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April 14, David Braun
(University at Buffalo)
“Questions and Answers”
Abstract: Propositions are the semantic contents of declarative sentences, such as ‘Alice sings’ and ‘Some people sing’. They are also the things that agents believe and assert. Questions are the semantic contents of interrogative sentences, such as ‘Does Alice sing?’ and ‘Who sings?’. They are also the things that agents ask and wonder about. In the mid-twentieth century, most philosophers who thought about questions argued that they were just propositions “in disguise”. Today, however, there is an alternative view of questions that is so widely accepted that it deserves to be called the received view. The received view denies that questions are propositions. But it says that two questions are identical if and only if exactly the same propositions can fully answer them. On strong versions of the received view, each question is identical with the set of propositions that can completely answer it. In this talk, I criticize the received view, and present an alternative theory of questions and interrogative sentences. On the theory I favor, questions are not propositions, and a theory of questions need not, and should not, include a theory of answers.