Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 12, pp 3159–3178 | Cite as

Propositions on the cheap

  • Alex GrzankowskiEmail author
  • Ray Buchanan


According to the classical account, propositions are sui generis, abstract, intrinsically-representational entities and our cognitive attitudes, and the token states within us that realize those attitudes, represent as they do in virtue of their propositional objects. In light of a desire to explain how it could be that propositions represent, much of the recent literature on propositions has pressured various aspects of this account. In place of the classical account, revisionists have aimed to understand propositions in terms of more familiar entities such as facts, types of mental or linguistic acts, and even properties. But we think that the metaphysical story about propositions is much simpler than either the classical theorist or the revisionist would have you believe. In what follows, we argue that a proper understanding of the nature of our cognitive relations to propositions shows that the question of whether propositions themselves represent is, at best, a distraction. We will argue that once this distraction is removed, the possibility of a very pleasing, minimalist story of propositions emerges; a story that appeals only to assumptions that are (or, at least ought to be) shared by all theorists in the relevant debate.


Propositions Propositional attitudes Unity of the proposition Mental content Representation 



We received important suggestions and criticisms from the participants at the worksop on The Role of Content in Mind, Language, and Metaphysics at Birkbeck, as well as at Meanings & Other Things: A Conference Celebrating the Work of Stephen Schiffer hosted by the New York Institute of Philosophy-NYU. We also want to thank audiences at the Birkbeck WIP group, the University of Arizona, UNLV, the University of Manchester, The University of Southampton, and The University of York. Additionally, we have benefited a great deal from conversations and correspondences with Mark Balaguer, Lucy Campbell, Tim Crane, Sean Crawford, Sinan Dogramaci, Frances Egan, Craig French, Laura Gow, Amanda Greene, Bob Hale, Peter Hanks, Cory Juhl, Robert Matthews, Raamy Majeed, Eliot Michaelson, Michelle Montague, Anne Quaranto, Alex Rausch, Gurpreet Rattan, Indrek Reiland, Stephen Schiffer, Jeremy Schwartz, David Sosa, Florian Steinberger, and Crispin Wright. Special thanks are owed to Jon Litland for many very helpful discussions. Finally, we are indebted to an anonymous referee for their helpful suggestions and questions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBirkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Texas, AustinAustinUSA

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