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Summary

Presupposition has been a widely discussed topic in the philosophical and linguistic tradition since the beginning: Frege, in Über Sinn und Bedeutung (1892), claims that the use of a singular term presupposes the existence of the individual denoted. The Fregean example was that to give a truth value to the sentence

(1) Kepler died in misery

we need to take for granted the truth of the proposition

(1a) Kepler existed

Therefore, (1a) is a semantic presupposition of (1). Since the Fregean stance, analytic scholars have given the following definition: a sentence p semantically presupposes a sentence q if we need the truth of q in order to treat p as endowed with sense, that is, as either true or false. If the presupposition is lacking, then the sentence p lacks a truth value (i.e. is neither true nor false). Russell, in On Denoting (1905), launched a strong criticism of the Fregean theory of semantic presupposition, contrasting the Fregean view with a new “theory of definite descriptions”. From this perspective, every sentence is either truth or false, and the role of a proper name (or a description to which every proper name can be reduced, according to Russell) is to express an existence claim. This solution allows to give a truth value to sentences with non-denoting terms, like “The present king of France is bald”, which should be translated as “There is an individual who is at present King of France and he is unique and he is bald”; formally:

(2) ∃x[F(x)˄∀y[F(y)→y=x]˄C(x)]

In this case, given that there is no individual who is presently the King of France, the sentence is false.

It was only in the 50s that ordinary language philosophy developed a new concept of presupposition. Starting with Strawson (1950) and with Austin (1962), the concept of presupposition was no longer linked to necessary conditions for the evaluation of the truth of a sentence, but was a necessary condition for the felicity or appropriateness of a speech act. With Stalnaker (1973) analytic philosophy abandoned the notion of semantic presupposition to treat presupposition as a propositional attitude. The theory changed its focus from the semantic level of sentences to the pragmatic level of utterances, therefore including the ‘cognitive context’ of the speakers background of beliefs, assumptions, presumptions, etc. In Stalnaker’s view the common ground of a conversation at a particular time is the set of propositions that participants in that conversation at that time mutually believe to be accepted as true and that, for that reason, they take for granted. Hence, in this perspective, a pragmatic presupposition is a prerequisite for appropriateness of assertions: an assertion of a sentence p is appropriate only if the common ground includes the presupposition q required by p, namely, q is believed as accepted as true by the interlocutors (Stalnaker, 2002).

In more recent times, several scholars have treated the problem of presuppositions within dynamic semantic theories, i.e. formal representations of language structure aimed at modelling the growth of information in the course of a discourse, like Update Semantics (Heim 1992) and Discourse Representation Theory (Kamp & Reyle, 1993). The passage from the level of singular utterances to the wider level of the discourse structure has shown us that the distinction between semantic and pragmatic presuppositions, that once seemed like a neat division, is not so tidy after all. On the one hand, presuppositions are considered an essential prerequisite for understanding the content expressed by an utterance and for the coherence of the semantic relations between the sentences that constitute a discourse. In this respect, therefore, they play a purely semantic role. On the other hand, the process of presupposition accommodation is highly sensitive to contextual factors like, for example, speakers’ willingness to maintain a cooperative attitude with their interlocutors. In this view, therefore, they can be considered a pragmatic phenomenon, related to contextual aspects.

When dealing with presuppositions, many theoretical problems and contrasts have to be tackled. Specifically, there are three main open questions in the current linguistic and philosophical debate:

(i) a first problem concerns what ‘presupposing’ means, i.e. what it is for a proposition to be taken for granted. The question at stake is to determine what are the mental states speakers have towards presuppositions; in particular, when new information is conveyed as presupposed and is accommodated within the common ground by the interlocutors (Stalnaker 2002, Gauker 2003).

(ii) A second major issue regards the role of presupposition triggers (i.e. all the lexical items and syntactic constructions that activate presuppositions). Besides a traditional taxonomy of presupposition triggers, there are now new attempts to better explain the mechanisms underlying the understanding of different categories of triggers and to provide a new classification (Abusch 2002, 2010).

(iii) Finally, a third central topic is the so called ‘presupposition projection problem’, namely, the problem of how complex sentences inherit the presuppositions of their components depending on the logical operator in use (Heim 1992, Geurts 1999). 

Key works Common ground; presupposition triggers; presupposition projection; accommodation; global context; local context; presupposition failure.
Introductions

Stalnaker R (1973) Presuppositions. The Journal of Philosophical Logic 2:447-457

Stalnaker R (2002) Common Ground. Linguistics and Philosophy 25(5-6):701-721

Heim I (1992) Presupposition projection and the semantics of attitude verbs. Journal of Semantics 9(3):183-221

Abusch, D., (2010). “Presupposition triggering from alternatives”, Journal of Semantics,

27(1), 1-44.

Geurts, B., (1999). Presuppostions and Pronouns, Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Related categories

295 found
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1 — 50 / 295
  1. added 2018-12-23
    Refusing to Endorse. A Must Explanation for Pejoratives.Carlo Penco - 2018 - In Annalisa Coliva, Paolo Leonardi & Sebastiano Moruzzi (eds.), Eva Picardi on Language, Analysis and History. London: Palgrave.
    In her analysis of pejoratives, Eva Picardi rejects a too sharp separation between descriptive and expressive content. I reconstruct some of her arguments, endorsing Eva’s criticism of Williamson’s analysis of Dummett and developing a suggestion by Manuel Garcia Carpintero on a speech act analysis of pejoratives. Eva’s main concern is accounting for our instinctive refusal to endorse an assertion containing pejoratives because it suggests a picture of reality we do not share. Her stance might be further developed claiming that uses (...)
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  2. added 2018-10-16
    On Stalnaker's "Indicative Conditionals".Fabrizio Cariani - forthcoming - In Louise McNally, Yael Sharvit & Zoltan Szabo (eds.), Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy, Vol 100. Springer.
    This paper is a guide to the main ideas and innovations in Robert Stalnaker's "Indicative Conditionals". The paper is for a volume of essays on twenty-one classics of formal semantics edited by Louise McNally, Yael Sharvit and Zoltàn Gendler Szabò.
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  3. added 2018-09-06
    II—Conventional Implicature, Presupposition, and Lying.Andreas Stokke - 2017 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 91 (1):127-147.
    Responding to parts of Sorensen, it is argued that the connectives therefore and but do not contribute conventional implicatures, but are rather to be treated as presupposition triggers. Their special contributions are therefore not asserted, but presupposed. Hence, given the generic assumption that one lies only if one makes an assertion, one cannot lie with arguments in the way Sorensen proposes. Yet, since conventional implicatures are asserted, one can lie with conventional implicatures. Moreover, since conventional implicatures may be asserted by (...)
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  4. added 2018-09-04
    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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  5. added 2018-08-15
    On the Presuppositional Behavior of Coherence-Driven Pragmatic Enrichments.Andrew Kehler & Jonathan Cohen - 2016 - Semantics and Linguistic Theory 26:961-979.
    When interpreting a sentence such as Every time the company fires an employee who comes in late, a union complaint is lodged, an addressee is likely to infer that the union will only complain when an employee is fired because he came in late. One is thus led to ask why a purely pragmatic enrichment of this sort -- one drawn despite no risk of interpretative failure nor other linguistic mandate -- would intrude upon truth conditions. We argue that this (...)
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  6. added 2018-08-11
    On the Nature of Presupposition: A Normative Speech Act Account.Manuel García-Carpintero - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-25.
    In this paper I provide a new account of linguistic presuppositions, on which they are ancillary speech acts defined by constitutive norms. After providing an initial intuitive characterization of the phenomenon, I present a normative speech act account of presupposition in parallel with Williamson’s analogous account of assertion. I explain how it deals well with the problem of informative presuppositions, and how it relates to accounts for the Triggering and Projection Problems for presuppositions. I conclude with a brief discussion of (...)
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  7. added 2018-07-22
    Independence Day?Matthew Mandelkern & Daniel Rothschild - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
    Two recent and influential papers, van Rooij 2007 and Lassiter 2012, propose solutions to the proviso problem that make central use of related notions of independence—qualitative in the first case, probabilistic in the second. We argue here that, if these solutions are to work, they must incorporate an implicit assumption about presupposition accommodation, namely that accommodation does not interfere with existing qualitative or probabilistic independencies. We show, however, that this assumption is implausible, as updating beliefs with conditional information does not (...)
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  8. added 2018-06-05
    A Revised, Gradability-Based Semantics for Even.Yael Greenberg - 2018 - Natural Language Semantics 26 (1):51-83.
    This paper concentrates on giving precise content to the general wisdom on the scalar presupposition of even, according to which the prejacent of even, p, is stronger than its relevant focus alternatives, q. To that end I first examine both familiar challenges for the popular ‘comparative likelihood’ view of the ‘stronger than’ relation, as well as novel challenges, having to do with the context dependency of even and with its sensitivity to standards of comparison. To overcome these challenges and to (...)
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  9. added 2018-05-18
    Frege’s Puzzle is About Identity After All.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Many philosophers have argued or taken for granted that Frege's puzzle has little or nothing to do with identity statements. I show that this is wrong, arguing that the puzzle can only be motivated relative to a thinker's beliefs about the identity or distinctness of the relevant object. The result is important, as it suggests that the puzzle can be solved, not by a semantic theory of names or referring expressions as such, but simply by a theory of identity statements. (...)
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  10. added 2018-03-09
    On the Presuppositions of Number Sentences.Katharina Felka - 2015 - Synthese 192 (5):1393-1412.
    This paper is concerned with an intuitive contrast that arises when we consider sentences containing empty definite descriptions. A sentence like ‘The king of France is bald’ appears neither true nor false, while a sentence like ‘My friend was visited by the king of France’ appears false. Recently, Stephen Yablo has suggested an account of this intuitive contrast. Yablo’s account is particularly interesting, since it has important consequences for the ontological commitments of number sentences like ‘The number of planets is (...)
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  11. added 2018-01-08
    Asymmetry in Presupposition Projection: The Case of Conjunction.Matthew Mandelkern, Jeremy Zehr, Jacopo Romoli & Florian Schwarz - forthcoming - Semantics and Linguistic Theory 27.
    Is the basic mechanism behind presupposition projection fundamentally asymmetric or symmetric? This is a basic question for the theory of presupposition, which also bears on broader issues concerning the source of asymmetries observed in natural language: are these simply rooted in superficial asymmetries of language use— language use unfolds in time, which we experience as fundamentally asymmetric— or can they be, at least in part, directly referenced in linguistic knowledge and representations? In this paper we aim to make progress on (...)
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  12. added 2017-11-02
    Conditional Heresies.Fabrizio Cariani & Simon Goldstein - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    The principles of Conditional Excluded Middle (CEM) and Simplification of Disjunctive Antecedents (SDA) have received substantial attention in isolation. Both principles are plausible generalizations about natural language conditionals. There is however little or no discussion of their inter- action. This paper aims to remedy this gap and explore the significance of having both principles constrain the logic of the conditional. Our negative finding is that, together with elementary logical assumptions, CEM and SDA yield a variety of implausible consequences. Despite these (...)
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  13. added 2017-08-23
    Pragmatics, Micropragmatics, Macropragmatics.Cap Piotr - 2010 - Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 6 (2):195-228.
    Pragmatics, Micropragmatics, Macropragmatics The paper addresses the distinction between micropragmatics and macropragmatics. It is postulated that this differentiation, a consequence of a number of controversies surrounding the core field of pragmatics, does manifest a number of conceptual merits and methodological feasibility. The article also aims to elaborate on the four concepts central to the methodology of pragmatics, i.e. deixis, presupposition, implicature and speech acts, from an essentially ‘micropragmatic’ perspective, describing their contribution to the proposition of an utterance, its illocutionary force, (...)
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  14. added 2017-07-19
    Hybrid Evaluatives: In Defense of a Presuppositional Account.Bianca Cepollaro & Isidora Stojanovic - 2016 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 93 (3):458-488.
    In this paper, the authors present a presuppositional account for a class of evaluative terms that encode both a descriptive and an evaluative component: slurs and thick terms. The authors discuss several issues related to the hybrid nature of these terms, such as their projective behavior, the ways in which one may reject their evaluative content, and the ways in which evaluative content is entailed or implicated (as the case may be) by the use of such terms.
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  15. added 2017-05-15
    Contextualism and the Problem of Known Presuppositions.Michael Blome-Tillmann - 2012 - In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), Knowledge Ascriptions. Oxford University Press. pp. 104.
  16. added 2017-04-29
    Modality, Presupposition and Discourse.Patrícia Amaral & Fabio Del Prete - forthcoming - In Ruth Lopes, Juanito Ornelas de Avelar & Sonia Cyrino (eds.), Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
    This paper provides a semantic analysis of the particles afinal (European Portuguese) and alla fine (Italian) in terms of the notion of truth unpersistence, which can be situated at the intersection of epistemic modality and discourse structure. In the analysis proposed, the particles are propositional operators and require that the truth of a proposition p* fail to persist through a temporal succession of epistemic states, this proposition being incompatible with the prejacent, and that the interlocutors share knowledge of a previous (...)
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  17. added 2017-04-01
    ‘Ought Implies Can’: Not So Pragmatic After All.Alex King - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (3):637-661.
    Those who want to deny the ‘ought implies can’ principle often turn to weakened views to explain ‘ought implies can’ phenomena. The two most common versions of such views are that ‘ought’ presupposes ‘can’, and that ‘ought’ conversationally implicates ‘can’. This paper will reject both views, and in doing so, present a case against any pragmatic view of ‘ought implies can’. Unlike much of the literature, I won't rely on counterexamples, but instead will argue that each of these views fails (...)
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  18. added 2017-03-03
    Saying Nothing : In Defence of Syntactic and Semantic Underdetermination.Mark Bowker - 2016 - Dissertation, University of St Andrews
    According to the Encoding Model, speakers communicate by encoding the propositions they want to communicate into sentences, in accordance with the conventions of a language L. By uttering a sentence that encodes p, the speaker says that p. Communication is successful only if the audience identifies the proposition that the speaker intends to communicate, which is achieved by decoding the uttered sentence in accordance with the conventions of L. A consequence of the Encoding Model has been the proliferation of underdetermination (...)
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  19. added 2017-03-02
    Dretske on Self-Knowledge and Contrastive Focus: How to Understand Dretske's Theory, and Why It Matters.Michael Roche & William Roche - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (5):975-992.
    Dretske’s theory of self-knowledge is interesting but peculiar and can seem implausible. He denies that we can know by introspection that we have thoughts, feelings, and experiences. But he allows that we can know by introspection what we think, feel, and experience. We consider two puzzles. The first puzzle, PUZZLE 1, is interpretive. Is there a way of understanding Dretske’s theory on which the knowledge affirmed by its positive side is different than the knowledge denied by its negative side? The (...)
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  20. added 2017-03-01
    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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  21. added 2017-02-14
    Science Between Presuppositions and Decisions.H. van Riessen - 1973 - Philosophia Reformata 38 (1):114-126.
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  22. added 2017-01-31
    On the Meaning of 'Therefore'.Carlotta Pavese - 2017 - Analysis 77 (1):88-97.
    I argue for an analysis of ‘therefore’ as presupposition trigger against the more standard conventional implicature story originally put forward by Grice (1975). I propose that we model the relevant presupposition as “testing” the context in a way that is similar to how, according to some dynamic treatments of epistemic `must', ‘must’ tests the context. But whereas the presupposition analysis is plausible for ‘therefore’, ‘must’ is not plausibly a presupposition trigger. Moreover, whereas ‘must’ can naturally occur under a supposition, the (...)
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  23. added 2017-01-28
    Fundamental Beliefs and Presuppositions Supplementary Conference Issue.R. T. Allen - 1997 - R.T. Allen.
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  24. added 2017-01-28
    Some Basic Presuppositions of Classical Philosophy.Claro Rafols Ceniza - 1974 - Dissertation, Syracuse University
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  25. added 2017-01-27
    The Formal Development of van Sandt's Presupposition Theory.Andrzej Wojcik - 1997 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 57:417-440.
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  26. added 2017-01-26
    1 Triggers.Jennifer McKitrick - 2013 - In Stephen Mumford & Matthew Tugby (eds.), Metaphysics and Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 123.
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  27. added 2017-01-25
    Truth, Knowledge, and Presupposition.Adam Grobler - 2001 - Logique Et Analyse 44:291.
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  28. added 2017-01-22
    Theses on Presuppositions.David Harrah - 1955 - Review of Metaphysics 9 (1):117 -.
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  29. added 2017-01-20
    On the Formalization of Strawson's Presupposition.Jacek Malinowski - 2006 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 91 (1):111-118.
    In this paper we analyze the Strawson's notion of presupposition proposed in his book Introduction to Logical Theory. Strawsonian notion of presupposition is dependent on the notion of logical entailment. We make use of the theory of logical consequence operation as a general framework to show that it is impossible to find a logical consequence operation which mirrors the philosophical intuitions of the Strawson's notions of presupposition. The aim of this paper is to present in details the philosophical backgrounds of (...)
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  30. added 2017-01-19
    August 2007.Mandy Simons - manuscript
    There seems little doubt that there are interesting and theoretically relevant distinctions to be made between different types of presuppositions within this heterogeneous set. But the study of these distinctions is of interest primarily in light of the intuition that the members of this set share some common feature: that there is some singular phenomenon of presupposition to be described and explained. This paper is concerned with what presuppositions have in common, and offers an alternative to the current standard view.
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  31. added 2017-01-19
    The Necessary Presuppositions of Language.Jon Wheatley - 1961 - Philosophical Quarterly 11 (44):256-259.
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  32. added 2017-01-19
    Presupposition and Objectivity in History.Sidney Ratner - 1940 - Philosophy of Science 7 (4):499-505.
  33. added 2017-01-18
    Presupposition and Two-Dimensional Logic.Merrie Bergmann - 1981 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 10 (1):27 - 53.
  34. added 2017-01-18
    A Note on Existence Presuppositions.R. Harre - 1956 - Philosophical Review 65 (4):548-549.
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  35. added 2017-01-18
    Science and Philosophy: Implications or Presuppositions?E. F. Caldin - 1950 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 1 (3):196-210.
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  36. added 2017-01-17
    A Blatant Case of Over-Accommodation.Valeria Ottonelli - unknown
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  37. added 2017-01-17
    Presuppositions and Appropriateness of Assertions.Filippo Domaneschi - 2011 - Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 7 (2):205-222.
    Presuppositions and Appropriateness of Assertions In this paper I aim to compare and evaluate two theoretic approaches to pragmatic presuppositions: the Common Ground account and Propositional Context account. According to the Common Ground account proposed by Stalnaker, it is appropriate to assert a sentence p that requires a presupposition q only if q is mutually believed as accepted as true and taken for granted by the interlocutors. Otherwise, Gauker claims that the ground of propositions taken for granted coincides with what (...)
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  38. added 2017-01-17
    Chapter 5 – Presupposition and Existence.Robert Greenberg - 2008 - In Real Existence, Ideal Necessity: Kant's Compromise, and the Modalities Without the Compromise. Walter de Gruyter.
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  39. added 2017-01-17
    Presupposition.Presuppositions and Non-Truth-Conditional Semantics.Scott Soames, David E. Cooper & Deirdre Wilson - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (2):274.
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  40. added 2017-01-17
    The Notion of Presupposition.Yuji Nishiyama - 1975 - Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 4 (5):271-287.
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  41. added 2017-01-17
    Discourse and Its Presuppositions.Robert L. Martin & Charles Landesman - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (4):556.
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  42. added 2017-01-16
    On Denying Presuppositions.Lenny Clapp - 2017 - Synthese 194 (6).
    Strawson :96–118, 1964) argued that definite NPs trigger presuppositions as an aspect of their conventional meanings, and this semantic conception of presupposition triggers is incorporated into the binding theory of presuppositions. The phenomenon of presupposition denials, however, presents a problem for the semantic conception of presupposition triggers, for in such denials the alleged semantic presuppositions seem to be “cancelled” by a negation operator. Geurts :274–307, 1998; Presupposition and pronouns, 1999) attempts to solve this problem by utilizing the binding theory’s allowance (...)
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  43. added 2017-01-16
    VI.—The Presuppositions of Philosophy.K. J. Spalding - 1924 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 24 (1):99-122.
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  44. added 2017-01-15
    Presupposition Projection and Logical Equivalence.Daniel Rothschild - 2008 - Philosophical Perspectives 22 (1):473-497.
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  45. added 2017-01-03
    Presumptions, Assumptions, and Presuppositions of Ordinary Arguments.Gilbert Plumer - 2017 - Argumentation 31 (3):469-484.
    Although in some contexts the notions of an ordinary argument’s presumption, assumption, and presupposition appear to merge into the one concept of an implicit premise, there are important differences between these three notions. It is argued that assumption and presupposition, but not presumption, are basic logical notions. A presupposition of an argument is best understood as pertaining to a propositional element (a premise or the conclusion) e of the argument, such that the presupposition is a necessary condition for the truth (...)
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  46. added 2016-12-14
    Parsing and Presupposition in the Calculation of Local Contexts.Matthew Mandelkern & Jacopo Romoli - forthcoming - Semantics and Pragmatics.
    In this paper, we use antecedent-final conditionals to formulate two problems for parsing-based theories of presupposition projection and triviality of the kind given in Schlenker 2009. We show that, when it comes to antecedent-final conditionals, parsing-based theories predict filtering of presuppositions where there is in fact projection, and triviality judgments for sentences which are in fact felicitous. More concretely, these theories predict that presuppositions triggered in the antecedent of antecedent-final conditionals will be filtered (i.e. will not project) if the negation (...)
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  47. added 2016-12-08
    Local Contexts and Local Meanings.Philippe Schlenker - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (1):115-142.
    Stalnaker ( 1978 ) made two seminal claims about presuppositions. The most influential one was that presupposition projection is computed by a pragmatic mechanism based on a notion of ‘local context’ . Due to conceptual and technical difficulties, however, the latter notion was reinterpreted in purely semantic terms within ‘dynamic semantics’ (Heim 1983 ). The second claim was that some instances of presupposition generation should also be explained in pragmatic terms . But despite various attempts, the definition of a precise (...)
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  48. added 2016-12-08
    Presuppositions and Quantifier Domains.Friederike Moltmann - 2006 - Synthese 149 (1):179-224.
    In this paper, I will argue for a new account of presuppositions which is based on double indexing as well as minimal representational contexts providing antecedent material for anaphoric presuppositions, rather than notions of context defined in terms of the interlocutors’ pragmatic presuppositions or the information accumulated from the preceding discourse. This account applies in particular to new phenomena concerning the presupposition of quantifier domains. But it is also intended to be an account of presuppositions in general. The account differs (...)
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  49. added 2016-12-08
    The Presuppositions of Critical History. [REVIEW]B. H. - 1970 - Review of Metaphysics 24 (2):336-337.
  50. added 2016-12-08
    Presuppositions of India's Philosophies. [REVIEW]W. E. - 1964 - Review of Metaphysics 17 (4):632-632.
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