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Sunday, December 26, 2010

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Hello Bill,

If you allow talk of mental content as you do in this post then I think there is a solution to this puzzle. Let's think of mental content as involving abstract objects, and let's exploit a distinction Ed Zalta makes in his Theory of Abstract Objects. Zalta says there are two kinds of predication: ordinary objects exemplify properties in the usual sense, but abstract objects are said to encode them. Rather as a bundle, an abstract object is just the set of properties it encodes. Two abstract objects are the same when they encode exactly the same properties. We can think of our (necessarily limited) knowledge of an ordinary object as encoded in an abstract object. Likewise, our desire for something, being desire for a thing possessing a specific set of properties, can be mediated by an abstract object encoding just those properties. There is no requirement that there be an ordinary object corresponding to an abstract object mediating some intentional content, but we can presumably tell a story of how an abstract object arises in correspondence with a concrete object we encounter through our senses. Equally, abstract objects can arise from our reading, hearing speech, viewing film, etc, about historical, fictional, or possible objects. A claim as to a relation between ordinary objects is mediated by a relation between the corresponding abstract objects. This explains how a relation can hold between non-existent objects: my grandfather is the father of my father, though both are no longer extant.

This solution is very close to Peter's surrogate objects. We avoid the standard objection by saying that we don't intend the surrogate/abstract object itself. Rather we intend through the surrogate. Since not every surrogate corresponds to an ordinary object, we have (1). Intentionality is a relation between an intender and an extant surrogate. This is a variant of (2). Finally, (3) gets its intuitive force because I can only believe aRb when there exist corresponding surrogates a' and b' in the corresponding relation R'.

Hi David,

Excellent comment. There is a lot to be said for viewing contents as abstract objects (sets of properties) along Zaltian lines. But there seems to be an important difference between your theory and Peter's. You seem to be saying that in every case of intentionality the relation is between an existent intender and an existent content, even when the external object exists. Peter is saying that the relation is between intender and content only when the external object does not exist.

Perhaps the difference can be characterized by saying that your position is a purely internalist one, while Peter's position is a mixed internalist-externalist one. This difference is significant since a position like yours tends to issue in idealism. (Husserl is relevant here. He started out as a student of Brentano who was an Aristotlelian realist (and reist)but Husserl ended up an idealist.)

Suppose I want a sloop, not any old sloop, but one of a fairly specific discription. Suppose there is nothing in existence which satisfies that description. Corresponding to the description is a Zaltian content, a set of properties. We can say that this content mediates my intending. But surely it is not this abstract object that I want, but something concrete. I want something that floats, but no set of properties floats!

This is the puzzle, or at least one of them, and part of my objection to Peter.

I repeat the objection I made in the previous thread. If Jake and his partner Bill are both seeking the LD gold mine, and if the intentionality thesis is true, (a) there is something they are seeking, and (b) they are seeking numerically the same thing. If Jake falls into a ravine and is killed, his partner Bill will continue to seek the LD gold mine, i.e. an object that is numerically the same as what the deceased Jake was seeking.

If there are such things as intentional objects, they are mind-independent in just this sense. Different people can be related in the same way to the same intentional object.

I am not sure what a 'content' is, so I can't comment on Peter's solution. Is it something similar to a gold mine?

I agree that there is some one thing that both are seeking. But what you seem not to understand is that this does not entail that there exists an x such that Bill seeks x & Jake seeks x.

One cannot eat without eating something, and indeed something that exists. And one cannot desire without desiring something -- but in this case the thing desired needn't exist.

Thank you, Bill. I agree that my position differs from Peter's. I hadn't thought of characterising it as internalist (I'm not fully au fait with these terms) but that does seem right.

How such a surrogate mediates an intention remains a puzzle. But I see this as part of the intractable question of how to get from a third person account to a first person 'what it is like to desire a sloop'. I'm more than happy to put this to one side if I feel I can make progress (to my own satisfaction) elsewhere.

Regarding your last reply to EO, I'd be extremely reluctant to give up the move from 'there is some one thing that Bill seeks and Jake seeks' to 'there exists an x st Bill seeks x and Jake seeks x'. They seem utterly synonymous to me. If Frodo eats some lembas then surely there exists some x st Frodo eats x. I don't think we can give a logical criterion for deciding when this move is permissible. Rather, I'd want to say that language and logic are independent of the 'ontological status' of referents. They float, as it were, above these considerations. We have to decide if x 'really' exists on other grounds.

David: >>I'd be extremely reluctant to give up the move from 'there is some one thing that Bill seeks and Jake seeks' to 'there exists an x st Bill seeks x and Jake seeks x'.

Quite, particularly if we adopt the Russellian definition of 'one thing', i.e. include 'for all y, if Bill and Jake are seeking y, then y=x'.

David:>>I don't think we can give a logical criterion for deciding when this move is permissible. Rather, I'd want to say that language and logic are independent of the 'ontological status' of referents. They float, as it were, above these considerations. We have to decide if x 'really' exists on other grounds.

Hmm. The problem is the effortlessness with which we decide such inferences are valid in ordinary use. Consider

(1) Jake is searching for a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek.

(2) There are no gold mines near Cripple Crow Creek.

where we do not ordinarily see even a whiff of contradiction or paradox. Yet if we try to analyse these in terms of predicate calculus, we do get a contradiction:

(1a) For some x, [x is a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek, and Jake is searching for x].

(2a) Not for some x, [x is a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek].

The first sentence logically implies 'for some x, x is a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek', which directly contradicts the second. But this is entirely a problem of language and logic, as I see it. As soon as we even ask the question about the 'ontological status' of the sought-for gold mine, we have run aground on a metaphysical sandbank. E.g. we might try resolve the problem by

(2b) Not for some x, [x is an existent gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek].

and we are already well into the Meinongian jungle. Far better to take a nominalist approach. 'Do not multiply entities [gold mines] according to the multiplicity of terms ['gold mine']. It is patently obvious that the problem is a logico-linguistic one. What is the deep structure or logical analysis of sentence (1) which makes it transparently clear that it is consistent with (2)?

Note that we cannot turn the grammatically active sentence (1) into a passive without getting 'existential implication'.

(1b) Some gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek is sought for by Jake.

In its most natural reading, this contradicts (2). So, what is the true semantic structure of sentence (1)? That is the real question, and it has nothing to do with metaphysics.

As a suggestion, consider

(3) Jake says that there is a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek.

We can analyse this into

(3a) Jake says that for some x, x is a gold mine and x is near Cripple Crow Creek.

which unlike (1a) above is not inconsistent with (2a) above, since it does not imply that for some x, etc. Could there not be some analogous analysis of (1) into

(1c) Jake is searching-that-there-is a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek.

? I.e., 'searching for' has an embedded that-clause which invalidates the inference to 'for some x there is ...', but which is not visible at the surface level of the sentence? That seems a much cleaner way to resolving the difficulty than all this intentional objects nonsense. For nonsense it is.

David,

Bill's objection to EO (if I understand him correctly) is this. Consider the following:

1) Bill seeks x;
2) Jake seeks x

(1) and (2) do not logically entail any of the propositions (3)-(5):

3) There exists an x st Bill seeks x;
4) There exists an x st Jake seeks x;
5) There exists an x st Bill seeks x and Jake seeks x.

The trouble is that 'seek', like most other intentional contexts (and some others), do not permit existential exportation precisely because the object of the intentional state may not exist. This problem does not hold in so-called extensional-contexts; i.e., cases such as

6) John is taller than Mary;

which logically does entail

7) There exists a y st John is taller than y.

This is one difference between the two types of contexts and it is one manifestation of the problem of intentionality. Another problem, which may be the other side of the same coin, is the problem of the substitutivity of identity. i.e., From (8) and (9)

8) I want this chocolate bar;
9) This chocolate bar is identical to the one and only chocolate bar laced with poison;

it does not logically follow that

10) I want the one and only chocolate bar laced with poison.

(Note: I assume that the identity in (9) is absolute identity. I wonder how these matters would turn out from a point of view of an omniscient being.)

So given these logical facts about intentionality, the following question arises: In what sense can we say that both Jake and Bill seek the same thing? There better be some content to this intuition for Bill and Jake may be both seeking the very same set of keys which they just lost. And yet we cannot interpret this as a logical inference such as the inference of (5) from (1) and (2). What to do?

My intuition is this. While the relation between (6) and (7) is a *logical matter* (since (7) logically follows from (6)), the relationship between (1) and (2) and any of (3)-(5), on the one hand, as well as (8), (9) and (10), on the other, is simply *not* a logical matter. Whatever is the relationship between these later cases, it is not a matter of logic to settle.

Thus, we can now begin reconciling the fact that intentional contexts do not permit existential exportation with cases such as when Bill and Jake seek the very same set of keys, since they both just lost the very same set of keys. We simply cannot view the fact that Bill and Jake seek the same very thing as a *logical consequence* of the fact that each seeks a set of keys they just lost. However, from the fact that we do not have here a a logical consequence, it does not follow that as a matter of *contingent fact* they do not seek the very same set of keys.

Similarly, the fact that (1) does not *logically* entail (3) does not mean that (1) and (3) are not both as a matter of contingent fact true. Moreover, it does not follow that there cannot be a systematic relationship between them. That would follow only if one thinks that extensional contexts unveil all important conceptual relationships that exist. But, then, why should one think that?

So there should be some systematic relationship between these cases, one which cannot be gleaned merely from what goes on in purely extensional contexts. EO seems to fall into the trap of thinking that all relations must be extensional or else they are somehow illegitimate. The proposal I suggested, the one Bill aptly labeled: the "Surrogate-Object" proposal, is an attempt to integrate all of these intuitions into one bag. This bag, of course, will not be as neat and simple as extensionalists desire and moreover it faces objections such as Bill's. Well, philosophy is tough; and that is what makes it so valuable and interesting.

Addendum,

1) "Surrogate entity" is preferable to Bill's original label "Surrogate object" because entity is a broader category than object and my view requires the flexibility that the former affords and the later does not.

2) Bill's objection against my view makes initial sense. He says:

"Look; when Jake the treasure hunter seeks the golden mountain, he seeks it because he wishes to get rich. So when Jake is seeking the golden mountain he is seeking a very tangible object and he is doing so for the purpose of getting rich. But no abstract object such as a *content* can make Jake rich. Therefore, we cannot construe Jake's intentional state of seeking the golden mountain as a seeking of some entity such as a content."

This makes sense, doesn't it? Yet Bill's objection overlooks one important characteristics of intentional contexts mentioned in my most recent post; namely, the failure of substitutivity in intentional contexts. Bill's objection may be put as the following syllogism:

(i) Jake seeks the golden mountain;
(ii) The purpose of Jake's seeking the golden mountain is to get rich;
(iii) The object of Jake's intentional state of seeking is the same as *golden mountain*;
(where a phrase enclosed in asterisks refers to the content of that phrase);

Therefore,

(iv) Jake seeks the *golden mountain*;
(v) The purpose of Jake seeking the *golden mountain* is to get rich;

But, both (iv) and (v) are false. Bill concludes that (iv) and (v) are false because (iii) is false.

However, Bill's conclusion overlooks the possibility that (iv) and (v) are false not because (iii) is false, but because substitutivity in intentional contexts such as (i) and (ii) is not valid. And since we know that substitutivity in intentional contexts fails generally, and not just in the present case, it is a better account of this case than Bill's hypothesis that (iii) is false. Therefore, objections to my proposal along the lines Bill posed are not as troublesome as one might initially think.

Still, I admit that there is some solid intuition behind Bill's objection. For if we were to explain to Jake the nature of abstract objects (such as contents) and ask him whether we can construe his seeking the golden mountain as seeking the abstract object *golden mountain*, his response would undoubtedly be: "Of course not; your *golden mountain* cannot get me rich."

So what do we do with this later intuition on which Bill's objection is based? I lean towards the following answer: Jake is not the best authority to judge the nature of what exactly he is seeking.

One might protest: "But, how can you say that? Who else could be in a better position to judge what his own mental states are than Jake himself?"

Well, it is exactly at this juncture that the philosophical gulf between pure-internalists about mental states and those who prefer a mixed internalist-externalist view surfaces. According to pure internalists, it simply makes no sense to hold that we fail to have authoritative access to the nature of our own mental states.

And much can be said on behalf of such a pure internalist view. I will mention only two confirming types of cases.

(a) Qualia: while not intentional in the sense in which we mean here, qualia are mental states over which we have full authority (in the above sense). It simply makes no sense to say that someone else (even the dreaded dentist) is in a better position to tell me whether I have a toothache and what the nature and character of my toothache experience is. One might then conclude that this full authority ought to apply to other mental states, including those who feature intentionality.

(b) Second-order mental states: Consider the following example (Bill and I discussed these sort of cases after the X-mas dinner):

1) I ruminate about my wanting a scoop of ice-cream;

Surely, (1) entails

2) There exist a mental state of mine that is a wanting a scoop of ice cream and I ruminate about it.


It is simply impossible that (1) is true, while (2) is false (Descartes, of course, said it first). Therefore, when the object of a mental state is another mental state, then existential exportation seems to be a valid form of inference. (Why is that? I don't know, but that is one way of thinking about Descartes' Cogito argument)

I think that the case of Qualia and the case of second-order mental states suggests to many that we should have full authority over all intentional states and that inference forms such as existential exportation and substitutivity must hold in intentional contexts somehow, someway.

My position is that we cannot export the unique properties of qualia and even second-order mental states so freely to all mental states, including intentional mental states. Hence, for whatever it is worth, I try to make sense of a position that is a mixture of internalism and externalism about intentional mental states.


>>Bill's objection to EO (if I understand him correctly)

Not quite. Bill claims that "there is some one thing that both are seeking" does not entail "there exists an x such that Bill seeks x & Jake seeks x", which I baulk at (see my comment above). We would surely have to analyse the antecedent as

for some x, both seek x and for all y, if both seek y, y = x

or something like it. This clearly entails 'there exists an x etc.'

>>EO seems to fall into the trap of thinking that all relations must be extensional or else they are somehow illegitimate.

I didn't say this. I distinguish a linguistic relation from a relation. This

Jake wants a cigarette

involves a linguistic relation, between the terms 'Jake' and 'a cigarette'. But no actual (non-linguistic) relation is involved. For an actual relation involves a number of things. Any number of things greater than zero is a number of existing things. I keep saying this, nobody takes any notice. Or do you disagree that a more than zero-termed relation does not involve a number of things greater than zero? Or even that there can be one or more non-existent thing? 'One thing' and 'one existing thing' are surely convertible. In my book.

>>The trouble is that 'seek', like most other intentional contexts (and some others), do not permit existential exportation precisely because the object of the intentional state may not exist.

Here, as I pointed out in my previous comment, you are getting close to the Meinongian quicksand. 'the object of the intentional state' is dangerously like a definite referring phrase that refers to a dangerous Meinongian thingy. Again: in

Jake wants a cigarette

the expression 'a cigarette' does not signify 'an object of an intentional state' or anything like that. We nominalists hold that it is dangerous even to use such language. It's like smoking: it's a bad habit, it can easily get you addicted, and can lead to worse things.

David writes, "Regarding your last reply to EO, I'd be extremely reluctant to give up the move from 'there is some one thing that Bill seeks and Jake seeks' to 'there exists an x st Bill seeks x and Jake seeks x'. They seem utterly synonymous to me."

I expressed myself in a misleading way. Let me try again. Suppose Bill is an LDM-seeker and Jake is an LDM-seeker. It is obvious that one cannot validly infer that there exists an x such that: x is the LDM & Bill seeks x & Jake seeks x.

Do you agree so far?

Before we can have a theory of intentionality and discuss its logical peculiarities we must bring the phenomenon of intentionality before us. That phenomenon comes into view via various contrasts. If I (who exist) am drinking, then there must also exist some fluid that I am drinking. And if I am drinking the nectar of the gods, then there must exist the nectar of the gods. Why? Because an existing man cannot drink a non existent fluid -- assuming we are using 'drink' literally. But if I desire the nectar of the gods, it does not follow that there exists any such fluid.

Now, do you see the difference between drinking and desiring? Drinking is a physical action. You can think of it unproblematically as involving a relation between an existing drinker and an existing fluid. But desiring is an intentional mental state (not all mental state are intentional or object-directed). You cannot unproblematically think of it as a relation for the simple reason that the object relatum needn't exist.

The first step is to see the phenomenon of intentionality and desctribe it properly. But it is a puzzling phenomenon. The second step is to work out a theory that resolves the puzzles.

My whole objection to EO in a nutshell is that he has failed to take the first step: he has failed to adequately characterize the phenomenon of intentionality. I'm not sure he 'sees' it.

Addendum II,

Incidentally, whatever force Bill's objection might seem to have against the externalist component of my proposal, it must have equal force against any internalist view as well.

For suppose that we construe Jake's seeking a golden mountain from an internalist point of view. We may now ask: What exactly is Jake seeking from an internalist point of view, given that a golden mountain does not exist? Suppose the internalist answers that he is seeking some internal object i. But, i is not identical to a golden mountain just as surely as i is not identical to *golden mountain*; so neither will get Jake rich.

I suggest that the point Bill is making turns out not to be an objection at all. Rather it is an observation that *any* account of intentional states must explain. So, what is the observation Bill highlights? The point may be put as follows.

Since Jake is seeking the golden mountain; and since as a matter of fact what he is seeking does not exist; it follows that regardless of the object we place as the object of his seeking-attitude; i.e., that will serve as a surrogate (internal or external), this object is not going to be a golden mountain. Therefore, that object is not going to satisfy in the right way all the other attitudes Jake has about the world; about his seeking; and the likely consequences of finding that which he is seeking. Consequently, there is going to always be a mismatch between (a) the manner one construes the object Jake is seeking; and (b) the manner in which Jake himself conceives his own attitude of seeking and other related attitudes.

Something must give. I suggest that we give up on the notion that Jake has authority over the nature of the object he is seeking. That is, I suggest that we must give up on the idea that (b) trumps (a). This means that we give up on the internalist demand that an adequate theory of intentional states must construe the objects of intentional states in a manner that the subject of those states would *approve* of, if asked explicitly.

However, we also cannot construe intentional attitudes in a manner that would completely divorce them from Jake's point of view. For doing so would simply convert them into mere extensional contexts (EO's view, I suspect) along the lines of Jake's hight; and that is going too far.

Hence, so far as I can see, the only viable alternative is to mix and match internal and external aspects in the right way. What is the right way? I don't know, although I proposed something that perhaps could serve as the starting point (although, I am certain that others in the literature proposed solutions along the same lines and, perhaps, developed them much further).


Peter: >>While the relation between (6) and (7) is a *logical matter* (since (7) logically follows from (6)), the relationship between (1) and (2) and any of (3)-(5), on the one hand, as well as (8), (9) and (10), on the other, is simply *not* a logical matter. Whatever is the relationship between these later cases, it is not a matter of logic to settle.

As you can see from my previous comment but one, I entirely disagree. It is absolutely a logical matter that

(1) Jake wants a cigarette
(2) There are no cigarettes

are consistent, whereas

(3) Jake is holding a cigarette
(4) There are no cigarettes

are not. As I have said, obviously there must be a more complex deep semantics to 'intentional' sentences like (1) than 'non intentional' sentences like (3). I have suggested (just a suggestion) that there is an embedded 'that' clause lurking underneath the apparently simple verb-accusative structure 'wants a cigarette'. Compare with

(5) Jake would like to smoke a cigarette

where we are not even tempted to posit an 'intentional object'. For (5) can easily be analysed as

(6) Jake would like it be that for some x, x is a cigarette and he is smoking x

which quite obviously has no existential import.

Correction to my last post:

The last sentence of the second paragraph contains an error. Instead of:

"But, i is not identical to a golden mountain just as surely as i is not identical to *golden mountain*; so neither will get Jake rich."

It should say:

"But, i is not a golden mountain just as surely as *golden mountain* is not a golden mountain; so neither will get Jake rich."

>>he has failed to adequately characterize the phenomenon of intentionality. I'm not sure he 'sees' it.

I have nothing to say about the 'phenomenon of intentionality'. I was merely trying to characterise the view that some people, such as Brentano, had of it. The view that some mental states necessarily (or intrinsically) have an object?

EO,

You say: "As you can see from my previous comment but one, I entirely disagree. It is absolutely a logical matter that

(1) Jake wants a cigarette
(2) There are no cigarettes

are consistent,..."

I do not see how we disagree on this point. It seems to me a verbal quibble for the following reason. We both agree (I hope) that existential exportation is invalid when it comes to intentional contexts. Your own example above indicates approval. For consider this (shifting to your example):

(1) Jake wants a cigarette;

does not logically entail that

(3) There exist a cigarette which Jake seeks.

(You must agree to this) Why? Because it is possible that (1) and (2) are true. And if (2) is true, then (3) must be false. Hence, we agree on all of this.

I assume that we also agree that substitutivity of (absolute) identity fails in intentional contexts.

Assuming that we agree about these matters, then there is one sense in which we agree on certain logical facts about intentional contexts. I insist upon them and said so and so do you.

However, what you seem to protest in the comment I quoted above has nothing to do with these logical matters about which we have agreement.

For your protest, it seems to me, is directed against my claim that

*given the logical facts stated above* (i.e., that inferences of the sort exemplified above are invalid), the relationship between the sentences involved cannot be a matter of logic alone. And if the relationship cannot be a matter of logic alone, then it cannot be a matter of logical form alone.

Now, this later disagreement is a fundamental and substantive one. However, it should not be concealed as a disagreement about obvious matters of logic, for it is certainly not.

EO,

I think the deep disagreement between you, on one side, and Bill, I and perhaps others, on the other, is this.

We all agree about the logical facts about intentionality: i.e., failure of substitutivity; no existential exportation. There seem to be two options in the face of these facts:

(A) Deny that intentional contexts have a relational logical form, (because if they do, then the relation has to be between a subject and some (queer) "intentional object");

(B) Concede that intentional contexts are relational and find a suitable object that can serve as the object to which the subject is related via the intentional relation.


You opt for (A) because you view (B) as compelling us to posit entities that are metaphysically unacceptable to you. And what are your metaphysical scruples? The short answer: Materialism!

We opt for (B) because we think that without a relational rendering of intentionality (i.e., some form of object or world directness that is relational), we lose their distinctive character and because of that and by so doing, we pave the way for a materialist reduction/elimination of the mental. And since we reject Materialism, we hold the line on the indispensability of the relational character of the mental.

(I can visualize Bill cheering!)

So ultimately our disagreement is a metaphysical one. Yet you seem to consistently try to disguise it as a disagreement only about some simple logical matters or matters of logical form. It seems to me that in order to advance your case about the nature of our disagreement you need to spell out clearly those logical facts about which you think we disagree. I think doing so will also advance the interest of the discussion.

Peter,

Thank you for a very sensible and accurate summary of where our differences lie (sigh of relief). I obviously take option (A). Otherwise we are condemned either to 'queer objects' or 'queer relations'. 'Queer' in the old-fashioned sense, of course.

I found your paragraphy that begins 'we opt for' slightly difficult to parse - do you mean that you see (A) (rather than (B)) as paving the way for materialism? If so, correct. I believe we can give a non-relational account of 'intentional states', involving a deep semantic structure for the sentences describing them, which makes explicit that no genuine relation would be involved.

>>It seems to me that in order to advance your case about the nature of our disagreement you need to spell out clearly those logical facts about which you think we disagree. I think doing so will also advance the interest of the discussion.

Well we clearly don't disagree about the 'surface logic' of the sentences in question. We all agree that

(1) Jake wants a can of beer
(2) There are no cans of beer

are not contradictory, but

(1a)Jake is drinking a can of beer
(2) There are no cans of beer

are definitely contradictory. We agree absolutely on this. Where do we disagree? Well, I think that it is possible to analyse sentence (1) into its 'true' logical form, so that it will become obvious that its form is different from the form of (1a), and has no existential import. Presumably you disagree with this?

To carry this forward, we would need to examine my positive and negative arguments for my 'deep structure' view. The positive arguments would be examples where we all agreed that a relational linguistic form corresponded to no real relation. For example

* Jake would like to smoke a cigarette

This has the relational form '- would like to smoke -', but even the most hardened realist (a nest of which I find myself in now) would surely agree there corresponds no genuine relation.

My negative arguments would be the apparent absurdity of the realist position. For example, if the linguistic relation corresponds to some real relation, how can that be? Either it relates a mental state to a queer object (a non-existent one), which seems prima facie absurd. Or it is a 'queer relation' which does not (like normal relations) relate numbers of things.

On the last point, I have used Frege's 'number argument' a number of times, no one has had to courage to respond to it. It seems self-evident to me that any non-zero number of things must be the same number of existing things. Is anyone disagreeing with this? Is anyone here claiming that there could be two bridges across the Thames, one of which was non-existent, and so only one existent bridge in that place?

David,

To expand on my earlier response to you. Consider these two sentences:
1. Jake seeks the LDM.
2. Jake is an LDM-seeker.

They say the same thing, but their logical forms are different: Rab versus Fa. Which form gives us a better clue as to the ontology of the situation? Therein lies the puzzle. If intentionality is a relation, how can there be a relation that connects an existent mind with a nonexistent object? The notion of an nonexistent object is extremely problematic. But if you say that intentionality is nonrelational, a matter of a mind having some such weird property as the property of being an LDM-seeker, then other problems arise.

Bill, Peter's comment here
http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/12/intentionality-peter-lupus-surrogate-object-solution.html?cid=6a010535ce1cf6970c0148c71ed75b970c#comment-6a010535ce1cf6970c0148c71ed75b970c

accurately captures the disagreement. Could I suggest posting it (or something similar) to start a new thread? Then at least we have a clear statement of the locus of the dispute, even if we are currently unable to resolve it.

It sometimes helps to have a clear statement of what we are for or against (we didn't really have this before).

Regarding
(1) Jake is searching for a gold mine near Cripple Crow Creek,

Edward asks, "So, what is the true semantic structure of sentence (1)? That is the real question, and it has nothing to do with metaphysics."

This is one source of our fundamental disagreement. I deny that these issues are merely linguistic or semantic. For one thing, Jake is in a mental state, and that is not a matter of language. He must use language if he is to verbalize or express his mental state but the mental state has priority over its linguistic expression. The intentionality of thought underpins such linguistic phenomena as reference. This is one bone of contention.

Second, Jake is in a particular kind of mental state, one that is object-directed. Talk of intentional objects and their ontological status is therefore unavoidable.

And notice how Edward's suggestion is mere hand-waving: a gesture in the direction of some possible and hoped for paraphrase by which reference to queer entities can be avoided. It is not a solution at all but a sort of boast that there just has to be one that satisfies his nominalistic scruples.

EO,

"do you mean that you see (A) (rather than (B)) as paving the way for materialism?"

Yes! That is what I mean.

EO: "Either it relates a mental state to a queer object (a non-existent one), which seems prima facie absurd. Or it is a 'queer relation' which does not (like normal relations) relate numbers of things."

I agree, except of course with the phrase "which seems prima facie absurd." The first option is not absurd unless you hold a materialist metaphysics that refuses to accept entities other than concrete physical individuals. Since I do not shy away from entities other than these, I have the flexibility to explore several options that may offer a better solution. At least that is how I see things.

I think we are making some progress, but I have some caveats. Some sentences expressing intentionality do seem to be more than merely linguistically relational:
(1) Jake wants this cigarette. (This cigarette is wanted by Jake)
(2) John desires Mary. (Mary is desired by John)
(3) (harder?) Nikolaos fears Zeus. (Zeus is feared by Nikolaos)
Are we going to coerce some or all of these into a non-relational form? If not, how do we tell which are relational and which are not?

Further, the first two of these seem unarguably intentional in that in (1), say, Jake's mental state is directed towards a particular object. But what about
(4) Jake wants any cigarette he can get his hands on.
Clearly this is a state of want, but what is it directed towards? Much seems to hinge on the definiteness of the phrase that's the grammatical object of the wanting.

Lastly, perhaps a rather trivial point. 'Jake wants a cigarette' can have both a de re interpretation---'Jake wants a certain extant thing that happens to be a cigarette', and a de dicto interpretation---'Jake wants anything that satisfies the description cigarette'. The de re interpretation seems definitely relational, the de dicto much less so. Perhaps echoing Edward, we have a deal of variability in meaning underlying similar surface forms.

Edward says:

It seems self-evident to me that any non-zero number of things must be the same number of existing things. Is anyone disagreeing with this?
How about the number of American presidents, past and present? This brings us back to the issue of how we see sentences such as 'Caesar crossed the Rubicon' Does this express a relation? if so, does a relation entail the existence of its relata? And if so, does Caesar exist? Or is this merely superficially in relational form and if so what is its deeper structure? This seems to me to be a logical issue that is prior to questions of intentionality and worth exploring on its own merits. (With apologies for reiterating this point. I see Bill has a new post out on presentism)

Bill,
We can imagine copies of Jake set down in two distinct possible worlds. Let the LDM exist on one but not the other of these worlds. We can expect Jake's behaviour to be the same in both worlds, at least initially. So I plump for the 'Jake is an LDM-seeker' option. The existence or otherwise of the LDM is irrelevant. What are the other problems that arise?

Bill: >>And notice how Edward's suggestion is mere hand-waving: a gesture in the direction of some possible and hoped for paraphrase by which reference to queer entities can be avoided. It is not a solution at all but a sort of boast that there just has to be one that satisfies his nominalistic scruples.

This is unfair! I have given cogent arguments, positive and negative, in support of my view that the problem is a logico-linguistic one. No one has replied to these arguments (except for David Brightly, in the last few minutes). The basic principle of philosophy is that it proceeds by argument, not by bald assertion, nor by the avoidance of argument.

Peer: >>The first option is not absurd unless you hold a materialist metaphysics that refuses to accept entities other than concrete physical individuals.

The issue is not to do with metaphysics but is a logical one. For example, the argument that any non-zero number of F’s is a number of existing F’s. That is entirely a logical argument, to do with the meaning of the verb ‘exist’.

To the ‘symmetry’ points raised by David: these are all good negative arguments against the logico-linguistic thesis. I will deal with them separately.

>>How about the number of American presidents, past and present?

There *is* one American president. There *were* … (fill in the right number, I don’t have time to look it up. There will be? No one can answer that yet.

>>if so, does a relation entail the existence of its relata?

Only if the proposition genuinely expresses a relation (some clearly don’t), and only if the relation is satisfied (i.e. the proposition expressing it is true). ‘Mary loves a batchelor’ is true only if there is a batchelor that Mary loves.

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