Sentences in context have semantic contents determined by a range of factors both internal and external to speakers. I argue against the thesis that semantic content is transparent to speakers in the sense of being immediately accessible to speakers in virtue of their linguistic competence.
Many philosophers believe in things, propositions, which are the things that we believe, assert etc., and which are the contents of sentences. The act-type theory of propositions is an attempt to say what propositions are, to explain how we stand in relations to them, and to explain why they are true or false. The core idea of the act-type theory is that propositions are types of acts of predication. The theory is developed in various ways to offer explanations of the (...) important properties of propositions. I present the core idea of the theory, and some developments of it. I discuss the relationship between the theory and the content–force distinction. I also present an important type of objection that has been raised to the explanations offered by the act-type theory. (shrink)
Hanks has defended a novel account of what propositions are. His key argument against Soames' rival view is that predication is not neutral. According to Hanks, predication is essentially committal. I show that Hanks' argument for this conclusion raises problems for his own account of questions and orders.
Båve has argued that act-type theories of propositions entail unwanted ambiguity of sentences such as ‘Donald loves Joan’. King has argued that act-type theories of propositions entail an unwanted abundance of propositions. I reply that a version of the act-type theory can avoid these objections. The key idea is that grammar constrains the acts that can be performed by the utterance of a sentence. I present enough of the details of this version of the act-type theory to show how it (...) can be used to respond to Båve's and King's objections. I conclude that this is a promising way to develop the act-type theory of propositions. (shrink)
Russellians can have a no proposition view of empty names. I will defend this theory against the problem of meaningfulness, and show that the theory is in general well motivated. My solution to the problem of meaningfulness is that speakers’ judgements about meaningfulness are tracking grammaticality, and not propositional content.
It is a common view among philosophers of language that both propositions and sentences are structured objects. One obvious question to ask about such a view is whether there is any interesting connection between these two sorts of structure. The author identifies two theses about this relationship. Identity (ID) – the structure of a sentence and the proposition it expresses are identical. Determinism (DET) – the structure of a sentence determines the structure of the proposition it expresses. After noting that (...) ID entails DET, the author argues against DET (and therefore also against ID). This argument is based on considerations to do with unarticulated constituents, but it is not ultimately empirical. As well as answering a question suggested by contemporary theories of propositions, the conclusion is significant because some, but not all, of the theories of propositions currently popular entail ID and/or DET. Unless there is a response to the argument here, those theories are refuted. (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)
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.
I propose a version of the act‐type theory of propositions, following Hanks and Soames. According to the theory, propositions are types of act of predication. The content of a sentence is the type of such act performed when that sentence is uttered. A consequence of this theory is that the structure of the content of a sentence will mirror the structure of that sentence. I defend this consequence of the theory from two important objections. I then argue that this theory (...) is well motivated because it can be part of a theory of what is said. (shrink)
This thesis presents an account of the nature of structured propositions and addresses a series of questions that arise from that proposal. Chapter 1 presents the account and explains how it meets standard objections to such views. Chapter 2 responds to the objection that this version of propositionalism is really a form of sententialism by arguing for the distinct advantages of the propositionalist view. Chapter 3 argues against a closely related view of propositions by way of general principles about how (...) to construct such theories. Chapter 4 illustrates how a theory of propositions of the sort proposed can be defended against a recent argument that propositions need not play a central role in linguistic theory. (shrink)
Empty names are a problem for Russellians. I describe three ways to approach solving the problem. These are positing gappy propositions as contents, nonsingular propositions as contents, or denying that sentences containing empty names have contents. I discuss methods for deciding between solutions. I then argue for some methods over others and defend one solution using those methods. I reject the arguments that either intuitions about truth value, truth, content, or meaningfulness can decide between the solutions. I give an alternative (...) argument which does decide between the three solutions. The alternative is based on the idea that a sentence and its internal negation are contrary: they cannot both be true, but they might both be false. I argue from Russellian premises to the conclusion that such sentences cannot be assigned truth values when they contain empty names. The argument shows that no Russellian should assign a truth value to a sentence containing an empty name, and therefore that no Russellian should assign a proposition as the content of such a sentence. This shows that Russellians should conclude that sentences containing empty names do not have contents, i.e. the no proposition view. (shrink)
Neo-Russellian theories of structured propositions face challenges to do with both representation and structure which are sometimes called the problem of unity and the Benacerraf problem. In §i, I set out the problems and Jeffrey King's solution, which I take to be the best of its type, as well as an unfortunate consequence for that solution. In §§ii–iii, I diagnose what is going wrong with this line of thought. If I am right, it follows that the Benacerraf problem cannot be (...) used to motivate the view that propositions are irreducible elements of our ontology. (shrink)
In this paper I examine an argument that there is a serious tension between the claim that for natural languages linguistic meaning underdetermines what is said and the relational analysis of attitude-reports. I conclude that it is possible to avoid the tension by adopting a pluralism about meaning and expression.