Philosophical Studies

, Volume 166, Issue 2, pp 305–327 | Cite as

On non-pragmatic Millianism

  • Andrea Onofri


Speakers often judge the sentence “Lois Lane believes that Superman flies” to be true and the sentence “Lois Lane believes that Clark Kent flies” to be false. If Millianism is true, however, these sentences express the very same proposition and must therefore have same truth value. “Pragmatic” Millians like Salmon and Soames have tried to explain speakers’ “anti-substitution intuitions” by claiming that the two sentences are routinely used to pragmatically convey different propositions which do have different truth values. “Non-Pragmatic” Millians like Braun, on the other hand, have argued that the Millian should not appeal to pragmatics and opt instead for a purely psychological explanation. I will present two objections against Non-Pragmatic Millianism. The first one is that the view cannot account for the intuitions of speakers who accept the identity sentence “Superman is Clark Kent”: applying a psychological account in this case, I will argue, would yield wrong predictions about speakers who resist substitution with simple sentences. I will then consider a possible response from the non-pragmatic Millian and show that the response would in fact require an appeal to pragmatics. My conclusion will be that Braun’s psychological explanation of anti-substitution intuitions is untenable, and that the Millian is therefore forced to adopt a pragmatic account. My second objection is that Non-Pragmatic Millianism cannot account for the role that certain commonsense intentional generalizations play in the explanation of behavior. I will consider a reply offered by Braun and argue that it still leaves out a large class of important generalizations. My conclusion will be that Braun’s non-pragmatic strategy fails, and that the Millian will again be forced to adopt a pragmatic account of intentional generalizations if he wants to respond to the objection. In light of my two objections, my general conclusion will be that non-pragmatic versions of Millianism should be rejected. This has an important consequence: if Millianism is true, then some pragmatic Millian account must be correct. It follows that, if standard objections against pragmatic accounts succeed, then Millianism must be rejected altogether.


Millianism Pragmatics Psychological explanation Anti-substitution intuitions Intentional generalizations Ceteris paribus generalizations Explanation of behavior 



Thanks to audiences in Paris, Princeton, Austin, St. Andrews, Milan and Reading for very helpful feedback. In particular, thanks to John Butterworth, Jeremy Goodman, Nat Hansen, Mark Harris, Travis Hobbs, Michael Murez, Simon Prosser, Francois Recanati, and Margot Strohminger. Special thanks to an anonymous referee, Derek Ball, Herman Cappelen, Thomas Hodgson, and Dilip Ninan for their very careful and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. My greatest debt of gratitude is owed to Ray Buchanan, whose feedback and suggestions were immensely helpful in shaping this material.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyArché-Philosophical Research Centre, University of St. AndrewsSt. AndrewsUK

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