Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Frege, Priest, Salmon, and Soames

For next time (Oct. 16) please read the Soames article distributed in class as well as Salmon's Frege's Puzzle, chapters 1,4,7,8. (These can be skimmed; ch. 1 contains a statement of Salmon's "naive view", 4 a discussion of Frege's puzzle, and 7 and 8 outline sophisticated versions of the puzzle as well as Salmon's proposed solution.)

The Hooded Man paradox and Frege's puzzle are formally similar; arguably, the former is an instance of the latter. So any adequate solution to one should be an adequate solution to the other. Frege, Priest, and Salmon/Soames all advance different solutions to the puzzles. (See here and the discussion in Priest chapter 2 for Frege's reply.)

Priest notes that he and Frege reject SI in intentional contexts. But it's worth noting that Frege doesn't really reject SI. On Frege's view, sentences of the form, a = b and s believes that a is F do not imply s believes that b is F. So a version of SI that applies to sentences is false on Frege's view. But just denying that the inference is valid with respect to some sentences does not get to the heart of the matter. Frege's view, roughly, is that when 'a' occurs inside the scope of an intentional verb, it does not express and refer to what it would express and refer to outside the scope of an intentional verb. So not all occurrences of 'a' and 'b' in the foregoing argument have the same meaning. So the inference is invalid.

Priest rejects Frege's view and argues against it in Ch. 2. So one important question is what, exactly, is Priest's view? It, like Frege's, involves rejecting a syntactic version of SI. But Priest obviously rejects Frege's proposal for why it fails. So what is Priest's view?

Salmon and Soames take a different approach to the puzzles. They reject the Frege/Priest response. Is their reply better than Priest's? Are there independent reasons for thinking the Salmon/Soames view is false? One reason might be given on pp. 36, fn. 5 of Priest. Is the objection there sound? In addition, it may be the case that each of Frege, Priest, Salmon, and Soames are wrong about how to respond to the puzzles. Is there any reason to think there's a better reply? If so, what is it?

Finally, there is a prominent tradition in semantics of construing propositional attitudes as relations to sets of circumstances. Assuming bivalence and law of excluded middle, we can identify what's meant by 'p' in (e.g.) 's believes that p' with a set of circumstances--the set of circumstances in which 'p' is true. Soames argues at length against this approach. But the approach seems to be adopted by Priest; we can identify the complement of an attitude verb in Priest's system with the set of possible, impossible, and open worlds in which it is true. So do Soames's arguments work? In particular, do they show that Priest's semantics for intentional operators is incorrect?

These are all difficult questions that would benefit from discussion. Feel free to comment on this post with any thoughts about Frege, Priest, Salmon, or Soames.

Also, have a happy Thanksgiving.


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