Objects of Thought

In Gary Ostertag (ed.), Meanings and Other Things: Essays on the Philosophy of Stephen Schiffer. Oxford University Press (2016)
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Abstract

In his book The Things We Mean, Stephen Schiffer advances a subtle defence of what he calls the ‘face-value’ analysis of attributions of belief and reports of speech. Under this analysis, ‘Harold believes that there is life on Venus’ expresses a relation between Harold and a certain abstract object, the proposition that there is life on Venus. The present essay first proposes an improvement to Schiffer’s ‘pleonastic’ theory of propositions. It then challenges the face-value analysis. There will be such things as propositions only if they possess conditions of identity and distinctness. By analyzing Frege’s theory of propositions (Gedanken), I argue that such conditions may be found for the special case of beliefs and sayings advanced as premises and conclusions of deductive arguments. These conditions, however, are not applicable to most ordinary beliefs and sayings. Ordinary attributions and reports, then, do not place thinkers and speakers in relations to propositions. A bonus is exposure of the fallacy in the Putnam-Taschek objection to Frege’s theory of sense and reference.

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Ian Rumfitt
Oxford University

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