2 Fregean Innocence

In the last chapter, I approached questions about actions via the semantics of action sentences, and concluded that (paradigmatic) actions are tryings—inner events that have contents. This raises the question of what contents are. My discussion begins with the semantics of 'N believes that P'. This strategy is familiar, since contents are commonly taken to be the referents of 'that'-clauses. I adopt a Fregean view of such clauses. In Chapter 3 , I turn to constructions of the form 'the fact that P explains the fact that Q' and 'c caused e', where events c and e are the truth-makers for sentences 'P' and 'Q'. For my plan is to combine the event analysis and a Fregean account of propositional attitude ascriptions, as part of a larger view about intentional explanation and mental causation. But first, we need a defensible Fregean semantics of propositional attitude ascriptions.

According to Frege (1892), every meaningful linguistic expression has a semantic value (Bedeutung) and a sense (Sinn). In particular, the semantic value of a sentence is its truth-value; the semantic value of a referring term is its referent; the sense of an expression is a way of thinking about (or a way of presenting) its semantic value; and the semantic value of 'that P' is the sense of 'P'. This yields an attractive treatment of so-called opaque contexts. But considerations of compositionality led Frege to say that terms inside 'that'-clauses do not have their usual semantic values: in 'Booth believed that Lincoln was a tyrant', the semantic value of 'Lincoln' is said to be a sense—a way of thinking about Lincoln, not Lincoln himself. This claim turns out to be problematic. But one can maintain the essential aspects of Frege's view, while holding that the semantic value of 'Lincoln' is always Lincoln, by assigning a semantic value to the complementizer 'that'. My specific proposal avoids many criticisms of Fregean theories, once we are clear about what compositionality does not entail.


1 Sinn and Shifty Values

Frege's interest in logic led him to express his famous puzzle mainly as a question about identity statements: if 'a = b' is true, how can it differ in meaning from 'a = a'? But here it will be useful to begin with a closely

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Causing Actions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Causing Actions iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Actions as Inner Causes 18
  • 2: Fregean Innocence 55
  • 3: From Explanation to Causation 89
  • 4: Other Things Being Equal 117
  • 5: Personal Dualism 147
  • 6: Modal Concerns 179
  • 7: Natural Causes 216
  • Appendix 246
  • References 260
  • Index 271
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