Propositions First: Biting Geach's Bullet

Research paper by M. J. Frápolli

Indexed on: 03 Dec '20Published on: 01 Oct '19Published in: Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements


To be a proposition is to possess propositional properties and to stand in inferential relations. This is the organic intuition, [OI], concerning propositional recognition. [OI] is not a circular characterization as long as those properties and relations that signal the presence of propositions are independently identified. My take on propositions does not depart from the standard approach widely accepted among philosophers of language. Propositions are truth-bearers, the arguments of truth-functions (‘not’, ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘if’), the arguments of propositional-attitude verbs (‘know’, ‘believe’, ‘doubt’, ‘assume’, ‘reject’) and the kind of entity capable of standing in inferential relations (which are basically implication and incompatibility). The aim of this paper is to argue for [OI]. In doing so, I will show that even what is probably the most repeated argument against non-descriptivism, the so-called Frege-Geach Argument (FGA), presupposes something like [OI], a presupposition that Geach shares with his critics. Despite the huge success of FGA, a thorough analysis of the actual scope of this argument has yet to be given. I will provide such an analysis in section 3 below. In this paper, I argue that [OI] is a meta-theoretical principle which is neutral with respect to specific metaphysical debates about the nature of propositions, as well as specific proposals about the semantics of declarative sentences.