Operator arguments revisited

Philosophical Studies 176 (11):2933-2959 (2019)
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Abstract
Certain passages in Kaplan’s ‘Demonstratives’ are often taken to show that non-vacuous sentential operators associated with a certain parameter of sentential truth require a corresponding relativism concerning assertoric contents: namely, their truth values also must vary with that parameter. Thus, for example, the non-vacuity of a temporal sentential operator ‘always’ would require some of its operands to have contents that have different truth values at different times. While making no claims about Kaplan’s intentions, we provide several reconstructions of how such an argument might go, focusing on the case of time and temporal operators as an illustration. What we regard as the most plausible reconstruction of the argument establishes a conclusion similar enough to that attributed to Kaplan. However, the argument overgenerates, leading to absurd consequences. We conclude that we must distinguish assertoric contents from compositional semantic values, and argue that once they are distinguished, the argument fails to establish any substantial conclusions. We also briefly discuss a related argument commonly attributed to Lewis, and a recent variant due to Weber.
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First archival date: 2016-11-19
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