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The difference between sentences that are evaluated by linguistic significance alone and sentences that are evaluated by linguistic significance and other circumstances

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Peculiarity of certain sentences of the language.
  3. The framework and methodology.
  4. Description on linguistic significance and evaluation.
  5. Stipulation of evaluating sentences.
  6. The nature of distinction.
  7. Sentences being evaluated by assignment alone.
  8. Linguistic significance by expressions occurring in the sentence.
  9. The semantical issues.
  10. The informativeness of a sentence.
  11. Russell's view.
  12. Conclusion.
  13. References.

Significant differences among sentences of natural language certainly occur. It is not a matter of theoretical philosophy or theoretical linguistics but simply common sense. The difference I would like to focus on is the one between sentences that are evaluated using linguistic significance alone and sentences that are evaluated using linguistic significance and (other) circumstances. In this chapter, I'll introduce the distinction and I'll test it investigating simple sentences involving proper names in subject position, such as ?Diego Maradona exists' and ?Diego Maradona runs'. Afterwards, I will add some remarks about the distinction introduced. As a preliminary to my point of view, let me start with some pre-theoretical remarks. ?I am, I exist' "is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind" (Descartes, 1641: ***). ?I am sitting in front of the fire', instead, is not necessarily true every time I utter it. Descartes in the second of the Meditations on First Philosophy brings our attention to the difference between these two cases. I do not want to do any Cartesian exegesis concerning this famous passage, but I'll articulate my way the remark.

[...] However, someone might hold that to all the truths depending on merely what the subject is are associated sentences evaluated by linguistic significance alone and vice versa. In other words, a sentence is evaluated by linguistic significance alone if and only if the sentence is made true by what the subject is. Therefore, the challenge is to maintain that ?Diego Maradona exists' is evaluated by linguistic significance alone and that ?Diego Maradona is human' is not. First of all, someone might not trust the current essentialist doctrine and dispute the distinction between what a certain item is and how a certain item is. [...]


[...] Now, let's deal with Russell, whose considerations on existential sentences appear to clash with my claim that sentences like ?Diego Maradona exists' are evaluated by linguistic significance alone. Part of the issue with Russell is that he does not count as singular existential one a sentence like ?Diego Maradona exists'. Let's see the arguments he submits. Russell holds that if a sentence is a singular existential sentence then its denial is a nonsense. Since ?Diego Maradona does not exist' is perfectly significant, ?Diego Maradona exists' does not count as an example of a singular existential sentence, therefore the conclusion that has been drawn is not correct. [...]


[...] Therefore it is pointless to appeal to such considerations to dismiss the thesis that sentences like ?Diego Maradona exists' are evaluated by linguistic significance alone. The other issue Russell raises is: at which conditions a simple expression of the language occurring in subject position can be used as a name? In Russell's perspective a simple expression can be use as a name only if the speaker is acquainted with the particular the expression stands for. Acquaintance, in Russell's sense, implies infallible knowledge since when someone is acquainted with a particular his knowledge is complete and perfect. [...]

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