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)
That we assert things to one another, and that our doing so is central to our linguistic practice, seems beyond question. When we assert, there is typically something we can be said to have asserted. This is what we might think of as the truth conditional content of our assertion. Yet, as I will illustrate in the earlier portions of this paper, it is not immediately clear what communicative function assertoriccontent actually plays. I suggest that (...) class='Hi'>assertoriccontent functions as a means for us to track the responsibilities undertaken communicators when they speak. However, this, by itself, is not very illuminating. There any many things we take responsibility for when we speak, and many ways in which we undertake such responsibilities. Not all of the responsibilities we undertake when we assert will correspond to the intuitive notion of assertiotic content. I suggest that assertoric commitments are distinguished by their mode of generation: they obtain directly (either compositionally or via bridge principles) in virtue of the words the speaker uses and their manner of combination. But this raises two further questions: Firstly, why are speakers responsible for the content thus generated? And secondly, why is it important for us to distinguish between communicative commitments in terms of the manner in which they are generated? My primary focus will be on the first question: I argue that a plausible metasemantic theory must be able to make sense of the fact that speakers are committed to the assertoric contents of their utterances. Some metasemantic theories are better equipped to do this than others. I present a metasemantic theory that is particularly well equipped to do so: the value a term receives in context corresponds to the use it is most fitting (i.e. there is the most reason) to hold the speaker to in light of their utterance. I turn to the second question in the conclusion. (shrink)
I compare Stalnaker’s early take on assertoriccontent with the one expressed in his recent book (2014). I discern in the latter some striking implications about the semantics of proper names and assertoriccontent’s relation to semantics.
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)
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.
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)
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)
Recently, philosophers have offered compelling reasons to think that demonstratives are best represented as variables, sensitive not to the context of utterance, but to a variable assignment. Variablists typically explain familiar intuitions about demonstratives—intuitions that suggest that what is said by way of a demonstrative sentence varies systematically over contexts—by claiming that contexts initialize a particular assignment of values to variables. I argue that we do not need to link context and the assignment parameter in this way, and that we (...) would do better not to. (shrink)
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)
A commonly-discussed feature of perceptual experience is that it has ‘assertoric’ or ‘phenomenal’ force. We will start by discussing various descriptions of the assertoricity of perceptual experience. We will then adopt a minimal characterization of assertoricity: a perceptual experience has assertoric force just in case it inclines the perceiver to believe its content. Adducing cases that show that visual experience is not always assertoric, we will argue that what renders these visual experiences non-assertoric is that (...) they are penetrated by belief-like imaginings. Lastly, we will explain why it is that when belief-like imaginings—as opposed to beliefs (and other cognitive states)—penetrate visual experience, they render visual experiences non-assertoric. (shrink)
In addition to the Frege point, Frege also argued for the force-content distinction from the fact that an affirmative answer to a yes-no question constitutes an assertion. I argue that this fact more readily supports the view that questions operate on and present assertions and other forceful acts themselves. Force is neither added to propositions as on the traditional view, nor is it cancelled as has recently been proposed. Rather higher level acts such as questioning, but also e.g. conditionalizing, (...) embed assertive or directive acts that are forceful and committal, while suspending commitment to them. The Frege point confounds different varieties of force and the question whether something is merely presented for consideration with the question what is so presented. Force is representational: through assertoric and directive force indicators subjects non-conceptually present positions of theoretical or practical knowledge, while interrogative acts indicate positions of wondering which strive for such knowledge. (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)
An act’s form of apprehension 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 ; 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 is described, by recourse to the notion of form of apprehension. (shrink)
There are various reasons one might think that the semantic content of occurrences of sentences does not coincide with assertoriccontent –content of belief and assertion– corresponding to those sentences. But if a semantic theory exploiting such distinction is to play a role in explaining communication, there needs to be a tight connection between the two types of content. Drawing upon the considerations of McDowell and Evans concerning rigidity, Stanley proposes to extend Lewis’ argument for (...) the distinction between the two types of content –an argument concerning behavior of certain English language operators– to argue that modals do not operate on assertoric, but merely on semantic contents of sentences they embed. I argue that the Dummett-Evans-Stanley line of argument fails due to its inability to explain the connection between semantic and assertoriccontent. Unable to provide a plausible way of recovering assertoriccontent from semantic content, the theory renders successful communication mysterious. The moral of its failure is far-reaching –any theory that appeals to the distinction between these two types of content remains less than fully satisfactory unless the challenge of accounting for their connection is met. (shrink)
Frege distinguished the thought qua logical content from the assertoric force attached to it when judged to be true. The gist of this distinction is captured by the so-called Frege-Geach point. Recently, several authors have drawn inspiration from Wittgenstein to reject this point and the distinction it is based on. This article proceeds from the observation that Wittgenstein himself did not reject the force-content distinction but urged us to reformulate it in a non-dualistic way. While drawing on (...) Wittgensteinian lessons about thought and its expression, the overall purpose of this paper is systematic, not exegetic: it seeks to contribute to the contemporary debate aboute force and content by arguing that this distinction should be redrawn in such a way as to exhibit force as internal to thought, namely, as that which provides for the unity of thought. To this end, it is investigated what it is for a thought to occur as a forceless part of a propositionally complex assertion. (shrink)
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”.
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.
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)
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)
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)
Certain passages in Kaplan’s ‘Demonstratives’ are often taken to show that non-vacuous sentential operators associated with a certain parameter of sentential truth require a corresponding relativism concerning assertoric contents: namely, their truth values also must vary with that parameter. Thus, for example, the non-vacuity of a temporal sentential operator ‘always’ would require some of its operands to have contents that have different truth values at different times. While making no claims about Kaplan’s intentions, we provide several reconstructions of how (...) such an argument might go, focusing on the case of time and temporal operators as an illustration. What we regard as the most plausible reconstruction of the argument establishes a conclusion similar enough to that attributed to Kaplan. However, the argument overgenerates, leading to absurd consequences. We conclude that we must distinguish assertoric contents from compositional semantic values, and argue that once they are distinguished, the argument fails to establish any substantial conclusions. We also briefly discuss a related argument commonly attributed to Lewis, and a recent variant due to Weber. (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)
ABSTRACT‘expressionist’ accounts of applied mathematics seek to avoid the apparent Platonistic commitments of our scientific theories by holding that we ought only to believe their mathematics-free nominalistic content. The notion of ‘nominalistic content’ is, however, notoriously slippery. Yablo's account of non-catastrophic presupposition failure offers a way of pinning down this notion. However, I argue, its reliance on possible worlds machinery begs key questions against Platonism. I propose instead that abstract expressionists follow Geoffrey Hellman's lead in taking the (...) class='Hi'>assertoriccontent of empirical science to be irreducibly modal, using the ‘non-interference’ of mathematical objects as justification for detaching nominalistic consequences. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions. Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years. Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that render them no longer propositional. Focusing in recent variants of these arguments involving quantification and (...) binding, we argue that a correct understanding of how composition works gives no reason to relativize semantic values, and that propositional semantic values are in fact the preferred option. We take our argument to be mainly empirical, but along the way, we defend some more general theses. Simple propositional semantic values are viable in composition, we maintain, because composition is itself a complex phenomenon, involving multiple modes of composition. Furthermore, some composition principles make adjustments to the meanings of constituents in the course of composition. These adjustments are by triggered syntactic environments. We argue such small contributions of meaning from syntactic structure are acceptable. (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)
I show that in the context of proof-theoretic semantics, Dummett’s distinction between the assertoric meaning of a sentence and its ingredient sense can be seen as a distinction between two proof-theoretic meanings of a sentence: 1.Meaning as a conclusion of an introduction rule in a meaning-conferring natural-deduction proof system. 2.Meaning as a premise of an introduction rule in a meaning-conferring natural-deduction proof system. The effect of this distinction on compositionality of proof-theoretic meaning is discussed.
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)
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.
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)
In recent work on the semantics of definite descriptions, some theorists :496–533, 2013) have advocated broadly Fregean accounts, whereby a definite description ‘the F’ introduces a presupposition to the effect that there is exactly one F and refers to it if there is, while other theorists Reference: Interdisciplinary perspectives, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 61–72, 2008; Hawthorne and Manley in The reference book, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012) have advocated accounts whereby ‘the F’ introduces a presupposition to the effect that (...) there is exactly one F but otherwise has the semantics of ‘an F’, introducing existential quantification. It is argued that the latter theories, since they have definite descriptions encode assertoriccontent to the effect that there is an F, have difficulty accounting for the felicity of ‘The F is G’ when it is already presupposed that there is an F. (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 the 1960s, Peter Geach and John Searle independently posed an important objection to the wide class of 'noncognitivist' metaethical views that had at that time been dominant and widely defended for a quarter of a century. The problems raised by that objection have come to be known in the literature as the Frege-Geach Problem, because of Geach's attribution of the objection to Frege's distinction between content and assertoric force, and the problem has since occupied a great deal (...) of the attention both of defenders of broadly noncognitivist views, and of their critics. In this article I explain Geach and Searle's historical objections, and put the subsequent discussion into dialectical context, paying some attention to the developments along the way and how they have enhanced our overall understanding of the problem. The article covers a lot of territory, so we will only be able to see the highlights, along the way. For further reading, see the Works Cited. (shrink)
The moral belief problem is that of reconciling expressivism in ethics with both minimalism in the philosophy of language and the syntactic discipline of moral sentences. It is argued that the problem can be solved by distinguishing minimal and robust senses of belief, where a minimal belief is any state of mind expressed by sincere assertoric use of a syntactically disciplined sentence and a robust belief is a minimal belief with some additional property R. Two attempts to specify R (...) are discussed, both based on the thought that beliefs are states that aim at truth. According to the first, robust beliefs are criticisable to the extent that their content fails to match the state of the world. This sense fails to distinguish robust beliefs from minimal beliefs. According to the second, robust beliefs function to have their content match the state of the world. This sense succeeds in distinguishing robust beliefs from minimal beliefs. The conclusion is that the debate concerning the cognitive status of moral convictions needs to address the issue of the function of moral convictions. Evolutionary theorising may be relevant, but will not be decisive, in answering this question. (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)
According to standard assumptions in semantics, ordinary users of a language have implicit beliefs about the truth-conditions of sentences in that language, and they often agree on those beliefs. For example, it is assumed that if Anna and John are both competent users of English and the former utters ‘grass is green’ in conversation with the latter, they will both believe that that sentence is true if and only if grass is green. These assumptions play an important role in an (...) intuitively compelling picture of communication, according to which successful communication through literal assertoric utterances is normally effected thanks to our shared beliefs about the truth-conditions of the sentences uttered in the course of the conversation. Against these standard assumptions, this paper argues that the participants in a conversation rarely have the same beliefs about the truth-conditions of the sentences involved in a linguistic interaction. More precisely, it argues for Variance, the thesis that nearly every utterance is such that there is no proposition which more than one language user believes to be that utterance’s truth-conditional content. If Variance is true, we must reject the standard picture of communication. Towards the end of the paper I identify three ways in which ordinary conversations can be communication-like despite the truth of Variance and argue that the most natural amendments to the standard picture fail to explain them. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper proposes a way to understand Kant's modalities of judgment—problematic, assertoric, and apodeictic—in terms of the location of a judgment in an inference. Other interpretations have tended to understand these modalities of judgment in terms of one or other conventional notion of modality. For example, Mattey (1986) argues that we should take them to be connected to notions of epistemic or doxastic modality. I shall argue that this is wrong, and that these kinds of interpretation of the (...) modality of judgments cannot be reconciled with a key claim made by Kant, namely, that the modality of a judgment does not contribute to its content, and has nothing to do with the matter that is judged. I offer an alternative interpretation based upon Kant's explicating these modalities in terms of the location of a judgment in an inference, whereby the modality of a judgment is determined by the role a judgment plays in a given course of reasoning. If I am right, then Kant in fact presents an intriguing thesis pertaining to the inferential status and potential of all our judgments. (shrink)
Frege argued for the force-content distinction not only by appealing to the logical and fictional contexts which are most closely associated with the “Frege point", but also based on the fact that an affirmative answer to a yes-no question constitutes an assertion. Supposedly this is only intelligible if the question contains a forceless thought or proposition which an affirmative answer then asserts. Against this I argue that this fact more readily supports the view that questions operate on assertions and (...) other forceful acts themselves. Force is neither added to propositions as on the traditional view, nor is it cancelled as has recently been proposed. Rather higher-level acts such as questioning, but also e.g. conditionalizing, embed and present assertoric or directive acts that are forceful and committal, while suspending commitment to them. The Frege point confounds different varieties of force and the question whether something is merely presented for consideration with the question what is so presented. Force is representational: through assertoric and directive force indicators subjects non-conceptually present positions of theoretical or practical knowledge, while interrogative acts indicate positions of wondering which strive for such knowledge. (shrink)
It is almost universally accepted that the Frege–Geach Point is necessary for explaining the inferential relations and compositional structure of truth-functionally complex propositions. I argue that this claim rests on a disputable view of propositional structure, which models truth-functionally complex propositions on atomic propositions. I propose an alternative view of propositional structure, based on a certain notion of simulation, which accounts for the relevant phenomena without accepting the Frege–Geach Point. The main contention is that truth-functionally complex propositions do not include (...) as their parts truth-evaluable propositions, but their simulations, which are neither forceful nor truth-evaluable. The view makes room for the idea that there is no such thing as the forceless expression of propositional contents and is attractive because it provides the resources for avoiding a fundamental problem generated by the Frege–Geach Point concerning the relation between forceless and forceful expressions of propositional contents. I further argue that the acceptance of the Frege–Geach Point mars Peter Hanks’ and François Recanati’s recent attempts to resist the widespread idea that assertoric force is extrinsic to the expression of propositional contents. Rejecting this idea, I maintain, requires a deeper break with the tradition than Hanks and Recanati have allowed for. (shrink)
This paper brings to light a new puzzle for Frege interpretation, and offers a solution to that puzzle. The puzzle concerns Frege’s judgement-stroke (‘|’), and consists in a tension between three of Frege’s claims. First, Frege vehemently maintains that psychological considerations should have no place in logic. Second, Frege regards the judgementstroke—and the associated dissociation of assertoric force from content, of the act of judgement from the subject matter about which judgement is made—as a crucial part of his (...) logic. Third, Frege holds that judging is an inner mental process, and that the distinction marked by the judgement-stroke, between entertaining a thought and judging that it is true, is a psychological distinction. I argue that what initially looks like confusion here on Frege’s part appears quite reasonable when we remind ourselves of the differences between Frege’s conception of logic and our own. (shrink)
This paper explores Kant’s views about the logical form of “I think”-judgments. It is shown that according to Kant, in an important class of cases the prefix “I think” does not contribute to the assertoric, truth-conditional content of judgments of the form “I think that P.” Thus, judgments of this type are often merely judgments that P. The prefix “I think” does mention the subject and his thought, but it does not make the complex judgment a judgment about (...) the subject and his or her thought. Kant argues that there is a distinctive kind of self-consciousness that is adequately expressed by means of this non-assertoric “I think.” The paper explains that understanding Kant’s ideas on the logic of “I think”-judgments is fruitful both for discussions in contemporary analytic philosophy and for an adequate understanding of Kant’s philosophy. (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)
Friedrich Albert Lange (1828-1875) author of a famous History of Materialism and Critique of Its Present Significance (1866, English transI. 1877-79, repr. 1925 with introduction by Bertrand Russell), was also interested in the epistemological foundations of formal logic. Part I of his intended two-volume Logische Studien was published posthumously in 1877 by Hermann Cohen, head of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism. Lange, departing from Kant, claims that spatial intuition is the source of the apodeictic character not only of the truths (...) of mathematics, but also of the truths of logic. He aims at showing this by basing validity and invalidity of syllogistic inferences on an interpretation of the standard forms (of proposition in assertoric syllogistic) with the help of the five kinds of possible relations (in fact what is known today as the Gergonne-Euler relations) between extensions of concepts given to us as areas in a plane, i.e.in space. Generality is achieved by considering all possible variations within each type of spatial relation, exhibiting a connection between concept and intuition reminding Lange of the Kantian "schema". Lange is well aware of the contemporary English "algebraic" logic, but he considers its approach as the appropriate one for a logic of content (Inhaltslogik) and not for a logic of extension (Umfangslogik). Lange did not live to enjoy the recognition by some leading logicians (amongst them John Venn, to whose reference in 1881 to Lange's "admirable Logische Studien" the present paper owes it title), nor could he respond to the many critics of his proposed foundation of logic. Its radicality as well as its broad reception (and discussion up to at least 1959) seem to entitle Lange's Logische Studien to an, if modest, place in the history of logic in the 19th century. (shrink)
In this thesis, I propose and defend a theory according to which committing oneself to knowing the proposition expressed counts as an assertion of that proposition. A consequence of this view is the knowledge account of assertion, according to which one asserts that p correctly only if one knows that p. In support of this approach, I offer a strategy of identifying an assertion’s “normative consequences”, types of act that normally take place as a result of one’s making an assertion (...) incorrectly. I outline two such phenomena: retraction and disavowal of knowledge. In continuation, I put the theory to test and critically examine four sets of objections against it, arguing that it can convincingly defuse them. Finally, I discuss two related issues: I maintain that by performing “aesthetic assertions” one also normally performs a non-assertoric speech act of recommendation, and argue for the possibility of “non-linguistic assertions”, whose content is expressed by gestures in appropriate contexts. (shrink)
S. A. Erickson's recent book continues several of the themes introduced in Language and Being, especially that of the question of meaning. Erickson's approach to this question develops further his presupposition that to ask what entities mean is to inquire into their functions within the context of human presence. A shift in Erickson's focus is indicated, however, by his claim that human presence, a term used by Erickson to refer to human being, is even more fundamental to the question of (...) meaning than he had thought previously. Hence, this study which articulates the notion of human presence and analyzes the experience of its interconnected moments: interpretation, self-deception, and time-consciousness. Interpretation is presented as the prime cognitive relation that connects linguistic and extralinguistic items, the former interpreting the latter within the situation of human presence. Self-deception, the ground of interpretation, is understood in light of the tenuous human capacity to come to terms with mortality. One of the most interesting sections of the book is a psychoanalytic and an existential account of ways of dealing with the experience of time, without which human action would be unintelligible. "Existential time" is identified as that which is ingredient both in the direct experiencing of time and in time as it is experienced. An original concept of "timing" is set forth as the ways in which existential time is structured and lived, the manner in which time is used and the way in which items dealt with "in time" are reacted to and acted upon. Erickson claims as the goal of his account a conceptually restructured philosophy of mind and a propaedeutic to a new psychiatry of human being. Philosophy must, Erickson argues, change its direction, for the separation of philosophy from psychology, in both the phenomenological and the analytic traditions, has resulted in the loss to philosophy of empirical content. The prize of saving the integrity of logic as an a priori discipline and isolating the conceptual has been the increasing absence of the direct relevance of philosophy to the human situation. Erickson proposes that philosophy should return to the domain of psychology, not, as is the current practice, by pointing out instances of conceptual confusion and clarifying terms, but by recognizing the valuable experiential base that psychiatry provides for the examination of conceptual problems involved in understanding the human. Perhaps the most debatable aspect of the book is its study of 'presence' in the recent history of philosophy and its claim that philosophical problems, such as presence, have been ignored in recent times rather than resolved. For Erickson, the substitution of the term 'presence' for 'experience' or 'consciousness' indicates the direction in which an existentially enriched phenomenology must move. For this reader, however, contemporary continental philosophy has not so much ignored, as endeavored to think through the issue of presence. The critique of the metaphysics of presence, made by some phenomenologists and deconstructionists, suggests that the thematics of presence cannot be resolved, but must be abandoned. Erickson's statement, "Experience is experience. Though capable of being disliked or transformed, it makes no conceptual sense to speak of refuting, much less ignoring it," may appear to some readers as unduly assertorical. Nevertheless, Erick Erickson's "conversational" methodology, expressly developed to foster the reader in a point of view, impels an active rethinking of the grounds for rejecting philosophical anthropology and a positive demonstration of the philosophical accomplishments that can be effected within that domain.--Jeffner Allen, California State University. (shrink)
In Being and Time Heidegger advances a critique of Husserl's theory of intentionality by arguing that human understanding consists more fundamentally in an orientation toward practical activity than in mere cognition, for example deliberate perception or judgment. Heidegger criticizes Husserl for importing normative concepts drawn from logic into what purports to be a pure, presuppositionless description of consciousness. Above all, Heidegger is critical of the idealized conception of meaning that informs Husserlian phenomenology. The critique put forward in Being and Time (...) consequently rests on Heidegger's own view of the nature of meaning, its role in everyday practice, and its constitution in discourse. For Husserl, just as the notion of the "noema" or intentional content amounts to a generalization of the concept of meaning, so too what he calls the "positing" character of intentionality, that is, its inherent validity claim or presumption of actuality, is a generalization of the semantic concept of illocutionary force, more specifically assertoric force. Heidegger's conception of meaning, by contrast, eschews traditional semantic concepts borrowed from logic, and instead draws on Heidegger's claim that things in the world originally figure into our practical activities not as "occurrent" or object-like but as "available" for use. Practice thus lies at the heart of everyday significance, and it is the expressive-communicative dimension of practice, what Heidegger calls "discourse" , that underlies linguistic articulation. Assertion amounts to a derivative mode of discourse, parasitic on pre-predictive forms of expression and communication. The traditional concept of meaning as a discrete occurrent entity rests on an overgeneralization of the logical concept of the truth-valuable content of a proposition or assertion. Heidegger's account of meaning and practice in Being and Time, then, is an attempt to trace the origin of assertions in linguistic practice and to show the impossibility of recapturing the phenomenon of intentionality by appeal to the impoverished concept of meaning drawn from the assertoric paradigm central to the semantic tradition. Finally, I argue that conformism, or what Heidegger calls "inauthenticity" , is an unavoidable artifact of discourse, since the ongoing interpretation and reinterpretation essential to discourse necessarily rests on an indifferent normative background underwritten by the anonymous authority of "the one". (shrink)
This paper offers a brief survey of the philosophical literature on assertion, presenting each contribution to the RIFL special issue "Assertion and its social significance" within the context of the contemporary debate in which it intervenes. The discussion is organised into three thematic sections. The first one concerns the nature of assertion and its relation with assertoric commitment – the distinctive responsibility that the speaker undertakes in virtue of making a statement. The second section considers the epistemic significance of (...) assertion, exploring the role that assertion plays in the transmission of knowledge, the epistemic constraints that regulate it, and its relation with truth. The third section deals with communicative content that goes beyond what is literally asserted: implicatures, metaphors and expressive meaning. (shrink)
Recent work in the philosophy of language attempts to elucidate the elusive notion of aboutness. A natural question concerning such a project has to do with its motivation: why is the notion of aboutness important? Stephen Yablo offers an interesting answer: taking into consideration not only the conditions under which a sentence is true, but also what a sentence is about opens the door to a new style of criticism of certain philosophical analyses. We might criticize the analysis of a (...) given notion not because it fails to assign the right truth conditions to a class of sentences, but because it characterizes those sentences as being about something they are not about. In this paper, I apply Yablo’s suggestion to a case study. I consider meta-fictionalism, the view that the content of a mathematical claim S is ‘according to standard mathematics, S’. I argue, following Woodward, that, on certain assumptions, meta-fictionalism assigns the right truth-conditions to typical assertoric utterances of mathematical statements. However, I also argue that meta-fictionalism assigns the wrong aboutness conditions to typical assertoric utterances of mathematical statements. (shrink)