We draw attention to a series of implicit assumptions that have structured the debate about Frege’s Puzzle. Once these assumptions are made explicit, we rely on them to show that if one focuses exclusively on the issues raised by Frege cases, then one obtains a powerful consideration against a fine-grained conception of propositional-attitude content. In light of this consideration, a form of Russellianism about content becomes viable.
Perceptual experiences seem to in some sense have singular contents. For example, a perceptual experience of a dog as fluffy seems to represent some particular dog as being fluffy. There are important phenomenological, intuitive, and semantic considerations for thinking that perceptual experiences represent singular contents, but there are also important phenomenological, epistemic, and metaphysical considerations for thinking that they do not. This paper proposes a two-tier picture of the content of singular perceptual experiences that is based on phenomenal intentionality theories (...) of intentionality combined with self-ascriptivism about derived representation, a combination of views that allows mental states to have two types of contents: phenomenal contents and derived contents. On the proposed picture, singular perceptual experiences represent singular phenomenal contents, which do not involve worldly objects, as well as singular derived contents, which do involve worldly objects. This picture accommodates and reconciles the considerations for and against thinking that perceptual experiences have singular contents. (shrink)
This thesis investigates the nature of the relation between mental representations in successful verbal communication, thought attribution, agreement, and disagreement — a relation which I call “samethinking”. The nature of samethinking raises several foundational questions about the nature of (non-natural) meaning, and the cognitive underpinnings of the emergence of culture. It bears on long-lasting puzzles in the philosophy of mind and language (such as Frege’s puzzle and Kripke’s puzzle about belief). Samethinking does not amount to sharing a reference (with “sharing" (...) I refer to two or more thinkers having something in common): it is more demanding. How can we explain and characterize this relation, more stringent than coreference, that is instantiated by a pair of thoughts when samethinking takes place? It is often assumed that this relation involves sharing a thought content more fine-grained than reference. In this thesis, I argue that the issue is more complex than what has been commonly assumed, and I suggest an alternative model in which sharing thought content is not necessary. (shrink)
Among the virtues of relationist approaches to Frege’s puzzle is that they put us in a position to outline structural features of the puzzle that were only implicit in earlier work. In particular, they allow us to frame questions about the relation between the explanatory roles of sense and sameness of sense. In this paper, I distinguish a number of positions about that relation which have not been clearly distinguished. This has a few pay-offs. It allows us to shed light (...) on recent controversies about the ‘essential indexical’, and it also allows us to see what’s at stake between relationists and their opponents. When we see what’s at stake, we can see that we have reason to adopt an account of cognitive significance that incorporates elements of both relationist and Fregean approaches. (shrink)
The use of language in hate speech is understandably offensive. Though words do not kill, they convey an alarming message that can harm the victim. To understand how words can harm, it is necessary to understand the nature of the meaning of pejoratives or slurs that are used in hate speech. Pejoratives are undeniably offensive. However, they are puzzling as they can be used in two directions, namely, the offensive power preservation and the offensive power destruction. This paper proposes that (...) the direct reference theory of pejoratives can solve the puzzle. A characterization of pejoratives is that it has the property of immediacy. They refer directly to the object of speech. Grounding on a shared context, any descriptions are unnecessary for understanding the offensive message of pejoratives. In this sense, pejoratives have indexical content as it is context-sensitive. The kind of indexical content that pertains to pejoratives is action-oriented. However, its object of reference is empty. In discussing pejoratives that are used in hate speech, some examples of Thai slurs are shown. (shrink)
The notion of singular (or de re) thought has become central in philosophy of mind and language, yet there is still little consensus concerning the best way to think about the nature of singular thought. Coinciding with recognition of the need for more clarity about the notion, there has been a surge of interest in the concept of a mental file as a way to understand what is distinctive about singular thought. What isn't always clear, however, is what mental files (...) are meant to be, and why we should believe that thoughts that employ them are singular as opposed to descriptive. This volume brings together original chapters by leading scholars which aim to examine and evaluate the viability of the mental files framework for theorizing about singular thought. (shrink)
Views that treat the contents of sentences as structured, Russellian propositions face a problem with empty names. It seems that those sorts of things cannot be the contents of sentences containing such names. I motivate and defend a solution to the problem according to which a sentence may have a singular proposition as its content at one time, and a nonsingular one at another. When the name is empty the content is a nonsingular Russellian structured proposition; when the name is (...) not empty the content is a singular Russellian structured proposition. (shrink)
A central claim in contemporary philosophy of mind is that the phenomenal character of experience is entirely determined by its content. This paper considers an alternative called Mode Intentionalism. According to this view, phenomenal character outruns content because the intentional mode contributes to the phenomenal character of the experience. I assess a phenomenal contrast argument in support of this view, arguing that the cases appealed to allow for interpretations which do not require positing intentional modes as phenomenologically manifest aspects of (...) experience. (shrink)
I show that the act-type theories of Soames and Hanks entail that every sentence with alternative analyses (including every atomic sentence with a polyadic predicate) is ambiguous, many of them massively so. I assume that act types directed toward distinct objects are themselves distinct, plus some standard semantic axioms, and infer that act-type theorists are committed to saying that ‘Mary loves John’ expresses both the act type of predicating [loving John] of Mary and that of predicating [being loved by Mary] (...) of John. Since the two properties are distinct, so are the act types. Hence, the sentence expresses two propositions. I also discuss a non-standard “pluralist” act-type theory, as well as some retreat positions, which all come with considerable problems. Finally, I extrapolate to a general constraint on theories of structured propositions, and find that Jeffrey King’s theory has the same unacceptable consequence as the act-type theory. (shrink)
The paper proposes a way for adherents of Fregean, structured propositions to designate propositions and other complex senses/concepts using a special kind of functor. I consider some formulations from Peacocke's works and highlight certain problems that arise as we try to quantify over propositional constituents while referring to propositions using "that"-clauses. With the functor notation, by contrast, we can quantify over senses/concepts with objectual, first-order quantifiers and speak without further ado about their involvement in propositions. The functor notation also turns (...) out to come with an important kind of expressive strengthening, and is shown to be neutral on several controversial issues. (shrink)
This paper argues that there are two distinct kinds of senses, immediate senses and reflective senses. Immediate senses are what we are immediately aware of when we are in an intentional mental state, while reflective senses are what we understand of an intentional mental state's (putative) referent upon reflection. I suggest an account of immediate and reflective senses that is based on the phenomenal intentionality theory, a theory of intentionality in terms of phenomenal consciousness. My focus is on the immediate (...) and reflective senses of thoughts and the concepts they involve, but it also applies to other mental instances of intentionality. (shrink)
In ‘The Semantics of Singular Terms’ (1976) Brian Loar proposed a famous case where a hearer seems to misunderstand an utterance even though he has correctly identified its referent. Loar’s case has been used to defend a model of communication where speaker and hearer must think of the referent in similar ways in order for communication to succeed. This ‘Similar Ways of Thinking’ (SW) theory is extremely popular, both in the literature on Loar cases and in other philosophical discussions. My (...) goal is to offer a novel argument against this influential model of communication and propose an alternative picture. First, I show how a certain version of SW fails to solve Loar’s puzzle. Then I point at a more general problem with SW, arguing that no version of this model can account for Loar-style cases without making the conditions for communication too strict. I then propose an alternative account of Loar cases, analyzing them as cases of luck where the hearer does not know that she has identified the referent correctly. I conclude by contrasting my view with other existing accounts of Loar cases. (shrink)
I argue that Fregeanism with respect to proper names—the view that modes of presentation are relevant to the contents of proper names—is able to account for the thesis that there are necessarily true a posteriori identity propositions such as the one expressed in “Hesperus is identical with Phosphorus”, whereas the Direct Reference Theory—according to which the semantic function of certain expressions, e.g., proper names, is only to pick out an object —is able to deal with only their necessary truth. Thus, (...) at least in so far as necessarily true a posteriori identity propositions are concerned, Fregeanism should be preferred to the Direct Reference Theory. (shrink)
What are contents? The answer provided by the possible worlds approach is that contents are sets of possible worlds. This approach incurs serious problems and to solve them Jago suggests, in The Impossible, to get rid of the ‘possible’ bit and allowing some impossible worlds to be part of the game. In this note, I briefly consider the metaphysics behind Jago’s account and then focus on whether Jago is right in thinking that his worlds and his worlds only can do (...) the explanatory work he posits them for. (shrink)
According to an influential variety of the representational view of perceptual experience—the singular content view—the contents of perceptual experiences include singular propositions partly composed of the particular physical object a given experience is about or of. The singular content view faces well-known difficulties accommodating hallucinations; I maintain that there is also an analogue of Frege's puzzle that poses a significant problem for this view. In fact, I believe that this puzzle presents difficulties for the theory that are unique to perception (...) in that strategies that have been developed to respond to Frege's puzzle in the case of belief cannot be employed successfully in the case of perception. Ultimately, I maintain that this perceptual analogue of Frege's puzzle provides a compelling reason to reject the singular content view of perceptual experience. (shrink)
Christopher Gauker argues that no concept can be extracted from perceptual experience and that imagistic thought cannot draw boundaries between one kind and another. Here, it is argued, on the contrary, that images have extension and are consequently Fregean concepts. Hume’s theory of abstraction as indifference is offered as an account of extra-sensory concepts. Finally, it is argued that modern theories of sensory data processing run parallel to Kant’s idea of synthesis as a pre-condition for perception.
I defend both conceptualists and nonconceptualists against an attack which has been leveled at them by critics such as Byrne (Perception and conceptual content In: Steup M, Sosa E (eds) Contemporary debates in epistemology. Blackwell, Malden, pp 231-250, 2005), Speaks (Philos Rev 114:359–398, 2005), and Crowther (Erkenntnis 65:5–276, 2006). They distinguish a ‘state’ reading and a ‘content’ reading of ‘(non)conceptual’ and argue that many arguments on either side support only the respective state views, not the respective content views. To prepare (...) the ground for my defense, I argue for an understanding of the state view in terms of concept exercise rather than concept possession and provide an overview of versions of conceptualism and nonconceptualism of different strengths. I then argue that conceptualists and nonconceptualists tacitly accept a so-called ‘state-to-content’ principle, show that existing defenses of this principle fail, and provide a new defense of it. It draws on the sources of the nonconceptualism debate, viz. the need to do justice both to the phenomenology of experience and to its epistemological role and to account for the existence of perceptual content and thought content. I argue that epistemological considerations together with considerations from the subject’s perspective support the claim that conceptual thought has conceptual and propositional content, whereas nonconceptual experience has nonconceptual and non-propositional content. (shrink)
This papers aims at clarifying some misunderstandings that seem to block an adequate account of de re thoughts within the Fregean framework. It is usually assumed that Fregean senses cannot be de re, or dependent upon objects. Contrary to this assumption, Gareth Evans and John McDowell have claimed that Fregean de re senses are not just possible, but in fact the most promising alternative for accounting for de re thoughts. The reasons blocking this alternative can be traced back to Russellian (...) considerations that contaminated the interpretation of Frege. This contaminated understanding is first detected in Tyler Burge’s distinction between de dicto and de re, then connected to the motivations behind David Kaplan’s notion of character, and finally found in John Searle’s descriptivist account. The difficulty in understanding de re thoughts is, roughly speaking, a side effect of the misunderstanding of the boundaries separating internal and external elements of thoughts, as well as the distinction between mental content and means of representation. (shrink)
In his paper “Flaws of Formal Relationism”, Mahrad Almotahari argues against the sort of response to Frege's Puzzle I have defended elsewhere, which he dubs ‘Formal Relationism’. Almotahari argues that, because of its specifically formal character, this view is vulnerable to objections that cannot be raised against the otherwise similar Semantic Relationism due to Kit Fine. I argue in response that Formal Relationism has neither of the flaws Almotahari claims to identify.
How should our beliefs change over time? Much has been written about how our beliefs should change in the light of new evidence. But that is not the question I’m asking. Sometimes our beliefs change without new evidence. I previously believed it was Sunday. I now believe it’s Monday. In this paper I discuss the implications of such beliefs for philosophy of language. I will argue that we need to allow for ‘dynamic’ beliefs, that we need new norms of belief (...) change to model how they function, and that this gives Perry’s (1977) two tier account the advantage over Lewis’s (1979) theory -/- . (shrink)
This paper discusses a problem for Russellian propositions. According to Russellianism, each word in a sentence contributes its referent to the proposition expressed by the sentence. Russellian propositions have normally been conceived of as problematic for two reasons, viz. they cannot account for the unity of the proposition and they have problems with non-referring singular names. In this paper, I argue that Russellianism also faces a problem with respect to properties. It is inconsistent with both traditional realism and trope-theories. The (...) only theory of properties which is consistent with Russellianism is Platonism. Moreover, it is argued that Russellianism needs a particularly implausible version of Platonism. (shrink)
So-called 'Frege cases' pose a challenge for anyone who would hope to treat the contents of beliefs (and similar mental states) as Russellian propositions: It is then impossible to explain people's behavior in Frege cases without invoking non-intentional features of their mental states, and doing that seems to undermine the intentionality of psychological explanation. In the present paper, I develop this sort of objection in what seems to me to be its strongest form, but then offer a response to it. (...) I grant that psychological explanation must invoke non-intentional features of mental states, but it is of crucial importance which such features must be referenced. -/- It emerges from a careful reading of Frege's own view that we need only invoke what I call 'formal' relations between mental states. I then claim that referencing such 'formal' relations within psychological explanation does not undermine its intentionality in the way that invoking, say, neurological features would. The central worry about this view is that either (a) 'formal' relations bring narrow content in through back door or (b) 'formal' relations end up doing all the explanatory work. Various forms of each worry are discussed. The crucial point, ultimately, is that the present strategy for responding to Frege cases is not available either to the 'psycho-Fregean', who would identify the content of a belief with its truth-value, nor even to someone who would identify the content of a belief with a set of possible worlds. It requires the sort of rich semantic structure that is distinctive of Russellian propositions. There is therefore no reason to suppose that the invocation of 'formal' relations threatens to deprive content of any work to do. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss a view of de re thoughts that can be naturally endorsed in the wake of Russell's account. This is the view that a thought is about the very thing (res) rather than a mere characterization of it if and only if it is constitutively tied, if not to the existence, at least to the identity of its object and the thinker knows which/who the object of his/her thought is. Faced with the challenge of accommodating far (...) from uncommon cases of mistaken identity or substantial confusion on the part of the subject, I argue that the integrity of the view can be preserved and that the restrictions set on its truth by the advocates of the two-component picture and the anti-essentialists can be lifted. (shrink)
I present an argument for an interpretation of Kant's views on the nature of the ‘content [Inhalt]’ of ‘cognition [Erkenntnis]’. In contrast to one of the longest standing interpretations of Kant's views on cognitive content, which ascribes to Kant a straightforwardly psychologistic understanding of content, and in contrast as well to the more recently influential reading of Kant put forward by McDowell and others, according to which Kant embraces a version of Russellianism, I argue that Kant's views on this topic (...) are of a much more Fregean bent than has traditionally been admitted or appreciated. I conclude by providing a sketch of how a better grasp of Kant's views on cognitive content in general can help bring into sharper relief what is, and what is not, at stake in the recent debates over whether Kant accepts a particular kind of cognitive content—namely, non-conceptual content. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that a principal argument in favor of the existence of non-conceptual content (henceforth NCC) fails. That is, I do not accept that considerations regarding the richness of our perceptual experiences support the existence of NCC. I argue instead that the existence of NCC is empirically motivated. Here is an outline of the paper. First, I set out the distinction between conceptual content and NCC as we understand it. Second, I consider the richness argument (RA), and (...) argue that it fails. I argue in particular that RA (or RA-style arguments) are either self-defeating or confl ict with reasonably established accounts of early perceptual processing. Third, I tackle a residual phenomenological puzzle and offer a solution to it. Fourth, I argue that the existence of NCC enjoys empirical support. I argue in particular that states associated with early stages of visual perceptual processing have NCC. (shrink)
I argue that any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational views can easily satisfy the (...) second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally both relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptual content is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation. (shrink)
It would be an understatement to say that Russell was interested in Cantorian diagonal paradoxes. His discovery of the various versions of Russell’s paradox—the classes version, the predicates version, the propositional functions version—had a lasting effect on his views in philosophical logic. Similar Cantorian paradoxes regarding propositions—such as that discussed in §500 of The Principles of Mathematics—were surely among the reasons Russell eventually abandoned his ontology of propositions.1 However, Russell’s reasons for abandoning what he called “denoting concepts”, and his rejection (...) of similar “semantic dualisms” such as Frege’s theory of sense and reference—at least in “On Denoting”—made no explicit mention of any Cantorian paradox. My aim in this paper is to argue that such paradoxes do pose a problem for certain theories such as Frege’s, and early Russell’s, about how definite descriptions are meaningful. My first aim is simply to lay out the problem I have in mind. Next, I shall turn to arguing that the theories of descriptions endorsed by Frege and by Russell prior to “On Denoting” are susceptible to the problem. Finally, I explore what responses a.. (shrink)
According to epistemic two-dimensionalism, every expression is associated with two kinds of meaning: a primary intension (a “Fregean” component) and a secondary intension (a “Russellian” component). While the rst kind of meaning lines up with the speaker’s abilities to pick out referents of correctly employed expressions in hypothetical scenarios, the second kind of meaning is a version of what standard semanticists call “semantic content”—a kind of content which does not pivot on speaker abilities. Despite its conciliatory temperament, epistemic two-dimensionalism has (...) come under recent attack. It has been alleged that it is bound to attribute to speakers a priori identifying knowledge of the referents of correctly employed terms, and bound also to reject valid rules of inference such as exportation: P(a) → λx[P(x)](a) (see, e.g., Soames 2005. (shrink)
This article compares the ability to track individuals lacking mental states with the ability to track intentional agents. It explains why reference to individuals raises the problem of explaining how cognitive agents track unique individuals and in what sense reference is based on procedures of perceptual-motor and epistemic tracking. We suggest applying the notion of singular-files from theories in perception and semantics to the problem of tracking intentional agents. In order to elucidate the nature of agent-files, three views of the (...) relation between object- and agent-tracking are distinguished: the Independence, Deflationary and Organism-Dependence Views. The correct view is argued to be the latter, which states that perceptual and epistemic tracking of a unique human organism requires tracking both its spatio-temporal object-properties and its agent-properties. (shrink)
Burge follows Descartes in claiming that the category of conceptually self-verifying judgments includes (but is not restricted to) judgments that give rise to sincere assertions of sentences of the form, 'I am thinking that p'. In this paper I argue that Burge’s Cartesian insight is hard to reconcile with Fregean accounts of the content of thought. Burge's intuitively compelling claim that cogito judgments are conceptually self-verifying poses a real challenge to neo-Fregean theories of content.
The theory of object-dependent singular thought is outlined and the central motivation for it, turning on the connection between thought content and truth conditions, is discussed. Some of its consequences for the epistemology of thought are noted and connections are drawn to the general doctrine of externalism about thought content. Some of the main criticisms of the object-dependent view of singular thought are outlined. Rival conceptions of singular thought are also sketched and their problems noted.
According to Russellianism (or Millianism), the two sentences ‘Ralph believes George Eliot is a novelist’ and ‘Ralph believes Mary Ann Evans is a novelist’ cannot diverge in truth-value, since they express the same proposition. The problem for the Russellian (or Millian) is that a puzzle of Kaplan’s seems to show that they can diverge in truth-value and that therefore, since the Russellian holds that they express the same proposition, the Russellian view is contradictory. I argue that the standard Russellian appeal (...) to “ways of thinking” or “propositional guises” is not necessary to solve the puzzle. Rather than this retrograde concession to Fregeanism, appeal should be made to second-order belief. The puzzle is solved, and the contradiction avoided, by maintaining that both sentences are indeed true in addition to the sentence ‘Ralph (mistakenly) believes that he does not believe Mary Ann Evans/George Eliot is a novelist’. (shrink)
Fregeans face the difficulty finding a notation for distinguishing statements about the sense or meaning of an expression as opposed to its reference or denotation. Famously, in "On Denoting", Russell rejected methods that begin with an expression designating its denotation, and then alter it with a "the meaning of" operator to designate the meaning. Such methods attempt an impossible "backward road" from denotation to meaning. Contemporary neo-Fregeans, however, have suggested that we can disambiguate _with_, rather than _against_, the grain, by (...) using a notation that begins with expressions designating senses or meanings, and then alters them with a "the denotation of" operator to designate the denotation. I show that in his manuscripts of 1903–05, Russell both considered and rejected a similar notation along with the metaphysical suppositions underlying it. This discussion sheds light on the evolution of Russell's thought, and may yet be instructive for ongoing debates. (shrink)
Metaphysicians of Meaning is the first book to challenge the accepted understanding of Russell's On Denoting and Frege's On Sense and Reference . Makin compares the work Russell did shortly before his famous essay "On Denoting" with the essay itself and argues that this comparison shows that the traditional view of the problem Russell was trying to solve is untenable. He then examines Frege's classic essay and argues that some of the less well-known views that Frege held have radical implications (...) for our understanding of this essay. (shrink)
Analytical philosophy of the last one hundred years has been heavily influenced by a doctrine to the effect that one can arrive at a correct ontology by paying attention to certain superficial (syntactic) features of first-order predicate logic as conceived by Frege and Russell. More specifically, it is a doctrine to the effect that the key to the ontological structure of reality is captured syntactically in the ‘Fa’ (or, in more sophisticated versions, in the ‘Rab’) of first-order logic, where ‘F’ (...) stands for what is general in reality and ‘a’ for what is individual. Hence “f(a)ntology”. Because predicate logic has exactly two syntactically different kinds of referring expressions—‘F’, ‘G’, ‘R’, etc., and ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, etc.—so reality must consist of exactly two correspondingly different kinds of entity: the general (properties, concepts) and the particular (things, objects), the relation between these two kinds of entity being revealed in the predicate-argument structure of atomic formulas in first-order logic. (shrink)
A semantic theory T for a language L should assign content to utterances of sentences of L. One common assumption is that T will assign p to some S of L just in case in uttering S a speaker A says that p. We will argue that this assumption is mistaken.
My general worry is that Schellenberg’s arguments against naive realism, generalism, and Russellian representationalism do not seem to be successful. Thus her attempt at ruling these views out fails. Her main arguments rely on a shared premise whose plausibility, in the absence of an appropriate theory of particulars, is hard to assess (§2.1). Apart from that, these arguments rely on an under-specified notion of constitution; there seems to be no sense of the term that makes all the premises of her (...) major arguments true without trivializing their conclusions (§2.2). It also seems to me that the challenges that Schellenberg raises for her Russellian opponents, or similar problems, arise for her own view (§3). Finally, Schellenberg believes that an advantage of her view is that it entails the possibility of seeing an object without seeing it as being a certain way. In §4, I argue that it is hard to imagine how one could see without seeing as. (shrink)