When one talks writes or thinks about concepts
one forms assertions (also known as propositions, statements or claims).
Assertions are judgements of truth (as opposed to judgements of goodness
or beauty etc.). When one asserts, one indicates or judges "this is true".
These judgements are usually about relationships between concepts or between
concepts and reality. Assertions are always either true or false. Oddly,
assertions do not have to be asserted; they may also be merely expressed
or considered. In believing something one asserts an assertion at least
to oneself. The positions we hold on various topics are assertions. If
we are to think critically about our beliefs and the positions of those
around us on any topic, then, we must pay careful attention to what is
really being asserted. Unless one understands what is being asserted how
can one know whether one agrees or disagrees?
We use declarative sentences to communicate or stand for assertions.
Other kinds of sentences (for example: questions, commands or exclamations)
do not have to be either true or false. Different sentences (for example
sentences of different languages) can convey the same assertion. The actual
physical marks or sounds used to represent sentences may be called sentence
tokens. If a more general concept is substituted
for a narrower one or vice versa, the two sentences do not stand for the
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To determine whether two sentences convey the same proposition:
An assertion can assert or express more than one assertion. Conjunctions
(here meaning any logical connective) are terms used to join assertions
into more complex ones. When 'and' is used both the joined assertions are
themselves being asserted. When 'or' is used, neither of the joined assertions
is itself asserted, although a relation between these propositions is asserted.
Similarly when 'if . . . then . . . ' is used, the component assertions
are merely expressed, but a relation between them is asserted.
Use the techniques of categorization and
definition to identify the concepts the words
Ignore differences in connotation
Find literal interpretations for metaphors
The use of commas can make all the difference between what is being
asserted. If I say that my students who study hard will get A's, I am only
asserting that the subgroup of my students who study hard will get A's.
On the other hand, if I say that my students, who study hard, will get
A's, I am asserting both that my students (all of them) study hard and
that my students (all of them) will get A's.
Terms indicating mere expression of an assertion (or denial)
Terms indicating assertion of an assertion (or denial)