Facts and Factiveness
Facts, Factives, and Contra-Factives
Frege begins his discussion of factives in ‘On Sense and Reference’ with an example of a purported contra-factive, i.e. a verb that entails, or presupposes, the falsity of the complement sentence. But the verb he cites, ‘wähnen’, is now obsolete, and native speakers are sceptical about whether it really was a contra-factive. Despite the profusion of factive verbs, there are no clear examples of contra-factive propositional attitude verbs in English, French or German (or indeed any other Indo-European languages). This paper attempts to give an explanation of this, and to use this to shed light on the behaviour of factives more generally. The suggestion is that factive propositional attitude verbs take facts, not propositions, as the referents of their complement sentences; and that as there are no contra-facts (merely false propositions), there can be no contra-factives. This claim is also used to help explain Timothy Williamson's observation that there is no stative propositional attitude factive that requires only belief. Various conclusions are drawn within a broadly ‘knowledge first’ approach.
Richard Holton is professor of philosophy at Cambridge, and a fellow of Peterhouse. He works on a variety of issues in moral psychology, ethics, philosophy of law and philosophy of language. He is the author of Willing, Wanting, Waiting.
Knowledge and Belief
In this article, I oppose the view that knowledge is a species of belief, and argue that belief should be defined in terms of knowledge, instead of the other way round. However, I reject the idea that the concept of knowledge has a primary or basic rôle or position in our system of mental and logical concepts, because I reject the hierarchical conception of philosophical analysis implicit in this idea. I approach the topic of knowledge and belief from a discussion of Richard Holton’s views about facts and factive verbs.
John Hyman is Professor of Aesthetics at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford, and Editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics. His books include The Objective Eye (2006), and Action, Knowledge, and Will (2015). He was formerly a Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and a Leverhulme Major Research Fellow.
14-16 July 2017
School of Philosophy
Psychology and Language Sciences
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
future joint sessions
2018 joint session:
2019 joint session:
2020 joint session:
Visit our Future Joint Sessions page for further information.
The inaugural address and symposia for the Joint Session are published in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, which is published digitally and in hardcover every June. The Supplementary Volume is sent to subscribing members of the Society in categories 4 and 5.
Members in other categories can purchase the hardcover Supplementary Volume from the Online Shop. Volumes will also be available at the registration desk during the conference.
The hardcover volume is printed in black on an 80gsm white book wove stock accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Binding is in dark blue Arbelave Library Buckram over 2500 micron boards blocked in gold on the spine. This makes for a strong, attractive and durable book with a scuff resistant and wipeable cover.
2016 joint session:
8 - 10 july 2016
2015 joint session:
10 - 12 july 2015
2014 joint session:
11 - 13 july 2014
Subscribing members receive online access to the Proceedings from 2000 to the most current issue.
Subscribing members also receive the bound, hardcover volume of the latest Proceedings through the post.