Expressing regret and avowing belief

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This essay reconceptualizes the relationship of mental-act, mental-state, and speech-act verbs. It shows that &#8216;believe&#8217; 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&#8217;s Paradox. Quasi-performative, mental activity verbs can express (manifest) or create mental-states just as performative speech-act forms like &#8216;I promise&#8217; 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 &#8216;believe&#8217; and show that &#8216;believe&#8217; has more than mental-state uses; it is also a mental-activity verb that has properties that, following Hunter (1990), I call &#8216;quasi-performative&#8217;. I also use the adverbial <i>for the last time</i> to distinguish &#8216;believe&#8217; from a performative verb. Likewise I extend Sadock&#8217;s arguments for the case of performative communication verbs embedded in factive sentences, e.g. in &#8216;regret&#8217; sentences, to show that &#8216;believe&#8217; has performative-like uses. I also employ Sadock&#8217;s observations on the relation between stative-verb sentences and related pseudo-cleft sentences to show that &#8216;believe&#8217; and &#8216;regret&#8217; 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 &#8216;believe&#8217; for the classic problem of Moore&#8217;s Paradox.


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