Pragmatics and the Semantics of Belief

Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles (1983)

Jonathan Berg
University of Haifa
It is shown how the discussion of the semantics of sentences attributing belief, central to the philosophy of language since Frege, may benefit from consideration of pragmatic features of the context of utterance. ;The dissertation begins with a historical introduction to the problem of substitutivity in belief contexts. Traditional solutions advanced by Frege, Russell, and Carnap are reviewed, along with traditional objections to such solutions. It is then suggested that the traditional Quinian approach of declaring belief ascriptions semantically ambiguous might be avoided by appeal to pragmatic considerations. ;Radically divergent appeals to pragmatics are discussed. It is suggested, on one hand, how theories of reference associated with philosophers such as Kripke and Kaplan can benefit from pragmatic analysis, as it is demonstrated that substitution failure in belief ascriptions may be due to pragmatic rather than semantical factors. This is argued for in three ways: it is shown how the result of unacceptable substitution may be pragmatically ambiguous, insufficiently informative, or simply misleading. ;It is also suggested, on the other hand, how some followers of Frege may similarly argue that substitution success may be due to pragmatic rather than semantical factors. That is, it is shown how those who maintain that substitution in belief contexts is not truth-preserving and, roughly, that a sentence attributing a belief to someone is true only if the person would assent to it, can argue that our occasional inclination to accept a belief report to which the believer would not assent may be due to features of the sentence's utterance, rather than its truth conditions. ;After brief speculation on the ramifications of these pragmatic analyses for the semantics of belief, there is a discussion of the principle methodological issues raised by pragmatic analyses, with special attention to the distinction between pragmatic import and semantical meaning. Further discussion of pragmatics comes in the appendix, containing a critical review of various conceptions of pragmatics and of Grice's theory of conversation
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The Pragmatics of Substitutivity.Jonathan Berg - 1988 - Linguistics and Philosophy 11 (3):355 - 370.

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