Thursday, September 4, 2008

Results and Readings

Today's results were mostly negative: propositions, if they exist, are not general or specific acts of assertion, general or specific acts of uttering, linguistic meanings of sentences, or sentence types or tokens. Positively, if they exist then they are truth-apt, shareable objects of attitudes. So it seems that what is asserted is a proposition, speaker-meanings are propositions, and semantic contents of sentence types or tokens with respect to contexts are propositions. It is important to note that the results, so far, are compatible with many different views on the nature of propositions: are they sets of a certain type or some sort of "structured" entity?

Or maybe, as some philosophers have held, they do not exist at all. Next time our focus will be on arguments for and against the existence of propositions generally. A good idea for Tuesday's comment paper would be to discuss (i.e., consider an objection to) some argument for or against the existence of propositions. The best way to do that is to present the argument in numbered premise-conclusion form (like I did on the board), make sure it is logically valid, and say which premise is least plausible and why. An ambitious comment paper would attempt to uncover a novel argument for or against propositions. We'll start with some of the considerations that can be uncovered in Swoyer and McGrath. Then we may spend some time on arguments from Dorr before moving to the more difficult arguments in King's chapter 5. Our question is simply, do propositions exist? Why or why not? Approach the readings with our question firmly in mind. (Read: feel free to skip over stuff in the reading that doesn't bear directly on the question.) It's also a good idea to go over the Cartwright paper. It's very similar to what we covered today but there are some additional considerations in the paper that we weren't able to address.

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