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Wednesday, October 30, 2013


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Am I right to say that the absurdity in psychologism is that it treats intentional objects as if they had a mental nature, when clearly they (typically) don't? Hence it says of an intended table that it is an idea, or a mental act, or a part of a mental act, when clearly no table can be that sort of thing. So to fall into psychologism is to make false statements about what a thing is, about its nature, quiddity or essence. And, further, psychologism makes claims about unreal objects that common-sense would abhor if those claims were made about real objects of the same type.

But the Scotist claim concerns not essence but existence. And he attributes nothing to unreal intentional objects that he doesn't also attribute to real intentional objects.

In general, claiming that a thing's existence is a certain way does not entail that the thing is that way. For instance if a philosopher claims that existence is a property, then my existence is a property of me. But it does not follow that I am a property.

By the same token, saying that the only existence an unreal table has is reducible to the existence of some mental act does not imply that the table is reducible to some mental act, or identical with some mental content, or anything of the sort. On the contrary, it's just as much a physical thing as a real table. The only difference is that it doesn't actually exist. More thoroughly: while the unreal table has no esse simpliciter, only esse intentionale, the real table that we cognize has both esse simpliciter and esse intentionale. And the fact that both real and unreal tables can have esse intentionale should tell us something about what "having esse intentionale" does to the nature of an object, i.e., nothing. Both tables remain just as much physical objects, etc.

You write, "if the being of the purely intentional object reduces to the being of the act, then the purely intentional object has mental or psychic being -- which is not the case."

To say that an unreal table has "mental or psychic being" is certainly wrong if that is taken as a claim about the object's own being (which is what it sounds like ... as if it had one). But Scotus is only talking about a mode of being that happens to advene to it, in exactly the same way that that same mode of being advenes to a real table when we think about it (i.e., both happen to "be ..." in the qualified sense of "to be thought about"). So he is saying nothing about unreal tables that he does not also say about real tables, and with no offense to common-sense: both tables, when thought about, have, ( in addition to / in spite of lacking ) their own being, a qualified kind of being, where, "to be" in that sense means just to be the object of an intentional act.

If this is psychologism it is not the sort of psychologism that falls to a Twardowskian critique.

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