Embedding speech-act propositions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hanks (Propositional content, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2015) develops a theory of propositions as speech-act types. Because speech acts play a role in the contents themselves, the view overturns Frege’s force/content distinction, and as such, faces the challenge of explaining how propositions embed under logical operators like negation. The attempt to solve this problem has lead Hanks and his recent commentators to adopt theoretically exotic resources, none of which, we argue, is ultimately successful. The problem is that although there are three different ways of negating the sentence “Mary’s card is an ace”, current speech-act theories of propositions can only accommodate two of them. We distinguish between (1) “It is false that Mary’s card is an ace” (sentence negation), (2) “Mary’s card is a non-ace” (predicate negation), and (3) “Mary’s card is not an ace” (content negation) and show that Hanks and his commentators cannot explain content negation. We call this Hanks’ Negation Problem. The problem is significant because content negation is the negation required for logic. Fortunately, we think there is a natural way for Hanks to accommodate content negation (and all the other logical operators) as successive acts of predication. The view solves Hanks’ Negation Problem with only resources internal to Hanks’ own view.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSynthese
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Content
  • Embedding
  • Force
  • Hanks
  • Negation
  • Propositions

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