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Thursday, July 29, 2021

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It is my intention (!) to understand this entire thread; but, while I have followed it - with difficulty - I don't understand it well enough to explain it to an 8-year-old. Which is the bar some people have established as a measure of whether one really understands a topic.
(A bit of tongue-in-cheek there.) I am enjoying tagging along.

Dave,

I would be happy to try and answer specific questions. NOT: what are you saying? BUT: what do you mean by 'immanent'?

You will have gathered, I hope, that your intention to understand these posts is an instance of intentionality as philosophers use this term, but that intentionality covers mental states that in ordinary language we would not call intentions, e.g., my noticing that a cat has entered the room.

Thanks Bill. I am keeping up; I read Pierre Jacob's entry at the SEP for a little background, since I was unaware of the arena that you and others were doing battle in.

Actually, Molnar does give something like a definition.

All mental states and processes have an internal reference to an object. The identity of the intentional state is defined in terms of this intentional object.

However, he doesn’t define ‘internal reference’. So logicians are now asking what justifes the inference from (A) to (B) as follows:

(A) Jake is thinking of Zeus
(B) Jake’s mental state has an internal reference to an object, and the identity of this mental state is defined in terms of this intentional object.

Presumably the mental state in question is what is predicated by ‘thinking of Zeus’? OK. But how does that show that there is some object, an intentional object, to which there is internal reference? Where is the minor premiss that gets us from (A) to (B)?

>I don't understand it well enough to explain it to an 8-year-old

Not difficult, if the 8 year old has the patience. Take him/her/it through the following moves.


(1) Suppose Jack is thinking of Santa Claus

(2) Then Jack is thinking of someone.

(3) So there is someone Jack is thinking of

(4) But there is no such person as Santa Claus

(5) So there isn't someone Jack is thinking of


It's important that they are 8 years or older, otherwise they will disagree with (4)!

Thanks oz. Though, in reading that entry at SEP, even a smart 9 year old would have some trouble solving the following, which I think is still the problem? :
"Now, the full acceptance of Brentano’s first two theses raises a fundamental ontological question in philosophical logic. The question is: are there such intentional objects? Does due recognition of intentionality force us to postulate the ontological category of intentional objects? This question has given rise to a major division within analytic philosophy. The prevailing (or orthodox) response has been a resounding ‘No.’ But an important minority of philosophers, whom I shall call ‘the intentional-object’ theorists, have argued for a positive response to the question. Since intentional objects need not exist, according to intentional-object theorists, there are things that do not exist. According to their critics, there are no such things. "

OZ,

In your response to Dave, you make the mistake of thinking that (3) follows from (2). It obviously doesn't given your existentially loaded use of 'some.' The move from (2) to (3) is not like the move from

2* Jack is pounding on someone

to

3* There is someone Jack is pounding on.

As for your response to me, you mistakenly assume that (B) is being inferred from (A). Not so. (B) is merely a plausible analysis of (A). You have this crude idea that thinking about something is standing in an external relation to it. Which is to say that you do not understand the phenomenon of intentionality.

And that explains why, in your book, you mistakenly assimilated object-directedness to object-dependence.

Dave,

I take it you don't understand what is being said in the SEP passage. Let me see if I can simplify it for you. I will try to avoid technical jargon such as 'act,' 'intentionality,' immanent,' 'noema,' etc.

Would you say that imagining a unicorn is the same as or different from imagining a leprechaun? They are different even though in both cases there is an imagining. Agree? Now what makes them different? There are has to be something that makes them different, for they plainly are phenomenologically different even though they are both instances of imagining. They don't differ as imaginings so some further factor must brought in to explain the difference. Two more obvious points. First, one cannot just imagine. Agree? Second, in my examples the imaginings are directed toward items that do not exist. Agree? By 'exist' I mean exist in reality outside the mind. And note that I am assuming that a concrete episode of imagining is a state of mind or a mental state. (That's not obvious, but it is very plausible.) I'll stop here and wait to see if you find all of the foregoing crystal clear before proceeding.

Thanks Bill. I actually thought I DID understand that passage from SEP. Did it not lay out the fundamental problem that leads to different approaches discussed/argued in this thread, especially twixt you and London?
But I am enjoying your walk-through, please continue! I have crystal clarity with your explanation thus far.

Dave, to continue:

There has to be a distinction between an imagining and something else. But what is that? One naturally says that to imagine is to imagine something. But here is where London balks or rather baulks. For he thinks that if Jake imagines something, then there exists something that Jake imagines. He thinks that imagining must be like eating. To eat is to eat something, but if one eats something, then there exists something that one eats. One cannot eat what does not exist. And so London thinks that if Jake's imagining is directed to an intentional object, that object must also exist -- which contradicts the fact that unicorns and leprechauns do not exist.

One way out is to say that there are transcendent items that do not exist (or have any mode of being) and that such intentional objects as unicorns and leprechauns are among them. More later if you like.

Thanks again, Bill. I will now go back over the thread and see what I can see.
Whenever the word 'exists' enters into an argument, I've come to automatically anticipate the same sort of differences.

>In your response to Dave, you make the mistake of thinking that (3) follows from (2).

Of course it doesn't follow. It involves the 'intentionalist fallacy', namely of moving from intentional to non-intentional contexts. My point is that the ‘paradox’ simply dissolves once we understand the fallacy for what it is.

>As for your response to me, you mistakenly assume that (B) is being inferred from (A). Not so. (B) is merely a plausible analysis of (A).

Here are the two propositions again.

(A) Jake is thinking of Zeus
(B) Jake’s mental state has an internal reference to an object, and the identity of this mental state is defined in terms of this intentional object.

So you are not ‘inferring’ (B) from (A). But then, supposing (A) is true, what possible reason is there for supposing (B) is true? Over to you.

>You have this crude idea that thinking about something is standing in an external relation to it.”

Where did I say that thinking about something is standing in an external relation to it? It’s the exact opposite of what I hold.

> For he [Londoner] thinks that if Jake imagines something, then there exists something that Jake imagines. He thinks that imagining must be like eating.

Blimey (as Londoners say). That is the exact opposite of what I say. What I say, see my guest post below, is that ‘imagines’ is an intentional (or ‘non-existential’) verb, so we cannot infer from “S imagines something” to “there is something imagined by S”.

“Such mental states refer beyond themselves to objects that may or may not exist” (Vallicella, link).

Molnar: “The fundamental feature of an intentional state or property is that it is directed to something beyond itself”

Both these claims use the term 'beyond'. Bill, do you agree with these statements?

Morning Bill.

To my mind, this piece and others of yours on this topic amount to a successful reduction of the concept 'intentional object' to absurdity. The idea contains too much to be self-consistent. What do we throw away? The obvious answer to me is to retain 'intentional' and discard 'object'. We keep the directedness but drop the idea that it must terminate on a thing of some sort. Consider Max Black's iron spheres. The tuple [iron, sphere] has a direction in 'conceptual space'---the two properties iron and sphere are somewhat analogous to the components of a vector---but it's wholly contingent whether it 'points to', ie, describes none, one, or many actual objects. Likewise, if I know nothing of the WM but you tell me that there is a monolithic marble obelisk in the USA called the WM, then I can rehearse the thought that [monolithic, marble, obelisk, in USA] is instantiated in the WM, but I don't at all get the sense that this thought uniquely 'reaches' or 'goes straight to' the Washington Monument. For that something more must be added. The 'objectuality' must be put back in. I think this extra factor must be some degree of personal acquaintance with the WM, either directly through the senses, or failing that images consistent with the description, or augmented description that would enable sensory acquaintance in principle. The intentional arrow must be fleshed out with real directions.

Like Dave, I am new to this debate, but I don’t find your WM objection convincing. Suppose I see WM and then walk away. The next day, I want to think about WM. There are multiple ways I could go about this. I could intend the x I saw yesterday and then judge it likely to still exist as it was yesterday. Or I could intend the x which fills the location I was observing yesterday and then judge it likely that WM was not moved since yesterday. In both cases, I am intending something x really external to my mind (the WM as it was yesterday or the location of WM yesterday) and then judging that x is unlikely to have changed since yesterday, from which two statements I draw the syllogistic (though merely probable) conclusion “x presently exists”. Thus in each case I am intending something really external, but about which I may have made an error because of the merely probable judgement that it still exists. It seems to me we shouldn’t be surprised about such error, for even when the object is sensoraly present, our intention cannot “wrap itself around” the whole object.
As I said though, I am new to this debate, so perhaps I have made an obvious mistake?

Thanks for the comment, David Brightly. >>The obvious answer to me is to retain 'intentional' and discard 'object'. We keep the directedness but drop the idea that it must terminate on a thing of some sort.<<

That makes sense. Intentionality would be like a ray in Euclidean geometry that proceeds from a point of origin in a straight line infinitely without every reaching a terminus. Perhaps you could say that the directedness is a property of the mental event rather than an object to which it is directed. There are theories like this. But how would that help us with the perceptual cases? They too are instances of intentionality. Suppose I travel to Washington and have a look at the WM. The directedness now terminates. More later perhaps.

BV
> Perhaps you could say that the directedness is a property of the mental event rather than an object to which it is directed.

So instead of saying "The fundamental feature of every mental state is that it is directed beyond itself to an object", we say "The fundamental feature of every mental state is that it is directed".

The problem is that if the mental state involves a singular thought (e.g. the thought that Jake is thinking of Churchill), we cannot identify the thought without using the name which tells us which object the thought is about.

I think you accept that.

Brightly
> The 'objectuality' must be put back in. I think this extra factor must be some degree of personal acquaintance with the WM

I can truly think about Zeus or say something about Zeus, without any acquaintance with Zeus.

Indeed I have just said something about Zeus.

OZ at 2:46. Yes. there is a well-known problem with an internalist theory such as that of Husserl's when it comes to singular thoughts. But I stand by this:

D. E. Buckner speaks of an “. . . illusion that has captured the imagination of philosophers for at least a hundred years: intentionality, sometimes called object-dependence, a supposed unmediated relationship between thought and reality . . . .” (Reference and Identity in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Scriptures: The Same God? Rowman and Littlefield, 2020, p. 195) Apart from his eliminativism about intentionality, Buckner is doubly mistaken in his characterization of it. No one except Buckner has, to my knowledge, characterized intentionality in general from Brentano on down as object-dependence, but it is standard, especially among analytic philosophers, to characterize it in terms of object-directedness.

I now add: that is a gross misrepresentation of intentionality theory from Brentano on. My point is doxographical, not philosophical. You got the history wrong. The main man in intentionality theory, Husserl, is an internalist, not an externalist -- which is not to say that his theory is adequate in the end.

>My point is doxographical, not philosophical. You got the history wrong.

Nope. Part II to follow.

John Paul West,

Thank you for your comment. I have read your comment three times, but I don't see that you are engaging my question.

“We should also note the following. If the intentional nexus is not a relation (because some IOs exist and some do not), and the act-object nexus is non-contingent such that, necessarily, every act has an intentional object, then in the cases where the IO does not exist, and Meinongianism is false, the IO must be an immanent object.”

If Meinongianism is false, how can the act have an object that does not exist? For then some object, namely the object that the act has, does not exist.You should say that the act doesn’t have an object at all. But then “every act has an intentional object” is false, where e.g. the act is ‘thinking of Zeus’.

>>If Meinongianism is false, how can the act have an object that does not exist?<< It does not exist with esse reale but with esse intentionale. This suggestion has been made. I am not endorsing it.

>This suggestion has been made. I am not endorsing it.

But it seems to me that you endorse it in your rejection of P1 above. But the logic of your argument is not clear to me.

More later.

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