Propositions

Mind 107 (425):1-32 (1998)
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Abstract
Recent work in philosophy of language has raised significant problems for the traditional theory of propositions, engendering serious skepticism about its general workability. These problems are, I believe, tied to fundamental misconceptions about how the theory should be developed. The goal of this paper is to show how to develop the traditional theory in a way which solves the problems and puts this skepticism to rest. The problems fall into two groups. The first has to do with reductionism, specifically attempts to reduce propositions to extensional entities-either extensional functions or sets. The second group concerns problems of fine grained content-both traditional 'Cicero'/'Tully' puzzles and recent variations on them which confront scientific essentialism. After characterizing the problems, I outline a non-reductionist approach-the algebraic approach-which avoids the problems associated with reductionism. I then go on to show how the theory can incorporate non-Platonic (as well as Platonic) modes of presentation. When these are implemented nondescriptively, they yield the sort of fine-grained distinctions which have been eluding us. The paper closes by applying the theory to a cluster of remaining puzzles, including a pair of new puzzles facing scientific essentialism.
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