, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 49-58
Date: 12 Nov 2011

The Problem of De Se Assertion

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Abstract

It has been long known (Perry in Philos Rev 86: 474–497, 1977; Noûs 13: 3–21, 1979, Lewis in Philos Rev 88: 513–543 1981) that de se attitudes, such as beliefs and desires that one has about oneself, call for a special treatment in theories of attitudinal content. The aim of this paper is to raise similar concerns for theories of asserted content. The received view, inherited from Kaplan (1989), has it that if Alma says “I am hungry,” the asserted content, or what is said, is the proposition that Alma is hungry (at a given time). I argue that the received view has difficulties handling de se assertion, i.e., contents that one expresses using the first person pronoun, to assert something about oneself. I start from the observation that when two speakers say “I am hungry,” one may truly report them as having said the same thing. It has often been held that the possibility of such reports comes from the fact that the two speakers are, after all, uttering the same words, and are in this sense “saying the same thing”. I argue that this approach fails, and that it is neither necessary nor sufficient to use the same words, or words endowed with the same meaning, in order to be truly reported as same-saying. I also argue that reports of same-saying in the case of de se assertion differ significantly from such reports in the case of two speakers merely implicating the same thing.