On the Alleged Gap between Semantic Content and Objects of Assertion

Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy 53:153-158 (2018)
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Abstract

There are various reasons one might think that the semantic content of occurrences of sentences does not coincide with assertoric content –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 assertoric content. Unable to provide a plausible way of recovering assertoric content 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.

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Una Stojnic
Princeton University

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