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Saturday, September 18, 2010


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BV said: "It means that I think the arguments for them are quite powerful, but that if our system contains an absolute mind, then we can and must reduce Fregean propositions to contents or accuusatives of said mind. Doing so allows us to solve the problem of the unity of the proposition."

I don't think you could think of propositions as accusatives of the divine mind, because propositions are supposed to be things publicly accessible. (One of Frege's arguments that senses are non-mental things in his "On Sense and Reference" is that if they were mental things, then the sense of the same term in one language would be different for different people; "Bucephalus" would have a different sense and hence meaning for a zoologist, a horseman, and a painter, to use his example.)

If a proposition were an abstract object, though it is difficult to explain precisely how, it is at least conceivable that you and I would both be able to have access to it (believe it, consider it, etc.) because it isn't in anyone's mind; it's "out there". But how could the accusatives of anyone's mind, let alone the divine mind, be publicly accessible in this way?

BV said: "And that conflicts with the notion that propositions are necessary beings. Well, I suppose one could try the idea the some propositions are contingent beings."

Perhaps one could try that, but it'd be a weird position to hold. What does the contingent existence of a proposition amount to? When does it come into being? Suppose our proposition is "Daphne was born and left for dead on a Greek hillside". Does the sense of "Daphne" and hence the proposition come into being when Daphne does? How does an occurrence in the world of concrete cause the existence of an abstract object?

In any case, you say you reject propositions so conceived, so these aren't really questions for you to answer as much as they would just be questions for whoever takes that route.

Also, I agree with what you say about proper names not being abbreviated definite descriptions.

One more thing. The doctrine of divine simplicity also makes the suggestion that propositions are accusatives of divine thought really problematic; because there are, in reality, no distinct thoughts. If a proposition is an accusative of divine thought, then because there is only one thought in reality, then there is only one proposition in reality! But further, there is no distinction between the thinker and the thought, if divine simplicity were true; but then God would be the only proposition!

And that's crazy.


You need to distinguish between two sorts of mental contents, those that are only privately accessible and those that are also publically acessible. Not even Bill Clinton can feel your pain, only you can; and only I can feel my pain. But propositions are not contents in this sense; they are not parts of the mental lives of individual minds in the way pains and pleasures are. So if the existence of propositions is their being accusatives of divine awareness, this is consistent with their being publically accessible.

We typically think you and I can entertain the same proposition, for example, and thus have the same mental content, just because we are both standing in a relation to a third object that is outside of both of us. But this cannot be what's going on between us and God if propositions are just going to be things *inside* God's mind.

Can you give me an example of some kind of mental content that is (i) publicly accessible, i.e. I can have access to it when you have it, and not such that (ii) I have access to your mental content only by us both standing in a relation some third object outside of either of our minds?

You are getting hung up on 'inside.' The word 'content' is also misleading due to its spatial connotations. That is why I used the word 'accusative' which suggests something which is a direct object of a mental act. If the existence of a proposition is just its being an accusative of a divine mental act, it doesn't follow that the content of the proposition (what the proposition 'says')is accessible only to God.

Let me see if I understand your position.

For you, propositions are (i) not divine ideas, and hence (ii) "out there" in the world, distinct from God and not contents strictly in his mind in the way divine ideas or concepts would be.

As regards the individual senses of terms that compose propositions, you can either hold that (a) they are generated by God and because of this are accusatives of divine thought, in an analogous fashion to how a mental image might be generated by my act of will and then become an accusative of my thought, or (b) they exist independently of God and are only unified into propositions on account of activity on God's part.

Is that more or less what you believe, then? And would you opt for (a) or (b)?

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