Hopes, Fears, and Other Grammatical Scarecrows

Philosophical Review 128 (1):63-105 (2019)
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Abstract

The standard view of "believes" and other propositional attitude verbs is that such verbs express relations between agents and propositions. A sentence of the form “S believes that p” is true just in case S stands in the belief-relation to the proposition that p; this proposition is the referent of the complement clause "that p." On this view, we would expect the clausal complements of propositional attitude verbs to be freely intersubstitutable with their corresponding proposition descriptions—e.g., "the proposition that p"—as they are in the case of "believes." In many cases, however, intersubstitution of that-clauses and proposition descriptions fails to preserve truth value or even grammaticality. These substitution failures lead some philosophers to reject the standard view of propositional attitude reports. Others conclude that propositional attitude verbs are systematically ambiguous. I reject both these views. On my view, the that-clause complements of propositional attitude verbs denote propositions, but proposition descriptions do not.

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Jake Nebel
Princeton University

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