The metaphysics of content : towards a minimalist account of propositions
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Propositions appear to be needed as the objects of belief and other propositional attitudes, the primary bearers of truth and falsity, and the semantic contents of sentences, but there remains significant debate over their existence and their nature. It is argued that we have good reason to believe in propositions and recent arguments to the contrary are responded to. Recent attempts by Jeffrey C. King, Scott Soames, and Peter Hanks to account for the nature of propositions are then considered. These accounts are claimed to be attractive in making propositions naturalistically acceptable. For King, propositions are facts whose existence depends on language and mind. For Soames and Hanks, propositions are types of predicative acts. Each account is put forth to explain how propositions represent things as being a certain way, and so possess truth-conditions. It is argued, however, that while propositions are the contents of representations, they are not themselves representational. Furthermore, the accounts of King and Soames are rejected on the grounds that they involve notions such as ascription and predication to explain features of propositions, whereas it is argued that these notions are best understood as relations to propositions, and so cannot be used in an account of propositions. A minimalist account of propositions is then argued for. Rather than seeking to explain how propositions perform their roles in terms of their underlying nature, it is argued that we should take their roles as explanatorily fundamental and explain features of propositions in terms of these roles.
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