3
Informativeness

Someone who hopes for a scientific metaphysics needs it to be possible for there to be informative metaphysical explanations. This puts a constraint on the way we individuate facts. If a metaphysical explanation is to be informative, the sentence which provides it must differ in informativeness from the sentence which gave our original description of the same fact. It must, therefore, be possible for two sentences which differ in informativeness to describe the same fact.

We can characterize difference of informativeness quite uncontroversially. I shall want to allow that the very same sentence (roughly, the same type of shape or sound with the same reference) can be used in ways which are differently informative. (This is to deal with what I call 'flexible opacity' in 6.3; see also Chapter 13.) This complicates the account slightly, but it is still easy enough to provide a characterization. We can say:

(I) s1 and s2 differ in informativeness, as they are used on a given occasion, if and only if it is possible for someone who understands both sentences as they are then used to believe that s1 is true without believing that s2 is true.

That much is uncontroversial. There is also an intuitive characterization of what is involved in believing that a sentence which one understands is true. I shall use '〈e〉' as a way of indicating a use rather than a mention of some expression e; or, when e contains some perspective-biased expression--demonstratives, indexicals, tensed verbs--a use of an expression exactly like e except that the perspective of the perspective-biased expressions is adjusted to the point of view of the reporter of belief, rather than that of the subject (where these differ). Our intuitive conception of what is involved in believing that a sentence which one understands is true can then be captured by what we might call the Fregean assumption:

-33-

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The Good and the True
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Notational Convention xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I- Metaphysics and Content 9
  • 1- Philosophical Theories And Metaphysical Schemes 11
  • 2- Conceptualism is Kantian 21
  • 3- Informativeness 33
  • 4- Scientism 41
  • 5- A Proposal for a Scientific Metaphysics 54
  • Part II- The Shape of a Theory Of Content 73
  • 6- What is a Theory of Content? 75
  • 7- Unified Externalism 86
  • 8- The Explanation of Behaviour 106
  • Part III- An Evaluative Theory of Content 141
  • 9- The Core of a Theory 143
  • 10- Intrinsic Assessability 182
  • 11- Truth and Virtue 214
  • 12- Understanding People 243
  • 13- Word-Meaning and Opacity 284
  • Bibliography 329
  • Index 333
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