Revisionist reporting

Philosophical Studies (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Several theorists have observed that attitude reports have what we call “revisionist” uses. For example, even if Pete has never met Ann and has no idea that she exists, Jane can still say to Jim ‘Pete believes Ann can learn to play tennis in ten lessons’ if Pete believes all 6-year-olds can learn to play tennis in ten lessons and it is part of Jane and Jim’s background knowledge that Ann is a 6-year-old. Jane’s assertion seems acceptable because the claim she reports Pete as believing is entailed by Pete’s beliefs if they are revised in light of Jane and Jim’s background knowledge. We provide a semantic theory of revisionist reports based on this idea. We observe that the admissible “revisions” are limited in a striking way. Jane cannot say ‘Pete thinks Ann is a 6-year-old and can play tennis in ten lessons’ in the same context that she can say ‘Pete believes Ann can learn to play tennis ten lessons’, even though this too follows from Jane and Jim’s background knowledge together with what Pete believes. Our theory predicts the infelicity of these latter reports. It also has the resources to predict the truth of “exported” attitude reports and casts the relationship between these reports and “singular thought” in a new light. We conclude by discussing how revisionist reports make trouble for a simplistic view of the connection between the relations expressed by attitude verbs in natural language and the relations of most interest to philosophers of mind and cognitive science.
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Archival date: 2020-06-07
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2020-06-07

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