Propositions, numbers, and the problem of arbitrary identification

Synthese 120 (2):229-263 (1999)


Those inclined to believe in the existence of propositions as traditionally conceived might seek to reduce them to some other type of entity. However, parsimonious propositionalists of this type are confronted with a choice of competing candidates – for example, sets of possible worlds, and various neo-Russellian and neo-Fregean constructions. It is argued that this choice is an arbitrary one, and that it closely resembles the type of problematic choice that, as Benacerraf pointed out, bedevils the attempt to reduce numbers to sets – should the number 2 be identified with the set Ø or with the set Ø, Ø? An “argument from arbitrary identification” is formulated with the conclusion that propositions (and perhaps numbers) cannot be reduced away. Various responses to this argument are considered, but ultimately rejected. The paper concludes that the argument is sound: propositions, at least, are sui generis entities.

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Joseph Moore
Amherst College

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Citations of this work

Propositions, Attitudinal Objects, and the Distinction Between Actions and Products.Friederike Moltmann - 2013 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume on Propositions, Edited by G. Rattan and D. Hunter 43 (5-6):679-701.
Propositions.Matthew McGrath - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Concept Designation.Arvid Båve - 2019 - American Philosophical Quarterly 56 (4):331-344.
Propositional or Non-Propositional Attitudes?Sean Crawford - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 168 (1):179-210.

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