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Summary

De re thoughts are thoughts that single out particular objects. For example, the thought that He is the world’s tallest man —had while looking at a particular person— is de re, but the thought that Somebody is the world’s tallest man is not. Attributions of de re thoughts are (utterances of) sentences containing that-clauses, in turn containing either singular terms or variables bound from outside the attitude verb. Issues surrounding these two phenomena include the following. What is the relationship between our theory of de re thoughts and our theory of de re attributions? What is required to have a de re thought? What is required for a de re attribution to be true or felicitous? What kind of semantic content should be used to type de re thoughts and de re attributions? Can we have de re thoughts about abstract and fictional entities? Can one have a priori de re knowledge? What role should de re thought play in the theory of reference? 

Key works

Work in the analytic tradition on de re thoughts and their attribution began with Russell 1905, Russell 1911 and Quine 1956. Classic papers focusing on the attribution of de re thoughts include Sleigh 1968, Kaplan 1968 and Sosa 1971. Another classic, that attempts to clarify the connection between the epistemology of de re thoughts and the semantics of their attribution is Burge 1977; see also Burge’s postscript in Burge 2007. Mcdowell 1984 and Evans 1982 also try to develop a Fregean theory of de re thought. Sosa 1971 and Schiffer 1977 defend the view that the requirements for attributing a de re thought are very lax and context-sensitive. Kripke 2011 disagrees. Salmon 2009 argues that having a de re thought requires the thinker to stand in a relation to the object her thought is about. Jeshion 2002 argues that it only requires the thinker to be in a certain kind of cognitive state. Azzouni 2010 aims to provide an account of de re thought about abstract and fictional entities. Salmon 1988 argues that there is no such thing as a priori de re knowledge. Hawthorne & Manley 2012 discuss all of these issues as well as the role of de re thought in the theory of reference. Burge 2010 connects the notion of de re thought to broader ones in the philosophy of mind. 

Introductions Hawthorne & Manley 2012 serves as an excellent introduction and is also of great interest to experts. Jeshion 2002 serves as an excellent introductory article due to its clarity.
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148 found
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1 — 50 / 148
  1. De Re A Priori Knowledge.Cian Dorr - 2011 - Mind 120 (480):939-991.
    Suppose a sentence of the following form is true in a certain context: ‘Necessarily, whenever one believes that the F is uniquely F if anything is, and x is the F, one believes that x is uniquely F if anything is’. I argue that almost always, in such a case, the sentences that result when both occurrences of ‘believes’ are replaced with ‘has justification to believe’, ‘knows’, or ‘knows a priori’ will also be true in the same context. I also (...)
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  2. Unrestricted Exportation: No Toying with Pragmatic English as English Itself.Adam Cuevas - manuscript
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  3. Demonstrative Belief and Dispositions.David Hunter - manuscript
    forthcoming in Journal of Philosophical Research. This paper argues against David Armstrong’s view that singular beliefs are not dispositions. It also begins to develop the view that self-conscious belief is a matter of belief revision.
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  4. Brandom and Quine on Perspectivally Hybrid De Re Attitude Ascription: A Solution to a Problem in the Explanation of Action.Sean Crawford - forthcoming - Journal of Transcendental Philosophy.
    In Making it Explicit Robert Brandom claims that perspectivally hybrid de re attitude ascriptions explain what an agent actually did, from the point of view of the ascriber, whether or not that was what the agent intended to do. There is a well-known problem, however, first brought to attention by Quine, but curiously ignored by Brandom, that threatens to undermine the role of de re ascriptions in the explanation of action, a problem that stems directly from the fact that, unlike (...)
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  5. Revisionist Reporting.Kyle Blumberg & Harvey Lederman - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (3):755-783.
    Several theorists have observed that attitude reports have what we call “revisionist” uses. For example, even if Pete has never met Ann and has no idea that she exists, Jane can still say to Jim ‘Pete believes Ann can learn to play tennis in ten lessons’ if Pete believes all 6-year-olds can learn to play tennis in ten lessons and it is part of Jane and Jim’s background knowledge that Ann is a 6-year-old. Jane’s assertion seems acceptable because the claim (...)
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  6. Compassionate Exclusivism: Relational Atonement and Post-Mortem Salvation.Aaron Brian Davis - 2021 - Journal of Analytic Theology 9:158-179.
    Faithful persons tend to relate to their religious beliefs as truth claims, particularly inasmuch as their beliefs have soteriological implications for those of different religions. For Christians the particular claims which matter most in this regard are those made by Jesus of Nazareth and his claims are primarily relational in nature. I propose a model in which we understand divine grace from Jesus as being mediated through relational knowledge of him on a compassionately exclusivist basis, including post-mortem. Supporting this model, (...)
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  7. De Re Beliefs and Evidence in Legal Cases.Samuel J. Thomas - 2021 - Dissertation, Arizona State University
    For the past half-century, both jurisprudence and epistemology have been haunted by questions about why individual evidence (i.e., evidence which picks out a specific individual) can sufficiently justify a guilty or liable verdict while bare statistical evidence (i.e., statistical evidence which does not pick out a specific individual) does not sufficiently justify such a verdict. This thesis examines three popular justifications for such a disparity in verdicts – Judith Jarvis Thomson’s causal account, Enoch et al.’s sensitivity account, and Sarah Moss’ (...)
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  8. How I Really Say What You Think.José Manuel Viejo - 2021 - Axiomathes 31 (3):251-277.
    The apparently obviously true doctrine of opacity has been thought to be inconsistent with two others, to which many philosophers of language are also attracted: the referentialist account of the semantics of proper names and indexicals, on the one hand, and the principle of semantic innocence, on the other. I discuss here one of the most popular strategies for resolving the apparent inconsistency, namely Mark Richard’s theory of belief ascriptions, and raise three problems for it. Finally, I propose an alternative (...)
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  9. Perceptual Demonstrative Thought: A Property-Dependent Theory.Sean Crawford - 2020 - Topoi 39 (2):439-457.
    The paper presents a new theory of perceptual demonstrative thought, the property-dependent theory. It argues that the theory is superior to both the object-dependent theory (Evans, McDowell) and the object-independent theory (Burge).
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  10. Understanding Self‐Ascription.Frank Jackson & Daniel Stoljar - 2020 - Mind and Language 35 (2):141-155.
    David Lewis argues that believing something is self‐ascribing a property rather than holding true a proposition. But what is self‐ascription? Is it some new mysterious primitive? Is Lewis saying that every belief you have is about you? Several recent authors have suggested that, in the light of these questions, Lewis's theory should be rejected, despite its enormous influence. But this neglects the fact that Lewis makes two relevant proposals about belief: one about belief de se , another about belief de (...)
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  11. Self-ascription and the de se.James Openshaw - 2020 - Synthese 197 (5):2039-2050.
    This paper defends Lewis’ influential treatment of de se attitudes from recent criticism to the effect that a key explanatory notion—self-ascription—goes unexplained. It is shown that Lewis’ treatment can be reconstructed in a way which provides clear responses. This sheds light on the explanatory ambitions of those engaged in Lewis’ project.
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  12. Thinking About Many.James Openshaw - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):2863-2882.
    The notorious problem of the many makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that almost coincident with any ordinary object are a vast number of near-indiscernible objects. As Unger was aware in his presentation of the problem, this abundance raises a concern as to how—and even whether—we achieve singular thought about ordinary objects. This paper presents, clarifies, and defends a view which reconciles a plenitudinous conception of ordinary objects with our having singular thoughts about those objects. Indeed, this strategy has (...)
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  13. Quine’s Poor Tom.Tristan Grøtvedt Haze - 2019 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 15 (1):5-16.
    Section 31 of Quine's Word and Object contains an eyebrow-raising argument, purporting to show that if an agent, Tom, believes one truth and one falsity and has some basic logical acumen, and if belief contexts are always transparent, then Tom believes everything. Over the decades this argument has been debated inconclusively. In this paper I clarify the situation and show that the trouble stems from bad presentation on Quine’s part.
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  14. Acquaintance and First-Person Attitude Reports.Henry Ian Schiller - 2019 - Analysis 79 (2):251-259.
    It is often assumed that singular thought requires that an agent be epistemically acquainted with the object the thought is about. However, it can sometimes truthfully be said of someone that they have a belief about an object, despite not being interestingly epistemically acquainted with that object. In defense of an epistemic acquaintance constraint on singular thought, it is thus often claimed that belief ascriptions are context sensitive and do not always track the contents of an agent’s mental states. This (...)
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  15. Careful What You Wish.John Beverley - 2018 - Philosophia 46 (1):21-38.
    Dilip Ninan has raised a puzzle for centered world accounts of de re attitude reports extended to accommodate what he calls “counterfactual attitudes.” As a solution, Ninan introduces multiple centers to the standard centered world framework, resulting in a more robust semantics for de re attitude reports. However, while the so-called multi-centered world proposal solves Ninan’s counterfactual puzzle, this additional machinery is not without problems. In Section 1, I present the centered world account of attitude reports, followed by the extension (...)
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  16. Ultra-Liberal Attitude Reports.Kyle Blumberg & Ben Holguín - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (8):2043-2062.
    Although much has been written about the truth-conditions of de re attitude reports, little attention has been paid to certain ‘ultra-liberal’ uses of those reports. We believe that if these uses are legitimate, then a number of interesting consequences for various theses in philosophical semantics follow. The majority of the paper involves describing these consequences. In short, we argue that, if true, ultra-liberal reports: bring counterexamples to a popular approach to de re attitude ascriptions, which we will call ‘descriptivism’; and (...)
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  17. Singular Thought, Cognitivism, and Conscious Attention.Heimir Geirsson - 2018 - Erkenntnis 83 (3):613-626.
    The focus of this paper will be on singular thoughts. In the first section I will present Jeshion’s cognitivism; a view that holds that one should characterize singular thoughts by their cognitive roles. In the second section I will argue that, contrary to Jeshion’s claims, results from studies of object tracking in cognitive psychology do not support cognitivism. In the third section I will discuss Jeshion’s easy transmission of singular thought and argue that it ignores a relevant distinction between general (...)
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  18. A Sound Cartesian Argument From Doubt for Dualism.Ari Maunu - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):461-465.
    I put forward a version of the Cartesian Argument from Doubt for mind–body dualism. My version utilizes de re statements, which means that it is not vulnerable to the usual charge of intensional fallacy. The key de re statement is, ‘Body is such that its existence is entailed by Mind’s believing that Body does not exist’, which is false, whereas the respective ‘Mind is such that its existence is entailed by Mind’s believing that Body does not exist’ is true.
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  19. Singular Thoughts and de Re Attitude Reports.James Openshaw - 2018 - Mind and Language 33 (4):415-437.
    It is widely supposed that if there is to be a plausible connection between the truth of a de re attitude report about a subject and that subject’s possession of a singular thought, then ‘acquaintance’-style requirements on singular thought must be rejected. I show that this belief rests on poorly motivated claims about how we talk about the attitudes. I offer a framework for propositional attitude reports which provides both attractive solutions to recalcitrant puzzle cases and the key to preserving (...)
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  20. Towards a Pluralist Theory of Singular Thought.Michele Palmira - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):3947-3974.
    This paper investigates the question of how to correctly capture the scope of singular thinking. The first part of the paper identifies a scope problem for the dominant view of singular thought maintaining that, in order for a thinker to have a singular thought about an object o, the thinker has to bear a special epistemic relation to o. The scope problem has it is that this view cannot make sense of the singularity of our thoughts about objects to which (...)
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  21. Cognitivism, Significance and Singular Thought.Rachel Goodman - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (263):236-260.
    This paper has a narrow and a broader target. The narrow target is a particular version of what I call the mental-files conception of singular thought, proposed by Robin Jeshion, and known as cognitivism. The broader target is the MFC in general. I give an argument against Jeshion's view, which gives us preliminary reason to reject the MFC more broadly. I argue Jeshion's theory of singular thought should be rejected because the central connection she makes between significance and singularity does (...)
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  22. Singular Thought Without Significance.Andrei Moldovan - 2015 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 22 (1):53-70.
    The main purpose of this essay is critical. I focus on Robin Jeshion’s (2002; 2004; 2010) theory of singular thought, and I offer three objections to her Significance Condition for the creation of mental files. First of all, this condition makes incorrect predictions concerning singular thoughts about insignificant objects. Second, it conflicts with a theoretical aim mental file theories usually have, that of accounting for our ability to track discourse referents. And third, it appeals to a vague notion where a (...)
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  23. Singular Thought: The Division of Explanatory Labor.Andrei Moldovan - 2015 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 36 (1/2):83-99.
    A tacit assumption in the literature devoted to singular thought is that singular thought constitutes a unitary phenomenon, and so a correct account of it must encompass all instances. In this essay, I argue against such a unitary account. The superficial feature of singularity might result from ver y different deep-level phenomena. Following Taylor (2010) and Crane (2013), I distinguish between the referential fitness and the referential success of a thought. I argue that facts responsible for referential fitness (e.g., mental (...)
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  24. Mental Files, Blown Up by Indexed Files.Isidora Stojanovic & Neftalí Villanueva Fernández - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (4):393-407.
    Our paper discusses Recanati’s application of the mental files apparatus to reports of beliefs and other attitudes. While mental files appear early on in Recanati’s work on belief-reports, his latest book introduces the concept of indexed files (a.k.a. vicarious files) and puts it to work to explain how we can report other people’s attitudes and to account for opacity phenomena. Our goal is twofold: we show that the approach in Recanati’s Mental Files (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) departs significantly from (...)
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  25. Evidential Constraints on Singular Thought.James Genone - 2014 - Mind and Language 29 (1):1-25.
    In this article, I argue that in typical cases of singular thought, a thinker stands in an evidential relation to the object of thought suitable for providing knowledge of the object's existence. Furthermore, a thinker may generate representations that purport to refer to particular objects in response to appropriate, though defeasible, evidence of the existence of such an object. I motivate these constraints by considering a number of examples introduced by Robin Jeshion in support of a view she calls ‘cognitivism’ (...)
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  26. Roles, Rigidity, and Quantification in Epistemic Logic.Wesley H. Holliday & John Perry - 2014 - In Alexandru Baltag & Sonja Smets (eds.), Johan van Benthem on Logic and Information Dynamics. Springer. pp. 591-629.
    Epistemic modal predicate logic raises conceptual problems not faced in the case of alethic modal predicate logic : Frege’s “Hesperus-Phosphorus” problem—how to make sense of ascribing to agents ignorance of necessarily true identity statements—and the related “Hintikka-Kripke” problem—how to set up a logical system combining epistemic and alethic modalities, as well as others problems, such as Quine’s “Double Vision” problem and problems of self-knowledge. In this paper, we lay out a philosophical approach to epistemic predicate logic, implemented formally in Melvin (...)
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  27. Empty Thoughts and Vicarious Thoughts in the Mental File Framework.François Recanati - 2014 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):1-11.
    Mental files have a referential role—they serve to think about objects in the world—but they also have a meta-representational role: when ‘indexed’, they serve to represent how other subjects think about objects in the world. This additional, meta-representational function of files is invoked to shed light on the uses of empty singular terms in negative existentials and pseudo-singular attitude ascriptions. -/- For a longer version see "Empty Singular Terms in the Mental-File Framework" In Manuel Garcia-Carpintero & Genoveva Marti (eds.), Empty (...)
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  28. A New Source of Data About Singular Thought.Mihnea D. I. Capraru - 2013 - Philosophia 41 (4):1159-1172.
    Philosophers have justified extant theories of singular thought in at least three ways: they have invoked wide-ranging theories motivated by data from other philosophical areas, they have elicited direct intuitions about which thoughts are singular, and they have subjected propositional attitude reports to tests such as Russellian substitution and Quinean exportation. In these ways, however, we haven’t yet been able to tell what it takes to have singular thoughts, nor have we been able to tell which of our thoughts they (...)
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  29. De Re Belief.David Kaplan - 2013 - In Richard Hull (ed.), Presidential Addresses of The American Philosophical Association 1981–1990. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 25-37.
  30. New Essays on Singular Thought, by Robin Jeshion (Ed.).Krista Lawlor - 2013 - Mind 122 (486):fzt017.
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  31. IV—Sharing Thoughts About Oneself.Guy Longworth - 2013 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 113 (1pt1):57-81.
    This paper is about first‐person thoughts—thoughts about oneself that are expressible through uses of first‐person pronouns. It is widely held that first‐person thoughts cannot be shared. My aim is to postpone rejection of the more natural view that such thoughts about oneself can be shared. I sketch an account on which such thoughts can be shared and indicate some ways in which deciding the fate of the account will depend upon further work.
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  32. Talking About Nothing. Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions.István Aranyosi - 2012 - Philosophy 87 (1):145-150.
    If everything exists, then it looks, prima facie, as if talking about nothing is equivalent to not talking about anything. However, we appear as talking or thinking about particular nothings, that is, about particular items that are not among the existents. How to explain this phenomenon? One way is to deny that everything exists, and consequently to be ontologically committed to nonexistent “objects”. Another way is to deny that the process of thinking about such nonexistents is a genuine singular thought. (...)
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  33. De Re and De Dicto Explanation of Action.Sean Crawford - 2012 - Philosophia 40 (4):783-798.
    This paper argues for an account of the relation between thought ascription and the explanation of action according to which de re ascriptions and de dicto ascriptions of thought each form the basis for two different kinds of action explanations, nonrationalizing and rationalizing ones. The claim that de dicto ascriptions explain action is familiar and virtually beyond dispute; the claim that that de re ascriptions are explanatory of action, however, is not at all familiar and indeed has mostly been denied (...)
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  34. 'New Essays on Singular Thought', Edited by Robin Jeshion.William Fish - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):617 - 618.
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Volume 90, Issue 3, Page 617-618, September 2012.
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  35. The Reference Book.John Hawthorne & David Manley - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
    This book critically examines some widespread views about the semantic phenomenon of reference and the cognitive phenomenon of singular thought. It begins with a defense of the view that neither is tied to a special relation of causal or epistemic acquaintance. It then challenges the alleged semantic rift between definite and indefinite descriptions on the one hand, and names and demonstratives on the other—a division that has been motivated in part by appeals to considerations of acquaintance. Drawing on recent work (...)
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  36. Transparent Quantification Into Hyperpropositional Contexts de Re.Duží Marie & Bjørn Jespersen - 2012 - Logique & Analyse 55 (220):513-554.
    This paper is the twin of (Duží and Jespersen, in submission), which provides a logical rule for transparent quantification into hyperprop- ositional contexts de dicto, as in: Mary believes that the Evening Star is a planet; therefore, there is a concept c such that Mary be- lieves that what c conceptualizes is a planet. Here we provide two logical rules for transparent quantification into hyperpropositional contexts de re. (As a by-product, we also offer rules for possible- world propositional contexts.) One (...)
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  37. New Essays on Singular Thought * Edited by Robin Jeshion.T. J. McKay - 2012 - Analysis 72 (1):177-181.
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  38. Counterfactual Attitudes and Multi-Centered Worlds.Dilip Ninan - 2012 - Semantics and Pragmatics 5 (5):1-57.
    Counterfactual attitudes like imagining, dreaming, and wishing create a problem for the standard formal semantic theory of de re attitude ascriptions. I show how the problem can be avoided if we represent an agent's attitudinal possibilities using "multi-centered worlds", possible worlds with multiple distinguished individuals, each of which represents an individual with whom the agent is acquainted. I then present a compositional semantics for de re ascriptions according to which singular terms are "assignment-sensitive" expressions and attitude verbs are "assignment shifters".
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  39. Cognitivism: A New Theory of Singular Thought?Sarah Sawyer - 2012 - Mind and Language 27 (3):264-283.
    In a series of recent articles, Robin Jeshion has developed a theory of singular thought which she calls ‘cognitivism’. According to Jeshion, cognitivism offers a middle path between acquaintance theories—which she takes to impose too strong a requirement on singular thought, and semantic instrumentalism—which she takes to impose too weak a requirement. In this article, I raise a series of concerns about Jeshion's theory, and suggest that the relevant data can be accommodated by a version of acquaintance theory that distinguishes (...)
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  40. Singular Thoughts and Singular Propositions.Joshua Armstrong & Jason Stanley - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 154 (2):205 - 222.
    A singular thought about an object o is one that is directly about o in a characteristic way—grasp of that thought requires having some special epistemic relation to the object o, and the thought is ontologically dependent on o. One account of the nature of singular thought exploits a Russellian Structured Account of Propositions, according to which contents are represented by means of structured n-tuples of objects, properties, and functions. A proposition is singular, according to this framework, if and only (...)
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  41. Singular Thoughts (Objects-Directed Thoughts).Jody Azzouni - 2011 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 85 (1):45-61.
    Tim Crane (2011) characterizes the cognitive role of singular thought via singular mental files: the application of such files to more than one object is senseless. As many do, he thus stresses the contrast between ‘singular’ and ‘general’. I give a counterexample, plurally-directed singular thought, and I offer alternative characterizations of singular thought—better described as ‘objects-directed thought’—initially in terms of the defeasibility of the descriptions associated with one's thinking of an object, and then more broadly in terms of whether descriptions (...)
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  42. New Essays on Singular Thought – Robin Jeshion.José Luis Bermúdez - 2011 - Philosophical Quarterly 61 (245):865-869.
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  43. Reply to My Critics: Anthony Brueckner and Robin Jeshion.Albert Casullo - 2011 - In Michael J. Shaffer & Michael Veber (eds.), What Place for the a Priori? Open Court. pp. 111.
  44. Robin Jeshion, Ed. , New Essays on Singular Thought . Reviewed By.Sam Cowling - 2011 - Philosophy in Review 31 (6):434-437.
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  45. Singular Thought.Tim Crane & Jody Azzouni - 2011 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 85 (1):21-43.
    A singular thought can be characterized as a thought which is directed at just one object. The term ‘thought’ can apply to episodes of thinking, or to the content of the episode (what is thought). This paper argues that episodes of thinking can be just as singular, in the above sense, when they are directed at things that do not exist as when they are directed at things that do exist. In this sense, then, singular thoughts are not object-dependent.
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  46. An Idea of Donnellan.David Kaplan - 2011 - In Joseph Almog & Paolo Leonardi (eds.), Having In Mind: The Philosophy of Keith Donnellan. Oxford, but (c) David Kaplan. pp. 122-175.
    This is a story about three of my favorite philosophers—Donnellan, Russell, and Frege—about how Donnellan’s concept of having in mind relates to ideas of the others, and especially about an aspect of Donnellan’s concept that has been insufficiently discussed: how this epistemic state can be transmitted from one person to another.
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  47. Unrestricted Exportation and Some Morals for the Philosophy of Language.Saul A. Kripke - 2011 - In Saul A. Kripke (ed.), Philosophical Troubles. Collected Papers Vol I. Oxford University Press.
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  48. The Philosophy of David Kaplan.Joseph Almog & Paolo Leonardi (eds.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    This volume collects new, previously unpublished articles on Kaplan, analyzing a broad spectrum of topics ranging from cutting edge linguistics and the ...
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  49. New Essays on Singular Thought.Robin Jeshion (ed.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    Leading experts in the field contributing to this volume make the case for the singularity of thought and debate a broad spectrum of issues it raises, including ...
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  50. The Contingent a Priori and the Publicity of a Priori Knowledge.Daniel Z. Korman - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 149 (3):387 - 393.
    Kripke maintains that one who stipulatively introduces the term ' one meter' as a rigid designator for the length of a certain stick s at time t is in a position to know a priori that if s exists at t then the length of s at t is one meter. Some (e.g., Soames 2003) have objected to this alleged instance of the contingent a priori on the grounds that the stipulator's knowledge would have to be based in part on (...)
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