Expressing regret and avowing belief
This essay reconceptualizes the relationship of mental-act, mental-state, and speech-act verbs. It shows that ‘believe’ can be used as a mental-activity, quasi-performative verb and not just a mental-state verb, illustrates the explanatory value of distinguishing performative from quasi-performative verbs, and draws the implications of the new taxonomy of verbs for Moore’s Paradox. Quasi-performative, mental activity verbs can express (manifest) or create mental-states just as performative speech-act forms like ‘I promise’ can create obligations. The arguments employ methods first used by Jerrold Sadock (1974) in his classic work <i>Toward a Linguistic Theory of Speech Acts</i>. I adapt his syntactical arguments that appeal to the properties of expositive adverbials in sentences with verbs of communication to the case, which Sadock did not discuss, of the mental-state verb ‘believe’ and show that ‘believe’ has more than mental-state uses; it is also a mental-activity verb that has properties that, following Hunter (1990), I call ‘quasi-performative’. I also use the adverbial <i>for the last time</i> to distinguish ‘believe’ from a performative verb. Likewise I extend Sadock’s arguments for the case of performative communication verbs embedded in factive sentences, e.g. in ‘regret’ sentences, to show that ‘believe’ has performative-like uses. I also employ Sadock’s observations on the relation between stative-verb sentences and related pseudo-cleft sentences to show that ‘believe’ and ‘regret’ have non-stative uses. I discuss the views of Donald Davidson and Zeno Vendler on the difference between mental state-verbs and mental event-verbs. And I conclude with the implications of this new characterization of ‘believe’ for the classic problem of Moore’s Paradox.