Propositions as Objects of the Attitudes

In Chris Tillman & Adam Murray (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Propositions. Routledge (forthcoming)
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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.



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Author Profiles

Alex Grzankowski
Birkbeck, University of London
Ray Buchanan
University of Texas at Austin

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