chapter  3
8 Pages

Two ways of meeting Geach's challenge

Given the diversity of discourses about which one might have reason to be an expressivist, it is difficult to give a general treatment of the options an expressivist has in developing such a positive semantic account. I do believe, however, that we can initially discern two very general routes any such account might take, and that there are interesting things to be said about them. In order not to operate in too abstract a realm, let us again consider three sample sentences from different areas of discourse:

(7) Haggis is tasty. (8) Gambling is bad. (9) Popocatepetl will probably erupt within ten years. To understand the two routes I have in mind, consider first how a standard bipartite theory of meaning would proceed with these sentences. On a standard account, all the constituent words of these sentences will be classified as content indicators (see Chapter 1, §3). That is, the meanings of the words in each sentence are viewed as contributors to the determination of the content of that sentence, while the assertoric force of each is indicated by other features, such as word order, punctuation, initial capitalization and inflection. In (7), for example, it is the job of the term 'haggis' to identify a dish, and that of the predicate 'is tasty', to identify a property. In combination, these two determine the content of (7), namely the content that haggis is tasty, a content that is true just if the dish identified by 'haggis' has the property identified by 'is tasty'. Moreover, (7)'s word order, punctuation and capitalization determine that the sentence is assertoric. A standard analysis of the other sentences would be very similar, though in the case of (9) more complicated.