This essay investigates whether or not we should think that the things we say are identical to the things our sentences mean. It is argued that these theoretical notions should be distinguished, since assertoriccontent does not respect the compositionality principle. As a paradigmatic example, Kaplan's formal language LD is shown to exemplify a failure of compositionality. It is demonstrated that by respecting the theoretical distinction between the objects of assertion and compositional values certain conflicts between compositionality and (...) contextualism are avoided. This includes the conflict between eternalism and the semantics of tense, the embedding problems for contextualism about epistemic modals and taste claims, and the conflict between direct reference and the semantics of bound pronouns (and monstrous operators). After presenting the theoretical picture which distinguishes assertoriccontent from compositional semantic value, some objections to the picture are addressed. In so doing, the objection from King (2003) stemming from apparent complications with the interaction of temporal expressions and attitude reports is assessed and shown to be non-threatening. (shrink)
The paper argues that colouring is a conventional ingredient of literal meaning characterized by a considerable degree of semantic under-determination and a high degree of context-sensitivity. The positive, though tentative, suggestion made in the paper is that whereas in the case of words such as "but" and "damn" we are dealing with words lacking in specificity, in the case of pejoratives in general, and racist jargon in particular, we are dealing with words that express concepts that purport to describe the (...) world as being in a certain way. The circumstance that in certain contexts of utterance colouring can be cancelled out, does not show that it forms a detachable part of a word's literal meaning. It only shows that to account for the interplay between context, literal meaning and assertoriccontent is much trickier than meets the eye. (shrink)
The Rigidity Thesis states that no rigid term can have the same semantic content as a nonrigid one. Drawing on Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley rejects the thesis since it relies on an illicit identification of compositional semantic content and the content of assertion. I argue that Stanley’s critique of the Rigidity Thesis fails since it places constraints on assertoriccontent that cannot be satisfied by any plausible notion of content appropriately related to compositional (...) semantic content. For similar reasons, I also challenge a recent two-dimensionalist defense of Stanley by Ninan. The moral is far-reaching: any theory that invokes a distinction between semantic and assertoric contents is unsatisfactory unless it can plausibly explain the connection between them. (shrink)
According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoriccontent, he argues, but merely (...) constrains it — speaker’s meaning necessarily comes into play. On the alternative picture he offers, there are four basic levels, only one of which is determined by the grammar. Pragmatics is what enables the transition from each level to the next. (shrink)
This paper argues that Michael Dummett's proposed distinction between a declarative sentence's "assertoriccontent" and "ingredient sense" is not in fact supported by what Dummett presents as paradigmatic evidence in its support.
It is argued that propositions cannot be the compositional semantic values of sentences (in context) simply due to issues stemming from the compositional semantics of modal operators (or modal quantifiers). In particular, the fact that the arguments for double indexing generalize to multiple indexing exposes a fundamental tension in the default philosophical conception of semantic theory. This provides further motivation for making a distinction between two sentential semantic contents—what (Dummett 1973) called “ingredient sense” and “assertoriccontent”.
A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile. Following Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken. According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoriccontent. Stojnić insists that views which distinguish the roles of content (...) and semantic value must nevertheless ensure a tight connection between the two. But, she contends, there is a crucial disanalogy between the views that follow Lewis and the views that follow Dummett. Stanley’s Dummettian view is argued to contain a fatal flaw: On such views, there is no way to secure an appropriate connection between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoriccontent. I will review the background issues from Dummett, Evans, Lewis, and Stanley, and provide a principled way of bridging the gap between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoriccontent. (shrink)
This thesis argues for two main points concerning the philosophy of natural language semantics. Firstly, that the objects of assertion are distinct from the entities appealed to in the compositional rules of natural language semantics. Secondly, natural languages contain context-shifting operators known as "monsters". In fact, it will be shown that these theses are simply two sides of the same coin.
This paper sets out to evaluate the claim that Aristotle’s Assertoric Syllogistic is a relevance logic or shows significant similarities with it. I prepare the grounds for a meaningful comparison by extracting the notion of relevance employed in the most influential work on modern relevance logic, Anderson and Belnap’s Entailment. This notion is characterized by two conditions imposed on the concept of validity: first, that some meaning content is shared between the premises and the conclusion, and second, that (...) the premises of a proof are actually used to derive the conclusion. Turning to Aristotle’s Prior Analytics, I argue that there is evidence that Aristotle’s Assertoric Syllogistic satisfies both conditions. Moreover, Aristotle at one point explicitly addresses the potential harmfulness of syllogisms with unused premises. Here, I argue that Aristotle’s analysis allows for a rejection of such syllogisms on formal grounds established in the foregoing parts of the Prior Analytics. In a final section I consider the view that Aristotle distinguished between validity on the one hand and syllogistic validity on the other. Following this line of reasoning, Aristotle’s logic might not be a relevance logic, since relevance is part of syllogistic validity and not, as modern relevance logic demands, of general validity. I argue that the reasons to reject this view are more compelling than the reasons to accept it and that we can, cautiously, uphold the result that Aristotle’s logic is a relevance logic. (shrink)
An act’s form of apprehension (Auffassungsform) determines whether it is a perception, an imagination, or a signitive act. It must be distinguished from the act’s quality, which determines whether the act is, for instance, assertoric, merely entertaining, wishing, or doubting. The notion of form of apprehension is explained by recourse to the so-called content–apprehension model (Inhalt-Auffassung Schema); it is characteristic of the Logical Investigations that in it all objectifying acts are analyzed in terms of that model. The distinction (...) between intuitive and signitive acts is made, and the notion of saturation (Fu ̈lle) is described, by recourse to the notion of form of apprehension. (shrink)
In Mind and World, John McDowell argues against the view that perceptual representation is non-conceptual. The central worry is that this view cannot offer any reasonable account of how perception bears rationally upon belief. I argue that this worry, though sensible, can be met, if we are clear that perceptual representation is, though non-conceptual, still in some sense 'assertoric': Perception, like belief, represents things as being thus and so.
Brian Loar  observed that, even in the simplest of cases, such as an utterance of (1): ‘He is a stockbroker’, a speaker's audience might misunderstand her utterance even if they correctly identify the referent of the relevant singular term, and understand what is being predicated of it. Numerous theorists, including Bezuidenhout , Heck , Paul , and Récanati [1993, 1995], have used Loar's observation to argue against direct reference accounts of assertoriccontent and communication, maintaining that, even (...) in these simple cases, the propositional contribution of a referring expression must be more than just its referent. -/- I argue here that, while Loar's observation is correct, the conclusion he and others have sought to draw from it simply does not follow. Rather, his observation helps to remind us of an important Gricean insight into the nature of communicative acts—including acts of speaker-reference—namely, that there is more to understanding a communicative act than merely entertaining what a speaker is intending to communicate thereby. Once we remember this insight, we see that the phenomenon to which Loar is calling our attention should actually be expected given the direct reference theorist's assumptions, together with independently plausible Gricean principles concerning how we make our referential intentions manifest in communication. More generally, the Gricean strategy for explaining the challenge posed by Loar cases suggests a novel way to account for certain crucial anti-direct reference intuitions—one requiring no modification of the original theory (e.g., no invocation of ‘descriptive enrichments’ as in Soames ), thereby allowing for a direct reference account of what is asserted in utterances of ‘simple sentences’ such as (1). (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension of it that readily solves the Frege–Geach problem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, (...) but it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity, and embedding. (shrink)
I outline a discourse-based account of presuppositions that relies on insights from the writings of Peter Strawson, as well as on insights from more recent work by Robert Stalnaker and Barbara Abbott. One of the key elements of my account is the idea that presuppositions are “assertorically inert”, in the sense that they are background propositions, rather than being part of the “at issue” or asserted content. Strawson is often assumed to have defended the view that the falsity of (...) a presupposition leads to catastrophe, in the sense that a false presupposition “wrecks the assertive enterprise”. I argue that the discourse-based account in terms of assertoric inertia can explain how cases of presupposition failure can sometimes be non-catastrophic; there are cases in which the assertive enterprise operates smoothly, despite presupposition failure. The chief problem facing this line of argument is to account for cases in which presupposition failure is catastrophic. If presuppositions are assertorically inert, then how can their falsity ever wreck the assertive enterprise? I offer a principled account that delineates the circumstances in which false presuppositions are, and those in which they are not, catastrophic. (shrink)
In ‘What Reference Has to Tell Us about Meaning’, Stephen Schiffer argues that many of the objects of our beliefs, and the contents of our assertoric speech acts, have what he calls the relativity feature. A proposition has the relativity feature just in case it is an object-dependent proposition ‘the entertainment of which requires different people, or the same person at different times or places, to think of [the relevant object] in different ways’ (129). But as no Fregean or (...) Russellian proposition can possibly have such a feature, we must either (i) give up on these traditional theories of propositional content in favor of an account that can allow for the relativity feature, or else (ii) explain why the things we believe, and say, oftentimes seem to have this feature even though they, in fact, do not. Schiffer pursues the former option; in this essay, I pursue the latter. (shrink)
Kaplan (1989a) insists that natural languages do not contain displacing devices that operate on character—such displacing devices are called monsters. This thesis has recently faced various empirical challenges (e.g., Schlenker 2003; Anand and Nevins 2004). In this note, the thesis is challenged on grounds of a more theoretical nature. It is argued that the standard compositional semantics of variable binding employs monstrous operations. As a dramatic first example, Kaplan’s formal language, the Logic of Demonstratives, is shown to contain monsters. For (...) similar reasons, the orthodox lambda-calculus-based semantics for variable binding is argued to be monstrous. This technical point promises to provide some far-reaching implications for our understanding of semantic theory and content. The theoretical upshot of the discussion is at least threefold: (i) the Kaplanian thesis that “directly referential” terms are not shiftable/bindable is unmotivated, (ii) since monsters operate on something distinct from the assertoriccontent of their operands, we must distinguish ingredient sense from assertoriccontent (cf. Dummett 1973; Evans 1979; Stanley 1997), and (iii) since the case of variable binding provides a paradigm of semantic shift that differs from the other types, it is plausible to think that indexicals—which are standardly treated by means of the assignment function—might undergo the same kind of shift. (shrink)
In his seminal paper 'Assertion', Robert Stalnaker distinguishes between the semantic content of a sentence on an occasion of use and the content asserted by an utterance of that sentence on that occasion. While in general the assertoriccontent of an utterance is simply its semantic content, the mechanisms of conversation sometimes force the two apart. Of special interest in this connection is one of the principles governing assertoriccontent in the framework, one (...) according to which the asserted content ought to be identical at each world in the context set. In this paper, we present a problem for Stalnaker's meta-semantic framework, by challenging the plausibility of the Uniformity principle. We argue that the interaction of the framework with facts about epistemic accessibility - in particular, failures of epistemic transparency - cause problems for the Uniformity principle and thus for Stalnaker's framework more generally. (shrink)
In a brief discussion of epistemic modals, Wittgenstein (1953) warns against ‘regard[ing] a hesitant assertion as an assertion of hesitancy’. A modal claim like ‘It might be raining’, the thought goes, should not be regarded as an assertion of the speaker's uncertainty as to whether or not it is raining, but rather as something quite different in kind: a proposal to treat the possibility of rain as live. Wittgenstein’s admonition has, in recent years, been at the heart of arguments that, (...) in order to make sense of the dynamics of epistemic modal claims, we must reject the contextualist framework for analyzing communication—a framework on which assertions of epistemic modal claims, like all assertions, convey information. In this paper, I argue that, on the contrary, taking Wittgenstein's admonition seriously does not require abandoning the contextualist framework: we can capture the fundamental dynamics of epistemic modality within the contextualist framework, provided we take the assertoriccontent of unembedded epistemic modal claims to be determined by the prospective common attitudes of the conversants in question. (shrink)
Most discussions of Kripke's Naming and Necessity focus either on Kripke's so-called "historical theory of reference" or his thesis that names are rigid designators. But in response to problems of the rigidity thesis Kripke later points out that his thesis about proper names is a stronger one: proper names are de jure rigid. This sets the agenda for my paper. Certain problems raised for Kripke's view show that the notion of de jure rigidity is in need of clarification. I will (...) try to clarify the notion of de jure rigidity by analyzing characterizations of it given in the literature. I will argue in particular that Kripke can count descriptive names as de jure rigid and that the concept of de jure rigidity should not be explained with recourse to the concept of a semantical rule. The second part of the paper is a critical discussion of arguments intended to show that proper names are not de jure rigid. I will show that these arguments are unconvincing by using Dummett's distinction between assertoriccontent and ingredient sense. (shrink)
In his collection of essays Having the World in View (2009), John McDowell draws a distinction between empirical experience (conceived as the conceptual activity relevant to judgment) and empirical judgment (i.e., the full-fledged assertoriccontent itself ). McDowell’s latest proposal is that the form of empirical experience is transferable into judgment, but it is not itself a judgment. Taking back the view he advanced in Mind and World, McDowell now believes that perception does not have propositional content (...) as such, but the content of perception can, however, always be actualized in a judgment. There is, in other words, a strict parallelism between the deliverances of sensibility and potential future judgments of experience. The early Husserl disagrees with this and recognizesexplicitly the existence of coherent forms of perceptual engagement with the world that is independent of the mastery of language and the use of concepts.Perception constitutes—together with certain other embodied practices—our primary mode of access to the world, and this occurs before and independently ofour thinking activity. However, the realization of the centrality of time for intentionality will lead Husserl after 1905 to recognize a kind of lawfulness internal tothe sensuous materials themselves, prior to any egoical achievement. The most immediate consequence of this paradigm change is that the very idea of non-conceptual content now seems unwarranted. Indeed, if time is that which keeps the process of sense formation unified even at the lowest levels of constitution, then the world-disclosing activity of the ego cannot be discontinuous with the conceptual realm. Against this background, it will be argued that the dialectic between the conceptual and non-conceptual ultimately makes no sense on a phenomenological basis. Once temporality has entered the scene, the only meaningful opposition that stands is that between the conceptual and pre-conceptual spheres. (shrink)
In Morality Without Foundations, Mark Timmons argues that moral judgments (e.g. “cruelty is wrong”) have what he calls “evaluative assertoriccontent,” and so, are true or false. However, I argue that, even if correct, this argument renders moral truth or falsity mysterious.
In Context and Content Robert Stalnaker develops a philosophical picture of the nature of speech and thought and the relations between them. Two themes in particular run through these collected essays: the role that the context in which speech takes place plays in accounting for the way language is used to express thought, and the role of the external environment in determining the contents of our thoughts. Stalnaker argues against the widespread assumption of the priority of linguistic over mental (...) representation, which he suggests has had a distorting influence on our understanding. The first part of the book develops a framework for representing contexts and the way they interact with the interpretation of what is said in them. This framework is used to help to explain a range of linguistic phenomena concerning presupposition and assertion, conditional statements, the attribution of beliefs, and the use of names, descriptions, and pronouns to refer. Stalnaker then draws out the conception of thought and its content that is implicit in this framework. He defends externalism about thought--the assumption that our thoughts have the contents they have in virtue of the way we are situated in the world--and explores the role of linguistic action and linguistic structure in determining the contents of our thoughts. Context and Content offers philosophers and cognitive scientists a summation of Stalnaker's important and influential work in this area. His new introduction to the volume gives an overview of this work and offers a convenient way in for those who are new to it. The Oxford Cognitive Science series is a new forum for the best contemporary work in this flourishing field, where various disciplines--cognitive psychology, philosophy, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and computational theory--join forces in the investigation of thought, awareness, understanding, and associated workings of the mind. Each book constitutes an original contribution to its subject, but will be accessible beyond the ranks of specialists, so as to reach a broad interdisciplinary readership. The series will be carefully shaped and steered with the aim of representing the most important developments in the field and bringing together its constituent disciplines. (shrink)
We review the current state of play in the game of naturalizing content and analyse reasons why each of the main proposals, when taken in isolation, is unsatisfactory. Our diagnosis is that if there is to be progress two fundamental changes are necessary. First, the point of the game needs to be reconceived in terms of explaining the natural origins of content. Second, the pivotal assumption that intentionality is always and everywhere contentful must be abandoned. Reviving and updating (...) Haugeland’s baseball analogy in the light of these changes, we propose ways of redirecting the efforts of players on each base of his intentionality All-Star team, enabling them to start functioning effectively as a team. Only then is it likely that they will finally get their innings and maybe, just maybe, even win the game. (shrink)
Recently, the thesis that experience is fundamentally a matter of representing the world as being a certain way has been questioned by austere relationalists. I defend this thesis by developing a view of perceptual content that avoids their objections. I will argue that on a relational understanding of perceptual content, the fundamental insights of austere relationalism do not compete with perceptual experience being representational. As it will show that most objections to the thesis that experience has content (...) apply only to accounts of perceptual content on which perceptual relations to the world play no explanatory role. With austere relationalists, I will argue that perceptual experience is fundamentally relational. But against austere relationalists, I will argue that it is fundamentally both relational and representational. (shrink)
The senses present their content in the form of images, three-dimensional arrays of located sense features. Peacocke’s “scenario content” is one attempt to capture image content; here, a richer notion is presented, sensory images include located objects and features predicated of them. It is argued that our grasp of the meaning of these images implies that they have propositional content. Two problems concerning image content are explored. The first is that even on an enriched conception, (...) image content has certain expressive limitations. In particular, it cannot express absolute location and time (as opposed to spatiotemporal relations) or logical complexity. Yet, perceptual experience does seem to express certain absolute locations—namely, here and now. How can it do so? Secondly, image content cannot exhaust the significance of perceptual states. This is proved by noting that perception, memory, and anticipation can have the same image content. Yet they have different significance. These problems show that some of the significance of sensory states comes from outside the image. (shrink)
The phenomenal character of perceptual experience involves the representation of colour, shape and motion. Does it also involve the representation of high-level categories? Is the recognition of a tomato as a tomato contained within perceptual phenomenality? Proponents of a conservative view of the reach of phenomenal content say ’No’, whereas those who take a liberal view of perceptual phenomenality say ’Yes’. I clarify the debate between conservatives and liberals, and argue in favour of the liberal view that high-level (...) class='Hi'>content can directly inform the phenomenal character of perception. (shrink)
It is close to current orthodoxy that perceptual experience is to be characterized, at least in part, by its representational content, roughly, by the way it represents things as being in the world around the perceiver. Call this basic idea the content view.
This paper argues that, given a certain apparently inevitable thesis about content, we could not know our own minds. The thesis is that the content of a thought is determined by its relational properties.
We start this paper by arguing that causality should, in analogy with force in Newtonian physics, be understood as a theoretical concept that is not explicated by a single definition, but by the axioms of a theory. Such an understanding of causality implicitly underlies the well-known theory of causal nets and has been explicitly promoted by Glymour. In this paper we investigate the explanatory warrant and empirical content of TCN. We sketch how the assumption of directed cause–effect relations can (...) be philosophically justified by an inference to the best explanation. We then ask whether the explanations provided by TCN are merely post-facto or have independently testable empirical content. To answer this question we develop a fine-grained axiomatization of TCN, including a distinction of different kinds of faithfulness. A number of theorems show that although the core axioms of TCN are empirically empty, extended versions of TCN have successively increasing empirical content. (shrink)
Much of computational cognitive science construes human cognitive capacities as representational capacities, or as involving representation in some way. Computational theories of vision, for example, typically posit structures that represent edges in the distal scene. Neurons are often said to represent elements of their receptive fields. Despite the ubiquity of representational talk in computational theorizing there is surprisingly little consensus about how such claims are to be understood. The point of this chapter is to sketch an account of the nature (...) and function of representation in computational cognitive models. (shrink)
In the past twenty years, issues about the relationship between perception and thought have largely been framed in terms of the question of whether the contents of perception are nonconceptual. I argue that this debate has rested on an ambiguity in `nonconceptual content' and some false presuppositions about what is required for concept possession. Once these are cleared away, I argue that none of the arguments which have been advanced about nonconceptual content do much to threaten the natural (...) view that perception and thought are relations to the same kind of content. (shrink)
This paper sets out a view about the explanatory role of representational content and advocates one approach to naturalising content – to giving a naturalistic account of what makes an entity a representation and in virtue of what it has the content it does. It argues for pluralism about the metaphysics of content and suggests that a good strategy is to ask the content question with respect to a variety of predictively successful information processing models (...) in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience; and hence that data from psychology and cognitive neuroscience should play a greater role in theorising about the nature of content. Finally, the contours of the view are illustrated by drawing out and defending a surprising consequence: that individuation of vehicles of content is partly externalist. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that the phenomenal similarity between perceiving and visualizing can be explained by the similarity between the structure of the content of these two different mental states. And this puts important constraints on how we should think about perceptual content and the content of mental imagery.
This paper examines the representationalist view of experiences in the light of the phenomena of perfect and relative pitch. Two main kinds of representationalism are identified - environment-based and cognitive role-based. It is argued that to explain the relationship between the two theories a distinction should be drawn between various types of implicit and explicit content. When investigated, this distinction sheds some light on the difference between the phenomenology of perfect and relative pitch experiences and may be usefully applied (...) to describe the nature of experiences in the other sense modalities. (shrink)
An extended argument that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. -/- Evolving Enactivism argues that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. Building on their earlier book Radicalizing Enactivism, which proposes that there can be forms of cognition without content, Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin demonstrate the unique explanatory advantages of recognizing that (...) only some forms of cognition have content while others—the most elementary ones—do not. They offer an account of the mind in duplex terms, proposing a complex vision of mentality in which these basic contentless forms of cognition interact with content-involving ones. -/- Hutto and Myin argue that the most basic forms of cognition do not, contrary to a currently popular account of cognition, involve picking up and processing information that is then used, reused, stored, and represented in the brain. Rather, basic cognition is contentless—fundamentally interactive, dynamic, and relational. In advancing the case for a radically enactive account of cognition, Hutto and Myin propose crucial adjustments to our concept of cognition and offer theoretical support for their revolutionary rethinking, emphasizing its capacity to explain basic minds in naturalistic terms. They demonstrate the explanatory power of the duplex vision of cognition, showing how it offers powerful means for understanding quintessential cognitive phenomena without introducing scientifically intractable mysteries into the mix. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual content is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
Call the idea that states of perceptual awareness have intentional content, and in virtue of that aim at or represent ways the world might be, the ‘Content View.’ I argue that though Kant is widely interpreted as endorsing the Content View there are significant problems for any such interpretation. I further argue that given the problems associated with attributing the Content View to Kant, interpreters should instead consider him as endorsing a form of acquaintance theory. Though (...) perceptual acquaintance is controversial in itself and in attribution to Kant, it promises to make sense of central claims within his critical philosophy. (shrink)
Perceptual experiences justify beliefs—that much seems obvious. As Brewer puts it, “sense experiential states provide reasons for empirical beliefs” (this volume, xx). In Mind and World McDowell argues that we can get from this apparent platitude to the controversial claim that perceptual experiences have conceptual content: [W]e can coherently credit experiences with rational relations to judgement and belief, but only if we take it that spontaneity is already implicated in receptivity; that is, only if we take it that experiences (...) have conceptual content. (1994, 162) Brewer agrees. Their view is sometimes called conceptualism; nonconceptualism is the rival position, that experiences have nonconceptual content. One initial obstacle is understanding what the issue is. What is conceptual content, and how is it different from nonconceptual content? Section 1 of this paper explains two versions of each of the rival positions: state (non)conceptualism and content (non)conceptualism; the latter pair is the locus of the relevant dispute. Two prominent arguments for content nonconceptualism—the richness argument and the continuity argument—both fail (section 2). McDowell’s and Brewer’s epistemological defenses of content conceptualism are also faulty (section 3). Section 4 gives a more simple-minded case for conceptualism; finally, some reasons are given for rejecting the claim—on one natural interpretation—that experiences justify beliefs. (shrink)
Today, more corporations disclose information about their environmental performance in response to stakeholder demands of environmental responsibility and accountability. What information do corporations disclose on their websites? This paper investigates the environmental management policies and practices of the 200 largest corporations in the world. Based on a content analysis of the environmental reports of Fortune’s Global 200 companies, this research analyzes the content of corporate environmental disclosures with respect to the following seven areas: environmental planning considerations, top management (...) support to the institutionalization of environmental concerns, environmental structures and organizing specifics, environmental leadership activities, environmental control, external validations or certifications of environmental programs, and forms of corporate environmental disclosures. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam (1981) proposed an interesting and much discussed attempt to refute a skeptical argument that is based on one form of the brain-in-a-vat scenario. In turn, Putnam’s attempted refutation is based on content externalism (also known as semantic externalism). On this view, the referents and meanings of various types of singular and general terms, as well as the propositions expressed by sentences containing such terms, are determined by aspects of the speaker’s external environment. In this entry, we will (...) consider the basic features of and problems with Putnam’s original argument, and we will also present and discuss several of the most important attempts to reconstruct or improve upon that argument. (shrink)
A central idea in Ruth Millikan’s biosemantics is that a representation’s content is restricted to conditions required for the normal success of actions that it has as its function to guide. This paper raises and responds to a problem for this idea. The problem is that the success requirement seems to block us from saying that epistemic modal judgments represent our epistemic circumstances. For the normal success of actions guided by these judgments seems to depend on what is actually (...) the case, not on whether or to what extent various possibilities were supported by our evidence. In response, I argue, first, that actions guided by epistemic modal judgments have as their function to implement strategies for handling epistemic circumstances, second, that the successful performance of this function requires that aspects of these circumstances obtain, and, third, that biosemantics can thus understand epistemic modal judgments as representing these aspects. The recognition of such strategic contents introduces complications; I further argue that these are benign. (shrink)
Perceptions "present" objects as red, as round, etc.-- in general as possessing some property. This is the "perceptual content" of the title, And the article attempts to answer the following question: what is a materialistically adequate basis for assigning content to what are, after all, neurophysiological states of biological organisms? The thesis is that a state is a perception that presents its object as "F" if the "biological function" of the state is to detect the presence of objects (...) that are "F". The theory contrasts with causal/informational theories, and with internalist theories, for example those which assign content on the basis of introspected feel. Its advantages are that it permits perceptual error while at the same time allowing content to be expressed in terms of external properties. The argument of the paper is illustrated throughout by examples from biology and computational psychology. (shrink)
I argue that in order to solve the main difficulties confronted by the classical versions of the causal theory of action, it is necessary no just to make room for intentions, considered as irreducible to complexes of beliefs and desires, but also to distinguish among several types of intentions. I present a three-tiered theory of intentions that distinguishes among future-directed intentions, present-directed intentions and motor intentions. I characterize each kind of intention in terms of its functions, its type of (...) class='Hi'>content, its dynamics and the rationality and time constraints that bear on it. I then try to show how the difficulties encountered by the causal theory can be solved within this new framework. 1. (shrink)
Skyrms, building on the work of Dretske, has recently developed a novel information-theoretic account of propositional content in simple signalling systems. Information-theoretic accounts of content traditionally struggle to accommodate the possibility of misrepresentation, and I show that Skyrms’s account is no exception. I proceed to argue, however, that a modified version of Skyrms’s account can overcome this problem. On my proposed account, the propositional content of a signal is determined not by the information that it actually carries, (...) but by the information that it would carry at the nearest separating equilibrium of the underlying evolutionary dynamics. I show that this amended account yields reasonable ascriptions of false propositional content in a well-known formal model of the evolution of communication , and close with a discussion of the serious but perhaps not insuperable difficulties we face in applying the account to examples of signalling in the real world. (shrink)
I distinguish two notions of agreement in belief: believing the same content versus having beliefs that necessarily coincide/diverge in normative status. The second notion of agreement,, is clearly significant for the communication of beliefs amongst thinkers. Thus there would seem to be some prima facie advantage to choosing the conception of content operative in in such a way that the normative status of beliefs supervenes on their content, and this seems to be the prevailing assumption of many (...) semanticists. I shall argue that de se beliefs and assertions provide a motivation to depart from this assumption, and so do beliefs and assertions concerning what is epistemically possible. I conclude by offering two models of assertoric communication that are compatible with the abandonment of the assumption, and suggesting schematically that each model applies to different cases. (shrink)
There has been considerable recent debate about whether Kant's account of intuitions implies that their content is conceptual. This debate, however, has failed to make significant progress because of the absence of discussion, let alone consensus, as to the meaning of in this context. Here I try to move things forward by focusing on the kind of content associated with Frege's notion of, understood as a mode of presentation of some object or property. I argue, first, that Kant (...) takes intuitions to have a content in this sense, and, secondly, that Kant clearly takes the content of intuitions, so understood, to be distinct in kind from that possessed by concepts. I then show how my account can respond to the most serious objections to previous non-conceptualist interpretations. (shrink)
The standing tradition in theorizing about meaning, since at least Frege, identifies meaning with propositions, which are, or determine, the truth-conditions of a sentence in a context. But a recent trend has advocated a departure from this tradition: in particular, it has been argued that modal claims do not express standard propositional contents. This non-propositionalism has received different implementations in expressivist semantics and certain kinds of dynamic semantics. They maintain that the key aspect of interpretation of modal claims is the (...) characteristic dynamic effect they have on the context. I argue that pessimism about truth-conditions arises from an overly simplistic picture of content, context and their interaction. While I agree with the critics that an important aspect of modal meaning is the dynamic effect modals have on the context, I argue that they have mischaracterized the nature and the complexity of this effect. A more nuanced account of the interaction between modals and context shows that far from being incompatible with propositional meaning, the dynamic aspect of meaning is precisely what allows us to predict the correct propositional content of an utterance. (shrink)