What is an attributive adjective?

Philosophy 83 (1):77-88 (2008)
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Abstract

Peter Geach’s distinction between logically predicative and logically attributive adjectives has gained a certain currency in philosophy. For all that, no satisfactory explanation of what an attributive adjective is has yet been provided. We argue that Geach’s discussion suggests two different ways of understanding the notion. According to one, an adjective is attributive just in case predications of it in combination with a noun fail to behave in inferences like a logical conjunction of two separate predications. According to the other, an adjective is attributive just in case it cannot be applied in a truth-value-yielding fashion unless combined with a noun. The latter way of understanding the notion has been largely neglected by Geach’s critics, but we argue that taking account of it shows the misguided nature of some of their objections, and also yields a more satisfactory explanation of attributivity than does the other.

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