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Assertion, qualified

Peter van Elswyk

Thursday, September 29, 2016, 12:00pm - 01:00pm

Graduate Student, Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy

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An assertion is an act that a speaker performs by using a declarative sentence to present a proposition for others to accept. Most work on assertion considers assertions performed only with unqualified declaratives like (1):

(1) Simone won gold.

(2) Simone won gold, I heard.

I will argue that this is an oversight. In particular, I will defend that assertions can also be performed with qualified declaratives like (2) as well as declaratives with grammatically obligatory evidentials that have a similar effect in other languages. I will further defend that these declaratives are not about the speaker’s epistemic position—(1) and (2) assert the same proposition, for example. A consequence of countenancing assertions performed by such declaratives is that much theorizing about assertion is mistaken. Contrary to the traditional views of Stalnaker, Clark, and others, assertion is not a proposal for mutual acceptance. A speaker needn’t accept what she asserts.

Peter van Elswyk