The following are too false statements.
- James Buchanan, Jr. was the 14th President of the United States.
- James Buchanan. Jr. gave the Gettysburg Address.
In what sense can either of these statements be about James Buchanan, Jr.? Is it possible that one statement is likely about James Buchanan, Jr. and simply false while the other statement is not about James Buchanan, Jr. but makes a false attribution concerning him? If the latter, is there any way to know which is which without inquiring into the intention of the person(s) making these statements?
I thing most people who went to elementary school in the United States would see the first statement as a false statement about James Buchanan, Jr. and the second statement as a false statement about who gave the Gettysburg Address and not really about James Buchanan, Jr. at all. But, assuming I am correct, why?
Some time soon I’ll share what brought this rather abstract concern to mind.
These may sound like philosophical questions (and in some contexts they are) but here I mean them as cultural/linguistic questions.
Does anyone know of a literature on these as a language and/or culture questions? As philosophical questions they are part of the problem of reference. And there is a rather large literature on that. Much of that literature wonders if such statements have any meaning at all. But I’m not so much concerned about their meaning or lack of same as I am about how we might sort out such questions in terms of language and/or culture. It is of course possible, and the philosophers might even think it so, that cultural/linguistic questions are (all?) philosophical questions. I haven’t totally made up my mind on that either.
As you can see, I don’t have many problems and those I do have are not very great.