Although much has been written about the truth-conditions of de re attitude reports, little attention has been paid to certain ‘ultra-liberal’ uses of those reports. We believe that if these uses are legitimate, then a number of interesting consequences for various theses in philosophical semantics follow. The majority of the paper involves describing these consequences. In short, we argue that, if true, ultra-liberal reports: (1) bring counterexamples to a popular approach to de re attitude ascriptions, which we will call ‘descriptivism’; and (2) combine with independently plausible principles about the logic of belief to imply that subjects can achieve omniscience about what exists from the armchair. Although we are not committed to the view that ultra-liberal reports are false, in the final part of the paper we discuss the prospects of pursuing a line according to which the acceptability of such reports ought not be taken at face value. We conclude by arguing that those who are sympathetic with this move might have reason to doubt the truth of an even broader class of acceptable de re attitude reports, namely those that have been taken to undermine orthodox accounts of de re attitude ascriptions.
KeywordsPropositional attitude reports De re ascriptions Descriptivism Singular thought Contextualism
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the NYU Thesis Preparation seminar in the spring and fall of 2016. We would like to thank all of the participants at those presentations for their feedback. We would also like to thank David Chalmers, Cian Dorr, Jeremy Goodman, Harvey Lederman, Andrew Lee, Gary Ostertag, and Stephen Schiffer for helpful discussion of earlier drafts. Finally, we would especially like to thank Jim Pryor for his continued encouragement and for providing valuable feedback at every stage of the project’s development.
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