Objects of Thought [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 25 (2):364-365 (1971)

Prior apparently left a substantially completed manuscript dealing with the objects of thought when he died in 1969. Geach and Kenny have edited this material, supplementing it with both published and unpublished other writings, including an appendix on names in lieu of Prior's intended final chapter. The result is an interesting, often non-standard, discussion of many issues central to philosophical logic. There are two major concerns treated--what is it that we think?, and what is it that we think about?. These are the two principle ways in which 'thinking of' can occur as a relation for Prior. An examination of the first sense results in a defense of the view that propositions, as language-independent logical constructions, are the objects of thought. In doing so, a large number of related issues are discussed to include criticisms of extentionalist [[sic]] theses, a sympathetic version of the assertive redundancy theory of truth, and an account of non-assertoric logic. Prior also devotes chapters to paradoxes such as that of the liar, and to Tarskian and alternative semantics. Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is that devoted to discussing what sentences are about, especially when their ostensible subjects are non-existent, e.g., "The King of France is bald." It is not clear just what his positive views are, but Prior has a number of criticisms directed against current intentionalistic views of names as well as against Russellian names. His chief worry seems to concern oratio obliqua constructions in which a reporter does not believe in the existence of that of which/whom a reportee speaks. Although critical of writers influenced by either the early Brentano or the later Russell, Prior appears to be sympathetic to both schools in that he seems to view non-demonstrative sentences as never being directly about their subjects. Thus, neither "Gustavus is bald" nor "The King of Sweden is bald" would be about the King of Sweden, i.e., Gustavus. However, since Gustavus is the King of Sweden, the sentences are indirectly about him. Presumably, such a move precludes a reporter's being committed to the reportee's ontology, thereby avoiding the difficulty. An interesting but undeveloped aspect of his view is the role of background stories in our use of names. While some use is made of formal logic in the Polish notation, unfamiliarity with either is not a bar to following the text as English translations and keys are provided. It is unfortunate that we cannot look forward to further elucidation of Prior's views.--K. T.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1971252231
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