This paper argues that the theory of structured propositions is not undermined by the Russell-Myhill paradox. I develop a theory of structured propositions in which the Russell-Myhill paradox doesn't arise: the theory does not involve ramification or compromises to the underlying logic, but rather rejects common assumptions, encoded in the notation of the $\lambda$-calculus, about what properties and relations can be built. I argue that the structuralist had independent reasons to reject these underlying assumptions. The theory is given (...) both a diagrammatic representation, and a logical representation in a novel language. In the latter half of the paper I turn to some technical questions concerning the treatment of quantification, and demonstrate various equivalences between the diagrammatic and logical representations, and a fragment of the $\lambda$-calculus. (shrink)
This paper argues that attitudinal objects, entities of the sort of John's judgment, John's thought, and John's claim, should play the role of propositions, as the cognitive products of cognitive acts, not the acts themselves.
Propositions are traditionally regarded as performing vital roles in theories of natural language, logic, and cognition. This chapter offers an opinionated survey of recent literature to assess whether they are still needed to perform three linguistic roles: be the meaning of a declarative sentence in a context, be what is designated by certain linguistic expressions, and be the content of illocutionary acts. After considering many of the relevant choice-points, I suggest that there remains a linguistic basis for propositions, (...) but not for some of the traditional reasons. (shrink)
Theories deploy various theoretical representations of their explananda and one question we can ask about those representations is whether to regard them under a realist attitude, i.e. as revealing the nature of what they represent, or whether to regard them under an instrumentalist attitude instead, i.e. as serving particular explanatory ends without the further revelatory aspect. I consider structured propositions as theoretical representations within a particular explanatory setting -- the metaphysics of what is said -- and argue that a (...) realist attitude towards them is unwarranted. I offer various considerations against the widespread tendency to regard structured propositions as revealing the nature of what is said and conclude that they should be regarded under an instrumentalist attitude instead. (shrink)
I formulate an account, in terms of essence and ground, that explains why atomic Russellian propositions have the truth conditions they do. The key ideas are that (i) atomic propositions are just 0-adic relations, (ii) truth is just the 1-adic version of the instantiation (or, as I will say, holding) relation (Menzel 1993: 86, note 27), and (iii) atomic propositions have the truth conditions they do for basically the same reasons that partially plugged relations, like being an (...) x and a y such that Philip gave x to y, have the holding conditions they do. The account is meant to be mainly of intrinsic interest, but I hope that it goes some distance toward answering an objection to classical theories of propositions put forward by King (2014), who writes that ‘since the classical conception of propositions as things that have truth conditions by their very natures and independently of minds and languages is incapable of explaining how or why propositions have truth conditions, it is unacceptable’ (2014: 47). Propositions do have their truth conditions ‘by their very natures’ and ‘independently of minds and languages’. But a fact about a given entity can hold by the very nature of that entity without being a fundamental fact. I argue that this is plausibly the case for atomic Russellian propositions and the facts about their truth conditions. A fact about the truth conditions of such a proposition holds by the very nature of the given proposition but is metaphysically grounded in facts about that proposition’s parts and their essences. If my account is correct, then the supposedly intractable problem of explaining why the given propositions have the truth conditions they do reduces to the problem of explaining why relations have the holding essences they do, which few seem to have found worrisome . (shrink)
Neo-Russellians claim that propositions can be modelled by tuples. A common view is that propositions cannot be tuples. I argue that the interpretivist account of propositions developed by Jeffrey C. King can be adapted for the tuple view.
Trenton Merricks presents an original argument for the existence of propositions, and defends an account of their nature. He draws a variety of controversial conclusions, for instance about supervaluationism, the nature of possible worlds, truths about non-existent entities, and whether and how logical consequence depends on modal facts.
Kaplan (drawing on Montague and Prior, inter alia) made explicit the idea of world and time neutral propositions, which bear truth values only relative to world and time parameters. There was then a debate over the role of time. Temporalists sided with Kaplan in maintaining time neutral propositions with time relative truth values, while eternalists claimed that all propositions specify the needed time information and so bear the same truth value at all times. But there never was (...) much of a parallel debate over the role of worlds. Let contingentism be the view (parallel to temporalism) that sides with Kaplan in maintaining world neutral propositions with world relative truth values, and let necessitarianism be the view (parallel to eternalism) that propositions specify the needed world information and so bear the same truth value at all worlds. This is the story of how the debate between the contingentists and the necessitarians might begin. (shrink)
Do Russellian propositions have their constituents as parts? One reason for thinking not is that if they did, they would generate apparent counterexamples to plausible mereological principles. As Frege noted, they would be in tension with the transitivity of parthood. A certain small rock is a part of Etna but not of the proposition that Etna is higher than Vesuvius. So, if Etna were a part of the given proposition, parthood would fail to be transitive. As William Bynoe has (...) noted (speaking of facts rather than propositions), they would seem to violate certain supplementation principles. Consider the singular proposition, concerning identity, that it is identical with itself. Given the relevant form of Russellianism, this proposition would have identity as a proper part, but it would not have any parts disjoint from identity, and indeed it would not have even a single pair of disjoint parts, in violation of various supplementation principles. This chapter offers a unified solution to the problems about transitivity and supplementation. One key ingredient in the solution is the view that parthood is a four-place relation expressed by ‘x at y is a part of z at w’. Another key ingredient is the view that the semantic contents of predicates and sentential connectives have ‘slots’ or ‘argument positions’ in them. (Both ingredients are independently motivated elsewhere.) Four-place analogues of the transitivity and supplementation principles are set out, and it is argued that these are not threatened by the examples from Frege and Bynoe. (shrink)
Accounts of propositions as sets of possible worlds have been criticized for conflating distinct impossible propositions. In response to this problem, some have proposed to introduce impossible worlds to represent distinct impossibilities, endorsing the thesis that impossible worlds must be of the same kind; this has been called the parity thesis. I show that this thesis faces problems, and propose a hybrid account which rejects it: possible worlds are taken as concrete Lewisian worlds, and impossibilities are represented as (...) set-theoretic constructions out of them. This hybrid account (1) distinguishes many intuitively distinct impossible propositions; (2) identifies impossible propositions with extensional constructions; (3) avoids resorting to primitive modality, at least so far as Lewisian modal realism does. (shrink)
This paper discusses two distinct strategies that have been adopted to provide fine-grained propositions; that is, propositions individuated more finely than sets of possible worlds. One strategy takes propositions to have internal structure, while the other looks beyond possible worlds, and takes propositions to be sets of circumstances, where possible worlds do not exhaust the circumstances. The usual arguments for these positions turn on fineness-of-grain issues: just how finely should propositions be individuated? Here, I compare (...) the two strategies with an eye to the fineness-of-grain question, arguing that when a wide enough range of data is considered, we can see that a circumstance-based approach, properly spelled out, outperforms a structure-based approach in answering the question. (Part of this argument involves spelling out what I take to be a reasonable circumstance-based approach.) An argument to the contrary, due to Soames, is also considered. (shrink)
Propositions play a central role in contemporary semantics. On the Russellian account, propositions are structured entities containing particulars, properties and relations. This contrasts sharply with the sets-of-possible-worlds view of propositions. I’ll discuss how to extend the sets-of-worlds view to accommodate fine-grained hyperintensional contents. When this is done in a satisfactory way, I’ll argue, it makes heavy use of entities very much like Russellian tuples. The two notions of proposition become inter-definable and inter-substitutable: they are not genuinely distinct (...) accounts of how propositions represent what they represent. Semantic theorists may move freely between the two conceptions of what propositions are. Nevertheless, the two approaches give different accounts of the metaphysical nature of propositions. I argue that the sets-of-worlds view provides an adequate account of the nature of propositions, whereas the Russellian view cannot. (shrink)
Semantics in the Montagovian tradition combines two basic tenets. One tenet is that the semantic value of a sentence is an intension, a function from points of evaluations into truth-values. The other tenet is that the semantic value of a composite expression is the result of applying the function denoted by one component to arguments denoted by the other components. Many philosophers object to intensional semantics on the grounds that intensionally equivalent sentences do not substitute salva veritate into attitude ascriptions. (...) They propose instead that the semantic values of sentences must be structured propositions. In rejecting intensional semantics, philosophers who endorse structured propositions also usually reject functional compositionality, undermining both tenets of the Montagovian programme. I defend a semantic theory that incorporates both structured propositions and functional compositionality. I argue that this semantic theory can preserve many explanatory benefits of Montague semantics. Finally, I show how treating composition functional application can resolve core problems internal to a theory of structured propositions. (shrink)
A singular thought about an object o is one that is directly about o in a characteristic way—grasp of that thought requires having some special epistemic relation to the object o, and the thought is ontologically dependent on o. One account of the nature of singular thought exploits a Russellian Structured Account of Propositions, according to which contents are represented by means of structured n-tuples of objects, properties, and functions. A proposition is singular, according to this framework, if and (...) only if it contains an object as a constituent. One advantage of the framework of Russellian Structured propositions is that it promises to provide a metaphysical basis for the notion of a singular thought about an object, grounding it in terms of constituency. In this paper, we argue that the attempt to ground the peculiar features of singular thoughts in terms of metaphysical constituency fails, and draw some consequences of our discussion for other debates. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell offered an influential paradox of propositions in Appendix B of The Principles of Mathematics, but there is little agreement as to what to conclude from it. We suggest that Russell's paradox is best regarded as a limitative result on propositional granularity. Some propositions are, on pain of contradiction, unable to discriminate between classes with different members: whatever they predicate of one, they predicate of the other. When accepted, this remarkable fact should cast some doubt upon some (...) of the uses to which modern descendente of Russell's paradox of propositions have been put in recent literature. (shrink)
Propositions are often aligned with truth-conditions. The view is mistaken, since propositions discriminate where truth conditions do not. Propositions are hyperintensional: they are sensitive to necessarily equivalent differences. I investigate an alternative view on which propositions are truthmaker conditions, understood as sets of possible truthmakers. This requires making metaphysical sense of merely possible states of affairs. The theory that emerges illuminates the semantic phenomena of samesaying, subject matter, and aboutness.
The object of this paper is to sketch an approach to propositions, meaning and names. The key ingredients are a Twin-Earth-inspired distinction between internal and external meaning, and a middle-Wittgenstein-inspired conception of internal meaning as role in language system. I show how the approach offers a promising solution to the problem of the meaning of proper names. This is a plea for a neglected way of thinking about these topics.
It is our contention that an ontological commitment to propositions faces a number of problems; so many, in fact, that an attitude of realism towards propositions—understood the usual “platonistic” way, as a kind of mind- and language-independent abstract entity—is ultimately untenable. The particular worries about propositions that marshal parallel problems that Paul Benacerraf has raised for mathematical platonists. At the same time, the utility of “proposition-talk”—indeed, the apparent linguistic commitment evident in our use of 'that'-clauses (in offering (...) explanations and making predictions)—is also in need of explanation. We account for this with a fictionalist analysis of our use of 'that'-clauses. Our account avoids certain problems that arise for the usual error-theoretic versions of fictionalism because we apply the notion of semantic pretense to develop an alternative, pretense-involving, non-error-theoretic, fictionalist account of proposition-talk. (shrink)
The paper gives a detailed reconstruction and discussion of Peirce’s doctrine of propositions, so-called Dicisigns, developed in the years around 1900. The special features different from the logical mainstream are highlighted: the functional definition not dependent upon conscious stances nor human language, the semiotic characterization extending propositions and quasi-propositions to cover prelinguistic and prehuman occurrences of signs, the relations of Dicisigns to the conception of facts, of diagrammatical reasoning, of icons and indices, of meanings, of objects, of (...) syntax in Peirce’s logic-as-semiotics. (shrink)
The topic of this article is the ontology of practical reasons. We draw a critical comparison between two views. According to the first, practical reasons are states of affairs; according to the second, they are propositions. We first isolate and spell out in detail certain objections to the second view that can be found only in embryonic form in the literature – in particular, in the work of Jonathan Dancy. Next, we sketch possible ways in which one might respond (...) to each one of these objections. A careful evaluation of these complaints and responses, we argue, shows that the first view is not as obviously compelling as it is thought by Dancy. Indeed, it turns out that the view that practical reasons are propositions is by no means unworkable and in fact, at least under certain assumptions, explicit considerations can be made in favour of a propositional construal of reasons. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell and the Nature of Propositions offers the first book-length defence of the Multiple Relation Theory of Judgement (MRTJ). Although the theory was much maligned by Wittgenstein and ultimately rejected by Russell himself, Lebens shows that it provides a rich and insightful way to understand the nature of propositional content. In Part I, Lebens charts the trajectory of Russell’s thought before he adopted the MRTJ. Part II reviews the historical story of the theory: What led Russell to deny (...) the existence of propositions altogether? Why did the theory keep evolving throughout its short life? What role did G. F. Stout play in the evolution of the theory? What was Wittgenstein’s concern with the theory, and, if we can’t know what his concern was exactly, then what are the best contending hypotheses? And why did Russell give the theory up? In Part III, Lebens makes the case that Russell’s concerns with the theory weren’t worth its rejection. Moreover, he argues that the MRTJ does most of what we could want from an account of propositions at little philosophical cost. This book bridges the history of early analytic philosophy with work in contemporary philosophy of language. It advances a bold reading of the theory of descriptions and offers a new understanding of the role of Stout and the representation concern in the evolution of the MRTJ. It also makes a decisive contribution to philosophy of language by demonstrating the viability of a no-proposition theory of propositions. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss two concerns for pluralist truth theories: a concern about a key detail of these theories and a concern about their viability. The detail-related concern is that pluralists have relied heavily upon the notion of a domain, but it is not transparent what they take domains to be. Since the notion of a domain has been present in philosophy for some time, it is important for many theorists, not only truth pluralists, to be clear on what (...) domains are and what work they can do. The viability-related concern is that it’s not clear how a pluralist truth theory could explain the truth-conditions of mixed atomic propositions. To address this concern, truth pluralists should recognize something to which they have not been sufficiently attentive: that some atomic propositions belong to more than one domain. But, recognizing this requires rethinking the relationships between the nature of propositions, their membership in domains, and their truth. I address these issues and propose an understanding of them that is preferable to the best existing account of them, that offered by Michael Lynch. (shrink)
Speaks defends the view that propositions are properties: for example, the proposition that grass is green is the property being such that grass is green. We argue that there is no reason to prefer Speaks's theory to analogous but competing theories that identify propositions with, say, 2-adic relations. This style of argument has recently been deployed by many, including Moore and King, against the view that propositions are n-tuples, and by Caplan and Tillman against King's view that (...)propositions are facts of a special sort. We offer our argument as an objection to the view that propositions are unsaturated relations. (shrink)
It is argued that taken together, two widely held claims ((i) sentences express structured propositions whose structures are functions of the structures of sentences expressing them; and (ii) sentences have underlying structures that are the input to semantic interpretation) suggest a simple, plausible theory of propositional structure. According to this theory, the structures of propositions are the same as the structures of the syntactic inputs to semantics they are expressed by. The theory is defended against a variety of (...) objections. (shrink)
Philosophers often talk about the things we say, or believe, or think, or mean. The things are often called ‘propositions’. A proposition is what one believes, or thinks, or means when one believes, thinks, or means something. Talk about propositions is ubiquitous when philosophers turn their gaze to language, meaning and thought. But what are propositions? Is there a single class of things that serve as the objects of belief, the bearers of truth, and the meanings of (...) utterances? How do our utterances express propositions? Under what conditions do two speakers say the same thing, and what (if anything) does this tell us about the nature of propositions? There is no consensus on these questions—or even on whether propositions should be treated as things at all. During the second Propositions and Same-Saying workshop, which took place on July 19–21 2010 at the University of Sydney, philosophers debated these (and related) questions. The workshop covered topics in the philosophy of language, perception, and metaphysics. The present volume contains revised and expanded versions of the papers presented at the workshop. (shrink)
No semantic theory satisfying certain natural constraints can identify the semantic contents of sentences (the propositions they express), with sets of circumstances in which the sentences are true–no matter how fine-grained the circumstances are taken to be. An objection to the proof is shown to fail by virtue of conflating model-theoretic consequence between sentences with truth-conditional consequence between the semantic contents of sentences. The error underlines the impotence of distinguishing semantics, in the sense of a truth-based theory of logical (...) consequence, and semantics, in the sense of a theory of meaning. (shrink)
Linguistic meaning underdetermines what is said. This has consequences for philosophical accounts of meaning, communication, and propositional attitude reports. I argue that the consequence we should endorse is that utterances typically express many propositions, that these are what speakers mean, and that the correct semantics for attitude reports will handle this fact while being relational and propositional.
This paper contains two traditions of diagrammatic studies namely one, the Euler–Venn–Peirce diagram and the other, following tradition of Aristotle, the square of oppositions. We put together both the traditions to study representations of singular propositions, their negations and the inter relationship between the two. Along with classical negation we have incorporated negation of another kind viz. absence. We have also considered the changes that take place in the context of open universe.
According to the Relational View of Propositional Attitude Reports (‘Relational View of Reports’, for short), attitude reports report thinkers as standing in cognitive relations to propositions. One difficult question for the view is: What is the nature of the cognitive relation(s) thinkers stand in to propositions in having propositional attitudes? One promise of The Measure Theory of Mind (sometimes, ‘The Measure Theory’ or ‘Measure Theory’ for short) is that it can avoid having to answer this question by allowing (...) attitude reports to be relational in form without taking the atti- tudes themselves to be relational, and a fortiori without taking propositional attitudes to involve any cognitive relation to propositions. This paper argues that if the propositional attitudes are conceived of in a robust way that emphasizes their normative and perspectival aspects, then this promise of The Measure Theory cannot be realized. If there is a viable Measure Theory for mind conceived of in these robust terms, it must incorporate, rather than dismiss, the notion of a cognitive relation to a proposition. (shrink)
The authors provide an object-theoretic analysis of two paradoxes in the theory of possible worlds and propositions stemming from Russell and Kaplan. After laying out the paradoxes, the authors provide a brief overview of object theory and point out how syntactic restrictions that prevent object-theoretic versions of the classical paradoxes are justified philosophically. The authors then trace the origins of the Russell paradox to a problematic application of set theory in the definition of worlds. Next the authors show that (...) an object-theoretic analysis of the Kaplan paradox reveals that there is no genuine paradox at all, as the central premise of the paradox is simply a logical falsehood and hence can be rejected on the strongest possible grounds—not only in object theory but for the very framework of propositional modal logic in which Kaplan frames his argument. The authors close by fending off a possible objection that object theory avoids the Russell paradox only by refusing to incorporate set theory and, hence, that the object-theoretic solution is only a consequence of the theory’s weakness. (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 “assertoric content”.
_ Source: _Volume 6, Issue 2-3, pp 165 - 181 Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘hinge propositions’—those propositions that stand fast for us and around which all empirical enquiry turns—remains controversial and elusive, and none of the recent attempts to make sense of it strike me as entirely satisfactory. The literature on this topic tends to divide into two camps: either a ‘quasi-epistemic’ reading is offered that seeks to downplay the radical nature of Wittgenstein’s proposal by assimilating his thought to (...) more mainstream epistemological views, or a non-epistemic, ‘quasi-pragmatic’ conception is adopted that goes too far in the opposite direction by, for example, equating ‘hinge propositions’ with a type of ‘animal’ certainty. Neither interpretative strategy, I will argue, is promising for the reason that ‘hinges’ are best not conceived as certainties at all. Rather, what Wittgenstein says in respect to them is that doubt is “logically” excluded, and where there can be no doubt, I contend, there is no such thing as knowledge or certainty either. (shrink)
In this article, we evaluate the Compositionality Argument for structured propositions. This argument hinges on two seemingly innocuous and widely accepted premises: the Principle of Semantic Compositionality and Propositionalism (the thesis that sentential semantic values are propositions). We show that the Compositionality Argument presupposes that compositionality involves a form of building, and that this metaphysically robust account of compositionality is subject to counter-example: there are compositional representational systems that this principle cannot accommodate. If this is correct, one of (...) the most important arguments for structured propositions is undermined. (shrink)
The pressure to individuate propositions more finely than intensionally—that is, hyper-intensionally—has two distinct sources. One source is the philosophy of mind: one can believe a proposition without believing an intensionally equivalent proposition. The second source is metaphysics: there are intensionally equivalent propositions, such that one proposition is true in virtue of the other but not vice versa. I focus on what our theory of propositions should look like when it's guided by metaphysical concerns about what is true (...) in virtue of what. In this paper I articulate and defend a metaphysical theory of the individuation of propositions, according to which two propositions are identical just in case they occupy the same nodes in a network of invirtuation relations. Invirtuation is here taken to be a primitive relation of metaphysical explanation exemplified by propositions that, in conjunction with truth, defines the notion of true in virtue of. After formulating the theory, I compare it with a view.. (shrink)
In Jeffrey King’s theory of structured propositions, propositional structure mirrors the syntactic structure of natural language sentences that express it. I provide cases where this claim individuates propositions too finely across languages. Crucially, King’s paradigmatic proposition-fact ^that Dara swims^ cannot be believed by a monolingual Greek speaker, due to Greek syntax requiring an obligatory article in front of proper names. King’s two possible replies are: (i) to try to streamline the syntax of Greek and English; or (ii) to (...) insist that English speakers can believe propositions inexpressible in Greek. I argue that the former option entails giving up a neo-Russelian framework, and the latter makes King’s account arbitrary or trivial. I conclude that the mirroring claim is untenable. (shrink)
This paper defends a key aspect of the Peircean conception of truth—the idea that truth is in some sense epistemically-constrained. It does so by exploring parallels between Peirce’s epistemology of inquiry and that of Wittgenstein in On Certainty. The central argument defends a Peircean claim about truth by appeal to a view shared by Peirce and Wittgenstein about the structure of reasons. This view relies on the idea that certain claims have a special epistemic status, or function as what are (...) popularly called ‘hinge propositions’. (shrink)
In the paper we build up the ontology of Leśniewski’s type for formalizing synthetic propositions. We claim that for these propositions an unconventional square of opposition holds, where a, i are contrary, a, o (resp. e, i) are contradictory, e, o are subcontrary, a, e (resp. i, o) are said to stand in the subalternation. Further, we construct a non-Archimedean extension of Boolean algebra and show that in this algebra just two squares of opposition are formalized: conventional and (...) the square that we invented. As a result, we can claim that there are only two basic squares of opposition. All basic constructions of the paper (the new square of opposition, the formalization of synthetic propositions within ontology of Leśniewski’s type, the non-Archimedean explanation of square of opposition) are introduced for the first time. (shrink)
Most direct reference theorists about indexicals and proper names have adopted the thesis that singular propositions about physical objects are composed of physical objects and properties.1 There have been a number of recent proponents of such a view, including Scott Soames, Nathan Salmon, John Perry, Howard Wettstein, and David Kaplan.2 Since Kaplan is the individual who is best known for holding such a view, let's call a proposition that is composed of objects and properties a K-proposition. In this paper, (...) I will attempt to show that a direct reference view about the content of proper names and indexicals leads very naturally to the position that all singular propositions about physical objects are K-propositions.3 Then, I will attempt to show that this view of propositions is false. I will spend the bulk of the paper on this latter task. My goal in the paper, then, is to show that adopting the direct reference thesis comes at a cost problems the view has with problems such as opacity and the significance of some identity statements; it comes at even more of a cost). (shrink)
Views that treat the contents of sentences as structured, Russellian propositions face a problem with empty names. It seems that those sorts of things cannot be the contents of sentences containing such names. I motivate and defend a solution to the problem according to which a sentence may have a singular proposition as its content at one time, and a nonsingular one at another. When the name is empty the content is a nonsingular Russellian structured proposition; when the name (...) is not empty the content is a singular Russellian structured proposition. (shrink)
Soames (Philos Top 15:44–87, 1987 , J Philos Logic 37:267–276, 2008 ) has argued that propositions cannot be sets of truth-supporting circumstances. This argument is criticized for assuming that various singular terms are directly referential when in fact there are good grounds to doubt this.
An important objection to sententialist theories of attitude reports is that they cannot accommodate the principle that one cannot know that someone believes that p without knowing what it is that he believes. This paper argues that a parallel problem arises for propositionalist accounts that has gone largely unnoticed, and that, furthermore, the usual resources for the propositionalist do not afford an adequate solution. While non-standard solutions are available for the propositionalist, it turns out that there are parallel solutions that (...) are available for the sententialist. Since the difficulties raised seem to show that the mechanism by which sentential complements serve to inform us about attitudes and about sentence meaning does not depend on their referring to propositions, this casts doubt on whether talk of propositions should retain a significant theoretical role in the enterprise of understanding thought, language and communication. (shrink)
Is the way we use propositions to individuate beliefs and other intentional states analogous to the way we use numbers to measure weights and other physical magnitudes? In an earlier paper , I argued that there is an important disanalogy. One and the same weight can be 'related to' different numbers under different units of measurement. Moreover, the choice of a unit of measurement is arbitrary,in the sense that which way we choose doesn't affect the weight attributed to the (...) object. But it makes little sense to say that one and the same belief can be related to different propositions: different proposition means different belief. So there is no analogous arbitrary choice. (shrink)
Reductionist realist accounts of certain entities, such as the natural numbers and propositions, have been taken to be fatally undermined by what we may call the problem of arbitrary identification. The problem is that there are multiple and equally adequate reductions of the natural numbers to sets (see Benacerraf, 1965), as well as of propositions to unstructured or structured entities (see, e.g., Bealer, 1998; King, Soames, & Speaks, 2014; Melia, 1992). This paper sets out to solve the problem (...) by canvassing what we may call the arbitrary reference strategy. The main claims of such strategy are 2. First, we do not know which objects are the referents of proposition and numerical terms since their reference is fixed arbitrarily. Second, our ignorance of which object is picked out as the referent does not entail that no object is referred to by the relevant expression. Different articulations of the strategy are assessed, and a new one is defended. (shrink)
According to many actualists, propositions, singular propositions in particular, are structurally complex, that is, roughly, (i) they have, in some sense, an internal structure that corresponds rather directly to the syntactic structure of the sentences that express them, and (ii) the metaphysical components, or constituents, of that structure are the semantic values — the meanings — of the corresponding syntactic components of those sentences. Given that reference is "direct", i.e., that the meaning of a name is its denotation, (...) an apparent consequence of this view is that any proposition expressed by a sentence containing a name that denotes a contingent being S is itself contingent — notably, the proposition [S does not exist]. Assuming that an entity must exist to have a property, necessarily, [S does not exist] must exist in order to be true. It seems to follow that, necessarily, [S does not exist] is not true and, hence, that S is not contingent after all. Past approaches to the problem — notably, those of Prior and Adams — lead to highly undesirable consequences for quantified modal logic. In this paper, several solutions to this puzzle are developed that preserve actualism, the structured view of propositions, the direct theory of reference, and the intuition that [S does not exist] is indeed possible without the adverse consequences for QML of previous solutions. (shrink)
Toward the end of his classic treatise An Essay on Free Will, Peter van Inwagen offers a modal argument against the Principle of Sufficient Reason which he argues shows that the principle “collapses all modal distinctions.” In this paper, a critical flaw in this argument is shown to lie in van Inwagen’s beginning assumption that there is such a thing as the conjunction of all contingently true propositions. This is shown to follow from Cantor’s theorem and a property of (...) conjunction with respect to contingent propositions. Given the failure of this assumption, van Inwagen’s argument against the Principle of Sufficient Reason cannot succeed, at least not without the addition of some remarkable and previously unacknowledged qualifications. (shrink)
Deploying distinctions between ignorance of \ and ignorance that \ , and between knowledge of \ and knowledge that \ , I address a question that has hitherto received little attention, namely: what is it to have knowledge of propositions? I then provide a taxonomy of ontological conceptions of the nature of propositions, and explore several of their interesting epistemological implications.
This paper examines the potential for abstracting propositions – an as yet untested way of defending the realist thesis that propositions as abstract entities exist. I motivate why we should want to abstract propositions and make clear, by basing an account on the neo-Fregean programme in arithmetic, what ontological and epistemological advantages a realist can gain from this. I then raise a series of problems for the abstraction that ultimately have serious repercussions for realism about propositions (...) in general. I first identify problems about the number of entities able to be abstracted using these techniques. I then focus on how issues of language relativity result in problems akin to the Caesar problem in arithmetic by exposing circularity and modal concern over the status of the criterion of identity for propositions. (shrink)
A number of traditional roles that propositions are supposed to play are outlined. Philosophical theories of the nature of propositions are then surveyed, together with considerations for and against, with an eye on the question whether any single notion of a proposition is suited to play all or any of these roles. Approaches discussed include: (1) the structureless possible-worlds theory; (2) the structured Russellian theory; and (3) the structured Fregean theory. It is noted that it is often unclear (...) whether these are accounts of what propositions are, ontologically speaking, or whether they are accounts of how propositions are best represented in a formal semantic theory. (shrink)