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The metaphysics of propositional constituency

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Lorraine Keller*
909 Onondaga Street, Lewiston, NY 14092, United States


In this paper, I criticize Structured Propositionalism, the most widely held theory of the nature of propositions according to which they are structured entities with constituents. I argue that the proponents of Structured Propositionalism have paid insufficient attention to the metaphysical presuppositions of the view – most egregiously, to the notion of propositional constituency. This is somewhat ironic, since the friends of structured propositions tend to argue as if the appeal to constituency gives their view a dialectical advantage. I criticize four different approaches to providing a metaphysics of propositional constituency: set-theoretic, mereological, hylomorphic, and structure-making. Finally, I consider the option of taking constituency in a deflationary, metaphysically ‘lightweight’ sense. I argue that, though invoking constituency in a lightweight sense may be useful for avoiding the ontological problems that plague the ‘heavyweight’ conception, it no longer proffers a dialectical advantage to Structured Propositionalism.

Constituents and Constituency
Copyright © Canadian Journal of Philosophy 2013

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Thanks to John Keller, Michael Rea, Jeff Speaks, Marian David, and the editors of this journal for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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