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. Juan José Acero (2007). Intención y aserción. Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 26 (2):19-39.
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  2. G. E. M. Anscombe (2016). Truth, Sense and Assertion. Philosophy 91 (1):3-14.
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  3. Anthony Appiah (2008). Assertion and Conditionals. 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 (...)
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  4. G. B. & Michel Fenart (1936). Les Assertions Bergsoniennes. Journal of Philosophy 33 (20):556.
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  5. Lewis White Beck (1954). Psychology and the Norms of Knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14 (4):494-506.
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  6. Nuel D. Belnap Jr (1966). Questions, Answers, and Presuppositions. Journal of Philosophy 63 (20):609-611.
  7. F. Robert Bohl (1978). Saying and believing. Logique Et Analyse 21 (82):293.
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  8. Kenneth Boyd & Diana Heney (forthcoming). Rascals, Triflers, and Pragmatists: Developing a Peircean Account of Assertion. British Journal for the History of Philosophy.
    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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  9. Richard B. Brandt (1952). The Status of Empirical Assertion Theories in Ethics. Mind 61 (244):458-479.
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  10. Rudolf Carnap (1934). Meaning, Assertion and Proposal. Philosophy of Science 1 (3):359-360.
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  11. Manuel García Carpintero (2011). Assertion. New Philosophical Essays, de Jessica Brown. Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 30 (3):167-175.
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  12. Cristiano Castelfranchi (1999). Prescribed Mental Attitudes in Goal-Adoption and Norm-Adoption. 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 (...)
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  13. Peter Cave (2011). With and Without Absurdity: Moore, Magic and McTaggart's Cat. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 68 (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.
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  14. L. J. Cohen & Alonso Church (1954). Assertion-Statements. Analysis 15:66.
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  15. L. J. Cohen & A. C. Lloyd (1955). Assertion-Statements. Analysis 15 (3):66 - 70.
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  16. Michael Cohen (1976). Assertion: A Reply to Brooks. Analysis 37 (1):44 - 45.
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  17. Maxwell Corbin (2014). Belief and Assertion. Binghamton Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):25-36.
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  18. Malgorzata Czarnocka (1996). Truth and Assertion. Dialogue and Universalism 6 (1-6):125.
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  19. J. Delbœuf (1883). Note rectificative d'une assertion de Fechner. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 16:229 - 231.
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  20. John Dewey (1934). Meaning, Assertion and Proposal. Philosophy of Science 1 (2):237-238.
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  21. V. H. Dudman (1992). Probability and Assertion. Analysis 52 (4):204 - 211.
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  22. A. E. Duncan-Jones (1940). More Notes on Assertion. Analysis 7 (1):51-56.
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  23. Dorothy Edgington (2009). And Assertion. In Ian Ravenscroft (ed.), Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes From the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford University Press. pp. 283.
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  24. George Englebretsen (1975). Trivalence and Absurdity. Philosophical Papers 4 (2):121-128.
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  25. Don Fallis (2011). What Liars Can Tell Us About the Knowledge Norm of Practical Reasoning. 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 (...)
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  26. Katrina M. Fincher & Philip E. Tetlock (2016). Perceptual Dehumanization of Faces is Activated by Norm Violations and Facilitates Norm Enforcement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 145 (2):131-146.
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  27. Manuel Garcia-Carpintero (2009). L'asserzione e la contingenza delle convenzioni. Rivista di Estetica 49 (41):161-170.
    The paper offers a model for the conventionality of illocutionary forces. It focuses on the argument that accounts of assertion in terms of constitutive norms are incompatible with conventionalist claims about assertion. The argument appeals to an alleged modal asymmetry, and is in that respect related to well-known arguments that the notion of truth by convention is misguided: while constitutive rules are essential to the acts they characterize, and therefore the obligations they impose necessarily apply to every instance, conventions are (...)
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  28. André Gombay (1988). Some Paradoxes of Counterprivacy. 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 (...)
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  29. Joshua C. Gregory (1940). A Note on Statement and Assertion. Analysis 7 (3):75 - 76.
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  30. Ingemund Gullvåg (1978). The Logic of Assertion. 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 (...)
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  31. N. G. E. Harris (1967). Geach on Frege's Assertion Sign. Analysis 27 (6):186 - 189.
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  32. David Holdcroft (1969). Asserting and Referring. Philosophical Quarterly 19 (75):111-122.
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  33. Mark Jary (2010). Assertion and False-Belief Attribution. Pragmatics and Cognitionpragmatics and Cognition 18 (1):17-39.
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  34. Evan K. Jobe (1980). Reichenbach's Theory of Reasonable Assertion. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 31 (4):375-384.
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  35. Gary Kemp (2007). 6 Assertion as a Practice. In Geo Siegwart & Dirk Griemann (eds.), Truth and Speech Acts: Studies in the Philosophy of Language. Routledge. pp. 5--106.
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  36. Mikhail Kissine (forthcoming). J. Brown & H. Cappelen (Eds.) Assertion: New Philosophical Essays. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  37. W. Kluxen (1983). Humane Self-Assertion in the Technological World. Philosophisches Jahrbuch 90 (2):335-344.
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  38. Max Kölbel (2013). The Conversational Role of Centered Contents. Inquiry 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 (...)
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  39. Carolyn Korsmeyer (1985). Pictorial Assertion. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 43 (3):257-265.
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  40. Sue Howard Larson (1962). Practical Implication: Some Problems in the Logic of Assertion. Dissertation, Stanford University
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  41. Patrick R. Leland (2015). Rational Responsibility and the Assertoric Character of Bald-Faced Lies. 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. (...)
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  42. Steven Luper (1992). The Absurdity of Life. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52:1-17.
  43. Steven Luper-Foy (1992). The Absurdity of Life. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (1):85-101.
  44. Cynthia Macdonald & Anthony Appiah (1987). Mind, Meaning, and Assertion. Philosophical Books 28 (4):193-205.
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  45. J. S. Mackenzie (1895). Self-Assertion and Self-Denial. International Journal of Ethics 5 (3):273-295.
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  46. Tecla Mazzarese (1991). Norm-Proposition: Epistemic and Semantic Queries. Rechtstheorie 22:39-70.
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  47. Marco Mazzone (2013). Attention to the Speaker. The Conscious Assessment of Utterance Interpretations in Working Memory. Language and Communication 33:106-114.
    The role of conscious attention in language processing has been scarcely considered, despite the wide-spread assumption that verbal utterances manage to attract and manipulate the addressee’s attention. Here I claim that this assumption is to be understood not as a figure of speech but instead in terms of attentional processes proper. This hypothesis can explain a fact that has been noticed by supporters of Relevance Theory in pragmatics: the special role played by speaker-related information in utterance interpretation. I argue that (...)
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  48. Thomas McPherson (1960). IX—Assertion and Analogy. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60 (1):155-170.
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  49. Thomas McPherson (1959). Assertion and Analogy. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60:155 - 170.
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  50. Milić Ivan & Reining Stefan (2015). A Wittgensteinian Role‐Based Account of Assertion. Philosophical Investigations 40 (1).
    According to an “orthodox” reading proposed by Dummett and more recently endorsed by Lugg and Price, the later Wittgenstein rejects the idea of grouping together certain utterances as a single class of assertions. We offer an alternative commentary on the Philosophical Investigations §§21–24, developing what we call a Wittgensteinian role-based account of assertion. We then examine whether this role-based account can solve the problem of on-stage utterances. In the course of this, the merits of the account are shown and compared (...)
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