A Radical Relationist Solution to the Problem of Intentional Inexistence

Synthese 199 (3-4):7509-7534 (2021)
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Abstract

The problem of intentional inexistence arises because the following (alleged) intuitions are mutually conflicting: it seems that sometimes we think about things that do not exist; it seems that intentionality is a relation between a thinker and what such a thinker thinks about; it seems that relations entail the existence of what they relate. In this paper, I argue for what I call a radical relationist solution. First, I contend that the extant arguments for the view that relations entail the existence of their relata are wanting. In this regard, I defend a kind of pluralism about relations according to which more than one kind of relation involves non-existents. Second, I contend that there are reasons to maintain that all thoughts are relations between thinkers and the things they are about. More accurately, I contend that the radical relationist solution is to be preferred to both the intentional content solution (as developed by Crane) and the adverbial property solution (as developed by Kriegel). Finally, I argue that once the distinction between thinking “X” and thinking about X has been drawn, the radical relationist solution can handle issues like ontological commitment, substitutivity failure, scrutability, and non-specificity.

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References found in this work

Studies in the Way of Words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Uber Sinn und Bedeutung.Gottlob Frege - 1892 - Zeitschrift für Philosophie Und Philosophische Kritik 100 (1):25-50.
Nonexistent Objects.Terence Parsons - 1980 - Yale University Press.

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