Friday, December 1: Ryan Simonelli

Please join us this Friday as Ryan Simonelli from the Philosophy Department presents work on the nature of propositions.

Date and time: Friday, December 1, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Propositions and the power to represent


The standard conception of propositions holds that propositions are the basic bearers of truth and falsity, and they bear these properties in virtue of representing things as being certain ways.  On the standard conception, a simple proposition is true if and only if thing that the proposition is about is the way that the proposition represents it as being.  In this talk, I argue that this standard conception of propositions precludes us from being able to explain how it is that a proposition represents as it does.  While some theorists, such as Trenton Merricks (2015) have embraced this consequence of the standard conception of propositions, I argue that it gives us ground to reject the standard conception and instead follow Peter Hanks (2011, 2015) and Scott Soames (2014, 2015) in adopting an act-based conception of propositions, one in which propositions are not the basic representers, but the basic types of representings.  On the act-based conception, propositions do not possess the power to represent, but rather, are the types of acts that we are able to perform in virtue of possessing this power ourselves.  After showing how the act-based conception of propositions resolves the problem of explaining propositional representationality that plagues the standard conception, I conclude by spelling out how we can think about the basic machinery of compositional semantics from an act-based perspective.

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