Is King's account too fined grained?
King considers whether his view individuates propositions too finely across languages. He wants us to think about the following three possibilities:
(A) At least some proposition(s) can be expressed in different natural languages.
(B) At least some proposition(s) expressed in one natural language can be expressed in any natural language.
(C) All propositions that can be expressed in one natural language can be expressed in any other.
Which do we accept?
1. If King's view is correct, then a proposition Q is expressible in different natural languages L and L' iff
(i) they contain sentences SL and SL1, whose syntactic structures at the relevant level of syntax are identical.
(ii) the semantic significance of these syntactic relations are the same.
(iii) the semantic values of the lexical items occurring in the same places in the syntactic structures associated with SL and SL' are identical.
2. King's view is correct.
3. So (A) entails a substantial empirical claim about the syntactic of the languages in question.
4. So (B) entails all languages to have sentences that are syntactically identical.
5. So (C) entails all languages to be structurally identical at the level of LF.
It seems we should conclude that (B) and (C) entail successively stronger and implausible claims about the LFs of natural language.
6. Thus, the entailments from (A) and (B) and (C) are too strong.
7. Because King's view makes them too strong, King's view is false.
This would, of course, make King unhappy. To see our way past this objection, we need to see that (A) differs from both (B) and (C) in its pretheoretical plausibility.
(A) is a sort of constraint on any theory of propositions. It is desirable for any theory of propositions to yield the result that 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white' express the same proposition.
1. If (A) is true then 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white' express the same proposition.
2. They do.
3. So (A) is true.
(B) and (C) contrast strikingly with (A). They are lacking pretheoretical plausibility.
Perhaps a more natural pretheoretical reading would be
(B') Some sentences of some language can be translated into any other language
(C') Any sentence of any language can be translated into any other language
Sadly, these rewrites only suppose the originals given a further assumption. We need to add that translation is pairing sentences which express the same proposition. So we need to ask: What is the evidence for (B') and (C')? How plausible is the additional premise?
Sometimes we do make strict translations, like in the case of 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white'. But usually in practice we make loose translation. We make what are closer to paraphrases.
It seems that the looser sense of translation is used to give a push for the pretheoretical plausibility of (B') and (C'). But this doesn't seem to help us bolster the case for (B) and (C), since they seem to rest upon the strict sense of translation.
To our questions we must answer: The evidence for (B') and (C') is the loose sense of translations. The additional premise is plausible given the strict sense of translation.
King thinks that it is a virtue of his theory that if we want to figure out whether (B) or (C) is true, we only need to look at the empirical evidence about language and do some theorizing about propositions. This lets King block the objection (6) above. (A) seems to be common-sense, and we should accept it. Whether (B) or (C) is true or not is an open question, perhaps.