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Friday, July 23, 2021

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Thank you for posting this. There are two points that emerged in the discussion below, after I had written this.

(1) "He will likely complain that my point is a nicety of language, and not a genuine metaphysical one." Bill has indeed objected that the verb ‘has’ has an intentional sense, as well as its usual non-intentional one. Presumably also ‘targets’, 'directed at' and so on?

(2) The post above does not use the term 'intentional object', but there is disagreement about the meaning of that term. I have proposed we define it as the object that an intentional state is about. Thus, if Jake is thinking about the planet Jupiter, then the intentional object is the planet itself, by definition. Likewise, if Jake is thinking about the Jupiter the god, then the intentional object is the god himself. Or let's agree on any made up word which means the object which is thought-about.


I just checked out Anscombe "The Intentionality of Sensation", but it is confusing. She says "I shall speak of intentional verbs, taking intentional objects", suggesting there, and passim, that 'object' means 'accusative, so that an IO is a grammatical or linguistic item.

But then on the very next page she talks about "the possible non-existence of the object", which conflicts with the idea that the object is grammatical. Clearly in "Jake is thinking of Zeus", the grammatical accusative 'Zeus' exists whether or not Zeus exists. Rather, it is Zeus himself who may not exist.

But in any case we should not have to quarrel about definitions. Let's agree on a name for what a thought is about, and stick religiously to it.

OZ,

Given:

(1) BV’s mental state has an Intentional Object
(2) BV is thinking of the Washington Monument

You would say that inferring (1) from (2) commits the fallacy because statements with non-intentional verb phrases like can't be inferred from statements with intentional verb phrases? Do I have this right?

Consider the following inference:

1.
i. Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal.

You might say (1) that is an enthymeme for the famous:

2.
i. Socrates is a man.
ii. All men are mortal.
Socrates is mortal.

But it seems clear to me that when I perform the act of inferring in (1) I'm inferring the conclusion directly from my knowledge of the subject and quality's natures in (i), not by considering it alongside an additional proposition, (ii); and, moreover, that this inference is right (materially but not formally valid, if you like).

Isn't something similar going on when inferring:

(3) BV’s mental state has an Intentional Object

From:

(4) BV is thinking of the Washington Monument

? (3) follows from what the act of thinking itself is (that is, from the content of "is thinking of the Washington Monument"); it seems to miss the point to complain that, after stripping all matter from (3) and (4), we can't infer sentences with (3)'s form from sentence's with (4)'s.

Cyrus "You would say that inferring (1) from (2) commits the fallacy because statements with non-intentional verb phrases like [has?] can't be inferred from statements with intentional verb phrases? Do I have this right?"

Yes, assuming you meant to write 'has'.

I didn't follow your 12:30 objection. However it follows from my thesis that there are certain cases where standard inferences based on logical form break down. I am not alone in the literature on this.

OZ:

>>"You would say that inferring (1) from (2) commits the fallacy because statements with non-intentional verb phrases like [has?] can't be inferred from statements with intentional verb phrases? Do I have this right?"
>Yes, assuming you meant to write 'has'.

Yes. Thanks for correcting the typo.

>>I didn't follow your 12:30 objection. However it follows from my thesis that there are certain cases where standard inferences based on logical form break down. I am not alone in the literature on this.

Sorry. You can safely ignore 12:30. I don't know where the original quotes for (3) and (4) are from, but I suppose Bill can just sidestep your whole objection by making the following inference

(5) All mental acts have intentional objects.*
(6) BV's thinking of the Washington Monument is a mental act.
∴ (3)

where (5) is warranted by eidetic reflection and then making the two claims, (4) and (3), where both are warranted by reflection (presumably he knows what he is thinking) separately, instead.

My worry, in other words, is that this is more of a quibble than a devastating problem that runs through all BV's thinking on this. It's useful for forcing people to make things explicit (I'm often reminded of the old scholastic method of disputation when reading your posts), but I worry that it's being made into more than it is.

*I'm using 'acts' in Husserl's Logical Investigations sense.

Cyrus: your version in full.

(A) All mental acts have intentional objects.
(B) BV's thinking of the Washington Monument is a mental act.
∴ (C) BV’s mental act has an Intentional Object

But ‘intentional object’ is not defined (and even Bill seems to have difficulty in explaining what one is). To make the problem clearer, let me replace ‘intentional object’ with ‘flerf’.

(A*) All mental acts have flerfs.
(B) BV's thinking of the Washington Monument is a mental act.
∴ (C*) BV’s mental state has a flerf

Until we are clear what ‘Intentional Object’ means, we can’t get much further. My research suggests that the term originated with Anscombe, who insists that what we think of happens to exist, as in the case of Churchill (her example), then what we think of just is the very object that one might talk to or vote for, or throw an egg at. The name ‘Winston Churchill’ functions in exactly the same way in ‘X is thinking of Winston Churchill’ as it does in ‘X is biting Winston Churchill’. The name refers to Churchill, not to an idea of Churchill or a noema or whatnot.

Bill is going to come back on exactly what he means, but I think we should respect the meaning intended by the originator of the term.

OZ:

>>But ‘intentional object’ is not defined (and even Bill seems to have difficulty in explaining what one is). To make the problem clearer, let me replace ‘intentional object’ with ‘flerf’.

I'm inclined to think that the answer lay in Husserl's own theory of meaning, which he expounds at greater length in Erfahrung und Urteil (Experience and Judgment). I'll be borrowing a copy later this week (I haven't read it in a while), and hope to contribute more to the conversation about 'intentional object' once I have.*

*Of course, even if this works out, BV will probably just go after Husserl's theory of meaning or some broader theory on which it's built.

>>My research suggests that the term originated with Anscombe, who insists that what we think of happens to exist, as in the case of Churchill (her example), then what we think of just is the very object that one might talk to or vote for, or throw an egg at. The name ‘Winston Churchill’ functions in exactly the same way in ‘X is thinking of Winston Churchill’ as it does in ‘X is biting Winston Churchill’. The name refers to Churchill, not to an idea of Churchill or a noema or whatnot.

Bill is going to come back on exactly what he means, but I think we should respect the meaning intended by the originator of the term.

This may be technically true in so far as 'intentional object' is an English term and Husserl was writing in German, but wasn't Husserl (who published Logische Untersuchungen in 1900-1901 and Ideen I in 1913) using an equivalent term before Anscombe (who was only born in 1919)?

>This may be technically true in so far as 'intentional object' is an English term

Agree, but even then this exegetical question is not necessary. We only have to agree on a term for "the object which the thought is about". For example, if

"Bob is thinking about Churchill"

is true, then the object which Bob is thinking about is Churchill. If

"Bob is thinking about Pegasus"

is true, then the object which Bob is thinking about is Pegasus. We just need to agree on a shorthand term for "the object which is thought about". One would think this was fairly simple, but clearly not.


OZ:

>>is true, then the object which Bob is thinking about is Pegasus. We just need to agree on a shorthand term for "the object which is thought about". One would think this was fairly simple, but clearly not.

What do you mean by 'object'?

Husserl's project necessitates new terms and old terms with new senses. (He goes into this, among other places, at the start of Ideas I, I think.) He absolutely doesn't use 'object' in the everyday language sense in 'intentional object', and is very clear about this.

I'd be happy to lend you my Husserl translations (or, at least, my copy of Moran and Cohen's Husserl Dictionary), if you don't already have them and are interested, OZ.

Oz,

You write:

My research suggests that the term originated with Anscombe, who insists that what we think of happens to exist, as in the case of Churchill (her example), then what we think of just is the very object that one might talk to or vote for, or throw an egg at. The name ‘Winston Churchill’ functions in exactly the same way in ‘X is thinking of Winston Churchill’ as it does in ‘X is biting Winston Churchill’. The name refers to Churchill, not to an idea of Churchill or a noema or whatnot.

This isn't Anscombe's point in the passage you're referring to. She does say, "If I am thinking of Winston Churchill then he is the object of my thought." But then she goes on to make the point that the truth of "X thought of --" does not depend on the existence of the object, and continues:

This fact is readily obscured for us because with "X thought of --" the more frequent filling-in of the blank is a name or description of something real; for when the blank is filled in so in a true sentence, it is the real thing itself, not some intermediary, that X thought of. This makes it look as if the reality of the object mattered, as it does for biting.

To say that when Churchill exists and we think of him, it is him of whom we think (a truism), is not to say that "[t]he name 'Winston Churchill' functions in exactly the same way in 'X is thinking of Winston Churchill' as it does in 'X is biting Winston Churchill'." That is what Anscombe is explicitly denying, and that is what the analogy between intentional and direct objects in section I of the paper is supposed to make out: even where it is some real thing thought of, the reality of the object does not matter as it does for 'bite'.

Here I think you are taking for her own view one of the positions she sets up dialectically:

She says "I shall speak of intentional verbs, taking intentional objects", suggesting there, and passim, that 'object' means 'accusative, so that an IO is a grammatical or linguistic item.

But then on the very next page she talks about "the possible non-existence of the object", which conflicts with the idea that the object is grammatical. Clearly in "Jake is thinking of Zeus", the grammatical accusative 'Zeus' exists whether or not Zeus exists. Rather, it is Zeus himself who may not exist.

Anscombe explicitly frames and addresses the question whether we should think of intentional and direct objects as bits of language (e.g., the word 'Zeus') or as the thing to which the language refers:

We must conclude that of 'objects' (direct, indirect and likewise intentional) that the object is neither the phrase nor what the phrase stands for. What then is it? The question is based on a mistake, namely that an explanatory answer running say "An intentional (direct, indirect) object is such-and-such" is possible and requisite. ... But what is the actual use of the term? Given a sentence in which a verb takes an object, one procedure for replying to the question: "What is the object in this sentence?" is to recite the object phrase.

If putting the object phrase in quotes implies that the object - i.e. what John is said to have sent Mary [in the sentence 'John sent Mary a book'], what the Greeks worshipped - is a piece of language, that is wrong; if its not being in quotes implies that something referred to by the object phrase is the object, that is wrong too. To avoid the latter suggestion one might insist on putting in quotes; to avoid the former one might want to leave them out. One is inclined to invent a special sort of quotes; but the question is how the phrase within such new quotes would function - and if we understand that, we don't need a new sign. So ends the argument.

What she is providing in the paper is a description of the use of a certain class of verbs. The term 'intentional object' can be coined to help in this description, to flag that 'Winston Churchill' does not signify in the same way in 'X thought of Winston Churchill' and 'X bit Winston Churchill'. The use of the expression 'intentional object' is not to refer to a certain kind of entity at all (as 'Winston Churchill' does when used in familiar extensional contexts), and that's why the question "What kind of thing is an intentional object?" is misguided. A student learning grammar will be taught to answer 'a book' to the questions 'What does the sentence "John sent Mary a book" say that John sent to Mary?' and 'What is the direct object of the sentence
John sent Mary a book"?' But he won't have gotten the concept of a direct object if he says that what John sent Mary was not just a book but a direct object. Likewise one hasn't got the concept of an intentional object if one says that what X is thinking about when he is thinking about Winston Churchill is an intentional object. That is true even though Winston Churchill is his object of thought--and that is because 'Winston Churchill is the object of X's thought' means nothing other than 'X is thinking of Winston Churchill'. The fact that its surface grammar is similar to 'Winston Churchill is the Prime Minister of England' is simply misleading. So there's nothing wrong with saying that thought and other states and acts referred to by intentional verbs 'have intentional objects'. But for Anscombe this would just be a matter of highlighting the behavior of the verbs and their grammatical objects.

@GB I don't see that your position is far from mine (see my guest post). We should not infer from the truth of "Jake is thinking of Zeus" that some things are intentional objects.

Tim Crane makes the same point. 'Intentional objects' are not some particular class of objects.

> 'Winston Churchill is the object of X's thought' means nothing other than 'X is thinking of Winston Churchill'.

I question whether it does mean that. My guest post is here

https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2021/07/guest-post-on-the-fallacy-of-intentionalism.html

where I argue that the Intentionalist fallacy is the move from sentences where the noun phrase in the intentional accusative (i.e. grammatical accusative) place is shifted to subject position.

Oz,

My claim that

> 'Winston Churchill is the object of X's thought' means nothing other than 'X is thinking of Winston Churchill'

is not an instance of what you call Intentionalism, because '_ is the object of X's thought' is as intentional as 'X is thinking of _'. (The concepts, I would say, are the same.) Likewise: If X is thinking of Pegasus, then Pegasus is the object of X's thought, even though Pegasus does not exist. Anscombe's point is that this is how the word 'object' is used. We introduce it to help us talk about the behavior of intentional verbs. The reason why it is all right to move from 'X is thinking of Winston Churchill' to 'Winston Churchill is the object of X's thought' is that this transition accomplishes nothing, is trivial.

That 'Winston Churchill' was in the grammatical accusative and is now in subject position is just a fact of surface grammar. (We can't make generalizations of what sentences so characterized mean, anymore than we can assume that 'The cat is on the mat' and 'The cat is a semi-domesticated carnivorous animal' have the same logical form because they both have a definite description followed by a predicate.) To understand the sentences' meanings we have to consider what they are used to say--and here there is no difference. In ordinary life I would use them interchangeably and intend no distinction by them, because the notion of an intentional object is only meant to enable us to form such paraphrases.

(I don't mean to defend what you call Intentionalism at all, just to clear up what Anscombe thinks, which strikes me as the right approach to this topic.)

>My claim that 'Winston Churchill is the object of X's thought' means nothing other than 'X is thinking of Winston Churchill' is not an instance of what you call Intentionalism, because '_ is the object of X's thought' is as intentional as 'X is thinking of _'.

Bill made exactly the same objection. We are then in the territory of deciding when a given proposition is intentional or not. More later perhaps.

PS I discuss the objection in chapter 7 of the book. Clearly we can reverse the active form

(A) J is thinking of something

into the passive form

(B) something is thought of by J

So we could argue that since active to passive is a grammatical, not a semantic transformation, (B) can still be intentional.

I argue that constructions like (B) are ambiguous between intentional and non-intentional forms, and that in ordinary English we resolve the ambiguity using a construction like

(B*) something is such that it is thought of by J

which is unambiguously non-intentional.

Another idea is that because Franco-German writers like to be 'surprising', they deliberately exploit this ambiguity. Hence the move from 'J is thinking about K', which is clearly intentional, to "the mental state of J is directed beyond itself etc" which in my view is unambiguously non-intentional. Of course it is hard to draw a strong dividing line between the ambiguous forms. My view is that as soon as the claims turn from harmless and uninteresting to 'surprising', we have crossed the line.

Even active constructions like (A) can be ambiguous, e.g., "They worship a hunk of wood" (Anscombe's example) or "You want to get back together with someone who's going to make you miserable!" Generally context will make this clear. If not, then asking the speaker might.

I agree that analyzing 'a Ri b' in terms of a non-intentional relation between a and b will be a mistake. I am not as confident as to whether the various constructions philosophers have given ('directed beyond', 'targets', 'aims', 'refers beyond') are unambiguously non-intentional. So far as that language tends to be brought in because philosophers find intentionality mysterious, I don't go in for it.

>I am not as confident as to whether the various constructions philosophers have given ('directed beyond', 'targets', 'aims', 'refers beyond') are unambiguously non-intentional.

We have at least one non-ambiguous example. I think we all agree, including Bill, that "- is related to - " is non-intentional.

> So far as that language tends to be brought in because philosophers find intentionality mysterious, I don't go in for it.

Agree.

On the demarcation problem, i.e. the problem of distinguishing intentional from non-intentional verb phrases, Bill himself draws the distinction between AB type and C type, see below.

We (except Meinongians) all agree that A-type phrases are intentional, i.e. we cannot take the quantifier out of the accusative and give it wide scope. That is, we cannot infer “some centaur is such that Jake is thinking of it” from “Jake is thinking of a centaur”. Bill has said he is not a Meinongian.

However I draw the line A-type, arguing that we must infer “something is such that X has Y as object” from “X has Y as object”, and so for all the other B-type (and C-type) verb phrases. Note that the move from A-type to B-type involves replacing an animate subject (Jake, who does the thinking), with an inanimate one (a mental state which ‘has’ things as object - a mental state does not think). Well I am assuming mental states, whatever they are, are not animate. Whether mental acts are animate is a difficult one. Is a heart animate? Is a liver animate? I would say they are parts of an animate thing.

Bill by contrast wants to read A-type and B-type as intentional, but seems to draw the line at C-type. Hence his insistence that “X is related to Y” cannot be true unless there is something such that X is related to it, and that a mental state, if dependent on some object, must be dependent on an existing object.

From all of which follows his insistence that I have somehow misunderstood ‘intentionality’.


(A-type)
“– is thinking of –”
“– wants/desires etc –”

(B-type)
“– has – as object”
“– is directed beyond itself to –”
“– terminates at –”

(C-type)
“– is dependent upon –”
“– is related to –”

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