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The Things We Mean

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Semantic Perception Jody Azzouni. Truth and Truth Bearers Mark Richard. However, this is not how it works in Schiffer's case. As Schiffer explicitly notes p , validity is a semantic concept, but his notion of indeterminacy is a psychological concept. Still, in this part of the book, Schiffer often writes as if he takes truth or falsity of a proposition and indeterminacy of that proposition to be in some sort of conflict.

He writes that, given indeterminacy, it is indeterminate whether classical logic is correct. Modus ponens may take us from true premises to an indeterminate conclusion, and from indeterminate premises to a false conclusion, along a sorites chain. So classical logic does not preserve determinate truth, nor indeterminacy. We may be helped here by Schiffer's view on paradox solution pp A happy-face solution to a paradox identifies the faulty premise, explains why it is false and why we have been prone to believe it.

On Schiffer's view, most classical paradoxes just don't have happy-face solutions. They reveal glitches in our concepts rather than mistakes. A weak unhappy-face solution tells us that there cannot be a happy-face solution, and that a suitable consistent revision of our concept is possible.. A strong unhappy-face solution is as the weak one, except that it instead denies that a consistent suitable revision is possible.

Accordingly, Schiffer is clear that he has not offered a happy-face solution to the sorites and thinks there isn't any. The more interesting question, he says p is whether there is a weak or a strong unhappy-face solution. In the case of the sorites, a weak solution would be adopting an alternative logic, a logic that is certain to preserve determinate truth.

Schiffer considers the advantages of a Lukasiewiczian many-valued logic in this respect, but concludes that its semantic values cannot be interpreted as degrees of truth. Because of that, it is not in conflict with classical logic, and adopting it for the sake of reasoning with indeterminacy would not be a revision of classical logic, hence not a weak happy-face solution. Indeterminacy plays the key role also in the treatments of conditionals and of moral judgments.

The difficulty is that there is in general no guarantee that the belief of a cognitive subject with respect to an indeterminate proposition is a v-belief. An epistemicist about vagueness, such as Tim Williamson, who thinks that there is sharp boundary of baldness, although we cannot know where it is, will apparently have an s-belief rather than a v-belief about a borderline case of baldness. Still, it appears that on Schiffer's psychological theory, a belief about a borderline case 'goes willy-nilly into one's VPB box' p Hence, on Schiffer's view, apparently, epistemicists are simply mistaken about their own mental states.

They think they are uncertain, but are really ambivalent.


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In the case of morals chapter 6 , there is no such self-deception about one's own beliefs. Here Schiffer is for a weak version of moral cognitivism: On the other hand these propositions are not determinately true or false.


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For p one can take oneself to know all the relevant normative and non-normative facts, and still be torn between believing and not believing a moral principle. Then it must be a VPB. Moreover, even moral realists, who really believe in the determinate truth or falsity of moral propositions, display practical VPB ambivalence in moral borderline cases. They need philosophical reflection to realize that the moral propositions they believe are indeterminate p. In chapter 7, finally, Schiffer discusses conditionals, mostly indicative conditionals, even though his treatment of subjunctives is similar.

On p , he gives his final proposal for truth conditions for indicative-conditional propositions:. Indicative conditionals are indeterminate when neither determinately true nor determinately false. Hence, the conditional is indeterminate.

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Schiffer is keen to note pp. For we can have a rational thinker Ann who has the following subjective probabilities:. So what to do? Schiffer notes that it seems that he must either say that speakers are mistaken in their beliefs about indicative-conditionals, or else give up his views about pleonastic propositions, indeterminacy or his proposed truth conditions of indicative conditionals. Schiffer's comment is that the truth is somewhere 'in between', and moves on to characterize this stance as an unhappy-face solution. It is a weak unhappy face solution, since we can get rid of our problems by ceasing to use the same form of words to express both the material conditional and conditional belief p We can get by with different expressions for these functions, and simply give up the use of indicative-conditional propositions.

Maybe Schiffer is right that we cannot do better. In this case, however, the ingredients that jointly lead to contradiction involve several of Schiffer's own theories. The contradiction then reveals glitches in our concepts only to the extent that our concepts are aptly characterized by Schiffer's theories, something which is not completely obvious.

The Things We Mean : Stephen R. Schiffer :

Even describing his view as an unhappy-face solution is therefore controversial, i. As here indicated, Schiffer's book is rich, complex and thought provoking, and at times ingenious. Time will tell whether it will command the same admiration as its two predecessors. The reason is that such a theory would have to issue theorems of the form 1 e means m but there is not in general any substituend for ' m ' available for making 2 S knows that e means m true, for instance not when e is 3 'Is she there yet? Hence, not even 4 'Snow is white' means that snow is white provides a proper instance of 1.

An explicit example p is 5 'Is it raining? An example p would be an imperative use of 6 You sing it the meaning of which requires the speech act of 'stating, or saying that'. In these cases the literal speaker will, to a first approximation, be constrained to mean a proposition that involves a contextually pertinent property associated with the practice of using the name in the linguistic community relevant to the utterance [ … ] This kind-of-proposition conception of word-meaning is meant as a version of the familiar Fregean idea that the meaning of a word is its contribution to the meanings of sentences containing it p For example, Schiffer says that two literal utterances of 7 Ralph believes that George Eliot was a woman may differ in truth value, because in the one context but not in the other the truth of the utterance requires thinking of George Eliot as a famous writer p Further, we know that the sentences 8 a.

Lois believes that Superman flies b.