Cognitive synonymy: a dead parrot?

Philosophical Studies 180 (9):2727-2752 (2023)
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Abstract

Sentences \(\varphi\) and \(\psi\) are _cognitive synonyms_ for one when they play the same role in one’s cognitive life. The notion is pervasive (Sect. 1 ), but elusive: it is bound to be hyperintensional (Sect. 2 ), but excessive fine-graining would trivialize it and there are reasons for some coarse-graining (Sect. 2.1 ). Conceptual limitations stand in the way of a natural algebra (Sect. 2.2 ), and it should be sensitive to subject matters (Sect. 2.3 ). A cognitively adequate individuation of content may be intransitive (Sect. 3 ) due to ‘dead parrot’ series: sequences of sentences \(\varphi _1, \ldots, \varphi _n\) where adjacent \(\varphi _i\) and \(\varphi _{i+1}\) are cognitive synonyms while \(\varphi _1\) and \(\varphi _n\) are not (Sect. 3.1 ). Finding an intransitive account is hard: Fregean equipollence won’t do (Sect. 3.2 ) and a result by Leitgeb shows that it wouldn’t satisfy a minimal compositionality principle (Sect. 3.3 )._Sed contra_, there are reasons for transitivity, too (Sect. 3.4 ). In Sect. 4, we come up with a formal semantics capturing this jumble of desiderata, thereby showing that the notion is coherent. In Sect. 5, we re-assess the desiderata in its light.

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Franz Berto
University of St. Andrews

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