Two Roles for Propositions: Cause for Divorce?

Noûs 47 (3):409-430 (2011)
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Abstract

Nondescriptivist views in many areas of philosophy have long been associated with the commitment that in contrast to other domains of discourse, there are no propositions in their particular domain. For example, the ‘no truth conditions’ theory of conditionals1 is understood as the view that conditionals don’t express propositions, noncognitivist expressivism in metaethics is understood as advocating the view that there are not really moral propositions,2 and expressivism about epistemic modals is thought of as the view that there is no such thing as the proposition that Jack might be at home, over and above the proposition that Jack is at home.3 Of course, it is nearly always acknowledged that advocates of a nondescriptivist theory need not deny that there are conditional, moral, or modal propositions ‘at the end of the day’ – for if they also endorse a deflationary reading of talk about propositions, as famously advocated by Simon Blackburn, then they can employ such deflationary talk just as much as the rest of us. They just don’t appeal to propositions to do any of the work in their theories. Rather, they ‘earn the right’ to talk about propositions.4 It is the aim of this paper to upset this way of thinking about the proper attitude of nondescriptivists toward propositions, and to advocate a more constructive and in some ways more radical alternative on behalf of the nondescriptivist. I will begin by introducing and developing a set of problems that are faced by any nondescriptivist theory which tries to do without propositions. All of these problems are easily solved by any view which postulates propositions across the board, but none of them are solved by merely deflationary talk about propositions – their most promising solutions require propositions to do real theoretical work, and therefore the problems themselves remind us of and illustrate some of the important reasons why it is worth positing propositions in the first place..

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Mark Schroeder
University of Southern California

Citations of this work

Prospects for an Expressivist Theory of Meaning.Nate Charlow - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15:1-43.
Fallibility for Expressivists.Bob Beddor - 2020 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (4):763-777.
Grading Modal Judgement.Nate Charlow - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):769-807.
Dynamic Expressivism about Deontic Modality.William B. Starr - 2016 - In Nate Charlow Matthew Chrisman (ed.), Deontic Modality. Oxford University Press. pp. 355-394.

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References found in this work

Wise choices, apt feelings: a theory of normative judgment.Allan Gibbard - 1990 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Thinking how to live.Allan Gibbard - 2003 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Being for: evaluating the semantic program of expressivism.Mark Andrew Schroeder - 2008 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Mark Schroeder.
Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reasoning.Simon Blackburn - 1998 - New York: Oxford University Press UK.
Essays in quasi-realism.Simon Blackburn - 1993 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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