Semantics circle: Varieties of Propositionalism

Vortragende(r)Thomas Ede Zimmermann
Institution(en) Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/M.
Datum 26.02.2020
Uhrzeit 15:00 Uhr
Ort4. Etage, Raum 403 (Seminarraum)


Roughly, propositionalism is the thesis that informational content is always truth conditional (Grzankowski 2013). In particular, the objects of psychological attitudes need to be propositions – in some sense, which includes propositional concepts (cf. Blumberg 2018) as well as perspectival content (Lewis 1979). Thus propsitionalists seek to reduce attitudes towards "iintentional“ objects in terms of propositional attitudes: someone who is looking for a unicorn strives for it to be the case that he or she finds a unicorn (Quine 1956); someone who fears Superman is afraid that Superman might do something to him or her (but see Forbes 2000); someone who likes chocolate likes it when he or she consumes chocolate (but see M. Montague 2007); etc.

In linguistic semantics, propositionalism comes in various guises, usually relating to intensionality. In its most straightforward form (aka sententialism; Larson 2002), propositionalism treats all intensional constructions as clausal embeddings. Less ambitious varieties claim that intensionality can always be paraphrased in terms of propositional embedding, possibly in some more refined language (cf. R. Montague 1969). In this talk I will define and compare different forms of propositionalism and discuss various strategies of defending or rejecting them, thereby focussing on two particular aspects: the very notion of a proposition and the risk of trivializing propositionalism by type-shifting (Kaplan 1975).


  • Blumberg, Kyle: ‘Counterfactual Attitudes and the Relational Analysis’. Mind 127 (2018), 521–546.
  • Forbes, Graeme: ‘Objectual Attitudes’. Linguistics and Philosophy 23 (2000), 141–183.
  • Grzankowski, Alex: ‘Non-Propositional Attitudes’. Philosophy Compass 8 (2013), 1123–1137.
  • Kaplan, David: ‘How to Russell a Frege-Church’. Journal of Philosophy 72 (1975), 716–729.
  • Larson, Richard: ‘The Grammar of Intensionality’. In: G. Preyer & G. Peter (eds.), Logical Form and Language . Oxford 2002, pp. 228–262.
  • Lewis, David K.: ‘Attitudes de dicto and de se’. The Philosophical Review 88 (1979), 513–543.
  • Montague, Michelle: ‘Against Propositionalism’. Noûs 41 (2007), 503–518.
  • Montague, Richard: ‘On the Nature of Certain Philosophical Entities’. The Monist 53 (1969), 159–195.
  • Quine, Willard Van Orman: ‘Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes’. Journal of Philosophy 53 (1956), 177–187.