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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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Hi Bill,

Everything you say here seems right. Nowhere have I seen intentionality described as the existential or ontological dependence of thought on objects. Your gloss from an earlier post strikes me as far more accurate.

That being said, I was hoping I could press you a bit on your remarks about Brentano and "intentional in-existence". You describe intentionality as "relation-like" but not a relation, and suggest that this is an important point that has either been ignored or mangled by contemporary philosophers. I'm curious about this for two reasons. First, I'm wondering if you could say more about intentionality being relation-like, but yet not a relation. I confess to not having a particularly good grasp on what you mean here. Second, as you are no doubt well aware, materialists and physicalists of all stripes struggle to explain (or explain away) intentionality. Indeed, I believe in an earlier post you noted the role of temperament here: this seemingly-intractable problem doesn't cause materialists/physicalists to abandon their metaphysic, although they typically cite the problem of interaction as a seemingly-damning objection to Cartesian substance dualism. But if these philosophers have misunderstood intentionality, perhaps a correct understanding would make the problem of intentionality more tractable. I suspect you are not sympathetic to the materialist/physicalist program - and I'm not sure I am either - but I'm just soliciting your thoughts on this.

Of course, if it's too late here to ask you about an earlier post, then ignore these questions :)

Hi John,

If memory serves, you were the fellow who contributed very helpfully to the mereology discussion some time ago. 'Ockham' was part of that discussion too. You gave him 'heavy weather.'

You ask what I mean when I say that intentionality is relation-like but not a relation. I take it that the obtaining of a relation entails the existence of all its relata. A dyadic relation R, connecting a and b, is such that R obtains only if both a and b exist. And similarly for triadic, tetradic, n-adic relations. If that is right, then intentionality cannot be a relation, strictly speaking. For if I am dreaming of Jeanie, and Jeanie doesn't exist, then we have a case of intentional directedness without a relation to anything. But it is like a relation.

Does that sound satisfactory?

John,

As for your second question, I wouldn't claim that all physicalists have misunderstood intentionality. They understand it so well that they see that it has no place in the physicalist picture. This drives some materialists towards eliminativism. Thus I recall Alex Rosenberg arguing like this:

(1) If beliefs are anything, then they are brain states; (2) beliefs exhibit original intentionality; (3) no physical state, and thus no brain state, exhibits original intentionality; therefore (4) there are no beliefs.

For me, however, the above argument is a reductio ad absurdum of(1).

One of my reasons for rejecting physicalism is that it cannot accommodate the obvious existence of intentional states such as belief.

Hi BIll,

Yes that was me back in the mereology discussion :)

I agree with you that the obtaining of a relation entails the existence of all its relata. What you say regarding intentionality being only like a relation - I'd call it a quasi-relation, I think - makes more sense to me now. I suppose it didn't occur to me that you were simply making the point that since we can think about what does not exist, intentionality cannot be a relation, but only like a relation. I thought perhaps you had something else in mind. I will say that this strikes me as a bit puzzling, though. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure I can think of any other purported relations that, due to the manifest non-existence of one of their relata, turn out only to be a quasi-relation. Maybe presentists who believe in cross-temporal causation get stuck with this problem, but the presentists I know tend to find some unbelievably complicated way of denying the existence of cross-temporal causation to avoid the problem. If intentionality is the only quasi-relation of this sort, that seems a bit peculiar. More generally, I wonder if it's a bit ad hoc to make it a mere quasi-relation. Would going Meinongian and positing non-existent objects as the relata for certain intentional states be more ad hoc? Probably not, although it would bring with it a much higher ontological cost. Hm. I will have to think more about this.

Regarding the argument for eliminativism, I think few materialists would want to endorse. In my limited experience, most materialists attempt to tackle the problem of intentionality rather than embracing eliminativism. Eliminativism is a highly unpopular view, because the existence of belief is one of those Moorean facts. That said, if (1) is false, what are beliefs? Might they be constituted, or caused by, brain states? Alternatively, why not accept the evidence and deny (3)? On this view, it's just false that no physical states can exhibit intentionality.

I tried to post here but it said 'cannot accept this data'.

Posting in discrete steps.

@Bill: "This is nearly the opposite of what 'Ockham' is saying above. He seems to be saying that intentional thoughts are all and only those thoughts whose existence depends on the existence of an external object. Accordingly, the intentionality of a thought is its existential dependence on an existing external object.” I am saying that the intentionality of a thought consists in its having an object (I don’t distinguish ‘having an object’ from ‘having an existing object’ as you do). By ‘external’ I mean ‘genuinely distinct’ – i.e. such that God, in his almighty power, could destroy everything else, but preserve the distinguished object. On whether arguing against this is a ‘slap job’, I believe there are some powerful arguments in favour of the view, and I am going to explore those.

Second step:
@John “Nowhere have I seen intentionality described as the existential or ontological dependence of thought on objects.” Try Stephen Neale (he calls it ‘object dependence’). Intentionality (on this view) is that certain thoughts must *have* an object, and if there is no such object, there is no such thought. I don’t distinguish ‘having an object’ from ‘having an existing object’, as you seem to. E.g. you say “I'm not sure I can think of any other purported relations that, due to the manifest non-existence of one of their relata, turn out only to be a quasi-relation.” Are you saying it is possible that there are two relata, i.e. there are two related objects, without there *being* two related objects?

A clearer way of expressing the problem is to say it is the problem of when ‘a R b’ implies that for some x, a R x. For example, does ‘John is thinks that Sherlock Holmes is a detective’ imply that for some x, John thinks x is a detective?

Hello Bill,

I'm not sure of its relevance to relation-like aspects of intentionality but I'd very much like to understand why you insist that a relation entails the existence of all its relata. We have touched upon this before, for example, here, without teasing out our differences. For your stand would seem to make the archetypical relation '_ is a descendant of _' a less than fully-fledged relation.

EO,
Try signing out and signing back in again. That seems to cure 'cannot accept this data' for me.

John,

Here is a puzzle for you:

1. Causation is a relation
2. If a relation obtains, then its relata exist.
3. Presentism is true: the present time and its contents alone exist.
4. Causes temporally precede their effects.

This is an inconsistent tetrad: the limbs cannot all be true. And yet each is plausible. Which will you reject? And why?

Or try this on for size:

1. Reference is a relation
2. If a relation obtains, then all its relata exist.
3. Presentism is true: the present alone exists.
4. We refer successfully to the dead and make true statements about them, e.g. 'Captain Beefheart once lived in Mojave, California.'

These four cannot all be true. Which will you reject and why?

And then there is this aporetic triad:

1. Intentionality is a relation.
2. If a relation obtains, then all its relata exist.
3. We sometimes intend the nonexistent.

The limbs are collectively inconsistent. One solution is to deny (1). But one could go Meinongian and deny (2). Is our friend 'Ockham' denying (3)?

Any solution you propose will have its difficulties. (3) is a datum not reasonably denied. So the choice comes down to (1) or (2).

One more:

1. Beliefs are brain states.
2. Beliefs exhibit original intentionality.
3. No physical state exhibits original intentionality.
4. There are beliefs.

Can't all be true. The eliminativist denies (4), which is loony. We give him the boot. (2) is datanic: can't be denied on pain of being an idiot. So it comes down to a choice between denying (1) and denying (3). I deny (1) and accept (3. But the denial of (3) is worth discussing.

David,

Didn't I give an argument once along these lines:

1. X stands in R to y iff (x has the relational property of standing in R to y and y has the relational property of standing in R to x).

2. If anything has a property, then it exists.

3. X, y have the relational properties above mentioned.

Therefore

4. Both x, y exist.

Will you deny (2)? I just don't see how anything can actually have (possess, instantiate, exemplify) a property unless it actually exists.

I am the son of dead parents. It's puzzling, I grant.

>>And then there is this aporetic triad:
1. Intentionality is a relation.
2. If a relation obtains, then all its relata exist.
3. We sometimes intend the nonexistent.
The limbs are collectively inconsistent. One solution is to deny (1). But one could go Meinongian and deny (2). Is our friend 'Ockham' denying (3)?
<<

Appropriately expressed, this involves no contradiction. More later. Hint: we need to distinguish relational forms, i.e. linguistic items, from non-linguistic items.

The triad is obviously inconsistent.

Hi Bill,

Yes, I had something like that first tetrad in mind when I said that presentists face a difficulty accounting for cross-temporal causation. With respect to all of the inconsistent sets of propositions you proffer, my sense is to reject the general principle that the obtaining of a relation entails the existence of the relata. Finding a principled way of doing so, of course, would be a difficult philosophical task. It does seem to me that presentists can solve the problem of cross-temporal causation by rejecting that general principle, and replacing it with a weaker principle that incorporates machinery from their attempts to solve worries about the truth of past (and future) propositions. And, more generally, it seems like rejecting that general principle needn't cost us too much, because it might very well be replaced with a weaker version that accommodates our intuition that there shouldn't be relations obtaining without relata. I'll have to think more about the details, though.

@ Edward: I haven't read any Neale. I am, however, familiar with characterizing intentionality as the phenomenon whereby certain mental states HAVE objects, in the sense that they are ABOUT or DIRECTED TOWARD those objects. It seems to me that this is a more accurate way of characterizing what intentionality is; the dependence of certain thoughts on external objects might very well FOLLOW from this characterization of things, but intentionality itself is not the dependence of thought on objects. It's the way in which thoughts can be ABOUT objects. It may follow that thoughts that are about objects DEPEND on those objects, but that's not, strictly speaking, what intentionality it.

That said, you quote one of my posts and ask: "Are you saying it is possible that there are two relata, i.e. there are two related objects, without there *being* two related objects?" Short answer: no, I'm saying nothing of the sort. What I was saying in the quote you provide is that I could not think of any examples of purported relations (like intentionality) that turn out not to be relations, but only relation-LIKE (in Bill's sense). For Bill, a purported relation is relation-like just in case one of its relata does not exist. Intentionality turns out to be merely relation-like in this sense when the object a given thought is ABOUT turns out not to exist. I was remarking that I could not think of any other purported relations like this other than intentionality and causation (for presentists).

Finally, I do not see how you can avoid drawing the distinction between a thought's having an object, and a thought's having an existent object. Part of the puzzle of intentionality is how it is that we can have thoughts about non-existent objects. I can clearly think about Frodo Baggins. Frodo Baggins does not exist. How, then, can my thought be about him? Or, if you think fictional characters exist, then I can clearly think about Vulcan (as in the planet that turned out not to exist). Vulcan does not exist. How can my thought be about it? If you don't draw the distinction between having an object and having an existent object, you obscure one of the most puzzling features of intentionality.

Hi Bill,

Yes, I'd have to drop (2). Recently, you used the example 'Pegasus is a winged horse' from which it would seem to follow that Pegasus is winged.

I'm impressed that language and logic can be used to reason about imagined and possible worlds as well as the historical and the actual. This suggests to me that they are 'ontologically neutral'. As I think you have said before, the existential quantifier is misleadingly named. The interpretation of ∃x.Px has to be restricted to the domain of entities, be they fictional, possible, historical or actual, under discussion. It just says that one of these entities has property P (or enters in relation R etc) and makes no claims as to existence in the actual, present world. Of course, if our domain is of actual world entities then the interpretation is a fully fledged existence claim. We might call this 'logical existence' but it might be better to avoid the word 'existence' altogether. Is there really a problem in forming a logical domain from entities of different 'ontological status'? We seem to do it all the time---'Conan Doyle (historical) created Sherlock Holmes (fictional)' and endless other examples---without any apparent problem. Likewise I see no particular problem with 'I am thinking of my (also dead) parents'. I agree there is a deep problem in phil of mind with understanding how all this might be possible, but surely we have to take it as given that it is possible (ie, not inconsistent)?

@Bill >>The triad is obviously inconsistent.
Of course. See my remark above.

@John – “I do not see how you can avoid drawing the distinction between a thought's having an object, and a thought's having an existent object.”

(1) Brentano himself avoided drawing the distinction. More here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/12/brentano-and-convertibility-of-exists.html .

(2) You can think clearly about Frodo Baggins. But does that entail for some x, you are thinking about x, or that for some x, you bear some relation ‘thinking about’ to x?

“If you don't draw the distinction between having an object and having an existent object, you obscure one of the most puzzling features of intentionality.” But I do draw the distinction between the ‘S thinks that F(a)’, which does not imply the existence of some thought-about object, and ‘for some x, S thinks that F(x)’, which does.

Since there are no non-existent objects, one cannot have a thought about such things. That is not inconsistent with being able to think about Frodo Baggins.

@ Edward: That Brentano himself avoided drawing the distinction doesn't prove much.

As for thinking about Frodo Baggins not being inconsistent with an inability to think about the non-existent, I do not see this. Your response to Bill regarding the inconsistent triad of intentionality being a relation, a relation's requiring the existence of its relata, and the fact that we sometimes intend the non-existent is unclear. You say we need to distinguish between relational forms, "i.e. linguistic items from non-linguistic items". The thing is, Bill and I ARE distinguishing linguistic and non-linguistic items. And it's not at all clear how doing so resolves the inconsistency in that triad, since the inconsistency remains even when we do distinguish them.

Getting back to the main point. This definition of EO is just wrong: "(1) Intentionality: the existence of some thoughts depends on the existence of external objects"

That's not what intentionality is. It is the property of some mental states whereby they refer beyond themselves.

I challenge EO to produce quotations, with checkable references, from reputable philosophers that support his (1).

Gentlemen, (I hope there are no concealed ladies around here!)

Bill says: "‘Intentionality’ is Brentano's term of art (borrowed from the Medievals) for that property of (some) mental states whereby they are (non-derivatively) of, or about, or directed to, an object."

The problem is that clearly there are some mental states that are obviously intentional and, hence, are of, or about, or directed toward some object; yet occasionally the putative object towards which these states are directly does not exist.

Here is a proposal. Suppose we rephrase Bill's criterion of an intentional state as follows:

Intentionality is that property of a mental state whereby the mental state is of, or about, or directed to the *truth-maker* of the proposition that serves as the content of that mental state.

I assume that propositions have truth-makers.

Problem: There appear to be some intentional mental states that do not feature propositions as their content. E.g., "I desire a bar of milk chocolate" or "I seek the Holy Grail". The second of these will present a problem to the above proposal. I do not yet know how to solve this problem.

I wonder what people here think about this case:

Suppose that in a concert I exclaim: "Boo" or "Hurray". There is a sense in which my exclamation is surely intentional: for by my exclamation I surely intend to express my pleasure (or displeasure) about the performance. However, exclamations such as "Boo" and "Hurray" do not seem to have the suitable structure to be of, about, or directed towards some object (except perhaps towards the performance), since they are not true or false in the right way. Such exclamations express rather than report. Yet they do seem to feature intentionality.

Am I wrong about this?

Note: Example is taken from "A problem for expressivism"; Authors: Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit.

Peter,

But surely original intentionality isn't a property of expressions, but of the mental states of which the expressions are expressive - these will presumably have a structure amenable to object-directedness.

Matt,

Perhaps you are right, provided the mental state expressed by the exclamation does indeed have an object-directed structure. It may.

Briefly, as I have Christmas Eve duties - and Happy Christmas to Bill and all readers of this blog.

1. The topic of this post is the definition of Intentionality that I gave here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/12/is-there-problem-of-intentionality.html . Note well my careful and deliberate statement - "Let's accept the following definition, for the sake of argument." The term is not precise, and is used in different ways by different people - including the medieval scholastics, who used it in nothing like Brentano's sense (he mentions only Anselm and Aquinas, and was probably not familiar with any of the scholastic texts that became available in the 20C and later.

2. Other terms for the idea I was capturing are 'Russellian thought' (first used by Gareth Evans in the 1970s), 'object dependence' (used and possibly coined by Stephen Neale in the 1990s, and now in common use.

3. Does it coincide with Brentano's use? Brentano calls it 'reference to a content' and 'direction upon an object (Terrell's translation, in Chisholm p.50 - don't have time for precise reference as wife needs computer at 17:00). I think that is reasonably close to mine, and in any case 'there is no disputing definitions'.

4. On my use of the term 'exist' in 'the existence of some thoughts depends on the existence of external objects'. Cross out the word if you like, and replace with 'some thoughts must have an external [i.e. mind-independent] object'. In the sense I use the word 'exist', I don't distinguishing 'one object' from 'one existing object'. I would argue it is a standard use. Certainly Brentano used it in this sense, unlike his wackier students. If you don't like it, replace it with the definition I have just given.

That's all. A few other points.

* All relata must be existing relata. Relations are defined by the number of terms. A no-term relation (a proposition) has no relata, i.e. no relata exist. A one-term relation (a predicate) has one existing relatum, and so one.

* Peter write "The problem is that clearly there are some mental states that are obviously intentional and, hence, are of, or about, or directed toward some object; yet occasionally the putative object towards which these states are directly does not exist." That is absurd. How can you say that some mental states have an object, i.e. there is some object that they have, and then say that there is no such object. There are no objects such that there are no such objects, surely that is a self-evident and obvious truth. What you mean is that certain mental states are properly described by language that is relational in form. For example 'Bill is thinking of the Phoenix', which has the form '- is thinking of -'. But that is only the language. there are two [existing] linguistic terms 'Bill' and 'the Phoenix'. So there is a relation between linguistic items but there is no corresponding non-linguistic relation - for there is no such thing as Pegassus, thus nothing to relate to Bill, thus no two-term relation, properly understood.

The problem then is not that there is this odd relation which weirdly relates people to weird objects. As soon as we have started to characterise the problem in this absurd way, we get absurd results. Rather, there are these linguistic forms which don't have the logical implication we would expect from other forms which are grammatically similar. E.g. 'Bill lives in Phoenix' has a similar grammatical form. But it signifies a relation between Bill and Phoenix, whereas 'Bill is thinking of the Phoenix' does not signify a relation between Bill and anything.

And now I must go, as my wife wants to do some online shopping :( Happy Christmas again

Bill: "I challenge EO to produce quotations, with checkable references, from reputable philosophers that support his (1)."

Got the computer back. I note the (1) you refer to is 'that Brentano himself avoided the distinction between a thought's having an object, and a thought's having an existent object'. The reference I provided http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/12/brentano-and-convertibility-of-exists.html, though written by me, contains all the references- both checkable and by reputable philosophers, including Brentano. All the Brentano references are in the Chisholm.

Apologies (link broken) the reference is here http://www.logicmuseum.com/cantor/Eximport.htm

Peter,

All three of my female readers are men in drag. You suggest: "Intentionality is that property of a mental state whereby the mental state is of, or about, or directed to the *truth-maker* of the proposition that serves as the content of that mental state."

That's very good, because it makes clear that we need to make some sort of distinction between something internal to the mental act (mental state) whatever we call it -- content, noema, intentional object -- and something external to it that the internal component aims at or 'targets.' Consider
1. Tom believes that the earth is flat
and
2. Tom believes that snow is white.

In both cases the mental state Tom is in when the sentences are true is an intentional state. But only in the second case is there anything external to the state that corresponds to the internal component. That is why a state's being intentional or not has nothing to do with the existence of anything external to it.

Peter,

As for your second comment, I think you are failing to make some essential distinctions.

First of all, note the ambiguity of 'intend.' Intentionality needn't have anything to do with an agent's intending to do something. Note also that a mental act needn't be a mental action. In any case, saying 'boo' is not a mental action but a physical action. You intentionally say 'boo' to express your displeasure -- which is a mental state. If the displeasure has a content, then it is an intentional state. Suppose it is an intentional state as opposed to a non-intentional mental state of pain merely caused by the loud amplifiers. Suppose you are displeased that the music is cacophonous. Then the content has the form of a Fregean proposition. As Matt rightly points out, it is that mental state that possesses original intentionality, not any words used to express it.

William,

You share your computer with your wife? That is an unacceptable arrangement! (Father Christmas take note.)

You write, "some thoughts must have an external [i.e. mind-independent] object."

Please give an example. Presumably your thesis is true for *I think, therefore I am.* But it is not true for thoughts about mermaids. Please note that such thoughts are as fully intentional as thoughts about meter maids.

In any case, what you wrote has, as far as I can see, nothing to do with the thesis of intentionality which is:

Some mental states are INTRINSICALLY such as to refer beyond themselves to objects which may or may not exist or to states of affairs which may or may not obtain.

This is not a verbal quibble. We are not disputing (stipulative) definitions. At issue is the correct description of the phenomenon of intentionality, and then the elaboration of such philosophical problems as it gives rise to.

Merry/Happy Christmas to you and yours.

Bill: >>You write, "some thoughts must have an external [i.e. mind-independent] object." Please give an example.

"The Greeks worshipped Zeus". There were many Greeks, but the intended meaning of the sentence is that each one worshipped the same god. So if the thesis of intentionality is true, there must be an object independent of the mind of any particular ancient Greek.

You may argue that this object is dependent on some collective mind? Perhaps, but then you would have to define inclusion in the collective. Just ancient Greeks? No, because modern people can use 'Zeus' and mean the same object, if the intentionality thesis is true, as my opening sentence proves. Nor does one have to believe in Zeus to signify him, if the thesis is true. That's 'mind independent' enough for me.

So how about "Intentionality: some mental states must have an object that is mind independent in the sense that any person can have that mental state, with the same object'.

Will that do?

PS I should have made the example more seasonal. how about "The children are excited about Santa".

And yes, Santa seems to have brought a computer for at least one member of the family.

Happy Christmas.

Edward,

Sorry to be so pedantic, but surely it is not the case that "each one [of the Greeks] worshipped the same god." For there had to have been atheistic Greeks who denied Zeus' existence. But that's but a quibble.

It is true that some Greeks worshipped Zeus. And it is clear that one cannot worship without worshipping something. It is also clear that if Milo worships Zeus, it does not follow that there exists an x such that x = Zeus & Milo worships x. But if Milo owns a slave, then it does follow that there exists an x such that x is a slave & Milo owns x.

'Milo worships Zeus' is true whether or not Zeus exists. But the sentence cannot be true unless Milo exists. So I can agree that in this situation "there must be an object independent of the mind of any particular ancient Greek." But this object is Milo, not Zeus!


>>So how about "Intentionality: some mental states must have an object that is mind independent in the sense that any person can have that mental state, with the same object'.<<


Now I think I see what you are getting at. Suppose both Milo and Shmilo both are worshipping Zeus at time t. The mental acts of worshipping are numerically distinct, but the content is the same. But it is crucial not to confuse this content with the external object. The point is that you cannot have an intentional state that lacks content, but you can have an intentional state that lacks an external object.

To put it another way: you cannot have an intentional state that lacks the specific object-directedness specified by the content, but you can have an intentional state whose object-directedness goes unsatisfied by a really existent external thing.

This discussion prompted me to pull Searle's "Intentionality" off my shelf. In his account, the object of an intentional state is specified entirely by the conditions of satisfaction for the content (not necessarily propositional) of the intentional state. Since there might in fact not exist anything that instantiates those conditions of satisfaction, the object needn't be independent of the mind for which it is an intentional object. It seems to me that this is precisely the view being expressed by Bill V.

Merry Christmas to all.

Bill >>Now I think I see what you are getting at. Suppose both Milo and Shmilo both are worshipping Zeus at time t. The mental acts of worshipping are numerically distinct, but the content is the same. But it is crucial not to confuse this content with the external object. The point is that you cannot have an intentional state that lacks content, but you can have an intentional state that lacks an external object.
<<<

There seems to be some ground-shifting going on here. I never used the word 'content' as you do above. I characterised the Intentionality thesis as follows

(I) Some mental states are such that they [intrinsically] have a mind-independent object

I delibarately used the word 'object' and not 'content'. If the latter, the problem is easily solved. Different Zeus-worshippers have worshipful intentional states that are the same in the sense that they are Zeus-like: they are descriptively the same. This could be explained by qualitatively similar (but not numerically identical) brain-states.

But I don't believe the Intentionalist means this. The intentionality thesis is that the same intentional state in different people has numerically the same object. According to the Intentionalist, if Alexandros and Nikolaos both worship Zeus, they have (numerically) the same intentional object, Z. Moreover, if Alexandros dies or becomes an atheist, but Nikolaos remains a true believer, Nikolaos remains in the same relationship to the same Z. That's what I mean by 'mind-independent'. I don't mean 'physical object' or even necessarily 'spatially external'. I mean, an object that is numerically identical for different people who have the same intentional state.

Brentano (cited in the SEP http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/brentano/#Intentionality ) said it would be "paradoxical to the extreme to say that a man promises to marry an ens rationis and fulfills his promise by marrying a real person" (Psychology, 385). As I understand him, he is objecting to the idea that an intentional object is to be confused with a mental content, or 'being of reason'. What if it turned out that Zeus really existed, and that when Nikolaos died, he met Zeus. Then, as Brentano says, it would be absurd to say that Nikolaos was worshipping a being of reason, but went on to meet a real god.

Note also that Zeus is not the same as our idea of Zeus. For (as Mill, Frege, Quine and others have pointed out), the referring phrase 'our idea of Zeus' refers to our idea of Zeus, not Zeus. As for the proper name 'Zeus', either it refers to something or it refers to nothing. Which side are you on Bill? Does 'Zeus' refer to something or does it refer to nothing? I hold the latter, and for this reason I reject the intentionality thesis as characterised above.

Bob >>Since there might in fact not exist anything that instantiates those conditions of satisfaction, the object needn't be independent of the mind for which it is an intentional object. It seems to me that this is precisely the view being expressed by Bill V.
<<

But in his original post above, Bill states clearly that

‘Intentionality’ is that property of some mental states ... whereby they are directed to, an object.

My point is simply that if any mental states exhibit intentionality as thus defined, it is perfectly possible that different people may have a mental state directed to numerically the same object. In which case the object cannot be dependent on any one person's mind. I also don't see how an intentional can have an object, but not have an existing object. How so?

Merry Xmas, Bob. You are exactly right. What I am saying above is essentially Searle's point.

>>What I am saying above is essentially Searle's point.

Does Searle actually say anything quite so absurd and self-contradictory. Numbering the 3 sentences made by Bob above:

(1) In [Searle's] account, the object of an intentional state is specified entirely by the conditions of satisfaction for the content (not necessarily propositional) of the intentional state.

(2) Since there might in fact not exist anything that instantiates those conditions of satisfaction ...

(3) ... the object needn't be independent of the mind for which it is an intentional object.

Can someone resolve the apparent contradiction between (2), which suggests there is no such object, and (3) which suggests there is? I'm going to read Searle for myself, to see if he says anything so (apparently) absurd as this.

Edward -
I'm not the person to provide a detailed articulation of Searle's view about the ontological status of the "objects" to which intentional states are said to be directed. I agree that the notion of non-existent objects which are nonetheless that toward which intentional states are directed is problematic, and perhaps it would be preferable to not refer to them as objects at all, since equivocation is a constant worry. Perhaps an account of the differences between representations of possibles and actuals would help to clear the waters, but that's just an undeveloped hunch on my part.

I have looked at Searle's paper on Proper Names and Intentionality (I have his original paper in a collection somewhere but cannot locate).

As I understand Searle, he is not saying that an intentional state must intrinsically have an object. Rather, he is saying that an intentional state is rather like a description (e.g. like 'the King of France') which may have an object that fits, or not. The 'object directedness' is rather like a bow with loaded arrow pointing to a place where we think an object may be located - but the place may be empty. Call this 'weak intentionality' if you like, but it is not the same as the thesis that some mental states are intrinsically such that they must have an object.

An obvious objection to the 'descriptivist thesis' is that the problematic mental states are those singular thoughts which contain a proper name. If proper names are not disguised descriptions, and if the intentional state has a component corresponding to the proper name, the descriptivist thesis cannot be correct. The intentionality of the state consists in the way that it individuates or identifies an object (rather than describe an object that is a suitable fit). If this 'strong intentionality' thesis is correct, such states must have an object. That is the problem.

Bob suggests that 'an account of the differences between representations of possibles and actuals would help to clear the waters'. I take Bob's 'possibles' to include the historicals and the imaginaries. Then, if we consider
(a) the symmetry of language and logic applied to possibles and actuals;
(b) the equally strong degree of belief directed to possibles and actuals;
(c) the ease with which we can be deceived with respect to the possible and the actual and the ease with which we slide between the two poles,
it seems a reasonable hypothesis that there are no such differences of representation to be found.

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