Propositions are the things we believe, intend, desire, and so on, but discussions are often less precise than they could be and an important driver of this deficiency has been a focus on the objects but a neglect of the attitudinal relations we bear to them. In what follows, we will offer some thoughts on what it means for a proposition to be the object of an attitude and we will argue that an important part of the story lies with (...) the attitude relations rather than the propositions. As we will see there are infinitely many relations we might bear to a proposition, but the propositional attitude relations are special amongst them. Accounting for what makes them special will be an important component in the discussion that follows. We will argue that once one appreciates certain facts about propositional attitude relations, various claims that metaphysicians often make regarding propositions themselves begin to look undermotivated. In fact, many views on the metaphysical nature of propositions come to look like plausible candidates for being that to which our propositional attitudes relate us. As will emerge, we will see that the principle role of propositions in the theory of mind is simply to keep track of how our attitudinal states represent things as being. But, we argue, in order to do this work, very few constraints must be placed on the nature of propositions themselves. In particular, contra much of the recent work on the metaphysics of propositions, they need not represent nor must they be structured. In light of these observations, we conclude by sketching our own favored minimalist view of propositions. (shrink)
I argue that the principal roles standardly envisaged for abstract propositions can be discharged to the sentences themselves. I discuss: Cognitive Value: Hesperus-Phosphorus; Indirect Sense and Propositional Attitudes; the Paradox of Analysis; the Picture Theory of the Tractatus; Syntactical Diagrams and Meaning; Quantifying-in. Patterns of Use. I end with comparisons with related views of the territory.
The original essays in this volume present new research on unstructured theories of content, which have traditionally played a central role in linguistics and philosophy of language. The volume explores a wide range of themes related to unstructured content, including both the continued controversy over whether unstructured theories individuate contents too coarsely and various applications of unstructured theories to topics like rationality, epistemic commitment, semantic expressivism, relevance, and propositional attitude ascriptions. It contains contributions from different theoretical perspectives, including both those (...) sympathetic to unstructured theories of content and those who are skeptical, as well as from different methodological backgrounds, with philosophy, logic, and linguistics all represented. With contributions from leading scholars in philosophy and linguistics, this volume will be of interest to anyone working in logic, metaphysics, or the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
I present a puzzle for the standard, propositional semantic account of belief reports by considering novel inferences which it incorrectly predicts to be invalid under assumptions that are plausible by its advocates’ own lights. In response, I propose a conservative departure from the standard view on which certain ‘that’-clauses designate novel devices of semantic type that I call open propositions. After outlining some desiderata for a theory of open propositions, I provide some reasons for advocates of the standard view to (...) treat them as properties of a certain kind. Then I give a bridge principle between the core notions of belief and belief-about before showing how the resulting view can be implemented in accordance with formal theories of syntax and semantics. I bring out some of the consequences this investigation has beyond our semantic theorizing and conclude, more generally, that any response to the puzzle requires paying some surprising cost or another. (shrink)
In their book, Narrow Content, Juhani Yli-Vakkuri and John Hawthorne attempt to argue against the claim that there is a kind of thought content which is both narrow and theoretically significant. However, their failure to distinguish indexical from non-indexical thought renders their arguments ineffective; a large class of the arguments they present are in fact irrelevant to the question of whether thought content is narrow. The unified treatment of thought content they advocate fails to capture the distinctively mental aspects of (...) indexical thought, and the kinds of indexical examples to which they appeal can tell us nothing very interesting about mental states. (shrink)
At Varro LL VI.56 and SE M 8.275-276, we find reports of the Stoic view that children and articulate non-rational animals such as parrots cannot genuinely speak. Absent from these testimonia is the peculiar case of the superficiality of the actor’s speech, which appears in one edition of the unstable text of PHerc 307.9 containing fragments of Chrysippus’ Logical Investigations. Commentators who include this edition of the text in their discussions of the Stoic theory of speech do not offer a (...) univocal account of the superficiality of the parrot’s, the child’s, and the actor’s speech. In this paper, I offer a reconstruction of the Stoic account of genuine and superficial speech and show that not only is there an account of superficial speech that univocally explains the superficiality of the speech of parrots, children, and actors, but that this account challenges traditional assumptions about the entities at the heart of the Stoic theory of language—lekta. It will turn out that genuine speech is the expression of a lekton by way of performing a speech act, and that this account of superficial speech can be used to explain other linguistic phenomena that are of interest to the Stoics, such as sentences in insoluble sophisms and sentences containing demonstratives that do not refer to anything in the subject term. Importantly, my reconstruction shows, against the near consensus view of lekta, that lekta do not primarily explain what makes an utterance meaningful. Rather, they primarily explain what makes an utterance an instance of genuine speech. (shrink)
Propositions are traditionally regarded as performing vital roles in theories of natural language, logic, and cognition. This chapter offers an opinionated survey of recent literature to assess whether they are still needed to perform three linguistic roles: be the meaning of a declarative sentence in a context, be what is designated by certain linguistic expressions, and be the content of illocutionary acts. After considering many of the relevant choice-points, I suggest that there remains a linguistic basis for propositions, but not (...) for some of the traditional reasons. (shrink)
Some Presentists—according to whom everything is present—identify instants of time with propositions of a certain kind. However, the view that times are propositions seems to be at odds with Presentism: if there are times then there are past times, and therefore things that are past; but how could there be things that are past if everything is present? In this paper, we describe the Presentist view that times are propositions ; we set out the argument that Presentism is incompatible with (...) the view that times are propositions ; and then we describe three possible responses to that argument on behalf of Presentists who identify times with propositions. We argue that each of these responses comes with significant costs. Finally, we describe a fourth possible response—according to which times are irreducibly higher-order entities—which appears to avoid the costs of the other three. We also describe and respond to two objections to the higher-order strategy. (shrink)
It is often presumed by those who use propositions in their theories that propositions are representational; that is, that propositions represent the world as being some way. This paper makes two claims against this presumption. First, it argues that it does not follow from the fact that propositions play the theoretical roles usually attributed to them that they are representational. This conclusion is reached by rebutting three arguments that can be made in support of the claim that propositions are representational. (...) This paper then advances the further claim that propositions are not representational. It considers several ways to overcome the difficulties traditionally associated with this claim, particularly how to account for falsity. (shrink)
As the label suggests, according to _propositionalism_, each intentional mental state, attitude or event is or involves a relation to a proposition. In this paper, I will discuss a case that seems prima facie not to be accountable for by propositionalism. After having presented the case, I will show why it is different from others that have been discussed in the literature as able to show that propositionalism cannot be correct. I will then consider what the propositionalist can say to (...) fix the problem and I will show that no strategy that is genuinely propositionalist seems promising. I will not conclude that propositionalism is doomed. But I will show that if propositionalism can account for our case at all, it can only do so by losing its main appeal, i.e. its elegance and simplicity. But then propositionalism seems to have lost its advantage with respect to its obvious alternative, i.e. a pluralist account according to which mental states, attitudes and events are not all homogeneously relations to propositions, but rather our mental life should be accounted for in terms of a plurality of kinds of relata. (shrink)
Consider the sentence “Lois knows that Superman flies, but she doesn’t know that Clark flies”. In this paper we defend a Millian contextualist semantics for propositional attitude ascriptions, according to which ordinary uses of this sentence are true but involve a mid-sentence shift in context. Absent any constraints on the relevant parameters of context sensitivity, such a semantics would be untenable: it would undermine the good standing of systematic theorizing about the propositional attitudes, trivializing many of the central questions of (...) epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of action. In response to this problem, we prove a series of tenability results. We show that, given certain constraints on the parameters of context sensitivity, there is a broad class of principles of propositional attitude psychology whose good standing follows from corresponding claims about people’s mental representations. But these constraints also have some surprising consequences: they are jointly incompatible with coarse-grained theories of propositions, and they are in tension with a natural picture of how speakers and hearers coordinate on the interpretation of attitude ascriptions. In light of these consequences we explore different ways in which the contextualist picture might be developed, and argue that our preferred way compares favorably with Fregeanism and neo-Russellianism. (shrink)
We propose a framework that makes space for both non-indexical contextualism and assessment-sensitivity. Such pluralism is motivated by considering possible variance in judgments about retraction. We conclude that the proposed pluralism, instead of problematizing, vindicates defining truth of a proposition w.r.t. a context of utterance and a context of assessment. To implement this formally, we formalize initialization of parameters by contexts. Then, a given parameter, depending on a speaker's judgment, can get initialized by either the context of utterance or the (...) context of assessment. An upshot of the proposal is that one need not exclusively espouse one of non-indexical contextualism or assessment-sensitivity about a particular class of expressions, for instance predicates of personal taste, in language; one can be pluralist in this sense. (This manuscript is part of an ongoing research project). (shrink)
In a series of articles (Pagin, 2004, 2009), Peter Pagin has argued that assertion is not a social speech act, introducing a method (which we baptize ‘the P-test’) designed to refute any account that defines assertion in terms of its social effects. This paper contends that Pagin's method fails to rebut the thesis that assertion is social. We show that the P-test is both unreliable (because it overgenerates counterexamples) and counterproductive (because it ultimately provides evidence in favor of some social (...) accounts). Nonetheless, we contend that assertion is not fully social. We defend an intermediate view according to which assertion is only a partly social speech act: assertions both commit the speaker to a proposition (a social component) and present their propositional content as true (a non-social component). The upshot is that assertion is in some important respect social, although it cannot be defined solely in terms of its social effects. (shrink)
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 (...) and (2) assumptions that the indexical belief of the speaker, when successfully communicated, must be acquired by the hearer as indexical, too. The theory of indexical communication that I propose here is laid out in the mental files framework and devoid of the two aforementioned elements. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Natural language semantics is heir to two formalisms. There is the extensional machinery of explicit variables traditionally used to model reference to individuals, and the intensional machinery of implicit index parameters traditionally used to model reference to worlds and times. I propose instead a simple and unified extensional formalism – explicit semantics – on which all sentences include explicit individual, world and time variables. No implicit index parameters are needed.
De se attitudes seem to play a special role in action and cognition. This raises a challenge to the traditional way in which mental attitudes have been understood. In this chapter, we review the case for thinking that de se attitudes require special theoretical treatment and discuss various ways in which the traditional theory can be modified to accommodate de se attitudes.
Do representational pictures have propositional contents? The current paper argues that the characteristic contents of pictures are predicative rather than propositional: pictures characterise things as looking certain ways, and they thereby express properties of visual perspectives. The paper argues that the characteristic predicative contents of pictures are nonetheless able to feature in fully-fledged propositional contents once they are combined with contents of other suitable sorts. Various facts about communicative uses of pictures are then explained. The paper concludes by considering the (...) bearing of its conclusions upon questions about the relationships between linguistic representation and pictorial representation. (shrink)
The view that dominates the literature on intentional attitudes holds that beliefs and desires both have propositional content. A commitment to what I call “content uniformity” underlies this view. According to content uniformity, beliefs and desires are but different psychological modes having a uniform kind of content. Prima facie, the modes don’t place any constraint on the kinds of content the attitude can have. I challenge this consensus by pointing out an asymmetry between belief contents and desire contents which shows (...) content uniformity to be mistaken. I do this by revisiting the arguments of Richard (Philosophical Studies, 39(1): 1–13, 1981), and show that arguments which purport to show the temporal specificity of belief contents yield the opposite results for desire contents. I defend this preliminary conclusion from various strategies to neutralize the asymmetry claim. My defense provides occasions to respond to objections by Brogaard (2012) and Recanati (2007) to the Richard argument, and to get clearer on the role of temporal adjuncts in desire ascriptions. Finally, I consider whether the construal of attitude content as centered propositions (as in Lewis Philosophical Review, 88(4): 513–543, 1979) can be invoked to vindicate content uniformity. My conclusion is that while the framework itself doesn’t vindicate content uniformity, it could, but only if it availed itself of a further, substantive thesis about desire, which itself is in need of defense. (shrink)
Trenton Merricks argues that we need propositions to serve as the premises and conclusions of modally valid arguments (Merricks 2015). A modally valid argument is an argument in which, necessarily, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is also true. According to Mer- ricks, the premises and conclusions of modally valid arguments have their truth conditions essentially, and they exist necessarily. Sentences do not satisfy these conditions. Thus, we need propositions. Merricks’ argument adds a new chapter to the longstanding (...) debate over the exis- tence of propositions. However, I argue that Merricks’ argument does not quite succeed. Merricks has overlooked one viable alternative to pos- tulating propositions. However, this alternative employs the relation of being true-at-a-world, which is difficult to analyze. Thus, the soundness of Merricks’ argument ultimately depends on the comparative merits of accepting propositions as abstract entities, versus accepting truth-at-a- world as an unanalyzed relation between sentences and possible worlds. (shrink)
ABSTRACTA widespread view in the philosophy of mind and action holds that intentions are propositional attitudes. Call this view ‘Propositionalism about Intention’. The key alternative holds that intentions have acts, or do-ables, as their contents. Propositionalism is typically accepted by default, rather than argued for in any detail. By appealing to a key metaphysical constraint on any account of intention, I argue that on the contrary, it is the Do-ables View which deserves the status of the default position, and Propositionalism (...) which bears the burden of proof. I go on to show that this burden has not been met in the literature. (shrink)
For sentences such as (1), "Columbus knows that the sea is unpredictable", there is a face-value theory, according to which ‘that’-clauses are singular terms denoting propositions. Famously, Prior raised an objection to the theory, but defenders of the face-value theory such as Forbes, King, Künne, Pietroski and Stanley urged that the objection could be met by maintaining that in (1) ‘to know’ designates a complex relation along the lines of being in a state of knowledge having as content. Is the (...) theory safe, then? The aim of this paper is to show that a new problem for the theory arises if we consider attributions of skills, knacks, propensities and abilities. (shrink)
According to the classical account, propositions are sui generis, abstract, intrinsically-representational entities and our cognitive attitudes, and the token states within us that realize those attitudes, represent as they do in virtue of their propositional objects. In light of a desire to explain how it could be that propositions represent, much of the recent literature on propositions has pressured various aspects of this account. In place of the classical account, revisionists have aimed to understand propositions in terms of more familiar (...) entities such as facts, types of mental or linguistic acts, and even properties. But we think that the metaphysical story about propositions is much simpler than either the classical theorist or the revisionist would have you believe. In what follows, we argue that a proper understanding of the nature of our cognitive relations to propositions shows that the question of whether propositions themselves represent is, at best, a distraction. We will argue that once this distraction is removed, the possibility of a very pleasing, minimalist story of propositions emerges; a story that appeals only to assumptions that are shared by all theorists in the relevant debate. (shrink)
Those arguing for the existence of non-propositional content appeal to emotions for support, although there has been little engagement in those debates with developments in contemporary theory of emotion, specifically in connection with the kind of mental states that emotional experiences are. Relatedly, within emotion theory, one finds claims that emotional experiences per se have non-propositional content without detailed argument. This paper argues that the content of emotional experience is propositional in a weak sense, associated with aspectual experience and correctness (...) conditions. Furthermore, it provides an interpretation of purely-objectual emotional experiences which satisfies this weak view of propositional content. (shrink)
Semantics in the Montagovian tradition combines two basic tenets. One tenet is that the semantic value of a sentence is an intension, a function from points of evaluations into truth-values. The other tenet is that the semantic value of a composite expression is the result of applying the function denoted by one component to arguments denoted by the other components. Many philosophers object to intensional semantics on the grounds that intensionally equivalent sentences do not substitute salva veritate into attitude ascriptions. (...) They propose instead that the semantic values of sentences must be structured propositions. In rejecting intensional semantics, philosophers who endorse structured propositions also usually reject functional compositionality, undermining both tenets of the Montagovian programme. I defend a semantic theory that incorporates both structured propositions and functional compositionality. I argue that this semantic theory can preserve many explanatory benefits of Montague semantics. Finally, I show how treating composition functional application can resolve core problems internal to a theory of structured propositions. (shrink)
There is a salient contrast in how theoretical representations are regarded. Some are regarded as revealing the nature of what they represent, as in familiar cases of theoretical identification in physical chemistry where water is represented as hydrogen hydroxide and gold is represented as the element with atomic number 79. Other theoretical representations are regarded as serving other explanatory aims without being taken individually to reveal the nature of what they represent, as in the representation of gold as a standard (...) for pre-20th century monetary systems in economics or the representation of the meaning of an English sentence as a function from possible worlds to truth values in truth-conditional semantics. Call the first attitude towards a theoretical representation *realist* and the second attitude *instrumentalist*. Philosophical explanation purports to reveal the nature of whatever falls within its purview, so it would appear that a realist attitude towards its representations is a natural default. I offer reasons for skepticism about such default realism that emerge from attending to several case studies of philosophical explanation and drawing a general metaphilosophical moral from the foregoing discussion. (shrink)
Propositions are posited to perform a variety of explanatory roles. One important role is being what is designated by a dedicated linguistic expression like a "that"-clause. In this paper, the case that propositions are needed for such a role is bolstered by defending that there are other expressions dedicated to designating propositions. In particular, it is shown that natural language has anaphors for propositions. Complement "so" and the response markers "yes" and "no" are argued to be such expressions.
I intended to write four papers whose topics faintly concerned separate issues in meaning and modality. As it turned out, chapters 1-3 all roughly concern the same topic: propositions. While I argue for two different theses in chapters 1 and 2, I try to understand the changing propositions literature in both. In addition to arguing for the respective theses in chapters 1 and 2, accounting for this change is a parallel goal for the chapters taken together. Chapter 3 examines particular (...) propositional roles---the objects of the attitudes and the objects of credence. Finally, chapter 4 changes the subject to the second conjunct in the title---modality, specifically of the epistemic kind. (shrink)
Linguistic meaning underdetermines what is said. This has consequences for philosophical accounts of meaning, communication, and propositional attitude reports. I argue that the consequence we should endorse is that utterances typically express many propositions, that these are what speakers mean, and that the correct semantics for attitude reports will handle this fact while being relational and propositional.
Propositionalism is the view that all intentional states are propositional states, which are states with a propositional content, while objectualism is the view that at least some intentional states are objectual states, which are states with objectual contents, such as objects, properties, and kinds. This paper argues that there are two distinct ways of understanding propositionalism and objectualism: (1) as views about the deep nature of the contents of intentional states, and (2) as views about the superficial character of the (...) contents of intentional states. I argue that we should understand the views in the second way. I also argue that the propositionalism debate is fairly independent from debates over the deep nature of intentionality, and that this has implications for arguments for propositionalism and objectualism from claims about the nature of intentional content. I close with a short discussion of how related points apply to the debate over singular content. (shrink)
This paper argues that truth predicates in natural language and their variants, predicates of correctness, satisfaction and validity, do not apply to propositions (not even with 'that'-clauses), but rather to a range of attitudinal and modal objects. As such natural language reflects a notion of truth that is primarily a normative notion of correctness constitutive of representational objects. The paper moreover argues that 'true' is part of a larger class of satisfaction predicates whose semantic differences are best accounted for in (...) terms of a truthmaker theory along the lines of Fine's recent truthmaker semantics. (shrink)
Millianism is the doctrine according to which the semantic content of a proper name is exhausted by its referent. This article raises and attempts to solve a dilemma for Millians: either a proper name of a truth bearer is in turn a truth bearer ; or having a truth bearer as semantic content is not sufficient for a linguistic expression to be a truth bearer. As it will be shown in the manuscript, the dilemma does not arise with “that”-clauses in (...) the place of proper names, if “that”-clauses are taken to be non-Millian designators whose semantic content is not a truth bearer. An account of “that”-clauses having such features and originating with Salmon, Frege's Puzzle, will be defended. (shrink)
This article focuses on foundational issues in dynamic and static semantics, specifically on what is conceptually at stake between the dynamic framework and the truth-conditional framework, and consequently what kinds of evidence support each framework. The article examines two questions. First, it explores the consequences of taking the proposition as central semantic notion as characteristic of static semantics, and argues that this is not as limiting in accounting for discourse dynamics as many think. Specifically, it explores what it means for (...) a static semantics to incorporate the notion of context change potential in a dynamic pragmatics and denies that this conception of static semantics requires that all updates to the context be eliminative and distributive. Second, it argues that the central difference between the two frameworks is whether semantics or pragmatics accounts for dynamics, and explores what this means for the oft-heard claim that dynamic semantics blurs the semantics/pragmatics distinction. (shrink)
The question I address here is whether there is anything about what Rattan describes as the normative and perspectival aspects of propositional attitudes that demands a relational account of the attitudes, specifically anything that cannot equally well be explained on measurement-theoretic accounts of the sort that I (and others) have defended which do not incorporate or presume a cognitive relation to a proposition. I argue that there is not.
According to the Relational View of Propositional Attitude Reports (‘Relational View of Reports’, for short), attitude reports report thinkers as standing in cognitive relations to propositions. One difficult question for the view is: What is the nature of the cognitive relation(s) thinkers stand in to propositions in having propositional attitudes? One promise of The Measure Theory of Mind (sometimes, ‘The Measure Theory’ or ‘Measure Theory’ for short) is that it can avoid having to answer this question by allowing attitude reports (...) to be relational in form without taking the atti- tudes themselves to be relational, and a fortiori without taking propositional attitudes to involve any cognitive relation to propositions. This paper argues that if the propositional attitudes are conceived of in a robust way that emphasizes their normative and perspectival aspects, then this promise of The Measure Theory cannot be realized. If there is a viable Measure Theory for mind conceived of in these robust terms, it must incorporate, rather than dismiss, the notion of a cognitive relation to a proposition. (shrink)
The standing tradition in theorizing about meaning, since at least Frege, identifies meaning with propositions, which are, or determine, the truth-conditions of a sentence in a context. But a recent trend has advocated a departure from this tradition: in particular, it has been argued that modal claims do not express standard propositional contents. This non-propositionalism has received different implementations in expressivist semantics and certain kinds of dynamic semantics. They maintain that the key aspect of interpretation of modal claims is the (...) characteristic dynamic effect they have on the context. I argue that pessimism about truth-conditions arises from an overly simplistic picture of content, context and their interaction. While I agree with the critics that an important aspect of modal meaning is the dynamic effect modals have on the context, I argue that they have mischaracterized the nature and the complexity of this effect. A more nuanced account of the interaction between modals and context shows that far from being incompatible with propositional meaning, the dynamic aspect of meaning is precisely what allows us to predict the correct propositional content of an utterance. (shrink)
It has been argued by many authors that sentences fail to express full-blown propositions: a phenomenon known as semantic underdeterminacy. In some cases, this thesis is accompanied by a conception of thought as fully propositional. This implies that sentences fail to fully express our thoughts. Against this, I argue that many thoughts can be fully expressed by sentences, where by ‘fully expressed’ I mean encoded by a sentence plus minimal contextual information. These are thoughts that may be characterized as less (...) than fully propositional. I provide examples of such thoughts and argue that they plausibly constitute a non-negligible part of our mental life. As I show, these thoughts can be fully expressed by sentences that fail to express full-blown propositions. So it is not the case that sentences even generally fail to fully express our thoughts. (shrink)
David Chalmers uses Bayesian theories of credence to argue against referentialism about belief. This paper argues that Chalmers’s Bayesian objections to referentialism are similar to older, more familiar objections to referentialism. There are familiar responses to the old objections, and there is a predictable way to modify those old responses to meet Chalmers’s Bayesian objections. The new responses to the new objections are no less plausible than the old responses to the old objections. Chalmers’s positive theory of belief and credence (...) is structurally similar to typical referential theories of those objects, but his theory is more speculative and dubious. (shrink)
In this paper I take a careful look at Nathan Salmon’s translation argument from his paper “The Very Possibility of Language: A Sermon on Missing Church” to see if it proves as much as Salmon claims. In particular, should we consider the translation argument conclusive evidence that belief ascriptions must be relations between individuals and propositions and that a sentential account is completely inadequate? I don’t think so. Salmon is too quick to dismiss the sentential account on the basis of (...) the translation argument. I will argue that for Salmon to truly give a convincing argument, he needs to give a more complete defense of his intuitions concerning translation and quotation. I aim to accomplish this by re-examining the work of Steven Leeds and Tyler Burge, whose arguments Salmon writes off without adequate grounds. (shrink)
The standard truth-conditional semantics for substitutional quantification, due to Saul Kripke, does not specify what proposition is expressed by sentences containing the particular substitutional quantifier. In this paper, I propose an alternative semantics for substitutional quantification that does. The key to this semantics is identifying an appropriate propositional function to serve as the content of a bound occurrence of a formula containing a free substitutional variable. I apply this semantics to traditional philosophical reasons for interest in substitutional quantification, namely, theories (...) of truth and ontological commitment. (shrink)
Although philosophers of art and aesthetics regularly appeal to a notion of ‘pictorial content’, there is little agreement over its nature. The present paper argues that pictures have propositional contents. This conclusion is reached by considering a style of argument having to do with the phenomenon of negation intended to show that pictures must have some kind of non-propositional content. I first offer reasons for thinking that arguments of that type fail. Second, I show that when properly understood, such arguments (...) can in fact be turned on their heads and shown to support the propositionalist position. (shrink)
The thesis of Ineffability has it that no proposition can be fully expressed by a sentence, this meaning that no sentence-type, or even sentence-token whose indexicality and ambiguities have been resolved, can fully encode a proposition. The thesis of the propositionality of thoughts has it that thoughts are propositional. An implication of the joint endorsement of these two theses is that thoughts are ineffable. The aim of this paper is to argue that this is not the case: there are effable (...) thoughts, and we can even safely say that, generally, thoughts are effable. In order to defend this insight, I first counter the thesis of the propositionality of thought by bringing some counterexamples to it, which amount to cases of non-fully propositional thought. I then argue that, if thoughts can be and often are non-fully propositional, they can be expressed by sentences that fail to fully express a proposition. I also show that the propositional thoughts that we can entertain are after all effable (in a suitable, relevant sense) and resist some alleged examples of insurmountable ineffability. (shrink)
Propositional attitude sentences, such as (1) Pierre believes that snow is white, have proved to be formidably difficult to account for in a semantic theory. It is generally agreed that the that-clause ‘that snow is white’ purports to refer to the proposition that snow is white, but no agreement has been reached on what this proposition is. Sententialism is a semantic theory which tries to undermine the very enterprise of understanding what proposition is referred to in (1): according to sententialists, (...) in (1) reference is made to the sentence “Snow is white”. Sententialism is generally considered doomed. The two main reasons why are the famous translation argument, firstly suggested by Alonzo Church, and a problem raised by Stephen Schiffer. The purpose of this paper is to provide a unified solution to both criticisms. What I take to be the key ingredient sententialists may exploit is an observation that concerns the nature of languages and quotations: since quotation marks display the quoted material, if you are a speaker of the language the quoted material belongs to, you usually cannot but understand what is quoted. Moreover, I show that sententialists may appeal to that very observation also in order to answer another problem, pointed out by Kent Bach. I conclude that there are good reasons for resisting the temptation of introducing propositions in order to account for propositional attitude sentences. (shrink)
Chalmers (Mind 120(479): 587–636, 2011a) presents an argument against “referentialism” (and for his own view) that employs Bayesianism. He aims to make progress in a debate over the objects of belief, which seems to be at a standstill between referentialists and non-referentialists. Chalmers’ argument, in sketch, is that Bayesianism is incompatible with referentialism, and natural attempts to salvage the theory, Chalmers contends, requires giving up referentialism. Given the power and success of Bayesianism, the incompatibility is prima facie evidence against referentialism. (...) In this paper, I review Chalmers’ arguments and give some responses on behalf of the referentialist. (shrink)
The Effability thesis has it that all propositions can be encoded by a sentence. By contrast, the Ineffability thesis has it that no proposition can be encoded by a sentence. In this article, I undermine an important motivation for the Ineffability thesis and advance a proposal concerning what is effable and what is not. My strategy will be as follows: First, I'll note that the Ineffability thesis assumes that propositions/thoughts are determinate. I'll point out that propositions/thoughts qua the things we (...) believe and mean by our utterances may in fact be indeterminate with regard to, for instance, mental predication and mental reference. I'll then propose a “Gradable Effability”: propositions/thoughts are more or less determinate according to the aims, interests, available information of thinkers, and sentences too encode propositions depending on the aims, interests, available information in the speakers' conversational setting. (shrink)