Motivation by de se beliefs

I have become more convinced, over the years, by the truth of Wittgenstein’s characterisation of philosophy as arising through misconceptions of grammar. Such a misconception of grammar characterises a very popular approach to indexicality which has been current since the 1970s, stemming from the work of Casteñeda, and Kaplan. Gareth Evans was inclined to allow, for instance, that one could say ‘“To the left (I am hot)” is true, as uttered by x at t iff there is someone moderately near to the left of x such that, if he were to utter the sentence “I am hot” at t, what he would thereby say is true’ (Evans 1985: 358). But not only does this disturb the proper relation between direct and indirect speech, it continues a Fregean tradition which these very cases show to be quite mistaken about the logic of intensions. In this paper, however, I want primarily to point out how this misconception of grammar has distorted our view of people. For some of the above thinkers have tried to make out that human motivation is related to the possession of a certain category of indexical belief, by Lewis called ‘de se beliefs’. I shall look here at how the matter arises in Hugh Mellor’s work on Time. In connection with Time, indexicality arises in McTaggart’s ‘A-series’, and Mellor treats this indexicality in parallel with Evans’ language. First, therefore, I aim to show how Mellor’s discussion of Time grammatically misconceives the situation, and leads to a misrepresentation of the motivation of human action. But a larger conclusion about Fregean intensions is also then immediately available.
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