer. The description of the participants' social positions is not sufficient. Important conflicts can arise which are not relative to what (...)
  15. With and Without Absurdity: Moore, Magic and McTaggart's Cat.Peter Cave - 2011 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 68:125-149.
    Here is a tribute to humanity. When under dictatorial rule, with free speech much constrained, a young intellectual mimed; he mimed in a public square. He mimed a protest speech, a speech without words. People drew round to watch and listen; to watch the expressive gestures, the flicker of tongue, the mouthing lips; to listen to – silence. The authorities also watched and listened, but did nothing.
  16. Concerning the Impetus of Science in Production-Criticism of the Assertion by the Gang-of-4 That Theory is Useless.Ch Chi - 1978 - Chinese Studies in Philosophy 10 (1):81-92.
  17. Assertion-Statements.L. J. Cohen & Alonso Church - 1954 - Analysis 15:66.
  18. Assertion-Statements.L. J. Cohen & A. C. Lloyd - 1954 - Analysis 15 (3):66 - 70.
  19. Assertion: A Reply to Brooks.Michael Cohen - 1976 - Analysis 37 (1):44 - 45.
  20. Dummett on Assertion.Michael Cohen - 1975 - Analysis 36 (1):1 - 5.
  21. Belief and Assertion.Maxwell Corbin - 2014 - Binghamton Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):25-36.
  22. Truth and Assertion.Malgorzata Czarnocka - 1996 - Dialogue and Universalism 6 (1-6):125.
  23. Note rectificative d'une assertion de Fechner.J. Delbœuf - 1883 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 16:229 - 231.
  24. Absurd Environmentalism.Douglas K. Detterman, Lynne T. Gabriel & Joanne M. Ruthsatz - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (3):411-412.
    The position advocated in the target article should be called “absurd environmentalism.” Literature showing that general intelligence is related to musical ability is not cited. Also ignored is the heritability of musical talent. Retrospective studies supporting practice over talent are incapable of showing differences in talent, because subjects are self-selected on talent. Reasons for the popularity of absurd environmentalism are discussed.
  25. Meaning, Assertion and Proposal.John Dewey - 1934 - Philosophy of Science 1 (2):237-238.
  26. Probability and Assertion.V. H. Dudman - 1992 - Analysis 52 (4):204 - 211.
  27. More Notes on Assertion.A. E. Duncan-Jones - 1940 - Analysis 7 (1):51-56.
  28. And Assertion.Dorothy Edgington - 2009 - In Ian Ravenscroft (ed.), Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes From the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford University Press. pp. 283.
  29. Trivalence and Absurdity.George Englebretsen - 1975 - Philosophical Papers 4 (2):121-128.
  30. What Liars Can Tell Us About the Knowledge Norm of Practical Reasoning.Don Fallis - 2011 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (4):347-367.
    If knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning, then we should be able to alter people's behavior by affecting their knowledge as well as by affecting their beliefs. Thus, as Roy Sorensen (2010) suggests, we should expect to find people telling lies that target knowledge rather than just lies that target beliefs. In this paper, however, I argue that Sorensen's discovery of “knowledge-lies” does not support the claim that knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning. First, I use a Bayesian (...)
  31. 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.
  32. Some Paradoxes of Counterprivacy.André Gombay - 1988 - Philosophy 63 (244):191 - 210.
    For many years G. E. Moore asked himself what was wrong with sentences like ‘I went to the pictures last Tuesday, but I don't believe that I did’, or ‘I believe that he has gone out, but he has not’. He discussed the problem in 1912 in his Ethics , and was still discussing it in 1944 in a paper to the Moral Sciences Club at Cambridge—an event we know about from a letter of Wittgenstein that I shall quote in (...)
  33. Some Theoretical and Practical Implications of Defining Aptitude and Reasoning in Terms of Each Other.Adam S. Goodie & Cristina C. Williams - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (5):675-676.
    Stanovich & West continue a history of norm-setting that began with deference to reasonable people's opinions, followed by adherence to probability theorems. They return to deference to reasonable people, with aptitude test performance substituting for reasonableness. This allows them to select independently among competing theories, but defines reasoning circularly in terms of aptitude, while aptitude is measured using reasoning.
  34. A Note on Statement and Assertion.Joshua C. Gregory - 1939 - Analysis 7 (3):75 - 76.
  35. The Logic of Assertion.Ingemund Gullvåg - 1978 - Theoria 44 (2):75-116.
    The aim is to fashion intuitive conditions of pragmatic consistency for the speech act of assertion into a formal theory, so as to exclude "pragmatically absurd" utterances (contradictory statements, versions of the liar, moore's paradox, etc.). a core theory i for a concept of pragmatic implication (tentatively identified with overt or covert assertion) and an added theory ib for implied belief are constructed on the pattern of a weak modal system, whose specific axiom is taken to explicate what it means (...)
  36. Geach on Frege's Assertion Sign.N. G. E. Harris - 1967 - Analysis 27 (6):186 - 189.
  37. Asserting and Referring.David Holdcroft - 1969 - Philosophical Quarterly 19 (75):111-122.
  38. 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 (...)
    No categories
  39. Assertion and False-Belief Attribution.Mark Jary - 2010 - Pragmatics and Cognitionpragmatics and Cognition 18 (1):17-39.
  40. Reichenbach's Theory of Reasonable Assertion. [REVIEW]Evan K. Jobe - 1980 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 31 (4):375-384.
  41. 6 Assertion as a Practice.Gary Kemp - 2007 - In Geo Siegwart & Dirk Griemann (eds.), Truth and Speech Acts: Studies in the Philosophy of Language. Routledge. pp. 5--106.
  42. J. Brown & H. Cappelen (Eds.) Assertion: New Philosophical Essays.Mikhail Kissine - forthcoming - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  43. Humane Self-Assertion in the Technological World.W. Kluxen - 1983 - Philosophisches Jahrbuch 90 (2):335-344.
  44. The Conversational Role of Centered Contents.Max Kölbel - 2013 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 56 (2-3):97-121.
    Some philosophers, for example David Lewis, have argued for the need to introduce de se contents or centered contents, i.e. contents of thought and speech the correctness of believing which depends not only on the possible world one inhabits, but also on the location one occupies. Independently, philosophers like Robert Stalnaker (and also David Lewis) have developed the conversational score model of linguistic communication. This conversational model usually relies on a more standard conception of content according to which the correctness (...)
  45. Pictorial Assertion.Carolyn Korsmeyer - 1985 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 43 (3):257-265.
  46. Practical Implication: Some Problems in the Logic of Assertion.Sue Howard Larson - 1962 - Dissertation, Stanford University
  47. Rational Responsibility and the Assertoric Character of Bald-Faced Lies.Patrick R. Leland - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):550-554.
    According to a traditional view, one lies if and only if one asserts what one believes is false and with the intent to deceive one’s audience. Recently, many theorists have challenged the requirement of intent to deceive. The principal reason offered appeals to so-called bald-faced lies wherein one asserts what one believes is false without intent to deceive. I argue that, assuming a reasonable model of assertion, two of the most prominent examples of bald-faced lies fail to be genuinely assertoric. (...)
  48. What is a True Assertion?Andries H. D. Mac Leod - 1947 - Theoria 13 (2-3):183-214.
  49. The Absurdity of Life.Steven Luper - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52:1-17.
  50. The Absurdity of Life.Steven Luper-Foy - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (1):85-101.
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