Saturday, October 28, 2006

Diagonal propositions

Stalnaker talked about diagonal propositions as being essential to the informational content of an utterance. According to Perry's discussion of them after his paper "The Problem of the Essential Indexical" in the collection with the same name, the diagonal proposition is characterized as follows: "Consider the case where I say 'I am standing.' Call the token I use t. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that tokens are not necessarily tied to their producers - that the very token that one person in fact produces, could have been produced by others. Now consider the set of possible worlds in which t is true. Be careful. Do not consider the set of possible worlds in which I am standing. In many of these worlds, t will never have been produced. Consider instead the possible worlds in which t is produced by the various people that we have agreed could have produced it. In some of these the producer will be standing. The set of those worlds is the proposition we want. Call this proposition P." It just struck me that diagonal propositions don't seem to be compatible with neo-Gricean or Davidsonian approaches to meaning. The neo-Griceans would object because what is said is determined in large part by the speaker's communicative intention. This would block the step of assuming that t is not necessarily tied to the producer. At best we'd need to restrict to worlds where the producer of t had the same (same type of?) communicative intention as in the actual world, but this will be a smaller subset of the worlds in P. The Davidsonian would object because constructing a theory of truth for a speaker will depend on the rest of the speaker's holds-true attitudes, or preferences. Again, it looks like they would object to the step divorcing the utterance from the producer.

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