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Monday, August 22, 2011


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I'm not sure any of these quite capture the account that I think is correct, and which we have discussed before. The details are here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2011/03/logically-intransitive-verbs.html

In summary, certain verbs are logically transitive - if ‘S V O’ is true, there must be an object corresponding to the accusative noun phrase ‘O’. Other verbs are not. These are 'logically intransitive'. They are grammatically transitive in that they take a verbal accusative. But there is no object corresponding to that accusative.

This does not agree with (1). There is such a thing is intentionality or rather 'logical intransitivity. Nor with (2), which I find unintelligible. Nor with (3) which is false. Clearly there are relations, so long as the verb that expresses the relation is logically transitive. It seems close to (4), but I don't know enough about (4) to judge. It is not (5) merely an adverbial modification of a subject, because it involves relation to a trans-subjective singular concept (more than one person can grasp the singular concept corresponding to 'Socrates', 'Caesar' or even 'Frodo'. I don't understand (6) well enough, although I read the post you linked to. And (7) it is not a multiple relation.

You may not like the theory (I suspect you don't, because you have dismissed it out of hand before), but it is a valid candidate.

A refinement to the theory summarised above is explained in the linked-to post. According to the theory, the correct way of parsing "Tom has a thought about a house in the desert" is as follows

Tom / has / a thought about a house in the desert

This makes it clear that the real relation in question is expressed by the logically transitive 'has'. Tom exists, the thought exists, and the thought belongs to him. But we misparse it as

Tom / has a thought about / a house in the desert

as though there were a relation, expressed by the verb phrase 'has a thought about' between Tom and some mysterious intentional object. 'Intentionality' is simply an illusion, caused by a misunderstanding of grammar and meaning. 'We should not multiply entities in accordance with the multiplicity of names'.

You didn't answer my question. So I really should delete those comments. Why are you behaving like a cyberpunk?

I almost wrote in the main post, "Don't go off on any tangents, just answer the question." But I thought that would be unnecessary. I was wrong.

Please delete my comments then. But I did answer your question. You have not covered all the bases.

I retract the 'cyberpunk' remark which was rude. But you missed the point, which was not to give a theory of intentionality but to catalog all possible ways of rejecting the claim that intentionality is a relation.

A useful comment would take the form: Intentionality is not a relation because (fill in the blank).

The closest you come to filling in the blank is "intentionality is an illusion." But that is just option (1).

Another variant on (6): intentionality is the real (as opposed to Thomistic-style formal) identity between subject and object. (Spinoza)

The difference between a Spinozistic and a Thomist account of identity seems strong enough to warrant distinct categories for the two.

Thanks, Leo. Could you sketch a Spinozistic theory of intentionality for me? How would it go?

According to Spinoza, God is a single substance which can be conceived of in at least two ways: as a thinking thing and as an extended thing. However, this distinction is merely one of reason, like that (according to the scholastics) between being and unity. God, moreover, has an infinite number of affects, or modifications, each of which must be conceived of through God, and thus which may be conceived of either as a thinking thing's modification (in which case they are ideas) or as an extended thing's modification (in which case they are bodies); however, like God Himself, ideas and bodies are distinct only in the mind. In reality each idea is identical with a body, even though it be conceived of differently. And what qualifies a body as the intentional object of an idea is its being really identical thereto.

It's a rough sketch, and there is much more that can be said, but does what I've written make sense?

Very good, Leo. That is basically Spinoza as I understand him. What makes the idea of x of x is the idea's identity with x. This makes some sense when it comes to thoughts about parts of one's body, but how does Spinoza account for thoughts about things and events external to one's body?

Suppose I am thinking about today's awful weather. There is a corresponding cerebral event, and S. seems committed to saying that my thought about the weather is the idea of that cerebral event. And that can't be right. See chapter 7 of Jonathan Bennett's *A Study of Spinoza's Ethics.*

But you have shown me that I ought to distinguish between two sorts of identity theory of intentionality. There are the Arist-Thom theories acc. to which the identity is formal, and there are Spinozistic theories acc. to which the identity is non-formal.

Prop XVI of Part II of the Ethics suggests that thought about an external body is somehow to be analyzed in terms of the external body's affecting of the thinker's body, with an idea in the latter being of a state of the thinker's body.

Another way of denying that intentionality is a two-term relation is to argue that there are varieties of intentionality as opposed to it being a unified/absolute concept. I think that such arguments can be developed "similarly" to varieties of reference ones of Gareth Evans. I would not claim it with a high degree of certainty, but it seems to me that some people -- indirectly -- do just that when they distinguish between qualia and other issues about aboutness.

And -- now I admit hand waving even more wildly than before -- I'd say that given that the fundamental concept of identity has been denied its absolute status (e.g. by Geach), intentionality is a much easier target in that respect.

Dr. Vallicella,

Suppose I am thinking about today's awful weather. There is a corresponding cerebral event, and S. seems committed to saying that my thought about the weather is the idea of that cerebral event. And that can't be right. See chapter 7 of Jonathan Bennett's *A Study of Spinoza's Ethics.*

I don't think Spinoza would use exactly the same language, nor do I think he would restrict himself to cerebral events (he is a mind-body identity theorist, not a mind-brain identity theorist), but that seems to be the gist of his theory of intentionality. Any putative idea of A, where A is an external body, is really an idea of some affectation or impression of or upon my body by A. Prop. XVI, Cor. II, and Prop. XVII, Schol., of Part II of the Ethics provide especially compelling evidence for this interpretation.

This, by the way, is one of the biggest differences between a Thomist and a Spinozist account of intentionality, see Summa Theo., I:85:2.

I'll check out Chapter 7 of Bennett's book when I get the chance. Incidentally, would you recommend the whole thing? I've heard mixed reviews of it.

You are an amazing guy, Leo. You have summed up Spinoza's view very accurately in one sentence.

Jonathan Bennett is one I would call a philosopher's philosopher. His work is at the very highest technical level. And so anything he writes is worth studying. If your approach to philosophy is more historical than systematic, however, you may object to Bennett and find someone like Edwin Curley more sympatico. The 'opposite' of Bennett is Harry Wolfson. See his *The Philosophy of Spinoza.* Set that side-by-side with Bennett and you will know what I mean by 'opposite.'

Let me know if you stumble across an article on Spinoza's doctrine of intentionality.

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