Do We Need Propositions?

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Trenton Merricks argues that we need propositions to serve as the premises and conclusions of modally valid arguments (Merricks 2015). A modally valid argument is an argument in which, necessarily, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is also true. According to Mer- ricks, the premises and conclusions of modally valid arguments have their truth conditions essentially, and they exist necessarily. Sentences do not satisfy these conditions. Thus, we need propositions. Merricks’ argument adds a new chapter to the longstanding debate over the exis- tence of propositions. However, I argue that Merricks’ argument does not quite succeed. Merricks has overlooked one viable alternative to pos- tulating propositions. However, this alternative employs the relation of being true-at-a-world, which is difficult to analyze. Thus, the soundness of Merricks’ argument ultimately depends on the comparative merits of accepting propositions as abstract entities, versus accepting truth-at-a- world as an unanalyzed relation between sentences and possible worlds.

McGrath, Matthew; and Frank, Devin. 2018. Propositions. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

Merricks, Trenton. 2015. Propositions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.