Volume 45, Issue 2, Fall 2017
Philosophy of Language
A Bridge from Semantic Value to Content
A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition (in a context) iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile (in context). Following Dummett (1973), Evans (1979), and Lewis (1980), Stanley (1997) argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken (and thus blocks Kripke’s modal objection to descriptivism). According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoric content. Stojnić (2017) insists that views which distinguish the roles of content and semantic value must nevertheless ensure a tight connection between the two. But, she contends, there is a crucial disanalogy between the views that follow Lewis and the views that follow Dummett. Stanley’s Dummettian view is argued to contain a fatal flaw: On such views, there is no way to secure an appropriate connection between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoric content. I will review the background issues from Dummett, Evans, Lewis, and Stanley, and provide a principled way of bridging the gap between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoric content.