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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More on Assertoric Content

King (2003) raises a problem for the assertoric content/semantic value distinction. Those who distinguish between assertoric content and semantic value will typically say that 'believe' operates on assertoric content whereas tense operators operate on temporal semantic values. But it is not clear how to account for mixed cases. Consider, for instance:

(1) It will be the case that George W. Bush believes that Hillary Clinton is president

It seems that 'believe' must here be operating on semantic value rather than assertoric content. So, 'believe' operates sometimes on semantic value and sometimes on assertoric content. But that seems implausible. Does anyone know of any replies to this sort of objection?


Jason Stanley said...


Salmon's semantics in Frege's Puzzle makes heavy appeal to the assertoric content-semantic value distinction (it is his distinction between information content and information content-base). If you look at Appendix C of Salmon's *Frege's Puzzle*, you will see he deals with the issue you mention in a number of his clauses, not just for belief but also for necessity, to deal with mixed cases like "It will always be necessary that every child has the parents it does." Check out, for example, clause 17 on p. 150 for the mixed case involving necessity, and later in the page for the mixed cases with belief. Jeff King, in his 2003 paper, criticizes Salmon's solution, on the grounds that it is not compositional.

Brit Brogaard said...

Thanks for this, Jason!