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Questions, content and the varieties of force

Tuesday, October 13, 2020, 3:45 pm – 5:10 pm

Frege argued for the force-content distinction not only by appealing to the logical and fictional contexts most closely associated with the “Frege point”, but also based on the fact that an affirmative answer to a yes-no question constitutes an assertion. Isn’t this only intelligible if the question contains a forceless thought or proposition which an affirmative answer then asserts? I argue that this fact is actually only intelligible if questions operate on assertions and other forceful acts themselves rather than on something forceless. Force is neither added to propositions as on the traditional view, nor is it cancelled in Frege point contexts, as has recently been proposed. Rather higher-level acts such as questioning, but also e.g. conditionalizing, embed and present assertoric or directive acts that are forceful and committal, while suspending commitment to them. The Frege point confounds different varieties of force and the question whether something is merely presented for consideration with the question what is so presented. The force-content dichotomy should be overcome by acknowledging that force has content: through assertoric and directive force indicators subjects present positions of theoretical or practical knowledge, while interrogative acts indicate positions of wondering which strive for such knowledge.