Attitudes de dicto and de se

Philosophical Review 88 (4):513-543 (1979)
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I hear the patter of little feet around the house, I expect Bruce. What I expect is a cat, a particular cat. If I heard such a patter in another house, I might expect a cat but no particular cat. What I expect then seems to be a Meinongian incomplete cat. I expect winter, expect stormy weather, expect to shovel snow, expect fatigue---a season, a phenomenon, an activity, a state. I expect that someday mankind will inhabit at least five planets. This time what I expect is a state of affairs. If we let surface grammar be our guide, the objects of expectation seem quite a miscellany. The same goes for belief, since expectation is one kind of belief. The same goes for desire: I could want Bruce, want a cat but no particular cat, want winter, want stormy weather, want to shovel snow, want fatigue, or want that someday mankind will inhabit at least five planets. The same goes for other attitudes to the extent that they consist partly of beliefs or desires or lacks thereof. But the seeming diversity of objects might be an illusion. Perhaps the objects of attitudes are uniform in category, and it is our ways of speaking elliptically about these uniform objects that are diverse. That indeed is our consensus. We mostly think that the attitudes uniformly have propositions as their objects. That is why we speak habitually of "propositional attitudes."



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David K. Lewis
PhD: Harvard University; Last affiliation: Princeton University

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