Talk About Beliefs (MIT Press)

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9780262515719: Talk About Beliefs (MIT Press)

Talk about Beliefs presents a new account of beliefs and of practices of reporting them that yields solutions to foundational problems in the philosophies of language and mind. Crimmins connects issues in mental representation with semantic issues in language for talking about cognition to provide a theoretically fruitful account of belief and belief reports that is logically consistent with intuitive judgments of such notorious problems as Frege's puzzles about substitution and cognitive significance, Quine's puzzle about de re, Castaneda and Perry's puzzle about indexical beliefs, and other more complicated variations.Crimmins's account relies on, and to some extent vindicates, the traditions of representationalism in the philosophy of mind and of structured propositional semantics. In reporting a person's beliefs, Crimmins argues, we sytematically make claims not only about the propositional content of the beliefs but also about cognitive representations. He elaborates and defends this proposal by providing a careful assesssment of pragmatic and semantic contributions to the claims expressed in belief reports.Crimmins's thesis forms a promising framework within which to approach such issues in the philosophy of mind as tacit belief (do you believe that pencils do not eat?), criteria for having concepts (do blind persons have the concept of red?), and restrictions of acquaintance on objects of thought (can you believe something about the first person born in the next century?).Mark Crimmins is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Cornell University.

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Review:

If, as is widely assumed, each natural language has a compositional semantics, then Crimmins's book is, quite simply, the best theory of the semantics of belief sentences so far proposed. It is an extremely significant contribution to an important field.

(Stephen Schiffer, CUNY Graduate Center)

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Mark Crimmins
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