For example this: Difference between a sentence and a proposition in philosophy

For me that's a perfectly good and interesting question and a typical puzzle for beginners in philosophy. And it also has an answer:

There are basically two different uses of the word "sentence" in philosophy: sentence as a syntactic object (in type or token sense), and sentence as a meaningful sentence.

The latter use partially overlaps with the notion of a proposition, this can be elaborated, and it can be confusing.

"Proposition" is similarly ambiguous.

The modern technical use of things like propositions was to my knowledge pioneered by Bolzano, but it would be easier to start from Frege. Frege was the first to propose a compositional theory explaining how the structure of a sentence represents the structure of a proposition. Russell is the other historically important figure here. (The contrast between Russellian vs Fregean propositions should be hinted at.) From Frege you get the modern version of propositions as structured objects. In the 1970s (?) the idea of propositions as sets of possible worlds was also popular (this is a version of the unstructured propositions approach).

Here you could also say a couple of words about why philosophers think they need propositions, and what is the metaphysics of propositions.

That's only a sketch and I don't have time to flesh it out at the moment, but the point is that the question has in my view a standard answer. So why close it?

  • 1
    Absolutely none of the context and motivation you indicate is present in the question...?
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Dec 1, 2015 at 19:56
  • 1
    It's a general question about terms constantly used, the context is the contrast? But I see your point, it's good to insist that questions be specific.
    – Johannes
    Dec 1, 2015 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


I am not quite sure why that question was closed myself. It doesn't strike me as too broad, but I can imagine why the question would seem too broad given a certain background. And I can imagine how an exhaustive answer would be too broad.

I would guess one origin is the ambiguity that haunts the term "philosophy" (with myriad definitions in multiple languages and different and contrary ideas of what it does both outside and inside the professional discipline).

Similarly, our user base including power users is not primarily professional philosophers. I'm sure that the question quality does not help with that. But from the side of professional philosophers, it does not help ones career at all to be answering questions on stack exchange.

In general, I'm in favor of closing more questions rather than less, but I do think that "sentence" vs "proposition" is a good basic issue people will encounter if reading contemporary philosophy. The dictionary definitions are unhelpful which is why I bothered to write an answer (it's out of my AOS, so I'm sure a better answer could be had if we had a philosopher of language here).

The question could be easier to grasp and easier to see in its philosophical significance if there was a quote where the usage of sentence vs. proposition mattered (it also doesn't help that not all philosophers agree on how to demark the two and whether demarking them is valuable).

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