How to Analyze the Sentence “I thought your yacht was larger than it is”?

Publication Type:


Transliteration of original Title: 
Logicheskiy analiz predlozheniya «Ya dumal, vasha yakhta bol'she [chem ona est']»
Evgeny Borisov
Tomsk State University
Issue number: 
No.4 (Vol.50)

The sentence cited in the title – in what follows, I refer to it as (S) – occurs in a story Russell tells us in On Denoting. It represents the class of sentences containing a comparative predicate applied twice to a single object in the scope of an epistemic verb. The problem with sentences of this type is that the received tools of logical analysis do not allow both to accurately reflect their surface structure and to take into account some intuitions about our use of them in standard cases. For instance, as Kripke has shown, Russell’s own analysis conflicts with our intuition since it renders (S) as an ascription of a de re belief about the size of the yacht. I argue that an analogous flaw have alternative analyses involving the notion of size, viz. ones offered by Kaplan and Salmon. In 2013, I proposed an objectual analysis of (S) which makes no use of the notion of size. That analysis has certain counter-intuitive implications, too. Recently, Gorbatov proposed a version of the objectual analysis based on interpretation of the adjective larger in (S) as a cross-world predicate in terms of Wehmeier’s cross-world subjunctive modal logic (CSML). I argue that Gorbatov’s analysis is counter-intuitive, too, for it ascribes to the utterer a quite uncommon belief involving a particular possible world. Nevertheless, I find the idea behind his proposal – the interpretation of larger in (S) as a cross-world predicate – fruitful, and offer an alternative version of analysis of (S) in terms of CSML. The analysis I propose renders (S) as an ascription of an objectual attitude rather than a propositional one. I sketch the semantics of objectual attitude ascription involving a cross-world comparative predicate and argue that the analysis I propose is free from disadvantages of the analyses mentioned above.

semantics, comparative predicate, cross-world subjunctive modal logic,propositional attitude, objectual attitude

Borisov E.V. O semantike komparativnykh predikatov [On Semantics of Comparative Predicates]. Tomsk State University Journal of Philosophy, Sociology and Political Science, 2013, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 219-225. (In Russian)

Gorbatov V.V. Semantika komparativnykh predicatov v intensionalnykh kontekstakh: dvumernyy podkhod [Semantics of Comparative Predicates in Intensional Contexts: A Two-Dimensional Approach]. Tomsk State University Journal of Philosophy, Sociology and Political Science, 2016, vol.34, no.2, pp. 345-353. (In Russian)

Kaplan D. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. In: K.J.J. Hintikka, J.M.E. Moravcsik, P. Suppes (eds.). Approaches to Natural Language. Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1973, pp. 490–518.

Kripke S. Russell's Notion of Scope. Mind, 2005, vol. 114, pp. 1005–1037.

Russell B. On Denoting. Mind, 1905, vol. 14, pp. 479–493.

Salmon N. Points, Complexes, Complex Points, and a Yacht . In: N. Griffin, D. Jacquette (eds.). Russell vs. Meinong. New-York, London: Routledge, 2009, pp. 343-364.

Wehmeier K. Subjunctivity and Cross-World Predication.  Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 2012, vol. 159, pp. 107-122.

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