act-object ambiguity

Ambiguity of many common words (e.g. “utterance”, “experience”) between an “act” reading (“the act of uttering something,” “the act of experiencing something”) and an “object” reading (“that which is uttered,” “that which is experienced”). Also sometimes called the ing-ed ambiguity.

affirmative stimulus meaning

(Quine) The class of all stimulations that would prompt a speaker’s assent to a sentence. See also negative stimulus meaning, stimulus meaning.


The possession of two or more different meanings by a single word (type). Example: “bank” means both money-bank and river-bank.


The part of an analysis that does the “analyzing” (e.g., in Grice’s analysis, “S utters u intending for some audience A to come to believe that p on the basis of her recognition of S’s intention.”).


That which is to be analyzed (e.g., in Grice’s analysis, “S means … by uttering u”).


True by virtue of meaning. Paradigm analytic truths include “all bachelors are unmarried” and “if Joe is a father, then Joe is male.” Contrasts with synthetic. (Note: many philosophers, most famously Quine, have questioned the intelligibility of the distinction between analytic and synthetic.)


The “if” part of a conditional: e.g., “Bush is president” in “If Bush is president, then he is over 35 years of age.”

a priori

Without appeal to experience (usually applied to knowledge).


View that reduces talk of mental states to talk of behavioral dispositions.

ceteris paribus

other things being equal


The sentence one is trying to establish in a piece of reasoning. See also inference, premises.


An “if…then” statement, e.g. “If Bush is president, then he is over 35 years of age.” See also antecedent and consequent.


Neither necessary nor impossible.


One of the two sentences connected by “and” in a conjunction.


An “and” statement, e.g. “Berkeley is in California and Reno is in Nevada.” See also conjunct.

conditions of satisfaction

See satisfaction, conditions of.


The “then” part of a conditional: e.g., “he is over 35 years of age” in “If Bush is president, then he is over 35 years of age.”


An expression that refers to an object “demonstrated” (e.g., pointed to) by a speaker: “this” or “that,” in English.

direction of fit

The direction of the “match” between the world and an intentional state or speech act that is required for the latter to be satisfied (see satisfaction, conditions of). For speech acts, direction of fit is either word-to-world (the words must match the world, as with assertions) or world-to-word (the world must be made to match the words, as with promises), or, in some cases, both. For intentional states, direction of fit is either mind-to-world (the content of the mental state must match the world, as with beliefs) or world-to-mind (the world must be made to match the content of the mental state, as with intentions and desires).


One of the two sentences connected by “or” in a disjunction.


An “or” statement, e.g. “Figs are fruits or figs are vegetables.” See also disjunct.

eliminative materialism

View that talk of mental states is part of a false theory, “folk psychology,” and will eventually be eliminated (like talk of the “celestial sphere”).


Branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge and justification.

extensionally equivalent

Two predicates (or concepts) are extensionally equivalent iff they are true of exactly the same objects. Classic example: “is a creature with a heart,” “is a creature with a kidney.”

ex hypothesi

by hypothesis


View that mental states are defined by their functional (usually causal) roles in a system of such states.


The language spoken by a single person (limiting case of a dialect).


if and only if

illocutionary act

A use of words to achieve some point (illocutionary point): e.g., asserting, promising, requesting. See speech act, perlocutionary act.


an expression whose contribution to the truth conditions of a sentence containing it depends on the context in which it is uttered. Examples: ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘here’, ‘now’, ‘yesterday’.


A piece of reasoning consisting of one or more premises and a conclusion. See also valid.

ing-ed ambiguity

See act-object ambiguity.


An intention that was not explicitly formed prior to the action itself, but is inseparable from it.


The “aboutness” or “object-directedness” of some mental states and events (e.g., utterances). My belief that Bush is president has intentionality, because it is about something (Bush). So does my hope that we might one day discover unicorns (the objects or states of affairs toward which intentional items are directed need not be actually existing objects or states of affairs). On the other hand, my keychain does not have intentionality: it is not about anything. Not all mental states have intentionality: my vague feeling of dread, for example, is not directed towards any object or state of affairs. On Searle’s view, some things have intentionality intrinsically: they could not be the things they are (e.g., beliefs or desires) if they did not have intentionality. Others have it derivatively: they can be characterized in a way that makes no mention of intentionality (e.g., as marks or noises), and they get what intentionality they have from things with intrinsic intentionality. Other philosophers (e.g., Dennett) reject this distinction. (Note: don’t worry much about the etymological link between ‘intentionality’ and ‘intentions’: intentions are only one of the things that have intentionality. Searle capitalizes “Intentionality” in order to prevent this confusion.)

lingua mentis

language of the mind (language of thought)

materially equivalent

“A is materially equivalent to B” means “A if and only if B.”

Having to do with necessity and possibility.

Moore’s Paradox

A paradoxical assertion first discussed by G. E. Moore: “p, but I don’t believe p.”

mutatis mutandis

Latin phrase meaning “the things that are to be changed having been changed,” i.e., “when the relevant changes have been made.”

necessary condition

A is a necessary condition for B just in case B can’t be true unless A is also true: that is, if B, then A.

negative stimulus meaning

(Quine) The class of all stimulations that would prompt a speaker’s dissent to a sentence. See also affirmative stimulus meaning, stimulus meaning.

nomologically possible

Could happen without violating any laws of nature.

observation sentence

(Quine) An occasion sentence whose stimulus meaning is not sensitive to the speaker’s collateral information (beliefs). “…in behavioral terms, an occasion sentence may be said to be the more observational the more nearly its stimulus meanings for different speakers tend to coincide” (Word and Object, 43).

occasion sentence

(Quine) “sentences (like ‘Gavagai’, ‘Red’, ‘It hurts’, ‘His face is dirty’) which command assent or dissent only if queried after an appropriate prompting stimulation.” (Word and Object, p. 35) See also standing sentence.


Generally a placeholder for an unspecified sentence.

perlocutionary act

A speech act that achieves a particular effect in an audience: e.g., convincing someone that 2+2=4, persuading someone to open the door. See speech act, illocutionary act.


Sentences that form the basis for a piece of reasoning; the premises in an inference are supposed to support the conclusion.

propositional attitude

A mental state ascribed using a proposition. Examples: wishing that Superman would come soon, believing that it is snowing.

satisfaction, conditions of

Conditions which must obtain if an intentional state (belief, desire, etc.) or speech act is to be satisfied. In the case of beliefs or assertions, conditions of satisfaction are truth conditions (what would have to be the case in order for the belief or claim to be true?); in the case of desires or commands, they are fulfillment conditions (what would have to be the case in order for the desire or command to be fulfilled?).


Having to do with meaning.

sentence meaning

The conventional, literal meaning (or meanings) of a sentence. See utterer’s meaning.


An inference is sound just in case it is valid and all of its premises are true.

sincerity condition

Condition that must hold in order for a speech act to be sincere: e.g., the person making an assertion must believe what is being asserted, and the person making a promise must intend to do what is promised. (Note that an insincere assertion or promise is still a speech act–still an assertion or promise.)

speaker’s meaning

Utterer’s meaning, when the utterance is linguistic and spoken.

speech act

An action that can be done by uttering a sentence: e.g., an assertion (“The pigs are in the street again”), a command (“Close the door”), a promise (“I promise not to raise taxes”), a question (“What time is it?”), or a declaration (“You’re fired!”, “I now pronounce you man and wife”). See illocutionary act, perlocutionary act.

standing sentence

(Quine) Sentences (like ‘The Times has come’, ‘The crocuses are out’) which the speaker will assent to or dissent from without the prompting of any particular stimulation. See also occasion sentence.

stimulus meaning

(Quine) The ordered pair consisting of the affirmative stimulus meaning and the negative stimulus meaning of a sentence for a speaker.

stimulus synonymous

(Quine) Having the same stimulus meaning.

sufficient condition

A is a sufficient condition for B just in case A’s truth guarantees B’s truth: that is, if A, then B.


Having to do with the order, types, and arrangement of signs (and not their meanings).


Not analytic.


a distinction in the form of a verb that expresses relative time: past, present, or future.


An instance of a type.


A kind of thing that can have multiple tokens or instances. For example, there are six different letter-tokens, but only two different letter-types, in the following sequence: ABBBAA.


  1. something that is said.

  2. the act of saying something. Grice uses this word in a broader sense: he does not limit it to verbalized words, but includes any kind of action (either the doing of it or what is done) that can bear non-natural meaning, including, e.g., the waving of a white flag, or spitting into one’s soup. See act-object ambiguity.

utterance meaning

The conventional, “literal” meaning (or meanings) of an utterance. See utterer’s meaning.

utterance-part meaning

The conventional, “literal” meaning (or meanings) of a part of a composite utterance (e.g., a word or part of a series of gestures). See utterance meaning.


A token or instance of an utterance-type.


A type of utterance, e.g. a sentence-type or a particular kind of gesture.

utterer’s meaning

The meaning expressed by an utterer’s utterance (in the “act” sense) on a particular occasion. See speaker’s meaning, utterance meaning, utterance-part meaning, sentence meaning, word meaning.


An inference is valid just in case it is impossible for all the premises to be true and the conclusion false. Note: an inference can be valid even if it’s conclusion is false. See also sound, inference.

word meaning

The conventional, literal meaning (or meanings) of a word. Special case of utterance-part meaning.