Philosophical Studies 177 (11):3529-3547 (2020)
AbstractIn The Things We Mean, Stephen Schiffer defends a novel account of the entities to which belief reports relate us and to which their that-clauses refer. For Schiffer, the referred-to entities—propositions—exist in virtue of contingencies of our linguistic practices, deriving from “pleonastic restatements” of ontologically neutral discourse. Schiffer’s account of the individuation of propositions derives from his treatment of that -clause reference. While that -clauses are referential singular terms, their reference is not determined by the speaker’s referential intentions. Rather, their reference is determined in a top-down manner—in Schiffer’s words, “by what the speaker and audience mutually take to be essential to the truth-value of the belief report.” While this accounts for a deep disanalogy between belief reports and other relational propositions—a disanalogy emphasized by Schiffer—I argue that the proposal runs into trouble when we consider the case of de re belief. I close by showing how a modification of Schiffer’s approach—one differing in essential ways from the theory developed in Things—is capable of handling these difficulties.
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