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Artifacts

Edited by Nurbay Irmak (University of Miami)
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Summary

One can divide the debates over the ontology of artifacts into two different questions: the existential question and the question about the nature of artifacts. The existential question is simply the question whether there are artifacts, or whether artifacts are among the constituents of reality. The following questions on the nature of artifacts are important to settle the existential question. Are artifacts mind-independent entities, and if not, does that make them less ‘real’ than natural kinds? Do artifacts have essential properties like their intended functions or the material that they are made out of? The answers to these questions are also significant for our theory of reference for artifactual kind terms. 

Key works For negative answers to the existential question on the grounds of parsimony, causal adequacy, and other metaphysical principles/virtues see Van Inwagen 1990Merricks 2001, and Sider 2001. Wiggins 2001, Baker 2007, Thomasson 2007, Elder 2004 and more recently Korman 2010 provide a very different kind of defenses for the existence of artifacts. For a discussion on the theory of reference for artifactual kind terms see Kornblith 1980, Schwartz 1977 and Thomasson 2003.
Introductions Hilpinen 2008 provides a very nice introduction to the philosophical problems surrounding artifacts, including ontological questions mentioned above. See also Korman 2011, though the scope of his article is wider than artifacts. Margolis & Laurence 2007 is a good collection for different theories of artifacts. 
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  1. Lynne Rudder Baker, Shrinking Difference—Response to Replies.
    Amie Thomasson and I are in agreement about artifacts, in particular about the existential dependence of artifacts on human intentions. Thomasson says, “Since the very idea of an artifact is of something mind-dependent in certain ways, accepting mindindependence as an across-the-board criterion for existence gives us no reason to deny the existence of artifacts; it merely begs the question against them.” I agree entirely.
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  2. Lynne Rudder Baker (2009). The Metaphysics of Malfunction. Techne 13 (2):82-92.
    Any artefact – a hammer, a telescope, an artificial hip – may malfunction. Conceptually speaking, artefacts have an inherent normative aspect. I argue that the normativity of artefacts should be understood as part of reality, and not just “in our concepts.” I first set out Deflationary Views of artefacts, according to which there are no artefactual properties, just artefactual concepts. According to my contrasting view – the Constitution View – there are artefactual properties that things in the world really have. (...)
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  3. Lynne Rudder Baker (2008). The Shrinking Difference Between Artifacts and Natural Objects. American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers.
    Artifacts are objects intentionally made to serve a given purpose; natural objects come into being without human intervention. I shall argue that this difference does not signal any ontological deficiency in artifacts qua artifacts. After sketching my view of artifacts as ordinary objects, I’ll argue that ways of demarcating genuine substances do not draw a line with artifacts on one side and natural objects on the other. Finally, I’ll suggest that philosophers have downgraded artifacts because they think of metaphysics as (...)
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  4. Lynne Rudder Baker (2007). The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism. Cambridge University Press.
    Lynne Rudder Baker presents and defends a unique account of the material world: the Constitution View. In contrast to leading metaphysical views that take everyday things to be either non-existent or reducible to micro-objects, the Constitution View construes familiar things as irreducible parts of reality. Although they are ultimately constituted by microphysical particles, everyday objects are neither identical to, nor reducible to, the aggregates of microphysical particles that constitute them. The result is genuine ontological diversity: people, bacteria, donkeys, mountains and (...)
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  5. Lynne Rudder Baker (2006). On the Twofold Nature of Artefacts. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):132-136.
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  6. Lynne Rudder Baker (2006). On the Twofold Nature of Artefacts: As Response to Wybo Houkes and Anthonie Meijers, “The Ontology of Artefacts: The Hard Problem”. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 37:132-136.
    “Form follows function,” the slogan of modernist architecture, could well be a slogan of artefacts generally. Since the choice of material for a tool is guided by the function of the tool, we may be tempted to think that having a functional nature distinguishes artefacts from natural objects. But that would be a mistake. Certain natural objects—especially biological entities like mammalian hearts—have functional natures too.
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  7. Lynne Rudder Baker (2004). The Ontology of Artifacts. Philosophical Explorations 7 (2):99 – 111.
    Beginning with Aristotle, philosophers have taken artifacts to be ontologically deficient. This paper proposes a theory of artifacts, according to which artifacts are ontologically on a par with other material objects. I formulate a nonreductive theory that regards artifacts as constituted by - but not identical to - aggregates of particles. After setting out the theory, I rebut a number of arguments that disparage the ontological status of artifacts.
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  8. Tibor Bárány (2013). “This is Not Art” — Should We Go Revisionist About Works of Art? Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics 5:86-99.
    To propose a revisionist ontology of art one has to hold that our everyday intuitions about the identity and persistence conditions of various kinds of artworks can be massively mistaken. In my presentation I defend this view: our everyday intuitions about the nature of art can be (and sometimes are) mistaken. First I reconstruct an influential argument of Amie L. Thomasson (2004; 2005; 2006; 2007a; 2007b) against the fallibility of our intuitive judgments about the identity and persistence conditions of various (...)
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  9. Christoph Baumberger & Georg Brun (2012). Identities of Artefacts. Theoria 78 (1):47-74.
    In non-philosophical discourse, “identity” is often used when the specific character of artefacts is described or evaluated. We argue that this usage of “identity” can be explicated as referring to the symbol properties of artefacts as they are conceptualized in the symbol theory of Goodman and Elgin. This explication is backed by an analysis of various uses of “identity”. The explicandum clearly differs from the concepts of numerical identity, qualitative identity and essence, but it has a range of similarities with (...)
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  10. Paul Bloom (2000). Young Children Are Sensitive to How an Object Was Created When Deciding What to Name It. Cognition 76 (2):91-103.
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  11. Paul Bloom (1996). Intention, History, and Artifact Concepts. Cognition 60 (1):1-29.
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  12. Stefano Borgo, Riichiro Mizoguchi & Barry Smith (2011). On the Ontology of Functions. Applied Ontology 6 (2):99-104.
    This special issue of Applied Ontology is devoted to the foundation, the comparison and the application of functional theories in all areas, with particular attention to the biological and engineering domains. It includes theoretical and technical contributions related to the description, characterization, and application of functions.
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  13. Michael B. Burke (1994). Preserving the Principle of One Object to a Place: A Novel Account of the Relations Among Objects, Sorts, Sortals, and Persistence Conditions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (3):591-624.
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  14. Massimiliano Carrara & Daria Mingardo (2013). Artifact Categorization. Trends and Problems. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3):351-373.
    The general question (G) How do we categorize artifacts? can be subject to three different readings: an ontological, an epistemic and a semantic one. According to the ontological reading, asking (G) is equivalent to asking in virtue of what properties, if any, a certain artifact is an instance of some artifact kind: (O) What is it for an artifact a to belong to kind K? According to the epistemic reading, when we ask (G) we are investigating what properties of the (...)
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  15. Massimiliano Carrara & Marzia Soavi (2008). Ontology for Information Systems: Artefacts as a Case Study. [REVIEW] Mind and Society 7 (2):143-156.
    The goal of the paper is to analyse some specific features of a very central concept for top-level ontologies for information systems: i.e. the concept of artefact. Specifically, we analyse the relation to be a copy of that is strongly linked to the notion of artefact and—as we will demonstrate—could be useful to distinguish artefacts from objects of other kinds. Firstly, we outline some intuitive and commonsensical reasons for the need of a clarification of the notion of artefact in ontologies (...)
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  16. Wesley D. Cray (2014). Conceptual Art, Ideas, and Ontology. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (3):235-245.
    Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens have recently articulated the Idea Idea, the thesis that “in conceptual art, there is no physical medium: the medium is the idea.” But what is an idea, and in the case of works such as Duchamp's Fountain, how does the idea relate to the urinal? In answering these questions, it becomes apparent that the Idea Idea should be rejected. After showing this, I offer a new ontology of conceptual art, according to which such artworks are (...)
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  17. Rafael De Clercq (2013). The Metaphysics of Art Restoration. British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (3):261-275.
    Art restorations often give rise to controversy, and the reason does not always seem to be a lack of skill or dedication on the side of the restorer. Rather, in some of the most famous cases, the reason seems to be a lack of agreement on basic principles. In particular, there seems to be a lack of agreement on how the following two questions are to be answered. First, what is art restoration supposed to achieve, in other words, what is (...)
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  18. Rafael De Clercq (2005). The Aesthetic Peculiarity of Multifunctional Artefacts. British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (4):412-425.
    Echoing a distinction made by David Wiggins in his discussion of the relation of identity, this paper investigates whether aesthetic adjectives such as ‘beautiful’ are sortal-relative or merely sortal-dependent. The hypothesis guiding the paper is that aesthetic adjectives, though probably sortal-dependent in general, are sortal-relative only when used to characterize multifunctional artefacts. This means that multifunctional artefacts should be unique in allowing the following situation to occur: for some object x there are sortals K and K' such that x is (...)
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  19. Arda Denkel (1995). Artifacts and Constituents. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 55 (2):311-322.
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  20. Julian Dodd (2013). Adventures in the Metaontology of Art: Local Descriptivism, Artefacts and Dreamcatchers. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 165 (3):1047-1068.
    Descriptivism in the ontology of art is the thesis that the correct ontological proposal for a kind of artwork cannot show the nascent ontological conception of such things embedded in our critical and appreciative practices to be substantially mistaken. Descriptivists believe that the kinds of revisionary art ontological proposals propounded by Nelson Goodman, Gregory Currie, Mark Sagoff, and me are methodologically misconceived. In this paper I examine the case that has been made for a local form of descriptivism in the (...)
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  21. Crawford Elder (2007). On the Place of Artifacts in Ontology. In Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.), Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation. Oxford University Press. 33--51.
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  22. Crawford L. Elder (2013). On the Reality and Causal Efficacy of Familiar Objects. Philosophia 41 (3):737-749.
    What caused the event we report by saying “the window shattered”? Was it the baseball, which crashed into the window? Causal exclusionists say: many, many microparticles collectively caused that event—microparticles located where common sense supposes the baseball was. Unitary large objects such as baseballs cause nothing; indeed, by Alexander’s dictum, there are no such objects. This paper argues that the false claim about causal efficacy is instead the one that attributes it to the many microparticles. Causation obtains just where there (...)
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  23. Brian Epstein (2015). The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences. Oxford.
    We live in a world of crowds and corporations, artworks and artifacts, legislatures and languages, money and markets. These are all social objects — they are made, at least in part, by people and by communities. But what exactly are these things? How are they made, and what is the role of people in making them? In The Ant Trap, Brian Epstein rewrites our understanding of the nature of the social world and the foundations of the social sciences. Epstein explains (...)
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  24. Brian Epstein (2015). How Many Kinds of Glue Hold the Social World Together? In Mattia Gallotti & John Michael (eds.), Social Ontology and Social Cognition.
    In recent years, theorists have debated how we introduce new social objects and kinds into the world. Searle, for instance, proposes that they are introduced by collective acceptance of a constitutive rule; Millikan and Elder that they are the products of reproduction processes; Thomasson that they result from creator intentions and subsequent intentional reproduction; and so on. In this chapter, I argue against the idea that there is a single generic method or set of requirements for doing so. Instead, there (...)
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  25. Brian Epstein (2013). Social Objects Without Intentions. In Anita Konzelmann Ziv & Hans Bernhard Schmid (eds.), Institutions, Emotions, and Group Agents: Contributions to Social Ontology. 53-68.
    It is often seen as a truism that social objects and facts are the product of human intentions. I argue that the role of intentions in social ontology is commonly overestimated. I introduce a distinction that is implicit in much discussion of social ontology, but is often overlooked: between a social entity’s “grounds” and its “anchors.” For both, I argue that intentions, either individual or collective, are less essential than many theorists have assumed. Instead, I propose a more worldly – (...)
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  26. Brian Epstein (2012). Sortals and Criteria of Identity. Analysis 72 (3):474-478.
    In a recent article, Harold Noonan argues that application conditions and criteria of identity are not distinct from one another. This seems to threaten the standard approach to distinguishing sortals from adjectival terms. I propose that his observation, while correct, does not have this consequence. I present a simple scheme for distinguishing sortals from adjectival terms. I also propose an amended version of the standard canonical form of criteria of identity.
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  27. Brian Epstein (2012). Review of Creations of the Mind, Ed. Margolis and Laurence. [REVIEW] Mind 121 (481):200-204.
    This fascinating collection on artifacts brings together seven papers by philosophers with nine by psychologists, biologists, and an archaeologist. The psychological papers include two excellent discussions of empirical work on the mental representation of artifact concepts – an assessment by Malt and Sloman of a large variety of studies on the conflicting ways we classify artifacts and extend our applications of artifact categories to new cases, and a review by Mahon and Caramazza of data from semantically impaired patients and from (...)
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  28. Simon J. Evnine (2013). Ready-Mades: Ontology and Aesthetics. British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (4):407-423.
    I explore the interrelations between the ontological and aesthetic issues raised by ready-mades such as Duchamp’s Fountain. I outline a hylomorphic metaphysics which has two central features. First, hylomorphically complex objects have matter to which they are not identical. Secondly, when such objects are artefacts (including artworks), it is essential to them that they are the products of creative work on their matter. Against this background, I suggest that ready-mades are of aesthetic interest because they pose a dilemma. Is there (...)
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  29. Simon J. Evnine (2009). Constitution and Qua Objects in the Ontology of Music. British Journal of Aesthetics 49 (3):203-217.
    Musical Platonists identify musical works with abstract sound structures but this implies that they are not created but only discovered. Jerrold Levinson adapts Platonism to allow for creation by identifying musical works with indicated sound structures. In this paper I explore the similarities between Levinson's view and Kit Fine's theory of qua objects. Fine offers the theory of qua objects as an account of constitution, as it obtains, for example, between a statue and the clay the statue is made out (...)
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  30. Maarten Franssen, Peter Kroes, Pieter Vermaas & Thomas A. C. Reydon (eds.) (2013). Artefact Kinds: Ontology and the Human-Made World. Synthese Library.
    One way to address such questions about artifact kinds is to look for clues in the available literature on parallel questions that have been posed with respect to kinds in the natural domain. Philosophers have long been concerned with the ...
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  31. Pawel Garbacz (2009). What is an Artefact Design? Techne 13 (2):137-149.
    The paper contains a first order formal theory pertaining to artefact designs, designs which are construed as the results of designing activities. The theory is based on a minimal ontology of states of affairs and it is inspired by the ideas of the Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden. After differentiating the philosophical notion of design from the engineering notion of design specifications, I then go on to argue that the philosophical category of artefact designs may be compared with Ingarden’s category of (...)
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  32. Richard Heersmink (2013). A Taxonomy of Cognitive Artifacts: Function, Information, and Categories. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3):1-17.
    The goal of this paper is to develop a systematic taxonomy of cognitive artifacts, i.e., human-made, physical objects that functionally contribute to performing a cognitive task. First, I identify the target domain by conceptualizing the category of cognitive artifacts as a functional kind: a kind of artifact that is defined purely by its function. Next, on the basis of their informational properties, I develop a set of related subcategories in which cognitive artifacts with similar properties can be grouped. In this (...)
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  33. Risto Hilpinen, Artifact. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  34. Risto Hilpinen (1993). Authors and Artifacts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 93:155 - 178.
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  35. Risto Hilpinen (1992). On Artifacts and Works of Art. Theoria 58 (1):58-82.
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  36. Eli Hirsch (1999). Identity in the Talmud. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 23 (1):166–180.
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  37. Wybo Houkes (2006). Knowledge of Artefact Functions. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):102-113.
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  38. Wybo Houkes & Anthonie Meijers (2006). The Ontology of Artefacts: The Hard Problem. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):118-131.
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  39. Nurbay Irmak (2012). Software is an Abstract Artifact. Grazer Philosophische Studien 86 (1):55-72.
    Software is a ubiquitous artifact, yet not much has been done to understand its ontological nature. There are a few accounts offered so far about the nature of software. I argue that none of those accounts give a plausible picture of the nature of software. I draw attention to the striking similarities between software and musical works. These similarities motivate to look more closely on the discussions regarding the nature of the musical works. With the lessons drawn from the ontology (...)
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  40. Ludger Jansen (2013). Artefact Kinds Need Not Be Kinds of Artefacts. In Christer Svennerlind, Jan Almäng & Rögnvaldu Ingthorsson (eds.), Johanssonian Investigations. Essays in Honour of Ingvar Johansson on His Seventieth Birthday. Ontos. 317-337.
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  41. Ludger Jansen (2013). Warum sich Artefakte ihrer Marginalisierung widersetzen. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 61 (2):267-282.
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  42. Eric T. Kerr (2013). Engineering Differences Between Natural, Social, and Artificial Kinds. In Maarten Franssen, Peter Kroes, Pieter Vermaas & Thomas A. C. Reydon (eds.), Artefact Kinds: Ontology and the Human-made World. Synthese Library.
    My starting point is that discussions in philosophy about the ontology of technical artifacts ought to be informed by classificatory practices in engineering. Hence, the heuristic value of the natural-artificial distinction in engineering counts against arguments which favour abandoning the distinction in metaphysics. In this chapter, I present the philosophical equipment needed to analyse classificatory practices and then present a case study of engineering practice using these theoretical tools. More in particular, I make use of the Collectivist Account of Technical (...)
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  43. Hilary Kornblith (1980). Referring to Artifacts. Philosophical Review 89 (1):109-114.
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  44. Clive Lawson (2008). An Ontology of Technology. Techne 12 (1):48-64.
    Ontology tends to be held in deep suspicion by many currently engaged in the study of technology. The aim of this paper is to suggest an ontology of technology that will be both acceptable to ontology’s critics and useful for those engaged with technology. By drawing upon recent developments in social ontology and extending these into the technological realm it is possible to sustain a conception of technology that is not only irreducibly social but able to give due weight to (...)
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  45. Michael Losonsky (1990). The Nature of Artifacts. Philosophy 65 (251):81 - 88.
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  46. E. J. Lowe (1983). On the Identity of Artifacts. Journal of Philosophy 80 (4):220-232.
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  47. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.) (2007). Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation. Oxford University Press.
    This volume will be a fascinating resource for philosophers, cognitive scientists, and psychologists, and the starting point for future research in the study of ...
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  48. Patrick Maynard (2012). Arts, Agents, Artifacts: Photography's Automatisms. Critical Inquiry 38 (4):727-745.
    Recent advances in paleoarchaeology show why nothing in the Tate Modern, where a conference on "Agency & Automatism" took place, challenges the roots of 'the idea of the fine arts' (Kristeller) as high levels of craft, aesthetics, mimesis and mental expression, as exemplifying cultures: it is by them that we define our species. This paper identifies and deals with resistances, early and late, to photographic fine art as based on concerns about automatism reducing human agency--that is, mental expression--then offers the (...)
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  49. Friederike Moltmann, Attitudinal Objects and the Distinction Between Actions and Products.
    This paper explores a notion of a truth-bearing entity that is distinct both from a proposition and from an intentional event, state, or action, namely the notion of an attitudinal object. Attitudinal objects are entities like ‘John’s belief that S’, John’s claim that S’, ‘John’s desire that S’, or ‘John’s request that S’. The notion of an attitudinal object has an important precedent in the work of the Polish philosopher Twardowski (1912), who drew a more general distinction between ‘actions’ and (...)
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  50. Friederike Moltmann (2014). Propositions, Attitudinal Objects, and the Distinction Between Actions and Products. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume on Propositions, Edited by G. Rattan and D. Hunter 43 (5-6):679-701.
    This paper argues that attutudinal objects, entities of the sort of John's judgment, John's thought, and John's claim should play the role of propositions, as the cognitive products of cognitive acts, not the acts themselves.
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