Facts, Factives and Contra-Factives

Authors
Richard Holton
Cambridge University
Abstract
Frege begins his discussion of factives in 'On Sense and Reference' with an example of a purported contra-factive, i.e. a verb that entails the falsity of the complement sentence. But the verb he cites, 'waehnen', is now obsolete, and native speakers are sceptical about whether it really was a contra-factive. Despite the profusion of factive verbs, there are no clear examples of contra-factive propositional attitude verbs in English, French or German (or indeed any other Indo-European languages). This paper attempts to give an explanation of why there are no contra-factives, and to use this to shed light on the behaviour of factives more generally. The suggestion is that factive propositional attitude verbs take facts, not propositions, as the referents of their complement sentences; and that as there are no contra-facts (merely false propositions), there can be no contra-factives. This claim is also used to help explain Timothy Williamson's observation that knowledge is the weakest stative propositional attitude factive.. Complexity amongst the factives is then explored.
Keywords Factives  Facts  Propositional Attitudes
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