The abstract structure of inquiry—the process of acquiring and changing beliefs about the world—is the focus of this important book. It first discusses propositions and propositional attitudes (the cluster of activities that constitute inquiry) in general, taking the position that the "pragmatic" rather than the "linguistic" picture better solves philosophical problems about the nature of mental representation, and better accounts for the phenomena of thought and speech. Most strikingly, it provides a sound and plausible philosophical foundation for the representation of propositional content and attitudes in terms of possible worlds, tackling head on the serious problems that this view raises.
The book's second half takes up the way beliefs change in response to new information, and the way an inquirer's epistemic policies (rules for responding to new information) interact with his or her conception of the way the world is. In particular, it discusses the relationship between conditional beliefs—policies for changing beliefs in response to potential new information—and belief in conditional propositions, suggesting that conditional propositions should be understood as projections of epistemic policies onto the world. It defends an abstract semantic analysis of conditional propositions, and concludes with a discussion of realism about counterfactuals.
A Bradford Book.
About the Author
Robert C. Stalnaker is a professor in the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University.
"During the past fifteen years, Robert Stalnaker has published an important series of papers on issues concerning conditionals, possible worlds, and belief. In Inquiry, he brings together themes from these papers and attempts to weave them together into a single line of thought. The result is a book which ... is densely argued and full of interest. One of its admirable features is its style: Stalnaker manages to write lucidly and economically on difficult topics without assuming undue familiarity with the literature and its jargon."
"This is an important work which will be widely discussed."