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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 117, Issue 11/12, November/December 2020

John MacFarlane
Pages 617-642

Indeterminacy as Indecision, Lecture II: Seeing through the Clouds

One approach to the problem is to keep the orthodox notion of a proposition but innovate in the theory of speech acts. A number of philosophers and linguists have suggested that, in cases of felicitous underspecification, a speaker asserts a “cloud” of propositions rather than just one. This picture raises a number of questions: what norms constrain a “cloudy assertion,” what counts as uptake, and how is the conversational common ground revised if it is accepted? I explore three different ways of answering these questions, due to Braun and Sider, Buchanan, and von Fintel and Gillies. I argue that none of them provide a good general response to the problem posed by felicitous underspecification. However, the problems they face point the way to a more satisfactory account, which innovates in the theory of content rather than the theory of speech acts.

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