Assertion and its Constitutive Norms


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     I am greatly indebted to helpful feedback from Jonathan Adler, Anthony Corsentino, Kevin Falvey, Michael Glanzberg, Warren Goldfarb, Elizabeth Harman, Richard Heck, Louis-Philippe Hodgson, Charles Parsons, and James Pryor. I received many useful comments when I presented earlier versions of this paper at a UCSD Philosophy Colloquium, especially from Agustín Rayo and Wayne Martin, and at the Pacific APA 2005. I am grateful to Gary Ebbs, my commentator on the latter occasion, for his criticisms. Finally, I thank an anonymous referee for this journal for unusually generous and helpful comments.


Alston, Searle, and Williamson advocate the restrictive model of assertion, according to which certain constitutive assertoric norms restrict which propositions one may assert. Sellars and Brandom advocate the dialectical model of assertion, which treats assertion as constituted by its role in the game of giving and asking for reasons. Sellars and Brandom develop a restrictive version of the dialectical model. I explore a non-restrictive version of the dialectical model. On such a view, constitutive assertoric norms constrain how one must react if an interlocutor challenges one’s assertion, but they do not constrain what one should assert in the first place. I argue that the non-restrictive dialectical perspective can accommodate various linguistic phenomena commonly taken to support the restrictive model.1