Chapter

The Problem Posed by Propositional Attitude Ascriptions

Scott Soames

in Beyond Rigidity

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195145281
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833702 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195145283.003.0006
 The Problem Posed by Propositional Attitude Ascriptions

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It is argued that propositional attitude ascriptions of the form a believes / asserts that S semantically express propositions that report that an agent bears the relevant attitude – belief or assertion – to the proposition semantically expressed by S in the context in which the report is made. Apparent instances of substitution failure – in which substitution of coreferential names or indexicals in S appears to change the truth value of the original attitude ascription – are then used to formulate a challenge to the views about the semantic contents drawn in earlier chapters. According to those views, the proposition semantically expressed by S is simply its Russellian semantic content, and attitude ascriptions differing only in the substitution of coreferential names or indexicals semantically express the very same proposition (and so have the same semantically determined truth conditions), even though assertive utterances of the two ascriptions in certain contexts may result in the assertion of propositions with different truth value. According to an alternative conception, such substitution really does change the semantically determined truth values of the attitude ascriptions, and the proposition semantically expressed by a sentence S is an amalgam of its Russellian semantic content plus the very sentence S itself (i.e., it is a linguistically enhanced proposition).

Keywords: proposition; propositional attitudes; semantic content; substitution failure; truth conditions

Chapter.  5963 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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