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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reference through demonstration: singular terms, propositional attitudes and fiction Celestino Fernández, Gemma


This thesis defends original accounts of the semantics and metaphysics of propositional attitudes, their reports and fiction in general. These accounts are unified by being parts of a general view on language, according to which demonstrations play a crucial role in explaining a wide range of phenomena. The basic ideas of the view defended here about propositional attitudes and their reports can be summarized as follows: first, propositional attitudes are binary relations between individuals and structured propositions, which are constituted by individuals and properties, but also possibly by representations of those individuals and properties. Secondly, like utterances of sentences containing singular terms in general, propositional attitude reports containing singular terms express both a descriptive proposition and a singular structured proposition, which are the objects of propositional attitudes. Thirdly, a standard Gricean pragmatic explanation is offered to account for those cases in which reports seem to ascribe an attitude towards a less fine-grained proposition than the ones to which the theory appeals. The proposal on fiction defended here is also derived from more general views on language and metaphysics. The basic idea is that the meaningfulness of fictional discourse, which involves many empty singular terms, is mostly due to the descriptive proposition that any utterance of a sentence expresses in addition to expressing the other, more widely accepted proposition. This is also due, however, to the occurrence of implicit prefixes such as ‘the fictional character’, ‘fictionally’, or ‘a fictional persona’, in addition to the ones that are already discussed in the literature. According to the view defended here, fiction does not represent real possibilities –nor is it intended to. Fictional worlds, while having the same nature as possible worlds, do not represent possibilities for the actual world. Both proposals are based on a semantic view of singular terms presented and defended at the outset, which is a Fregean metalinguistic token-reflexive view.

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