In this paper, we argue that a distinction ought to be drawn between two ways in which a given world might be logically impossible. First, a world w might be impossible because the laws that hold at w are different from those that hold at some other world (say the actual world). Second, a world w might be impossible because the laws of logic that hold in some world (say the actual world) are violated at w. We develop a novel (...) way of modelling logical possibility that makes room for both kinds of logical impossibility. Doing so has interesting implications for the relationship between logical possibility and other kinds of possibility (for example, metaphysical possibility) and implications for the necessity or contingency of the laws of logic. (shrink)
In this paper, we develop a novel response to counterfactual scepticism, the thesis that most ordinary counterfactual claims are false. In the process we aim to shed light on the relationship between debates in the philosophy of science and debates concerning the semantics and pragmatics of counterfactuals. We argue that science is concerned with many domains of inquiry, each with its own characteristic entities and regularities; moreover, statements of scientific law often include an implicit ceteris paribus clause that restricts the (...) scope of the associated regularity to circumstances that are ‘fitting’ to the domain in question. This observation reveals a way of responding to scepticism while, at the same time, doing justice both to the role of counterfactuals in science and to the complexities inherent in ordinary counterfactual discourse and reasoning. (shrink)
Rational agents face choices, even when taking seriously the possibility of determinism. Rational agents also follow the advice of Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Although many take these claims to be well-motivated, there is growing pressure to reject one of them, as CDT seems to go badly wrong in some deterministic cases. We argue that deterministic cases do not undermine a counterfactual model of rational deliberation, which is characteristic of CDT. Rather, they force us to distinguish between counterfactuals that are relevant (...) and ones that are irrelevant for the purposes of deliberation. We incorporate this distinction into decision theory to develop ‘Selective Causal Decision Theory’, which delivers the correct recommendations in deterministic cases while respecting the key motivations behind CDT. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss how Causal Decision Theory should be modified to handle a class of problematic cases involving deterministic laws. Causal Decision Theory, as it stands, is problematically biased against your endorsing deterministic propositions (for example it tells you to deny Newtonian physics, regardless of how confident you are of its truth). Our response is that this is not a problem for Causal Decision Theory per se, but arises because of the standard method for assessing the truth of (...) certain counterfactuals. The truth of deterministic laws is `modally fragile' on the standard semantics for counterfactuals: if determinism is true and you were to do otherwise, the laws would be different. We provide two ways of avoiding this problem: 1) supplement the standard semantics for counterfactuals with impossible worlds, or 2) introduce rigid designators into the description of problematic decision situations. We argue that both of these approaches are well-motivated and can be readily incorporated into Lewisian Causal Decision Theory. (shrink)
Geach points out that some pairs of beliefs have a common focus despite there being, apparently, no object at that focus. For example, two or more beliefs can be directed at Vulcan even though there is no such planet. Geach introduced the label ‘intentional identity’ to pick out the relation that holds between attitudes in these cases; Geach says that ’[w]e have intentional identity when a number of people, or one person on different occasions, have attitudes with a common focus, (...) whether or not there actually is something at that focus’. In this paper, I propose a novel theory of intentional identity, the triangulation theory, and argue that it has considerable advantages over its principal rivals. My approach centers on agents’ metarepresentational beliefs about what it takes for intentional attitudes to be about particular objects. (shrink)
This paper is about intentional identity, the phenomenon of intentional attitudes having a common focus. I present an argument against an approach to explaining intentional identity, defended by Nathan Salmon, Terence Parsons and others, that involves positing exotic objects. For example, those who adopt this sort of view say that when two astronomers had beliefs about Vulcan, their attitudes had a common focus because there is an exotic object that both of their beliefs were about. I argue that countenancing these (...) exotic objects does not help us explain intentional identity. (shrink)
The problem of the many seems to problematize the platitude that we can think about particular things in the world. How is it that, given how very many cat-like candidates there are, we often manage to think and talk about a particular cat? I argue that this challenge stems from an under-examined assumption about the relationship between metaphysics and intentionality. I explore and develop a way of characterizing what it is to think and talk about the world, according to which (...) an abundant ontology poses no obstacle to our ability to think and talk about particular things. (shrink)
Creationism about fictional entities requires a principle connecting what fictions say exist with which fictional entities really exist. The most natural way of spelling out such a principle yields inconsistent verdicts about how many fictional entities are generated by certain inconsistent fictions. Avoiding inconsistency without compromising the attractions of creationism will not be easy.
There are two families of influential and stubborn puzzles that many theories of aboutness (intentionality) face: underdetermination puzzles and puzzles concerning representations that appear to be about things that do not exist. I propose an approach that elegantly avoids both kinds of puzzle. The central idea is to explain aboutness (the relation supposed to stand between thoughts and terms and their objects) in terms of relations of co-aboutness (the relation of being about the same thing that stands between the thoughts (...) and terms themselves). (shrink)
This paper concerns Kripke’s puzzle about belief. I have two goals in this paper. The first is to argue that two leading approaches to Kripke’s puzzle, those of Lewis and Chalmers, are inadequate as they stand. Both approaches require the world to supply an object that the relevant intentional attitudes pick out. The problem is that there are cases which, I argue, exhibit the very same puzzling phenomenon in which the world does not supply an object in the required way. (...) The second goal is to draw out a more general lesson about Kripke’s puzzle. I argue that Kripke’s puzzle should be understood as intimately related to a phenomenon known as ‘intentional identity’, and that an adequate account of Kripke’s puzzle should be extensible to cases in which the relevant attitudes are empty. (shrink)
A type of argument occasionally made in metaethics, epistemology and philosophy of science notes that most ordinary uses of some expression fail to satisfy the strictest interpretation of the expression, and concludes that the ordinary assertions are false. This requires there to be a presumption in favour of a strict interpretation of expressions that admit of interpretations at different levels of strictness. We argue that this presumption is unmotivated, and thus the arguments fail.
Phenomenal intentionality theories have recently enjoyed significant attention. According to these theories, the intentionality of a mental representation (what it is about) crucially depends on its phenomenal features. We present a new puzzle for these theories, involving a phenomenon called ‘intentional identity’, or ‘co-intentionality’. Co-intentionality is a ubiquitous intentional phenomenon that involves tracking things even when there is no concrete thing being tracked. We suggest that phenomenal intentionality theories need to either develop new uniquely phenomenal resources for handling the puzzle, (...) or restrict their explanatory ambitions. (shrink)
Near the end of 'Naming the Colours', Lewis (1997) makes an interesting claim about the relationship between linguistic and mental content; we are typically unable to read the content of a belief off the content of a sentence used to express that belief or vice versa. I call this view autonomism. I motivate and defend autonomism and discuss its importance in the philosophy of mind and language. In a nutshell, I argue that the different theoretical roles that mental and linguistic (...) content play suggest these kinds of content should be understood as sensitive to different things. (shrink)
Some use the need to explain communication, agreement, and disagreement to argue for two-dimensional conceptions of belief content. One prominent defender of an account of this sort is David Chalmers. Chalmers claims that beliefs have two kinds of content. The second dimension of belief content, which is tied to what beliefs pick out in the actual world, is supposed to help explain communication, agreement, and disagreement. I argue that it does not. Since the need to explain these phenomena is the (...) main stated motivation for the addition of the second dimension of belief content, my arguments also undermine the motivation for Chalmers’ two-dimensional account of belief content and theories like it. (shrink)
Some intentional attitudes (beliefs, fears, desires, etc.) have a common focus in spite of there being no object at that focus. For example, two beliefs may be about the same witch even when there are no witches, different astronomers had beliefs directed at Vulcan, even though there is no such planet. This relation of having a common focus, whether or not there is an actual concrete object at that focus, is called intentional identity. In the first part of this thesis (...) I develop a new theory of intentional identity, the triangulation theory, and argue that it has significant advantages over the extant theories of intentional identity in the literature. Empty attitudes (attitudes that are not, prima facie, about anything that exists) will serve as useful cases for testing theories of intentional identity. -/- In the second part, I put the theory developed in the first part to work. I use triangulation theoretic tools to shed light on other debates about intentional attitudes. Some issues to which intentional identity are relevant are the debate about the content of intentional attitudes, the issue of whether or not we need to appeal to external constraints on the content of intentional attitudes, how we should understand the agreement and disagreement of attitudes, how we should construe communication and how we ought to solve Kripke’s puzzle about belief. The second part of this thesis also motivates a broadly internalist and individualistic approach to the con-tent of intentional attitudes; it turns out that if we take a closer look at the narrowly construed psychological states of agents we find materials that allow us to make sense of phenomena usually associated with externalist constraints on the content of attitudes (such as causal constraints and eligibility constraints) in a new way. (shrink)