When Alston Met Brandom: Defining Assertion

  • Matthew J. Cull


In this paper I give a definition of assertion that develops William P. Alston’s account. Alston’s account of assertion combines a responsibility condition R, which captures the appropriate socio-normative status that one undertakes in asserting something, with an explicit presentation condition, such that the speech act in some way presents the content of what is being asserted. I develop Alston’s account of explicit presentation and add a Brandomian responsibility condition. I then argue that this produces an attractive position on the nature of assertion.


Alston, William (2000), Illocutionary Acts and Sentence Meaning, Cornell Press, New York.

Brandom, Robert (1983), «Asserting», in Noûs, vol. 17, n. 4, pp. 637-650.

Brandom, Robert (1994), Making it Explicit, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA).

Brandom, Robert (2005), Expressive Versus Explanatory Deflationism about Truth, in Armour-Garb, Bradley P., Beall, JC, eds., Deflationary Truth, Open Court, Illinois, pp. 237-257.

Brandom, Robert (2010), Reply to Jeremy Wanderer’s “Brandom’s Challenges”, in Weiss, Bernhard, Wanderer, Jeremy, eds., Reading Brandom: On Making it Explicit, Routledge, Abingdon, p. 315.

Cappelen, Herman (2011), Against Assertion, in Brown, Jessica and Cappelen, Herman, eds., Assertion, New Philosophical Essays, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 21-47.

Dodd, Julian (1999), «There is no norm of truth: a minimalist reply to Wright», in Analysis, vol. 59, n. 4, pp. 291-299.

DeRose, Keith (2002), «Assertion, Knowledge and Context», in Philosophical Review, vol. 111, n. 2, pp. 167-203.

Douven, Igor (2006), «Assertion, Knowledge, and Rational Credibility», in Philosophical Review, vol. 115, pp. 449-485.

Grover, Dorothy, Camp, Joseph, Belnap, Nuel (1975), «A Prosentential Theory of Truth», in Philosophical Studies, vol. 27, n. 2, pp. 73-125.

Jary, Mark (2010), Assertion, Palgrave Macmilla, Basingstoke and New York.

Kneer, Markus (2018), «The Norm of Assertion: Empirical Data», in Cognition, vol. 177, pp. 165-171.

Labinaz, Paolo (2018), «Brandom’s Deontic Scorekeeping Model and the Assertive Family», inJournal of Pragmatics, vol. 128, pp. 53-66.

Lackey, Jennifer (2007), «Norms of Assertion», in Noûs, vol. 41, n. 4, pp. 594-626.

Lewis, David (1979), «Scorekeeping in a Language Game», in Journal of Philosophical Logic, vol. 8, n. 1, pp. 339-359.

Marsili, Neri (2015), «Normative Accounts of Assertion: From Pierce to Williamson, and Back Again», Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, vol. 9, pp. 112-130.

Marsili, Neri (2016), «Lying by Promising», in International Review of Pragmatics, vol. 8, pp. 271-313.

Marsili, Neri (2018), «Truth and Assertion: Rules vs Aims», in Analysis, vol. 78 n. 4, pp. 638-648.

Macfarlane, John (2011), What is Assertion, in Brown, Jessica, Cappelen, Herman, eds., Assertion: New Philosophical Essays, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 49-77.

Mckinnon, Rachel (2013), «The Supportive Reasons Norm of Assertion», in American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 50, n. 2, pp. 121-135.

Michaelson, Eliot (2016), The Lies We Tell Each Other Together, in Michaelson, Eliot, Stokke, Andreas, eds., Lying: Language, Knowledge, Ethics, and Politics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 183-205.

Montminy, Martin (2013), The Single Norm of Assertion, in Capone, Alessandro et al., eds., Perspectives on Pragmatics and Philosophy, Springer, Heidelberg, pp. 35-52.

Moore, G.E. (1962), The Commonplace Book 1919-1953, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London.

Pagin, Peter (2004), «Is Assertion Social?», in Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 36, n. 5, pp. 833-859.

Pagin, Peter (2009), «Assertion Not Possibly Social», in Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 41, n. 12, pp. 2563-2567.

Pegan, Philip (2009), «Why Assertion May Yet be Social», in Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 41, n. 12, pp. 2557-2562.

Quine, Willard Van Orman (1948), «On What There Is», in Review of Metaphysics, vol. 2, n. 5, pp. 21-38.

Searle, John (1969), Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Strawson, P. F. (1950), «On Referring», Mind, vol. 59 n. 239, pp. 320-344.

Wanderer, Jeremy (2010), Brandom’s Challenges, in Weiss, Bernhard, Wanderer, Jeremy, eds., Reading Brandom: On Making it Explicit, Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 96-114.

Watson, Gary (2004), «Asserting and Promising», in Philosophical Studies, vol. 117, pp. 57-77.

Weiner, Matthew (2005), «Must We Know What We Say?», in Philosophical Review, vol. 114, n. 2, pp. 227-251.

Williamson, Timothy (1996), «Knowing and Asserting», in Philosophical Review, vol. 105, pp. 489-523.

Williamson, Timothy (2000), Knowledge and its Limits, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

How to Cite
Cull, M. J. (1) “When Alston Met Brandom: Defining Assertion”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 13(1). Available at: http://www.rifl.unical.it/index.php/rifl/article/view/527 (Accessed: 29June2022).