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Sunday, October 28, 2018


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We have discussed this before, and I have consistently argued that the assertion is part of the meaning of the sentence, though not its content, where ‘content’ is that component of meaning that we are able to designate or refer to by means of a noun-phrase

I.e. a sentence is not a referring term, but a that-clause is a referring term. We can convert a sentence into a that clause by adding the word ‘that’.

I.e. ‘grass is green’ goes to ‘that grass is green’

We can also convert the that-clause back into a sentence by adding ‘it is true’. Thus

‘that grass is green’ goes to ‘It is true that grass is green’

The ‘that’ clause designates the part of the meaning that we can refer to. But since ‘grass is green’ does not mean the same as ‘that grass is green’, it follows that the sentence has a component of meaning that we cannot name. If we could, we could refer to what the whole sentence means, whether or not the sentence were true or false, but then the state of affairs it referred to would obtain, and the sentence would be true, so the sentence would be both true and false.

Regarding disjunctions and implications, we must distinguish an incomplete sentence or clause from a complete sentence. The that-clause

‘that grass is green’

contains the incomplete sentence ‘grass is green’, hence there is no assertion. We need a full stop or period to complete the sentence. I.e. only the complete sentence

‘Grass is green or snow is white’

forms an assertion.

Regarding e.g.

‘The earth is not flat and I think the earth is flat’

there is no contradiction. There is an oddity, given the obvious explanation is that the person is lying, and would therefore not say he was lying, given the whole point of lying is to deceive. But there is no contradiction. It is true that the earth is not flat, but a flat earther, to escape opprobrium or abuse, might state that, although he did not think it.

NYT: “But to do this, he has to reject the idea that when you assert a proposition, what you are doing is adding psychological force (“I think … ”) to abstract content (“it’s raining”).”

The Ostrich account also rejects any notion of ‘psychological force’ and so on. When you utter the (complete) sentence ‘the earth is a sphere’, the meaning of the sentence includes the assertoric force. No psychology required, the meaning is objective in the sense that the meaning is imposed by the rules of the system of language in use.

When you utter ‘I do not think that the earth is a sphere’, you are (i) converting the complete sentence into an incomplete one via the addition of ‘that’, (ii) forming a noun phrase that refers to the content of the sentence, where meaning of sentence = content of sentence + assertoric force, then (iii) forming a complete relational sentence of the form ‘I do not think that C’, where C is the content (not the meaning), which relates the referent of ‘I’ to the content, via the verb-phrase ‘think’.

All explained.

Correction, that should be ‘I do not think C’, where 'C' refers to what 'that the earth is a sphere' refers to.

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