Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Amie Thomasson

Second Committee Member

Mark Rowlands

Third Committee Member

Elijah Chudnoff

Fourth Committee Member

Kristin Andrews

Fifth Committee Member

Julia Tanney


In this dissertation, I argue for a function-first account of propositional attitude discourse that challenges a predominant assumption in philosophy of mind, that propositional attitude terms aim to refer – whether to brain states, functional states, dispositions, or entities posited to explain and predict. Using empirical evidence to support theoretical argumentation, I develop the Intelligibility View of propositional attitude discourse that highlights the distinctively normative role that the attribution of such states plays in social interaction. Building off the Intelligibility View, I argue that some of the most entrenched problems in this domain, including the problem of mental causation, problem of other minds, and the placement problem, all arise by accepting the descriptivist assumption and can be avoided by rejecting descriptivism. I conclude by showing how we can remain wholly realist about propositional attitudes once we understand the proper function of the relevant discourse.


philosophy of mind, metaphysics, ontology, propositional attitudes, belief