Philosophy of Language and Webs of Information
Routledge – 2013 – 190 pages
The nature of propositions and the cognitive value of names have been the focal point of philosophy of language for the last few decades. The advocates of the causal reference theory have favored the view that the semantic contents of proper names are their referents. However, Frege’s puzzle about the different cognitive value of coreferential names has made this identification seem impossible. Geirsson provides a detailed overview of the debate to date, and then develops a novel account that explains our reluctance, even when we know about the relevant identity, to substitute coreferential names in both simple sentences and belief contexts while nevertheless accepting the view that the semantic content of names is their referents. The account focuses on subjects organizing information in webs; a name can then access and elicit information from a given web. Geirsson proceeds to extend the account of information to non-referring names, but they have long provided a serious challenge to the causal reference theorist.
"Heimir Geirsson’s book is a well written presentation, motivation, and defense of a systematic semantic and metaphysical theory of propositions and propositional attitudes. The last century of work on this particular topic is vast and thorny. However, Geirsson does a nice job of guiding his reader through the most important issues and views. Moreover, Geirsson’s own unique view is interesting and may accommodate many of our seemingly incompatible intuitions."– Joshua Spencer, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, USA
"…I think that the book is more than worth reading by interested researchers, as it provides a very clear overview of current debates in the philosophy of language…." – Gregory Bochner, Università di Bologna, Italy/Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
1. Introduction and Overview 2. Reference 3. Propositions: Structure and Objects 4. Reporting Attitudes 5. Singular Propositions and Acquaintance 6. Beliefs and Belief Reports 7. Empty Names 8. Attitude Contexts: Beliefs and Justification Notes Index
Heimir Geirsson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Iowa State University, USA.