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March 05, 2005


David Wall

Concerning the exportation principle, it's odd that Soames describes it as 'intuitively compelling'. Based on what he says in Ch. 3 of Beyond Rigidity (which is where he argues for the principle, according to a footnote in Ch. 9 of the 2D book) he seems to accept that it's not intuitive. The case for the principle seems to depend on his very undemanding account of what is required to be a competent user of a name or expression n, only that they '(i)have acquired a referential intention that (somehow) determines o as referent of n and (ii) the speaker knows that assertively uttering 'n is F' involves saying of the referent of n, that it "is F."' (p72, BR).

He says there's no reason to privilege the semantic content of the sentence uttered in explaining what information is conveyed in an assertion, or in a conversation (p70). Other, for example, Gricean, ways of conveying information might be equally or more important in determining the information conveyed. This allows him to say that speakers can competently use a name without knowing any descriptive semantic content that it has. Perhaps the idea is that you're a competent user if you can use it to convey information in an assertion. And if this needn't involve conveying the semantic content of the expression then you could be a competent user on his undemanding account. He also claims that because it tends to be unclear whether the information conveyed by an assertion is the semantic content of the sentence uttered or other propositions the speaker is implying or intends to convey then we shouldn't trust speakers' intuitions about what the semantic content of a sentence is and which sentences have the same semantic content. As the exportation principle seems to be based on this theory of communication, and as he concedes that speaker's intuitions will tend not to agree with that theory, it's odd that he claims the principle is intuitive. But it does mean that he wouldn't be worried by the response that it's counter-intuitive.

At least, that's what I think chapter 3 of BR suggests.

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