De Re And De Dicto: Against The Conventional Wisdom

Noûs 36 (s16):225-265 (2002)
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Conventional wisdom has it that there is a class of attitude ascriptions such that in making an ascription of that sort, the ascriber undertakes a commitment to specify the contents of the ascribee’s head in what might be called a notionally sensitive, ascribee-centered way. In making such an ascription, the ascriber is supposed to undertake a commitment to specify the modes of presentation, concepts or notions under which the ascribee cognizes the objects (and properties) that her beliefs are about. Consequently, it is widely supposed that an ascription of the relevant sort will be true just in case it specifies either directly or indirectly both what the ascribee believes and how she believes it. The class of “notionally sensitive” ascriptions has been variously characterized. Quine (1956) calls the class I have in mind the class of notional ascriptions and distinguishes it from the class of relational ascriptions. Others call the relevant class the class of de dicto ascriptions and distinguish it from the class of de re ascriptions. More recently, it has been called the class of notionally loaded ascriptions (Crimmins 1992, 1995). So understood, the class can be contrasted with the class of notionally neutral ascriptions. Just as the class of notional/de dicto/notionally loaded ascriptions is supposed to put at semantic issue the ascribee’s notions/conceptions/modes of presentation, so ascriptions in the relational/de re/notionally neutral class are supposed not to..



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Kenneth Taylor
PhD: University of Chicago; Last affiliation: Stanford University