Force, content and the varieties of unity (old version)


[This is an old version which is superseded by the published version. I keep it here for the record, as it has been cited.] A strict dichotomy between the force / mode of speech acts and intentional states and their propositional content has been a central feature of analytical philosophy of language and mind since the time of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell. Recently this dichotomy has been questioned by philosophers such as Peter Hanks (2015, 2016) and Francois Recanati (2016), who argue that we can't account for propositional unity independently of the forceful acts of speakers and propose new ways of responding to the notorious 'Frege point' by appealing to a notion of force cancellation. In my paper I will offer some supplementary criticisms of the traditional view, but also a way of reconceptualizing the force-content distinction which allows us to preserve certain of its features, and an alternative response to the Frege point that rejects the notion of force cancellation in favor of an appeal to intentional acts that create additional forms of unity at higher levels of intentional organization: acts such as questioning a statement or order, or merely putting it forward or entertaining it; pretending to state or order; or conjoining or disjoining statements or orders. This allows us to understand how we can present a forceful act without being committed to it. In contrast, the Frege point confuses a lack of commitment to with a lack of commitment or force in what is put forward.

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Michael Schmitz
University of Vienna


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