Belief and Belief Ascription
Philosophy 516: Selected Topics in Philosophy of Language
Instructor: David Braun
Time & Place: Wednesdays 2:00-4:40, Lattimore 531
Office, Phone, Office Hours: Lattimore 525, 275-8107, Mondays 2-4.
This seminar will concern both the metaphysics of belief and the semantics of belief ascriptions. The ultimate goal will be to assess Millianism, the view that the semantic content of a proper name is its referent. Millianism implies that substitution of co-referring proper names in belief ascriptions preserves truth value and proposition expressed. This result is unintuitive, and many philosophers have objected to Millianism on that basis; many Millians have tried to defend the theory from this objection. I think the best defense of Millianism appeals to a certain metaphysical view about belief, namely the claim that a single proposition can be believed in many different ways. We will begin this seminar with an investigation into the metaphysics of belief, in order to determine what (if anything) a way of believing might be. We will, for instance, discuss whether belief requires a language of thought or some comparable representational system. We will see in what sense, if any, a single proposition can be believed in different ways. We will next turn to semantic issues. We will criticize competitors to Millianism (e.g., descriptivism). We will then consider whether the metaphysics of belief can be used either to argue in favor of Millianism or to defend the theory from objections.
This will be a seminar in both philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. I will not assume any prior knowledge of these areas, but it will definitely be useful to have taken courses that are equivalent to our Philosophy 244/444 (Philosophy of Mind) and Philosophy 247/447 (Philosophy of Language). My presentations of basic material in these areas will be faster than my presentations in undergraduate courses. Undergraduates must have my written permission to enroll in the course.
Our initial readings will be articles and chapters of books that I will put on reserve in the Beck library. But when we turn to semantics, you will need the following books.
Saul Kripke, 1980. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nathan Salmon. 1986/200x. Frege's Puzzle. Ridgeview Publishing Company.
Scott Soames. 2002. Beyond Rigidity. New York: Oxford University Press.
We will arrange a group order of these books.
1. Weekly comment papers, about 1-2 pages.
2. A class presentation.
3. A longer paper, about 12 pages, due Friday, December 12.
Weekly Comment Papers
You will write a 1-2 page comment paper every week except for those weeks (near the end of the semester) when we have student presentations. Each paper will comment on the readings for that week. A hard copy of your comment paper for each week must be in my mailbox by 9:00 am of that Wednesday. Please do not submit your paper by e-mail. I may discuss your comment during the seminar meeting later that day.
Your presentation will be an opportunity for you to get comments on a draft of your long paper. You will make a rough draft of your long paper available in the Beck Library by noon of the Monday preceding the day of your presentation. Your presentation, and our discussion of your presentation, should take about half of a seminar session (about 1.25 hours). All students are expected to read the papers in advance and to be prepared to make comments. The number of seminar sessions that we dedicate to presentations will depend on the number of students enrolled. I expect us to use at least the seminar meetings of December 3 and 10 for presentations.
The most straightforward sort of paper to write is a critique of a published paper on a topic relevant to this course. Your "target" may be an article or book that we discuss in class.
Comment papers: 15% Class Presentation: 15% Long paper: 70%
Readings and Schedule
Tentative and Subject to Revision
1. September 3 Propositional attitudes. The representational theory of mind. The language of thought hypothesis.
Fodor, Jerry. 1987. Psychosemantics, Chapter 1 and Appendix ("Why there still has to be a language of thought"). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Field, Hartry. 1981. "Mental Representation." In Ned Block (ed.), Readings in Philosophy of Psychology vol. 2, pp. 78-112. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Originally appeared inErkenntnis 13 (1978), pp. 9-61.
Richard, Mark. 1990. Propositional Attitudes, Chapter 1, sections 4 ("Two sorts of sententialism") and 5 ("Tacit belief"). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Aydede, Murat. 1999. "The Language of Thought Hypothesis." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online).
Braddon-Mitchell, David, and Jackson, Frank. 1996. Philosophy of Mind and Cognition, chapters 10 and 11.
2. September 10 Criticisms of the language of thought hypothesis. Alternatives. Some replies.
Stalnaker, Robert. 1984. Inquiry, Chapters 1,2, 4, and 5. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lewis, David. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds, Chapter 1, section 1.4 ("Modal Realism at Work: Content"), pp. 27-40, and section 1.5 ("Modal Realism at Work: Properties") particularly pp. 50-59. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lewis, David. 1994. "Reduction of Mind," especially the section on Content. In Samuel Guttenplan (Ed.), A Companion to Philosophy of Mind, pp. xxx-xxx. Oxford: Blackwell. Reprinted in David Lewis, 1999, Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, pp. 291-324. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rey, Georges. 1995. "A Not 'Merely Empirical' Argument for a Language of Thought." Philosophical Perspectivesi 9, pp. 201-222.
Thau, Michael. 2002. Consciousness and Cognition, Introduction; and Chapter 2, sections 2.4 ("The relational nature of belief"), 2.5 ("Instantial states vs internal states"), and 2.6 ("Against internal belief states"). New York: Oxford University Press.
3. September 17 Millianism. Frege's arguments against Millianism. Frege's theory of sense and reference. Descriptivism.
Frege, Gottlob. 1892. "On Sense and Reference."
Kripke, Saul. 1980. Naming and Necessity, Lectures 1 and 2. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Braun, David. Ms. "Names and Natural Kind Terms." (Online)
4. September 24 Fregean theories. Sense and reference. Descriptivism.
Kripke, Saul. 1979. "A Puzzle About Belief." In A. Margalit (Ed.), Meaning and Use, pp. 239-83. Dordrecht: Reidel. Reprinted in A.P. Martinich (Ed.), The Philosophy of Language, 3rd and 4th editions. Also in Nathan Salmon and Scott Soames (Eds.), Propositional Attitudes.
Richard, Mark. 1990. Propositional Attitudes, Chapter 2.
Richard, Mark. 1997. "Propositional Attitudes." In Bob Hale and Crispin Wright (Eds.), A Companion to Philosophy of Language, pp. 197-226. Oxford: Blackwell.
5. October 1 Neo-Fregean theories. Interpreted logical forms. Richard's theory.
Richard, Mark. 1990. Propositional Attitudes, Chapter 5.
Salmon, Nathan. 1986. Frege's Puzzle, Chapter 5.
Sider, Theodore. 1995. "Three Problems for Richard's Theory of Belief Ascription." Canadian Journal of Philosophy 25, pp. 487-514.
Soames, Scott. 2002. Beyond Rigidity, Chapters 6 and 7.
6. October 8 Salmon's reply to Fregean criticisms
Salmon, Nathan. 1986. Frege's Puzzle, Chapters 7-9.
Salmon, Nathan. 1989. "Illogical Belief." Philosophical Perspectives 3, pp. 243-285.
Salmon, Nathan. 1995. "Being of Two Minds: Belief With Doubt." Noûs 29, pp. 1-20.
7. October 15 Soames's and Thau's Millian Descriptivism
Soames, Scott. 2002. Beyond Rigidity, Chapter 8.
Thau, Michael. 2002. Consciousness and Cognition, Chapters 3 and 4.
8. October 22 Soames and Thau, continued. Criticisms.
Braun, David. 2002. "Cognitive Significance, Attitude Ascriptions, and Ways of Believing." Philosophical Studies 108, pp. 65-81.
Braun, David. 2003. "Review of Scott Soames's Beyond Rigidity." Linguistics and Philosophy26 (2003), pp. 365-378.
Sider, Theodore, and Braun, David. Ms. "Kripke's Revenge."
Caplan, Ben. Ms. "Millian Descriptivism."
9. October 29 Alternative Millian reply to Fregean criticisms. Ways of believing, again.
Crimmins, Mark. 1992. Talk About Beliefs, Chapter 2, section 2.1 ("Belief states"). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Braun, David. 1998. "Understanding Belief Reports." Philosophical Review 107, pp. 555-595.
Braun, David. 2002. "Cognitive Significance, Attitude Ascriptions, and Ways of Believing."
10. November 5 Further criticisms of Millianism. Psychological generalizations. Explanation. Prediction.
Richard, Mark. 1990. Propositional Attitudes, pp. 126-8.
Richard, Mark. 1997. "Propositional Attitudes." In Bob Hale and Crispin Wright (Eds.), A Companion to Philosophy of Language, especially pp. 201-2 and pp. 210-11.
Devitt, Michael. 1996. Coming to Our Senses, pp. 151-3,171-86, 228-44.
Richard, Mark. 1997. "What Does Commonsense Psychology Tell Us About Meaning?" Noûs31, pp. 87-114.
Braun, David. 2003. "Russellianism and Psychological Generalizations," Noûs 34, pp. 203-36.
Braun, David. 2001. "Russellianism and Explanation," Philosophical Perspectives 15, pp. 253-289.
Braun, David. 2001. "Russellianism and Prediction," Philosophical Studies 105, pp. 59-105.
11. November 12 Explanation and prediction, continued.
12. November 19 Catch-up and review
Thanksgiving Break, November 26: No Class
13. December 3 Student Presentations
14. December 10 Student Presentations