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CEFISES Seminar: Bjorn Jespersen, “A misdiagnosed conundrum about woodchuck and ‘groundhog’”
Series: Explanatory Inference
Abstract: Consider a pair of lexically synonymous predicates such as ‘is a woodchuck’ and ‘is a groundhog’. Are they intersubstitutable within an attitude ascription without affecting either the truth-value of the ascription or the content of the belief? The received view is in the negative. I will be arguing for the normative claim that the answer ought to be in the affirmative, exactly because the predicates are assumed to be synonymous. I understand synonymy to be identity rather than mere similarity of meaning. I suggest the received view is informed by a confusion of predicates and properties, thus drawing semantic and logical distinctions where only syntactic distinctions should be drawn, or a conflation of the attributor’s and the attributee’s respective perspectives. Therefore, the intensions of standard possible-world semantics suffice for substitutability for all paradigmatic cases. Still, a limiting case demands the complements to be hyperpropositions. The reason is that otherwise the belief that woodchucks are groundhogs and the belief that natural numbers are natural numbers, being analytically trivial, will be one and the same belief, thus relating agents to the entire logical space. I suggest that the reason for fine-graining has been misdiagnosed. I discuss the received view and present my own account of believing that woodchucks are groundhogs and believing that woodchucks are poisonous.e groundhogs and believing that woodchucks are poisonous.