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Monday, December 16, 2013

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You haven't really answered my question, which was, given we both agree that (A) could be true, which of B1-4 do you agree with?

(B1) Unicorns do not exist / (B2) Nothing is a unicorn / (B3) There are no such things as unicorns / (B4) The world does not contain unicorns

Reconstructing the logic of the rest of the post, I think your answer would be that you agree with (B1), i.e. you agree that unicorns don't exist. Judging by your comments on extramental existence, I think you would agree with (B4), when 'the world' is understood as the physical or extramental or non-intentional world. But you disagree with B2 and probably B3 because you don't think that quantifiers are 'existentially loaded'. So you think that some things are unicorns, and your argument for (C) probably looks like this:

(A) Tom is thinking about a unicorn

(B1) Unicorns do not exist

(~B2) some things are unicorns

Then, using some uncontroversial assumptions, such as that everything is either physical or mental, that everything that is physical exists, ergo something that does not exist must be mental, that mental = intentional etc etc., this would allow you to get to

(C) Some objects are intentional objects

At this point, I simply am trying to understand what your argument for (C) is.

I agree with all of the B-propositions if formulated more precisely as follows:
B1* Unicorns do not exist in reality
B2* Nothing that exists in reality is a unicorn
B3* There are no such existing things in reality as unicorns
B4* The world, as the totality of that which exists in reality, does not contain unicorns.

We cannot assume that the physical world is the same as the extramental world since God is extramental but nonphysical. And the same goes for so-called abstracta. You may be a nominalist, but you cannot rig your terminology in such a way that nominalism falls out as a consequence of the rigging.

I agree with your B2 and B3 as long as you make clear that the quantifiers are existentially loaded.

As I have insisted for many years now, there is no part of 'for some x' that implies (real, extramental, extralinguistic) existence.

You need to tell me whether you accept all of the C-assumptions that I impute to you. That is where the real disagreement lies. I don't go along with your background assumptions.

>>You need to tell me whether you accept all of the C-assumptions that I impute to you.

I am trying to understand an argument that I think you are making. In other words, how you get from A and B to C. Why should my assumptions be of any relevance? I really don’t understand. Anyway, let’s turn to the argument you give at the end (modified slightly, changing ‘exist in the C1 sense’ to ‘exist in reality’).

a. Tom is thinking of a unicorn
b. Unicorns do not exist in reality
c. Tom's mental state is object-directed; it is an intentional state.
d. The object of Tom's mental state does not exist in reality.
e. The merely intentional object is not nothing.
f. The merely intentional object enjoys intentional existence, a distinct mode of existence different from existence in reality.

Some tidying and economising needed. I will take the definite description in (d) as asserting or implying that Tom’s mental state has an object. And I will take (e) to be the equivalent of my C ‘some objects are intentional objects’. Thus

a'. Tom is thinking of a unicorn
b'. Tom's mental state has an object (the unicorn he is thinking of)
c'. Unicorns do not exist in reality
d'. The object of Tom's mental state does not exist in reality.
e'. If a mental state has an an object that does not exist in reality, then it is (def) an intentional object
f'. Tom’s mental state has an intentional object.
g'. some objects are intentional objects.

I may have misunderstood the definition of ‘intentional object’. Can an object be intentional if it does exist in reality? If so, the argument is even simpler.

But can we be clear on this: I am simply trying to understand your argument that some objects are intentional objects. None of my assumptions are relevant, unless they are assumptions about your argument. So, is my formulation of your argument correct?

Ah I have just looked again here. "It is characteristic of certain mental states (the intentional states) to refer beyond themselves to items (i) that are not part of the state and (ii) may or may not exist." Thus existence in reality is not necessary. Then we can dramatically simplify the argument.

a'' Tom is thinking about a unicorn
b'' His mental state has an object
c'' The object of a mental state is an 'intentional object' (def)
d'' Some objects are intentional objects.

QED. The question now is whether the argument is valid. Or does the conclusion simply mean 'sometimes we think about some things'?

More. I think you probably agree that inferences like the one above are invalid when the 'some x' term is existentially loaded. The question is whether they are invalid in any other contexts. I assume you agree that the following is not valid:

(1) It is not the case that for some x, Fx

(2) For some x Fx and it is not the case that Fx

This is because the first could be true, but the second could never be true. We cannot always export the quantifier out of a context (in this case 'it is not the case that'), whether or not there is 'existential loading'. So what about

(3) Tom believes that there is a unicorn in the attic

(4) Some unicorn is in the attic and Tom believes that it is in the attic

Is this valid so long as there is no 'existential loading'? Is your point that there is no unicorn in the attic, i.e. no 'really existing' unicorn, but that there is a non-really existing unicorn there? But then how do you decide whether 'some unicorn is in the attic' is true in the non-existentially loaded sense? To take an example of Mark Sainsbury's: I tell my flatmate there is some beer in the fridge. He goes to have a look, and finds no beer. He returns to complain. I say 'ha ha, my quantifier 'some beer' was not existentially loaded'. But then what makes my statement 'some beer is in the fridge' true, given that it is non-existentially loaded? What are the truth-conditions of non-existentially loaded statements?

Yet more (sorry, this one is really making me think). Aristotle points out that whenever we deny something that another person as affirmed, then in order for it to be a true denial, it must deny exactly what has been affirmed. For example, 'King Charles [meaning Charles II] was not executed' is not the denial of 'King Charles [meaning Charles I] was executed'. So if I say "Tom says that there is a unicorn in the attic but there isn't", I am only denying what Charles says if what he means to affirm when he says 'there is a unicorn in the attic' is what I mean to deny when I say "there isn't". So it absolutely doesn't matter whether 'there is' / 'there isnt' is existentially loaded or not. Thus 'S believes that for some x Fx, therefore for some x Fx' is invalid, simpliciter, because it is always possible that the antecedent is true on account of some belief, and the consequent false because whatever is believed is false, i.e. whatever the believer was thinking, or meant to say, or intended, is false.

For example, if Tom thinks there is a really existing unicorn in the attic, i.e. if his belief is existentially loaded, his belief is false if there is no really existing unicorn in the attic. Or if he thinks that there is a unicorn in the attic in the non-loaded sense, i.e. he thinks that there is either a really existing or non-really existing unicorn, his belief is false if there is no unicorn of any type, really existing or not, in the attic. Thus existential export (i.e. taking a quantifier outside a propositional context) is always invalid, so long as the exported terms have the same meaning as the unexported ones. But we always assume this in logic.

Ed, I can see where you are coming from, but I believe Bill is correct on this one, at least in as much as he is not committing any "fallacy". The reason/argument for this is simply in your assumption that “A” (as Bill labelled it) is a "non-existential" claim; Bill extrapolated on these reasons in depth, but I will summarise: thought has an object and this object exists or if you see this object as merely the result of intention then the intention must exist (essentially for argument sake: intention = thinking); the only counter argument against this (from your side) could be if you then claim "well the intention itself and the object of the intention are distinct" and the intention/thought can exist, but not the object, but this is not so much an argument as an assumption (for there is no proof of such distinction that I believe you could furnish) and thus it comes down to what our "intuition" says...and mine says that there is no distinction between my "intention/thought" and "the object of my intention/thought" (and reversing the train of thought all the way back, this is what Bill's would also say given this train of thought).

You essentially are assuming that "existence" is “solely of one type” and presuming "intention/thought" as somehow either “non-existent” or “reducible to said single type of existence”...I (and Bill I presume) do not make this assumption. Which of these is the right assumption? I don't know (and neither do you)...but there is no "fallacy" on Bill's (or my) behalf for assuming that "existence" is also a property of “thinking/intention” (essentially leading to different “forms/categories” of existence). I believe this is in part what Bill was trying to communicate: that you are wrong for dismissing his thought as “fallacious”, NOT that you are necessarily wrong about your assumption.

In that sense, the best you and Bill can do in this (and I might add it is a very intricate and complex philosophical problem) instance is agree to disagree on two opposing sets of assumptions/postulates, not on any argument/proof presenting an argumentative or structural "fallacy". Of course you can then say “well, isn’t that just essentially what we should say for any philosophical problem” (i.e. it’s not about the arguments themselves, but just about the assumptions), but I don’t agree with that; I believe some philosophical problems lend themselves better to our current set of “philosophical tools” than others, and this problem is not one of those; i.e. we need better philosophical tools (a new way of “philosophically examining”) to solve this problem(and I am working on that and I would urge you and Bill to focus on that as well instead of just essentially debating postulates). This new set of tools must deal with the exact nature of both how we arrive at postulates and the nature of examination/argumentation itself; essentially the question of “what conditions both deduction and induction”. It must transcend Epistemology & Ontology; it must be a new branch dealing with Epistemology and Ontology as two “forms” or “subsets”.

As always though, thank you for the wonderful and insightful blog Bill and for the critical, clear and detailed responses Ed; it is most welcome and stimulating.

Thanks for your comment. Phil. As you appreciate, the crux of the matter is whether there are different ways of existing, or different modes of existence. I say there are; Ed assumes that there aren't.

It is because of this assumption that Ed thinks that I am committed to the following fallacious argument:

a. Tom is thinking of a unicorn
Therefore
b. There exists (mind-independently) something such that Tom is thinking of it.

Whereas my view is that when Tom thinks of a unicorn, he is thinking of something, an item that exists merely as the object of Tom's act of thinking, but does not exist mind-independently.

Obviously, I have not committed what Ed calls the Existential Fallacy.

This is not to say that my view cannot be criticized; it can. It just cannot be criticized in the way that Ed criticizes it.

>>It is because of this assumption that Ed thinks that I am committed to the following fallacious argument […]

I don't think you are committed to the argument you mention. Please can we be clear about that. As said above, I think you are committed to an argument of the form:

a Tom is thinking about a unicorn
b His mental state has an object
c The object of a mental state is an 'intentional object' (def)
d Some objects are intentional objects.

|s that correct? You seem reluctant to confirm.

I also asked, among other things, what are the truth conditions for non-existentially loaded statements. For example if I say that there is some beer in the fridge even though there really isn't, what makes my non-loaded statement true? And if Tom believes there is a unicorn in the attic, we agree his belief is false if about real unicorns. But what makes his belief true in the 'non loaded' sense?

Bill,

By analogy with your (a)--(f) can we not also consistently assert the following?

a. This tapestry, rather beautifully, depicts a unicorn.
b. Unicorns do not exist in the (C1)-sense.
c. The tapestry is object-directed; it is a depictional entity.
d. The object of the tapestry does not (C1)-exist.
e. The merely depicted object is not nothing.
f. The merely depicted object enjoys depictional existence, a distinct mode of existence different from (C1)-existence.
Likewise,
Whereas my view is that when Tom thinks of a unicorn, he is thinking of something, an item that exists merely as the object of Tom's act of thinking, but does not exist mind-independently,
has the analogy,
When the tapestry depicts a unicorn, it is depicting something, an item that exists merely as the object of the tapestry's depicting, but does not exist tapestry-independently.

I have a problem with (d). It suggests that 'object' is a genus with real and merely intentional objects as species. Just as I don't believe 'exist(s)' is univocal, I don't believe that 'object' is univocal.

For you, an object is an existent, and vice versa. That is why you find talk of merely intentional objects illicit. You apparently think that because Sherlock does not exist, he is not an object, and therefore not an intentional object.

>>I have a problem with (d).

OK - the whole purpose of this is to understand what conclusions we can validly draw from the premiss 'John is thinking of a unicorn'.

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