Propositional temporalism is the view that there are temporary propositions: propositions that are true, but not always true. Factual futurism is the view that there are futurist facts: facts that obtain, but that will at some point not obtain. Most A-theoretic views in the philosophy of time are committed both to propositional temporalism and to factual futurism. Mark Richard, Jeffrey King and others have argued that temporary propositions are not fit to be the contents of propositional attitudes, or to be (...) the semantic values of natural language utterances. But these discussions have overlooked another role that the A-theorist’s posits struggle to play: the role of facts in explaining other facts. Focusing on the case of action explanation by reasons, this paper presents the challenge that explanation poses for factual futurism. It then brings that challenge to bear against propositional temporalism and the A-theory more generally. My argument saddles the factual futurist with surprising commitments concerning reasons, facts and explanation. The futurist might accept those commitments and pay the price. The alternative – which I prefer – is to reject factual futurism, and with it the A-theory. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions. Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years. Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that render them no longer propositional. Focusing in recent variants of these arguments involving quantification and (...) binding, we argue that a correct understanding of how composition works gives no reason to relativize semantic values, and that propositional semantic values are in fact the preferred option. We take our argument to be mainly empirical, but along the way, we defend some more general theses. Simple propositional semantic values are viable in composition, we maintain, because composition is itself a complex phenomenon, involving multiple modes of composition. Furthermore, some composition principles make adjustments to the meanings of constituents in the course of composition. These adjustments are by triggered syntactic environments. We argue such small contributions of meaning from syntactic structure are acceptable. (shrink)
Kaplan (1989) famously claimed that monsters--operators that shift the context--do not exist in English and "could not be added to it". Several recent theorists have pointed out a range of data that seem to refute Kaplan's claim, but others (most explicitly Stalnaker 2014) have offered a principled argument that monsters are impossible. This paper interprets and resolves the dispute. Contra appearances, this is no dry, technical matter: it cuts to the heart of a deep disagreement about the fundamental structure of (...) a semantic theory. We argue that: (i) the interesting notion of a monster is not an operator that shifts some formal parameter, but rather an operator that shifts parameters that play a certain theoretical role; (ii) one cannot determine whether a given semantic theory allows monsters simply by looking at the formal semantics; (iii) theories which forbid shifting the formal "context" parameter are perfectly compatible with the existence of monsters (in the interesting sense). We explain and defend these claims by contrasting two kinds of semantic theory--Kaplan's (1989) and Lewis's (1980). (shrink)
Certain passages in Kaplan’s ‘Demonstratives’ are often taken to show that non-vacuous sentential operators associated with a certain parameter of sentential truth require a corresponding relativism concerning assertoric contents: namely, their truth values also must vary with that parameter. Thus, for example, the non-vacuity of a temporal sentential operator ‘always’ would require some of its operands to have contents that have different truth values at different times. While making no claims about Kaplan’s intentions, we provide several reconstructions of how such (...) an argument might go, focusing on the case of time and temporal operators as an illustration. What we regard as the most plausible reconstruction of the argument establishes a conclusion similar enough to that attributed to Kaplan. However, the argument overgenerates, leading to absurd consequences. We conclude that we must distinguish assertoric contents from compositional semantic values, and argue that once they are distinguished, the argument fails to establish any substantial conclusions. We also briefly discuss a related argument commonly attributed to Lewis, and a recent variant due to Weber. (shrink)
One way that philosophers have attempted to defend free will against the threat of fatalism and against the threat from divine beliefs has been to endorse timelessness views. In this paper, I argue that, in order to respond to general worries about fatalism and divine beliefs, timelessness views must appeal to the notion of dependence. Once they do this, however, their distinctive position as timelessness views becomes otiose, for the appeal to dependence, if it helps at all, would itself be (...) sufficient to block worries about fatalism and divine beliefs. I conclude by discussing some implications for dialectical progress. (shrink)
Two of the main debates in philosophy of language concerning time and tense are the debate about the semantics of the tenses in the English language and the debate over whether propositions can be transiently true or false as opposed to always being eternally true or false. The latter quarrel is also known as the "temporalism–eternalism debate." Given standard semantics, the two debates are not logically independent, as we will see. Those who believe propositions are eternally true or false needn’t (...) treat the tenses as operators. Their opponents, on the other hand, appear to be committed to an operator theory of the tenses, given a standard semantic framework. In this chapter I will focus primarily on these two debates. (shrink)
A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile. Following Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken. According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoric content. Stojnić insists that views which distinguish the roles of content and semantic value (...) must nevertheless ensure a tight connection between the two. But, she contends, there is a crucial disanalogy between the views that follow Lewis and the views that follow Dummett. Stanley’s Dummettian view is argued to contain a fatal flaw: On such views, there is no way to secure an appropriate connection between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoric content. I will review the background issues from Dummett, Evans, Lewis, and Stanley, and provide a principled way of bridging the gap between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoric content. (shrink)
The Rigidity Thesis states that no rigid term can have the same semantic content as a nonrigid one. Drawing on Dummett (1973; 1991), Evans (1979; 1982), and Lewis (1980), Stanley (1997a; 1997b; 2002) rejects the thesis since it relies on an illicit identification of compositional semantic content and the content of assertion (henceforth, assertoric content). 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 also challenge a recent two-dimensionalist defense of Stanley by Ninan (2012). The moral is far-reaching: any theory that invokes a distinction between semantic and assertoric contents is unsatisfactory unless it can plausibly explain the connection between them. (shrink)
This paper aims to clarify the connection between the logic of temporal distinctions and the temporal features of propositions. Contra Prior, it argues that the adoption of tense operators does not commit one to the view that propositions can change their truth value over time.
The Epistemic Objection says that certain theories of time imply that it is impossible to know which time is absolutely present. Standard presentations of the Epistemic Objection are elliptical—and some of the most natural premises one might fill in to complete the argument end up leading to radical skepticism. But there is a way of filling in the details which avoids this problem, using epistemic safety. The new version has two interesting upshots. First, while Ross Cameron alleges that the Epistemic (...) Objection applies to presentism as much as to theories like the growing block, the safety version does not overgeneralize this way. Second, the Epistemic Objection does generalize in a different, overlooked way. The safety objection is a serious problem for a widely held combination of views: “propositional temporalism” together with “metaphysical eternalism”. (shrink)
In her Transient Truths, Berit Brogaard defends temporalism about proposition content from the more traditional eternalist views. I argue that both temporalism and eternalism are equally capable of accommodating all the data, and thus suggest that we should adopt a neutralism that holds there is no serious or resolvable dispute. Contra Brogaard, I argue that neither disagreement patterns nor belief dynamics favor temporalism over eternalism. I also suggest that Brogaard's defense of operator over quantificational semantics for tense is unnecessary, because (...) quantificational tense semantics can be given a temporalist reading, and operator tense semantics can be given an eternalist reading. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes two importantly different kinds of temporalism. According to one version, the truth value of propositions is parameterized to times. According to a second version, propositions have a truth value simpliciter, but some propositions that are true will be or were false. I point out that the second version is neglected in Berit Brogaard's Transient Truths, and explore whether there are good arguments against it implicit in that work. I also critically engage with various arguments presented by Brogaard (...) against semantic eternalism. (shrink)
In the pair of articles of which this is the second, I present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. These problems are related to the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness should be thought (...) of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In the first article, “Relativism 1: Representational Content”, I discussed the general issue of relativism about representational content. I argued for the conciliatory view that both relativist and absoutist conceptions of representational content can be legitimate. In the present continuation, I look in more detail at a special case of the general issue, namely the question of whether semantic contents, i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language, should be construed in an absolutist or in a relativist way. (shrink)
Kaplan (1989a) insists that natural languages do not contain displacing devices that operate on character—such displacing devices are called monsters. This thesis has recently faced various empirical challenges (e.g., Schlenker 2003; Anand and Nevins 2004). In this note, the thesis is challenged on grounds of a more theoretical nature. It is argued that the standard compositional semantics of variable binding employs monstrous operations. As a dramatic first example, Kaplan’s formal language, the Logic of Demonstratives, is shown to contain monsters. For (...) similar reasons, the orthodox lambda-calculus-based semantics for variable binding is argued to be monstrous. This technical point promises to provide some far-reaching implications for our understanding of semantic theory and content. The theoretical upshot of the discussion is at least threefold: (i) the Kaplanian thesis that “directly referential” terms are not shiftable/bindable is unmotivated, (ii) since monsters operate on something distinct from the assertoric content of their operands, we must distinguish ingredient sense from assertoric content (cf. Dummett 1973; Evans 1979; Stanley 1997), and (iii) since the case of variable binding provides a paradigm of semantic shift that differs from the other types, it is plausible to think that indexicals—which are standardly treated by means of the assignment function—might undergo the same kind of shift. (shrink)
Transient Truths: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Propositions provides the first book-length exposition and defense of semantic temporalism, the view that propositions are contents or semantic values that can change their truth-values across time.
Jeffrey King has recently argued: (i) that the semantic value of a sentence at a context is (or determines) a function from possible worlds to truth values, and (ii) that this undermines Jason Stanley's argument against the rigidity thesis, the claim that no rigid term has the same content as a non-rigid term. I show that King's main argument for (i) fails, and that Stanley's argument is consistent with the claim that the semantic value of a sentence at a context (...) is (or determines) a function from worlds to truth values. (shrink)
This essay investigates whether or not we should think that the things we say are identical to the things our sentences mean. It is argued that these theoretical notions should be distinguished, since assertoric content does not respect the compositionality principle. As a paradigmatic example, Kaplan's formal language LD is shown to exemplify a failure of compositionality. It is demonstrated that by respecting the theoretical distinction between the objects of assertion and compositional values certain conflicts between compositionality and contextualism are (...) avoided. This includes the conflict between eternalism and the semantics of tense, the embedding problems for contextualism about epistemic modals and taste claims, and the conflict between direct reference and the semantics of bound pronouns (and monstrous operators). After presenting the theoretical picture which distinguishes assertoric content from compositional semantic value, some objections to the picture are addressed. In so doing, the objection from King (2003) stemming from apparent complications with the interaction of temporal expressions and attitude reports is assessed and shown to be non-threatening. (shrink)
It is argued that propositions cannot be the compositional semantic values of sentences (in context) simply due to issues stemming from the compositional semantics of modal operators (or modal quantifiers). In particular, the fact that the arguments for double indexing generalize to multiple indexing exposes a fundamental tension in the default philosophical conception of semantic theory. This provides further motivation for making a distinction between two sentential semantic contents—what (Dummett 1973) called “ingredient sense” and “assertoric content”.
Kaplan (drawing on Montague and Prior, inter alia) made explicit the idea of world and time neutral propositions, which bear truth values only relative to world and time parameters. There was then a debate over the role of time. Temporalists sided with Kaplan in maintaining time neutral propositions with time relative truth values, while eternalists claimed that all propositions specify the needed time information and so bear the same truth value at all times. But there never was much of a (...) parallel debate over the role of worlds. Let contingentism be the view (parallel to temporalism) that sides with Kaplan in maintaining world neutral propositions with world relative truth values, and let necessitarianism be the view (parallel to eternalism) that propositions specify the needed world information and so bear the same truth value at all worlds. This is the story of how the debate between the contingentists and the necessitarians might begin. (shrink)
It is a widely held view in philosophy that propositions perform a plethora of different theoretical roles. Amongst other things, they are believed to be the semantic values of sentences in contexts, the objects of attitudes, the contents of illocutionary acts, and the referents of that-clauses. This assumption is often combined with the claim that propositions have their truth-values eternally. In this paper I aim to show that these two assumptions are incompatible: propositions cannot both fulfill the mentioned roles and (...) be eternally true or false. Following Kaplan and Lewis’s Operator Argument, I argue that compositional semantic values of sentences in contexts do not correspond to eternal propositions. Thus, either we regard the non-eternal entities that in fact realize the semantic role of propositions as also fulfilling the remaining propositional roles, or we abandon the assumption that there is a unique realizer of all the roles. The Operator Argument has recently come under attack, mainly for its tense-logical assumptions. However, rejecting these assumptions is not a sufficient defense of the compatibility of the two claims, since the extensional alternative to the tense-logical framework does not allow us to universally retain eternal propositions as compositional semantic values of sentences either. (shrink)
The beginning of the twenty-first century saw something of a comeback for relativism within analytical philosophy. Relativism and Monadic Truth has three main goals. First, we wished to clarify what we take to be the key moving parts in the intellectual machinations of self-described relativists. Secondly, we aimed to expose fundamental flaws in those argumentative strategies that drive the pro-relativist movement and precursors from which they draw inspiration. Thirdly, we hoped that our polemic would serve as an indirect defence of (...) a traditional and natural picture concerning truth. According to this picture, what we call ‘Simplicity’, the fundamental structure of semantic reality is best revealed by construing truth as a simple monadic property of propositions that serve as the objects of belief, assertion, meaning and agreement. Our project was not a straightforward one. So-called relativists are not uniform in their key ideology, are often sloppy, casual, obscure or confused in their self-characterization, and differ in their argumentative emphasis among themselves and over time, thereby presenting a target that is both amorphous and shifty. This is an area where parties will frequently claim not to understand each other and where certain parties will sometimes accuse others of failing to make any sense at all. In such a situation, any effort to impose order will inevitably strike some parties as tendentious and unfair. That said, we felt that we had enough of …. (shrink)
Cappelen and Hawthorne’s Relativism and Monadic Truth (2009) offers an extended defense of a thesis they call simplicity, which, in brief, holds that propositions are true or false simpliciter. Propositions are cast in their traditional roles as the contents of assertions, and as the semantic values of declarative sentences in contexts. Simplicity stands in sharp contrast to forms of relativism including, for instance, a form that hold that our claims are true or false only relative to a judge. This applies (...) especially to claims of taste, which come out true or false only relative to the judge who finds things tasty (e.g. Glanzberg 2007, Lasersohn 2005). But simplicity also rejects the more widespread temporalist view that propositions are true or false only relative to a time, and it rejects the even more widely held view that propositions are true or false only relative to a world. One reason that has been advanced for temporalism, e.g. by Kaplan (1989), is that our languages seem to contain non-trivial temporal operators. Hence, the argument goes, the semantic values of sentences need to be temporally neutral, i.e. vary for truth or falsehood with time. The same goes for possible worlds and modal operators. Hence, Kaplan and many others think of the semantic values of sentences as sets of world-time pairs. It has been tempting to apply this sort of argument much more widely, to see the semantic values of sentences as varying not just with world and time, but perhaps with location and other parameters as well. Kaplan.. (shrink)
This paper is about the relationship between two questions: the question of what the objects of assertion are and the question of how best to theorise about ‘shifty’ phenomena like modality and tense. I argue that the relationship between these two questions is less direct than is often supposed. I then explore the consequences of this for a number of debates in the philosophy of language.
I will begin with a brief presentation of C & H’s arguments against nonindexical contextualism, temporalism, and relativism. I will then offer a general argument against the monadic truth package. Finally, I will offer arguments in favor of nonindexical contextualism and temporalism.
Cappelen and Hawthorne present a powerful critique of fashionable relativist accounts of truth, and the foundational ideas in semantics on which the new relativism draws. They argue compellingly that the contents of thought and talk are propositions that instantiate the fundamental monadic properties of truth and falsity.
Many philosophers of language and mind have recognized the existence of two distinct kinds of content assigned to our linguistic and mental representations. Thus following Kaplan , the character is the linguistic meaning of an expression-type, while the content is the propositional content expressed by a token of that expression in a context. Perry applied Kaplan's distinction in the analysis of belief: the proposition p is what a subject S believes, and the belief state is that in virtue of which (...) S believes p; where belief states are individuated by the characters of the sentences that S is disposed to assert. And Barwise and Etchemendy distinguished between the infon and the Austinian proposition, where the former is the content to be evaluated with respect to a situation, and the latter is the complete content, including both the infon and the situation.The possibility of operating with two kinds of content arises when a distinction is drawn between two kinds of context-dependence. Since Kaplan, we are familiar with the idea that context determines both the content of a sentence containing an indexical and the circumstance with respect to which that content is evaluated. So, truth values depend on the context of utterance and on the circumstance of evaluation. Whether an utterance of ‘I feel elated’ is true or false depends on both which proposition is expressed, i.e. who the speaker is, and on whether that proposition is evaluated with respect to the time and world of the context. Variation in either factor makes for a potential change in truth value. Also well-known is Kaplan's idea that contents have relative truth conditions: they are true with respect to world-time-place triples. The temporal operator ‘now’ in ‘I feel elated now’ specifies the time with respect to which the proposition …. (shrink)
The assumption that the future is open makes well known problems for traditional semantics. According to a commonly held intuition, today's occurrence of the sentence 'There will be a sea battle tomorrow', while truth-valueless today, will have a determinate truth-value by tomorrow night. Yet given traditional semantics, sentences that are truth-valueless now cannot later 'become' true. Relativistic semantics has been claimed to do a better job of accommodating intuitions about future contingents than non-relativistic semantics does. However, intuitions about future contingents (...) cannot by themselves give good reasons for shifting to a new paradigm, for despite the initial appearances, standard non-relativistic semantics (plus an account of truth-value gaps) can accommodate both intuitions about future contingents. (shrink)
Our thought and talk are situated. They do not take place in a vacuum but always in a context, and they always concern an external situation relative to which they are to be evaluated. Since that is so, François Recanati argues, our linguistic and mental representations alike must be assigned two layers of content: the explicit content, or lekton, is relative and perspectival, while the complete content, which is absolute, involves contextual factors in addition to what is explicitly represented. Far (...) from reducing to the context-independent meaning of the sentence-type or, in the psychological realm, to the 'narrow' content of mental representations, the lekton is a level intermediate between context-invariant meaning and full propositional content. Recognition of that intermediate level is the key to a proper understanding of context-dependence in language and thought. Going beyond the usual discussions of indexicality and unarticulated constituents in the philosophy of language, Recanati turns to the philosophy of mind for decisive arguments in favour of his approach. He shows, first, that the lekton is the notion of content we need if we are to properly understand the relations between perception, memory, and the imagination, and second, that the psychological 'mode' is what determines the situation the lekton is relative to. In this framework he provides a detailed account of de se thought and the first person point of view. In the last part of the book, Recanati discusses the special freedom we have, in discourse and thought, to shift the situation of evaluation. He traces that freedom to a special mode - the anaphoric mode - which enables us to go beyond the egocentric stage of pre-human thought. (shrink)
If, relative to a context, what a sentence says is necessarily true, then what it says must be so. If, relative to a context, what a sentence says is possible, then what it says could be true. Following natural philosophical usage, it would thus seem clear that in assessing an occurrence of a sentence for possibility or necessity, one is assessing what is said by that occurrence. In this paper, I argue that natural philosophical usage misleads here. In assessing an (...) occurrence of a sentence for possibility or necessity, one is not assessing the modal status of the proposition expressed by that occurrence of the sentence. (shrink)
This paper is in three sections. In the first I describe and illustrate three uses of indices of truth in semantics. The way I illustrate this classification is not completely uncontroversial, but I expect that my intuitions on this matter are generally shared. In the second section I broach a question which is central to the metaphysics of time, namely: how should certain temporal indices of truth - times - be fitted within this classificatory scheme? I sketch three proposals as (...) to how this might be done, and show how they constitute different metaphysical conceptions of the nature of time. Finally, in the third section I turn to a specific problem with the classification of times (as indices of truth) I call 'non-indexical'. Mellor (1981) thinks this problem insoluble, and argues that it shows this classification to be absurd. However, by appealing to the modal analogues of the issues involved, I first show that Mellor's argument is question- begging, and then go on to show how the non-indexical classification of times might undermine the presuppositions on which his argument rests. The paper attempts to contribute to a discussion of the question raised in section II, not to provide a definitive answer to it. (shrink)