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Sententialism. Why not?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

As is generally agreed, there are good reasons to take a propositional attitude attribution like

Olga believes that Cicero is smart to express the holding of a relation between Olga and the denotation of ‘that Cicero is smart’. But what does ‘that Cicero is smart’ denote? According to the so-called face-value theory, it denotes
a proposition. While there is no agreement on what propositions are, they are taken to be entities not reducible to sentences. According to sententialism, by contrast, ‘that Cicero is smart’ denotes the sentence “Cicero is smart”. Sententialism is generally considered to be obviously inadequate, and the aim of this dissertation is to show that sententialism is in fact as good an
option as the face-value theory is, if not a better one. According to the sententialist account that I develop, Olga believes that Cicero is smart if she believes something which we can represent with the sentence “Cicero is smart”. As I show in Chapter 2, by relying on some features of representation, sententialists seem able to account for propositional attitude attributions in quite an interesting way. The main reasons why sententialism is generally considered doomed are the famous Church translation argument and a problem raised by Schiffer. I examine them in Chapter 3, where I conclude that these allegedly fatal objections do not in fact succeed in showing that sententialism is incorrect. In Chapter 4 I deal with other attributions, i.e. the socalled
wh-attributions, such as

Jim knows what Rose wants,

and I show that, when it comes to ‘wh’-clauses, sententialism seems not only a viable alternative to the face-value theory but actually a better one. The general conclusion I reach is that the sentence against sententialism has been passed too quickly and that sententialism is indeed a viable account of our talk about attitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2015


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