Ramsification and the Ramifications of Prior's Puzzle

Noûs 55 (4):935-961 (2021)
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Ramsification is a well-known method of defining theoretical terms that figures centrally in a wide range of debates in metaphysics. Prior's puzzle is the puzzle of why, given the assumption that that-clauses denote propositions, substitution of "the proposition that P" for "that P" within the complements of many propositional attitude verbs sometimes fails to preserve truth, and other times fails to preserve grammaticality. On the surface, Ramsification and Prior's puzzle appear to have little to do with each other. But Prior's puzzle is much more general than is ordinarily appreciated, and Ramsification requires a solution to the generalized form of Prior's puzzle. Without such a solution, a wide range of theories will either fail to imply their Ramsey sentences, or have Ramsey sentences that are ill-formed. As a consequence, definitions of theoretical terms given using the Ramsey sentence will be either incorrect or nonsensical. I present a partial solution to the puzzle that requires making use of a neo-Davidsonian language for scientific theorizing, but the would-be Ramsifier still faces serious challenges.

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Justin D'Ambrosio
University of St. Andrews


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