I suggest a way of extending Stalnaker’s account of assertion to allow for centered content. In formulating his account, Stalnaker takes the content of assertion to be uncentered propositions: entities that are evaluated for truth at a possible world. I argue that the content of assertion is sometimes centered: the content is evaluated for truth at something within a possible world. I consider Andy Egan’s proposal for extending Stalnaker’s account to allow for assertions with centered content. I (...) argue that Egan’s account does not succeed. Instead, I propose an account on which the contents of assertion are identified with sets of multi-centered worlds. I argue that such a view not only provides a plausible account of how assertions can have centered content, but also preserves Stalnaker’s original insight that successful assertion involves the reduction of shared possibilities. (shrink)
Recent work has argued that belief is weak: the level of rational credence required for belief is relatively low. That literature has contrasted belief with assertion, arguing that the latter requires an epistemic state much stronger than (weak) belief---perhaps knowledge or even certainty. We argue that this is wrong: assertion is just as weak as belief. We first present a variety of new arguments for this, and then show that the standard arguments for stronger norms are not convincing. (...) Finally, we sketch an alternative picture on which the fundamental norm of assertion is to say what you believe, but both belief and assertion are weak. To help make sense of this, we propose that both belief and assertion involve navigating a tradeoff between accuracy and informativity, and so it can makes sense to believe/say something you only have weak evidence for, if it is informative enough. (shrink)
Surprisingly little has been written about hedged assertion. Linguists often focus on semantic or syntactic theorizing about, for example, grammatical evidentials or epistemic modals, but pay far less attention to what hedging does at the level of action. By contrast, philosophers have focused extensively on normative issues regarding what epistemic position is required for proper assertion, yet they have almost exclusively considered unqualified declaratives. This essay considers the linguistic and normative issues side-by-side. We aim to bring some order (...) and clarity to thinking about hedging, so as to illuminate aspects of interest to both linguists and philosophers. In particular, we consider three broad questions. 1) The structural question: when one hedges, what is the speaker’s commitment weakened from? 2) The functional question: what is the best way to understand how a hedge weakens? And 3) the taxonomic question: are hedged assertions genuine assertions, another speech act, or what? (shrink)
Sanford C. Goldberg presents a novel account of the speech act of assertion. He argues that this type of speech act is answerable to an epistemic, context-sensitive norm. On this basis he shows the philosophical importance of assertion for key debates in philosophy of language and mind, epistemology, and ethics.
I argue that the appropriateness of an assertion is sensitive to context—or, really, the “common ground”—in a way that hasn’t previously been emphasized by philosophers. This kind of context-sensitivity explains why some scientific conclusions seem to be appropriately asserted even though they are not known, believed, or justified on the available evidence. I then consider other recent attempts to account for this phenomenon and argue that if they are to be successful, they need to recognize the kind of context-sensitivity (...) that I argue for. (shrink)
In proxy assertion an individual or group asserts something through a spokesperson. The chapter explains proxy assertion as resting on the assignment of a status role to a person (that of spokesperson) whose utterances acts in virtue of that role have the status function of signaling that the principal is committed in a way analogous to an individual asserting that in his own voice. The chapter briefly explains how status functions and status roles are grounded and then treats, (...) in turn, the case of a spokesperson for an individual and a group and the differences in the significance of what the spokesperson does in each case. Finally, it reviews complications introduced by spokesperson autonomy, where the spokesperson is given leave to represent her principal’s views or positions in her own words and to respond to questions on his behalf. (shrink)
How should we undertand the role of norms—especially epistemic norms—governing assertive speech acts? Mitchell Green (2009) has argued that these norms play the role of handicaps in the technical sense from the animal signals literature. As handicaps, they then play a large role in explaining the reliability—and so the stability (the continued prevalence)—of assertive speech acts. But though norms of assertion conceived of as social norms do indeed play this stabilizing role, these norms are best understood as deterrents and (...) not as handicaps. This paper explains the stability problem for the maintenance of animal signals, and so human communication, for we are animals too, after all; the mechanics of the handicap principle; the role of deterrents and punishments as an alternative mechanism; and the role of social norms governing assertion for the case of human communication. (shrink)
It is increasingly recognized that knowledge is the norm of assertion. As this view has gained popularity, it has also garnered criticism. One widely discussed criticism involves thought experiments about “selfless assertion.” Selfless assertions are said to be intuitively compelling examples where agents should assert propositions that they don’t even believe and, hence, don’t know. This result is then taken to show that knowledge is not the norm of assertion. This paper reports four experiments demonstrating that “selfless (...) assertors” are viewed as both believing and knowing the propositions they assert: this is the natural and intuitive way of interpreting the case. Thought experiments about selfless assertions do not threaten the knowledge account and they do not motivate weaker alternative accounts. The discussion also highlights a general lesson for philosophers: thought experiments intended to probe for mental state attributions should not conflict with basic principles that guide social cognition. (shrink)
The present paper argues that there is a knowledge norm for conversational implicature: one may conversationally implicate p only if one knows p. Linguistic data about the cancellation behavior of implicatures and the ways they are challenged and criticized by speakers is presented to support the thesis. The knowledge norm for implicature is then used to present a new consideration in favor of the KK thesis. It is argued that if implicature and assertion have knowledge norms, then assertion (...) requires not only knowledge but iterated knowledge: knowing that you know that you know that... you know. Such a condition on permissible assertion is argued to be plausible only if the KK thesis is true. (shrink)
John N. Williams (1994) and Matthew Weiner (2005) invoke predictions in order to undermine the normative relevance of knowledge for assertions; in particular, Weiner argues, predictions are important counterexamples to the Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA). I argue here that they are not true counterexamples at all, a point that can be agreed upon even by those who reject KAA.
If a speaker selflessly asserts that p, the speaker has good evidence that p is true, asserts that p on the basis of that evidence, but does not believe that p. Selfless assertions are widely thought to be acceptable, and therefore to pose a threat to the Knowledge Norm of Assertion. Advocates for the Knowledge Norm tend to respond to this threat by arguing that there are no such things as selfless assertions. They argue that those who appear to (...) be selfless asserters either: believe what they assert, perform a speech act other than assertion, or assert a proposition other than the one that they seem to. I argue that such counterarguments are unsuccessful. There really are selfless assertions. But I also argue that they are no threat to the Knowledge Norm. There is a good case to be made that knowledge does not require belief. And if it does not, then the fact that some selfless assertions are appropriate does not tell against the Knowledge Norm. Indeed, I argue that selfless asserters know the propositions that they assert to be true. (shrink)
It is widely believed that the so-called knowledge account of assertion best explains why sentences such as “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t believe it” and “It’s raining in Paris but I don’t know it” appear odd to us. I argue that the rival rational credibility account of assertion explains that fact just as well. I do so by providing a broadly Bayesian analysis of the said type of sentences which shows that such sentences cannot express rationally (...) held beliefs. As an interesting aside, it will be seen that these sentences also harbor a lesson for Bayesian epistemology itself. (shrink)
We argue against the knowledge rule of assertion, and in favour of integrating the account of assertion more tightly with our best theories of evidence and action. We think that the knowledge rule has an incredible consequence when it comes to practical deliberation, that it can be right for a person to do something that she can't properly assert she can do. We develop some vignettes that show how this is possible, and how odd this consequence is. We (...) then argue that these vignettes point towards alternate rules that tie assertion to sufficient evidence-responsiveness or to proper action. These rules have many of the virtues that are commonly claimed for the knowledge rule, but lack the knowledge rule's problematic consequences when it comes to assertions about what to do. (shrink)
This chapter explores the prospects for justifying the somewhat widespread, somewhat firmly held sense that there is some moral advantage to untruthfully implicating over lying. I call this the "Difference Intuition." I define lying in terms of asserting, but remain open about what precise definition best captures our ordinary notion. I define implicating as one way of meaning something without asserting it. I narrow down the kind of untruthful implicating that should be compared with lying for purposes of evaluating whether (...) there is a moral difference between them. Just as lying requires a robust form of assertion, so the kind of untruthful implicating to be compared with lying requires a robust form of implicating. Next, I set out various ways of sharpening the Difference Intuition and survey a range of approaches to justifying one class of sharpenings. I finish by sketching an approach to justifying an alternative sharpening of the Difference Intuition, which is inspired by John Stuart Mill's discussion of lying. (shrink)
We present an inferentialist account of the epistemic modal operator might. Our starting point is the bilateralist programme. A bilateralist explains the operator not in terms of the speech act of rejection ; we explain the operator might in terms of weak assertion, a speech act whose existence we argue for on the basis of linguistic evidence. We show that our account of might provides a solution to certain well-known puzzles about the semantics of modal vocabulary whilst retaining classical (...) logic. This demonstrates that an inferentialist approach to meaning can be successfully extended beyond the core logical constants. (shrink)
In a series of articles (Pagin, 2004, 2009), Peter Pagin has argued that assertion is not a social speech act, introducing a method (which we baptize ‘the P-test’) designed to refute any account that defines assertion in terms of its social effects. This paper contends that Pagin's method fails to rebut the thesis that assertion is social. We show that the P-test is both unreliable (because it overgenerates counterexamples) and counterproductive (because it ultimately provides evidence in favor (...) of some social accounts). Nonetheless, we contend that assertion is not fully social. We defend an intermediate view according to which assertion is only a partly social speech act: assertions both commit the speaker to a proposition (a social component) and present their propositional content as true (a non-social component). The upshot is that assertion is in some important respect social, although it cannot be defined solely in terms of its social effects. (shrink)
This paper argues for a treatment of belief as essentially sensitive to certain features of context. The first part gives an argument that we must take belief to be context-sensitive in the same way that assertion is, if we are to preserve appealing principles tying belief to sincere assertion. In particular, whether an agent counts as believing that p in a context depends on the space of alternative possibilities the agent is considering in that context. One and the (...) same doxastic state may amount to belief that p in one context but not another. The second part of the paper gives a formal treatment of doxastic states, according to which belief is context-sensitive along just these lines. The model is applied to characterize (but not to refute) skeptical arguments. (shrink)
This paper uses the knowledge account of assertion (KAA) in defense of epistemological contextualism. Part 1 explores the main problem afflicting contextualism, what I call the "Generality Objection." Part 2 presents and defends both KAA and a powerful new positive argument that it provides for contextualism. Part 3 uses KAA to answer the Generality Objection, and also casts other shadows over the prospects for anti-contextualism.
We argue that honesty in assertion requires non-empirical knowledge that what one asserts is what one believes. Our argument proceeds from the thought that to assert honestly, one must follow and not merely conform to the norm ‘Assert that p only if you believe that p’. Furthermore, careful consideration of cases shows that the sort of doxastic self-knowledge required for following this norm cannot be acquired on the basis of observation, inference, or any other form of detection of one’s (...) own doxastic states. It is, as we put it, transparent rather than empirical self-knowledge. (shrink)
Recent literature features an increased interest in the sufficiency claim involved in the knowledge norm of assertion. This paper looks at two prominent objections to KNA-Suff, due to Jessica Brown and Jennifer Lackey, and argues that they miss their target due to value-theoretic inaccuracies. It is argued that the intuitive need for more than knowledge in Brown’s high-stakes contexts does not come from the epistemic norm governing assertion, but from further norms stepping in and raising the bar, and (...) Lackey’s purported quality-driven case against KNA-Suff boils down to a quantitative objection. If that is the case, Lackey’s argument will be vulnerable to the same objections as Brown’s. (shrink)
Some speech acts are made indirectly. It is thus natural to think that assertions could also be made indirectly. Grice’s conversational implicatures appear to be just a case of this, in which one indirectly makes an assertion or a related constative act by means of a declarative sentence. Several arguments, however, have been given against indirect assertions, by Davis (1999), Fricker (2012), Green (2007, 2015), Lepore & Stone (2010, 2015) and others. This paper confronts and rejects three considerations that (...) have been made: arguments based on the distinction between lying and misleading; arguments based on the ordinary concept of assertion; and arguments based on the testimonial knowledge that assertions provide. (shrink)
The oddities in lottery cases and Moore’s paradox appear to support the knowledge account of assertion, according to which one should assert only what one knows. This paper preserves an emphasis on epistemic norms but presents grounds for an alternative explanation. The alternative divides the explanandum, explaining the error in lottery and Moorean assertions with one move and their deeper incoherence with another. The error derives from a respect in which the assertions are uninformative: the speaker is not being (...) appropriately responsive to her addressee’s epistemic needs. And the incoherence derives from a deeper respect in which lottery and some (but not all) Moorean assertions are uninformative: it is difficult to see how the speaker’s assertion could express any judgment she has made or would relevantly make, since she transparently lacks epistemic authority to inform any conceivable interlocutor on the subject. This diagnosis suggests an epistemic approach not directly to assertion but to judgment. Without judging that p, how could a speaker be in the business of informing her addressee that p? If the speaker transparently lacks authority to inform anyone whether p – to give anyone her word that p – how could she without confusion count as judging that p? (shrink)
[The version of this paper published by Oxford online in 2019 was not copy-edited and has some sense-obscuring typos. I have posted a corrected (but not the final published) version on this site. The version published in print in 2020 has these corrections.] Which is more fundamental, assertion or testimony? Should we understand assertion as basic, treating testimony as what you get when you add an interpersonal addressee? Or should we understand testimony as basic, treating mere assertion (...) -- assertion without testimony -- as what you get when you subtract that interpersonal relation? In this chapter, I’ll argue for the subtractive approach and for the more general thesis that its treatment of the interpersonal element in assertion makes understanding that interpersonal element the key to understanding how assertion expresses belief. My theory of belief-expression in assertion treats it as internalizing the transmission of belief in testimony. How we understand that internalizing move depends on how we conceptualize the interpersonal element in testimony. Since what I’ll call the Command Model does not give us the conceptual resources to make this move, we should adopt an alternative that I’ll call the Custodial Model, on which a testifier aims not to convince her addressee but to reason with him – to give him reasons to believe what she tells him grounded in her trustworthiness in thus attempting to influence him. The subtractive approach to assertion thus rests on a key distinction between the aims of reasoning and persuasion. (shrink)
Pascal Engel (2008) has insisted that a number of notable strategies for rejecting the knowledge norm of assertion are put forward on the basis of the wrong kinds of reasons. A central aim of this paper will be to establish the contrast point: I argue that one very familiar strategy for defending the knowledge norm of assertion—viz., that it is claimed to do better in various respects than its competitors (e.g. the justification and the truth norms)— relies on (...) a presupposition that is shown to be ultimately under motivated. That presupposition is the uniqueness thesis—that there is a unique epistemic rule for assertion, and that such a rule will govern assertions uniformly. In particular, the strategy I shall take here will be to challenge the sufficiency leg of the knowledge norm in a way that at the same time counts against Williamson’s (2000) own rationale for the uniqueness thesis. However, rather than to challenge the sufficiency leg of the knowledge norm via the familiar style of ‘expert opinion’ and, more generally, ‘second-hand knowledge’ cases (e.g. Lackey (2008)), a strategy that has recently been called into question by Benton (2014), I’ll instead advance a very different line of argument against the sufficiency thesis, one which turns on a phenomenon I call epistemic hypocrisy. (shrink)
Assertion is widely regarded as an act associated with an epistemic position. To assert is to represent oneself as occupying this position and/or to be required to occupy this position. Within this approach, the most common view is that assertion is strong: the associated position is knowledge or certainty. But recent challenges to this common view present new data that are argued to be better explained by assertion being weak. Old data widely taken to support assertion (...) being strong has also been challenged. This paper examines such challenges and finds them wanting. Far from diminishing the case for strong assertion, carefully considering new and old data reveals that assertion is as strong as ever. (shrink)
I offer examples showing that, pace G. E. Moore, it is possible to assert ?Q and I don't believe that Q? sincerely, truly, and without any absurdity. The examples also refute the following principles: (a) justification to assert p entails justification to assert that one believes p (Gareth Evans); (b) the sincerity condition on assertion is that one believes what one says (John Searle); and (c) to assert (to someone) something that one believes to be false is to lie (...) (Don Fallis). (shrink)
The knowledge account of assertion—roughly: one should not assert what one does not know—aspires to identify the norm distinctive of assertion. One main argument given in support of the knowledge account has been the success with which it explains a variety of Moore-paradoxical assertion. But that explanation does not generalize satisfactorily.
An assertion is a speech act in which something is claimed to hold, e.g. that there are inﬁnitely many prime numbers, or, with respect to some time t, that there is a traﬃc congestion on Brooklyn Bridge at t, or, of some person x with respect to some time t, that x has a tooth ache at t. The concept of assertion has often occupied a central place in the philosophy of language, since it is often thought that (...) making assertions is the use of language most crucial to linguistic meaning, and since assertions are the natural expressions of cognitive attitudes, and hence of importance for theories of knowledge and belief. (shrink)
In this paper the informativeness account of assertion (Pagin in Assertion. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011) is extended to account for inference. I characterize the conclusion of an inference as asserted conditionally on the assertion of the premises. This gives a notion of conditional assertion (distinct from the standard notion related to the affirmation of conditionals). Validity and logical validity of an inference is characterized in terms of the application of method that preserves informativeness, and contrasted (...) with consequence and logical consequence, that is defined in terms of truth preservation. The proposed account is compared with that of Prawitz (Logica yearbook 2008, pp. 175-192. College Publications, London, 2009). (shrink)
This paper brings together two positions that for the most part have been developed and defended independently of one another: contextualism about knowledge attributions and the knowledge account of assertion.
Safety is a notion familiar to epistemologists principally because of the way in which it has been used in the attempt to cast light on the nature of knowledge. In particular, some have argued that an important constraint on knowledge is that one knows p only if one believes p safely. In this paper, I use safety for a different purpose: to cast light on the nature of assertion. I introduce what I call the safety account of assertion, (...) according to which one asserts p properly only if one asserts p safely. The central idea is that an assertion’s propriety depends on whether one could easily have asserted falsely in a similar case. I argue that the safety account is well motivated, since it neatly explains our intuitions about a wide range of assertions of different kinds. Of particular interest is the fact that the account explains our intuitions about several kinds of assertions which appear to raise problems for well-known rival accounts. (shrink)
Asserting is the act of claiming that something is the case—for instance, that oranges are citruses, or that there is a traffic congestion on Brooklyn Bridge (at some time). We make assertions to share information, coordinate our actions, defend arguments, and communicate our beliefs and desires. Because of its central role in communication, assertion has been investigated in several disciplines. Linguists, philosophers of language, and logicians rely heavily on the notion of assertion in theorizing about meaning, truth and (...) inference. -/- The nature of assertion and its relation to other speech acts and linguistic phenomena (implicatures, presuppositions, etc.) have been subject to much controversy. This entry will situate assertion within speech act theory and pragmatics more generally, and then go on to present the current main accounts of assertion. (shrink)
This essay uses a puzzle about assertion and time to explore the pragmatics, semantics, and epistemology of future discourse. The puzzle concerns cases in which a subject is in a position to say, at an initial time t, that it will be that ϕ, but is not in a position to say, at a later time t′, that it is or was that ϕ, despite not losing or gaining any relevant evidence between t and t′. We consider a number (...) of approaches to the puzzle and defend the view that subjects in these cases lose knowledge simply by moving through time. (shrink)
The Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA) says that knowledge is the norm of assertion: you may assert a proposition only if you know that it’s true. The primary support for KAA is an explanatory inference from a broad range of linguistic data. The more data that KAA well explains, the stronger the case for it, and the more difficult it is for the competition to keep pace. In this paper we critically assess a purported new linguistic datum, which, (...) it has been argued, KAA well explains. We argue that KAA does not well explain it. (shrink)
According to a widely held view of assertion and belief, they are each governed by a tacitly acknowledged epistemic norm, and the norm on assertion and norm on belief are so related that believing p is epistemically permissible only if asserting it is. I call it the Same Norm View. A very common type of utterance raises a puzzle for this view, viz. utterances in which we say ‘I believe p' to convey somehow guarded affirmation of the proposition (...) that p. For example, one might respond to a query for directions to the station by saying ‘I believe it is down the first street on your left.' Often, when we reply in this way, it would have been pragmatically preferable simply to assert that p, had we been epistemically warranted in doing so. One's guarded reply thus suggests one is not so warranted. Nevertheless, if one believes what one, at face value, says one believes, one believes p. Contrary to what might seem to be suggested by the Same Norm View, one does not seem to portray oneself as irrational or epistemically beyond the pale in replying in this way. The paper develops this puzzle in detail, and examines a variety of options for a resolving it consistently with the Same Norm view. The most promising of these options, I argue, is to see ‘I believe' guarded affirmations as a form merely approximately correct speech. They would, though, be a form of such speech that interestingly differs from paradigm cases of loose use or conventional hyperbole in that speakers would be comparatively unaware of engaging in approximation. I conclude ‘I believe’—guarded affirmations either show the Same Norm View to be false or must be recognised as such an interestingly distinctive form of merely approximately correct speech. (shrink)
In this paper I provide a theory of the speech act of assertion according to which assertion is a species of joint action. In doing so I rely on a theory of joint action developed in more detail elsewhere. Here we need to distinguish between the genus, joint action, and an important species of joint action, namely, what I call joint epistemic action. In the case of the latter, but not necessarily the former, participating agents have epistemic goals, (...) e.g., the acquisition of knowledge. It is joint epistemic action that assertion is a species of. (shrink)
I argue here for a view I call epistemic separabilism , which states that there are two different ways we can be evaluated epistemically when we assert a proposition or treat a proposition as a reason for acting: one in terms of whether we have adhered to or violated the relevant epistemic norm, and another in terms of how epistemically well-positioned we are towards the fact that we have either adhered to or violated said norm. ES has been appealed to (...) most prominently in order to explain why epistemic evaluations that conflict with the knowledge norm of assertion and practical reasoning nevertheless seem correct. Opponents of such a view are committed to what I call epistemic monism , which states that there is only one way we can be properly evaluated as epistemically appropriate asserters and practical reasoners, namely in terms of whether we have adhered to or violated the relevant norm. Accepting ES over EM has two significant consequences: first, a “metaepistemological” consequence that the structure of normative epistemic evaluations parallels that found in other normative areas , and second, that the knowledge norms of assertion and practical reasoning are no worse off than any alternatives in terms of either explanatory power or simplicity. (shrink)
In some lottery situations, the probability that your ticket's a loser can get very close to 1. Suppose, for instance, that yours is one of 20 million tickets, only one of which is a winner. Still, it seems that (1) You don't know yours is a loser and (2) You're in no position to flat-out assert that your ticket is a loser. "It's probably a loser," "It's all but certain that it's a loser," or even, "It's quite certain that it's (...) a loser" seem quite alright to say, but, it seems, you're in no position to declare simply, "It's a loser." (1) and (2) are closely related phenomena. In fact, I'll take it as a working hypothesis that the reason "It's a loser" is unassertable is that (a) You don't seem to know that your ticket's a loser, and (b) In flat-out asserting some proposition, you represent yourself as knowing it.1 This working hypothesis will enable me to address these two phenomena together, moving back and forth freely between them. I leave it to those who reject the hypothesis to sort out those considerations which properly apply to the issue of knowledge from those germane to that of assertability. Things are quite different when you report the results of last night's basketball game. Suppose your only source is your morning newspaper, which did not carry a story about the 1 game, but simply listed the score, "Knicks 83, at Bulls 95," under "Yesterday's Results." Now, it doesn't happen very frequently, but, as we all should suspect, newspapers do misreport scores from time to time. On several occasions, my paper has transposed a result, attributing to each team the score of its opponent. In fact, that your paper's got the present result wrong seems quite a bit more probable than that you've won the lottery of the above paragraph. Still, when asked, "Did the Bulls win yesterday?", "Probably" and "In all likelihood" seem quite unnecessary. "Yes, they did," seems just fine.. (shrink)
An account of assertion along truth-relativistic lines is offered. The main lines of relativism about truth are laid out and the problematic features that assertion acquires in the presence of relative truth are identified. These features are the possibility of coherently formulating norms of assertion and the possibility of grounding a rational practice of assertion upon relative truth. A solution to these problems is provided by formulating norms for making and assessing assertions that employ a suitably (...) relativized truth predicate and a perspectival notion of correctness. Two potential objections to this proposal are addressed. (shrink)
Many philosophers, following Williamson (The Philosophical Review 105(4): 489–523, 1996), Williamson (Knowledge and its Limits, Oxford, Oxford Univer- sity Press, 2000), subscribe to the constitutive rule account of assertion (CRAA). They hold that the activity of asserting is constituted by a single constitutive rule of assertion. However, in recent work, Maitra (in: Brown & Cappelen (ed). Assertion: new philosophical essays, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011), Johnson (Acta Analytica 33(1): 51–67, 2018), and Kelp and Simion (Synthese 197(1): 125–137, (...) 2020a), Kelp and Simion (in: Goldberg (ed) The Oxford Handbook of Assertion, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2020b) aim to show that, for all the most popular versions of the constitutive rule of assertion proposed in the literature, asserting is not an activity constituted by a single constitutive rule and that therefore CRAA is very likely false. To reach this conclusion, they all present a version of what can be dubbed the engagement condition objection. That is, they each propose a necessary condition on engaging in rule-constituted activities. Then they argue that, for all the most popular versions of the constitutive rule of assertion proposed in the literature, one can make assertions without satisfying this condition. In response, I present a counterexample that shows that the proposed engagement conditions lead to coun- terintuitive results, and I propose an alternative that better captures our intuitions. Then I argue that this alternative engagement condition is compatible with all the most popular versions of the constitutive rule of assertion. (shrink)
This essay is an opinionated exploration of the constraints that modal discourse imposes on the theory of assertion. Primary focus is on the question whether modal discourse challenges the traditional view that all assertions have propositional content. This question is tackled largely with reference to discourse involving epistemic modals, although connections with other flavors of modality are noted along the way.
If a speaker selflessly asserts that p, the speaker (1) has good evidence that p is true, (2) asserts that p on the basis of that evidence, but (3) does not believe that p. Selfless assertions are widely thought to be acceptable, and therefore to pose a threat to the Knowledge Norm of Assertion. Advocates for the Knowledge Norm tend to respond to this threat by arguing that there are no such things as selfless assertions. They argue that those (...) who appear to be selfless asserters either: believe what they assert, perform a speech act other than assertion, or assert a proposition other than the one that they seem to. I argue that such counterarguments are unsuccessful. There really are selfless assertions. But I also argue that they are no threat to the Knowledge Norm. There is a good case to be made that knowledge does not require belief. And if it does not, then the fact that some selfless assertions are appropriate does not tell against the Knowledge Norm. Indeed, I argue that selfless asserters know the propositions that they assert to be true. (shrink)
Jennifer Lackey (2018) has developed an account of the primary form of group assertion, according to which groups assert when a suitably authorized spokesperson speaks for the group. In this paper I pose a challenge for Lackey's account, arguing that her account obscures the phenomenon of group silencing. This is because, in contrast to alternative approaches that view assertions (and speech acts generally) as social acts, Lackey's account implies that speakers can successfully assert regardless of how their utterances are (...) taken up by their audiences. What reflection on group silencing shows us, I argue, is that an adequate account of group assertion needs to find a place for audience uptake. (shrink)
I defend the view that the truth conditions of the ordinary indicative conditional are those of the material conditional. This is done via a discussion of assertability and by appeal to conventional implicature rather than conversational implicature.
Rae Langton and Jennifer Hornsby provide accounts of how pornography silences women by appealing to J.L. Austin's account of speech-acts. Since their accounts focus only on instances of silencing where the hearer does not grasp the type of speech-act the speaker intends to perform, their accounts of silencing do not generalize to explain silencing that arises from what Miranda Fricker calls “testimonial injustice.” I argue that silencing arising from testimonial injustice can only be explained by what we shall call the (...) dialectical account of assertion, according to which assertion is the undertaking of a commitment in reasoned discourse. In doing so, I show that accounts of assertion based on speakers' intentions, proposals to common ground, and constitutive norms do not provide the necessary framework to explain silencing within the context of testimonial injustice. Having shown the strength of the dialectical account in explaining silencing, I conclude that the dialectical account also provides a way to remedy some instances of silencing arising from testimonial injustice providing further evidence that the dialectical account is the correct account of assertion. (shrink)
The meaning of a declarative sentence and that of an interrogative sentence differ in their aspect of mood. A semantics of mood has to account for the differences in meaning between these sentences, and it also has to explain that sentences in different moods may have a common core. The meaning of the declarative mood is to be explained not in terms of actual force (contra Dummett), but in terms of potential force. The meaning of the declarative sentence (including its (...) mood) is called the assertion-candidate, which is explained by what one must know in order to be entitled to utter the declarative with assertive force. Both a cognitive notion (knowledge) and a pragmatic notion (assertive force) are thus part of the explanation of the assertion-candidate. Davidson’s criticism that such a theory is in need of an account of the distinction between standard and non-standard uses of the declarative is answered: without counter-indications an utterance of a declarative sentence is understood as having assertive force. The meaning of an interrogative sentence, the question-candidate, and that of the other sentence types can ultimately be explained in terms of their specific relations to the assertion-candidate. Martin-Löf’s constructive type theory is used to show the philosophical relevance of a semantics of mood. The constructivist notion of proposition needs to be embedded in a theory of the assertion-candidate, which fulfils the offices of being the meaning of the declarative sentence, the content of judgement and assertion and the bearer of epistemic truth. (shrink)
According to Jonathan Kvanvig, the practice of taking back one’s assertion when finding out that one has been mistaken or gettiered fails to speak in favour of a knowledge norm of assertion. To support this claim, he introduces a distinction between taking back the content of the assertion, and taking back the speech act itself. This paper argues that Kvanvig’s distinction does not successfully face close speech-act-theoretic scrutiny. Furthermore, I offer an alternative diagnosis of the target cases (...) sourced in the normativity of action. (shrink)
In this paper, I provide the framework for an account of group assertion. On my view, there are two kinds of group assertion, coordinated and authority-based, with authority-based group assertion being the core notion. I argue against a deflationary view, according to which a group’s asserting is understood in terms of individual assertions, by showing that a group can assert a proposition even when no individual does. Instead, I argue on behalf of an inflationary view, according to (...) which it is the group itself that asserts, a conclusion supported by the fact that paradigmatic features of assertion apply only at the level of the group. A central virtue of my account is that it appreciates the important relationship that exists between most groups and their spokespersons, as well as the consequences that follow from this relationship. My view, thus, provides the framework for distinguishing when responsibility for an assertion lies at the collective level, and when it should be shouldered by an individual simply speaking for herself. (shrink)