Propositions and Utterances

Paul Horwich

in Truth

Second edition

Published in print December 1998 | ISBN: 9780198752233
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597732 | DOI:
 Propositions and Utterances

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Insofar as our aim is merely to understand our conception of truth, and not to promote some allegedly better one, we have no choice but to acknowledge that truth is primarily attributed to what we believe, question, suppose, etc.—i.e. to so‐called propositions. However, there are a couple of influential sources of scepticism about this article of common sense—an article wholly embraced by minimalism—and the aim of this chapter is to respond to them. First, a case is sketched in favour of propositions (based on the logical form of belief attributions); and the usual counter‐arguments (which derive from their supposed weirdness and the alleged intransitivity of translation) are undermined. Second, there is a tendency to think that our conception of ‘proposition’ presupposes the notion of truth, so that the minimalist order of explanation would seem to be the wrong way round. In reply, it is suggested that we employ a Wittgensteinian account of meaning—hence ‘proposition’—in terms of use, which would not require a prior grasp of truth. Finally, for those who are not convinced by these arguments, it is shown how minimalist theories of ‘truth’ for utterances and belief‐states can be given without making a commitment to propositions.

Keywords: belief attribution; logical form; meaning; proposition; translation; truth; use; utterance; Wittgenstein

Chapter.  6533 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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