Rearming the slingshot

“Slingshot” arguments are all the rage. And no wonder. For if they turn out to be sound, our approach to most of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language would be brutally undermined. Slingshot arguments are typically reductio arguments that aim to show that an allegedly non-extensional sentential connective— such as “necessarily ( )” or “the statement that Φ corresponds to the fact that ( )”—is, to the contrary, an extensional sentential connective. That an alleged non-extensional sentential connective would turn out to be extensional is devastating for it would lead to such radical conclusions as: (i) if sentences or proposition refer to facts, then all facts collapse into one big fact, (ii) if sentences or propositions refer to anything, then they refer to their truth value (which means there is just one thing to which all true sentences refer (e.g., the True), and just one thing that all false sentences refer (e.g., the False)), (iii) modal distinctions collapse, such that ‘necessarily p’ and ‘possibly p’ reduce to ‘p,’ etc.1 The recent resurgence of interest in slingshot arguments is primarily due to Neale (2001)—which is an expansion of Neale (1995)2—where it is argued that slingshot arguments are not only philosophically interesting in their own right, but that they put a “descriptive constraint” on certain theories of facts. Neale thinks that theories of facts are pressured by a certain reformulation of Gödel’s slingshot argument to adopt a particular semantic view of definite descriptions. More specifically, Neale thinks that theories of..
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