In this paper I argue that propositionalism (the doctrine that the contents of thoughts and utterances are propositions to be evaluated with respect to possible worlds) is what generates a tension between referentialism and harmony (the traditional idea that cognitive values can be fully explained by means of truth-conditional contents). Harmony can be preserved if we replace propositionalism by centred referentialism, according to which referential thoughts and utterances about an object have descriptive contents that must be evaluated relative to a world centred on that object at the relevant time. By disentangling (absolute) truth-conditions and (relative) contents, this move allows us to dissolve the tension between referentialism (taken as a thesis about truth-conditions) and descriptivism (taken as a thesis about contents). The view that emerges has three main components: (i) the (absolute) truth-conditions of a referential utterance or thought involves its referent (referentialism); (ii) its reference is determined by causal relations of acquaintance in the context of use (pragmatic picture); and (iii) its cognitive value is fully explained by associated descriptions or (relative) truth-conditional contents (harmony).
Synthese – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 4, 2017
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