in The Book Stall
Aboutness has been studied from any number of angles. Brentano made it
the defining feature of the mental. Phenomenologists try to pin down
the aboutness-features of particular mental states. Materialists
sometimes claim to have grounded aboutness in natural regularities.
Attempts have even been made, in library science and information
theory, to operationalize the notion.
But it has played no real role in philosophical semantics. This is
surprising; sentences have aboutness-properties if anything does. Aboutness is the
first book to examine through a philosophical lens the role of subject
matter in meaning.
tradition sees meaning as truth-conditions, to be specified by listing
the scenarios in which a sentence is true. Nothing is said about the
principle of selection--about what in a scenario gets it onto the list.
Subject matter is the missing link here. A sentence is true because of
how matters stand where its subject matter is concerned.
Stephen Yablo maintains that this is not just a feature of subject
matter, but its essence. One indicates what a sentence is about by
mapping out logical space according to its changing ways of being true
or false. The notion of content that results--directed content--is
brought to bear on a range of philosophical topics, including ontology,
verisimilitude, knowledge, loose talk, assertive content, and
by one of
today's leading philosophers, Aboutness
represents a major advance in
semantics and the philosophy of language.