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The Unity of the Sentence and the Connection of Causes

Martha I. Gibson
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Vol. 58, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 827-845
DOI: 10.2307/2653724
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2653724
Page Count: 19
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The Unity of the Sentence and the Connection of Causes
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Abstract

This paper attempts a solution to the classical problem of predication, "the unity of the sentence": how, instead of merely listing the several things they designate, the parts of the sentence combine to represent something as being the case. While this capacity of a sequence of terms to "say some single thing" is standardly attributed to the distinct function of `subject' and `predicate' terms, these functional differences need explaining. Here, they are traced to the distinctive, asymmetrical causal explanation of the tokening of the expressions serving one role or another in the speech act: the unity of the sentence is explained by the interconnection and interdependence of the cause of the predicate on that of the subject. Thus the account adverts to the pragmatic character of the expressions rather than the ontology of what they denote. This causal context explains several central semantic features of predication.

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