The Prenective View of Propositional Content

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Beliefs have what I will call ‘propositional content’. A belief is always a belief that so-and-so: a belief that grass is green, or a belief that snow is white, or whatever. Other things have propositional content too, such as sentences, judgments and assertions. The Standard View amongst philosophers is that what it is to have a propositional content is to stand in an appropriate relation to a proposition. Moreover, on this view, propositions are objects, i.e. the kind of thing you can refer to with singular terms. For example, on the Standard View, we should parse the sentence ‘Simon believes that Sharon is funny’ as: [Simon] believes [that Sharon is funny]; ‘Simon’ is a term referring to a thinking subject, ‘that Sharon is funny’ is a term referring to a proposition, and ‘x believes y’ is a dyadic predicate expressing the believing relation. In this paper, I argue against the Standard View. This is how I think we should parse ‘Simon believes that Sharon is funny’: [Simon] believes that [Sharon is funny]; here we have a singular term, ‘Simon’, a sentence ‘Sharon is funny’, and a ‘prenective’ joining them together, ‘x believes that p’. On this Prenective View, we do not get at the propositional content of someone’s belief by referring to a reified proposition with a singular term; we simply use the sentence ‘Sharon is funny’ to express that content for ourselves. I argue for the Prenective View in large part by showing that an initially attractive version of the Standard View is actually vulnerable to the same objection that Wittgenstein used against Russell’s multiple-relation theory of judgment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1799-1825
Number of pages27
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017.


  • Multiple-relation theory of judgment
  • Propositional content
  • Propositions
  • Ramsey
  • Russell
  • Wittgenstein

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