The Problem of the Essential Indexical: And Other Essays

The Problem of the Essential Indexical: And Other Essays

The Problem of the Essential Indexical: And Other Essays

The Problem of the Essential Indexical: And Other Essays

Synopsis

A collection of twelve essays by John Perry and two essays he co-authored, this book deals with various problems related to "self-locating beliefs": the sorts of beliefs one expresses with indexicals and demonstratives, like "I" and "this." Postscripts have been added to a number of the essays discussing criticisms by authors such as Gareth Evans and Robert Stalnaker. Included with such well-known essays as "Frege on Demonstratives," "The Problem of the Essential Indexical," "From Worlds to Situations," and "The Prince and the Phone Booth" are a number of important essays that have been less accessible and that discuss important aspects of Perry's views, referred to as "Critical Referentialism," on the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind.

Excerpt

This volume contains fourteen essays that deal with problems of meaning and belief. Most consider the phenomenon of "self-locating belief." This is the sort of belief that one naturally expresses with a sentence containing an indexical or a demonstrative: "I am spilling the sugar," or "That is Hoover Tower." In the early essays, I argue that an account of these sorts of beliefs requires us to distinguish what is believed from how it is believed, and the rest of the essays discuss various aspects and implications of that distinction and issues closely related to it.

Some of the essays attracted a fair amount of attention on their first appearance; others, to use Hume's phrase, fell still-born from the press. Reprinting the former may be a convenience to those who find them cited and wish to read them; reprinting the latter may give them another shot at notoriety. I believe the various problems these essays discuss remain interesting, and that these papers each manage to say something clear enough to be worth studying. I hope they point towards part of the truth; if not, they are at least a careful statement of sincerely believed error. They are not offered as a comprehensive treatise, but as self- contained essays that deal with a family of closely related problems and exhibit a certain consistency in approach and doctrine.

The consistency may not be too apparent, however; the terminology is surely not consistent, and the point of view developed considerably over the fifteen-year period in which they were written. Early on, I avoided the term "proposition"; in the later papers, I use it freely. Stalnaker thinks something is missing from the account given in Essay 2. I think I make progress in finding it in Essay 6 and put my hands on it in Essay 11. More and more structure is attributed to beliefs as the . . .

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