Compositionality and Believing That

Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 15:60-76 (2016)
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This paper is about compositionality, belief reports, and related issues. I begin by introducing Putnam’s proposal for understanding compositionality, namely that the sense of a sentence is a function of the sense of its parts and of its logical structure (section 1). Both Church and Sellars think that Putnam’s move is superfluous or unnecessary since there is no relevant puzzle to begin with (section 2). I will urge that Putnam is right in thinking that there is indeed a puzzle with a discussion of translation and belief individuation (section 3). Later Salmon (2001/ 2007) reinforces Church’s position, but I will argue that it is still possible to make my case by clarifying the nature of my proposal, i.e., understanding explanations of action from the third-person point of view (section 4). Now, Fine (2007) agrees with Putnam that there is indeed a puzzle to be solved, but he argues that Putnam’s solution of it is problematic, and that his own semantic relationism is a better view. In response to this, I will recast the notion of compositionality based on a certain conception of belief individuation, namely that the semantic content of a sentence is a function of the semantic contents of its parts and of the structure of intensional discourses (sections 3 and 5). Finally the paper will end with a reconsideration of the recalcitrant Kripke’s puzzle about belief (1979/1988), since it might seem to put some pressure on my account. It turns out that my understanding of this puzzle is again different from Fine’s perspective (section 6).

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Tony Cheng
City University of New York


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