“Simplicity”

…is the name of Herman Cappelen and John Hawthorne’s theory of truth and propositions in their new book Relativism and Monadic Truth. It contains five thesis which “fit together nicely”:

T1: There are propositions and they instantiate the fundamental monadic properties of truth simpliciter and falsity simpliciter.
T2: The semantic values of declarative sentences relative to contexts of utterances are propositions.
T3: Propositions are, unsurprisingly, the objects of propositional attitudes, such as belief, hope, wish, doubt, etc.
T4: Propositions are the objects of illocutionary acts; they are, e.g., what we assert or deny.
T5: Propositions are the objects of agreement and disagreement.

This book is a defense of these theses against contemporary contextualism, but the Simplicity theory contains premises that are challenged on other fronts. David Lewis, for example, argued against all the theses by shoving properties into the heuristic space generally reserved for propositions. But for a young philosopher unfamiliar with these debates within philosophy of language and metaphysics, I have to admit that T1-T5 are tantalizing; they all just seem prima facie true. Here are some utterances that cast doubt on Simplicity:

Tim: A said that there’s a beach nearby [speaking of a location close to Tim].
Jason: B said that there’s a beach nearby [speaking of a location close to Jason].
Didi: A and B said that there’s a beach nearby.

Invariantist accounts of utterances content have a rough time handling these statements. “Says-that” accounts don’t seem to be conveying the same content, which accounts for the awkwardness of Didi’s utterances. I don’t know how to solve these kinds of problems from an invariantist perspective, but I hope there is some solution.

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