Theories of Aboutness

Peter HAWKE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Our topic is the theory of topics (that is, the theory of subject matter). My goal is to clarify and evaluate three competing traditions: what I call the way-based approach, the atom-based approach, and the subject-predicate approach. I develop (defeasible) criteria for adequacy using robust linguistic intuitions that feature prominently in the literature. Then I evaluate the extent to which various existing theories satisfy these constraints. I conclude that recent theories due to Parry, Perry, Lewis, and Yablo do not meet the constraints in total. I then introduce the issue-based theory—a novel and natural entry in the atom-based tradition that meets our constraints. In a coda, I categorize a recent theory from Fine as atom-based, and contrast it to the issue-based theory, concluding that they are evenly matched, relative to our main criteria of adequacy. I offer tentative reasons to nevertheless favour the issue-based theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-723
Number of pages27
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date2 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is published within the project ‘The Logic of Conceivability’, funded by the European Research Council (ERC CoG), Grant Number 681404.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • aboutness
  • hyperintensionality
  • subject matter
  • topic


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