This Critical Notice is about aboutness in logic and language. In a first part, I discuss the origin of the issue and the philosophical background to Yablo's book Aboutness (PUP 2014), which is itself the subject of the second and main part of my paper.
Professor sellars has written a paper in which he holds that the statement (1) "karl's mind believes it is raining" is logically equivalent to a statement of the form (2) "karl's body is in state 'p'." in thomas' analysis of these two statements he argues that the plausibility of this position depends upon whether the facts expressed by (1) and (2) possess the same sort of "intentionality" and "aboutness." he offers various formulations of these statements which he argues show (...) that what is expressed in (1) is "intentional" and has "aboutness", But is not just a fact about karl's body. Thus, (1) and (2) do not possess the same sort of "intentionality" or "aboutness." (staff). (shrink)
Our topic is the theory of topics. My goal is to clarify and evaluate three competing traditions: what I call the way-based approach, the atom-based approach, and the subject-predicate approach. I develop criteria for adequacy using robust linguistic intuitions that feature prominently in the literature. Then I evaluate the extent to which various existing theories satisfy these constraints. I conclude that recent theories due to Parry, Perry, Lewis, and Yablo do not meet the constraints in total. I then introduce the (...) issue-based theory—a novel and natural entry in the atom-based tradition that meets our constraints. In a coda, I categorize a recent theory from Fine as atom-based, and contrast it to the issue-based theory, concluding that they are evenly matched, relative to our main criteria of adequacy. I offer tentative reasons to nevertheless favour the issue-based theory. (shrink)
Metasemantics is the metaphysics of semantic endowment: it asks how expressions become endowed with their semantic significance. Assuming that semantics is of the usual truth-conditional sort, metasemantics asks after the determinants of expressions’ distinctive contributions to truth-conditions. There are two widely divergent general approaches to the metasemantic project. Some theories – “productivist” ones such as causal theories or intention-based theories – emphasize conditions of production or employment of the items semantically endowed. Other metasemantic theories – “interpretationist” ones – emphasize conditions (...) of interpretive consumption or reception of such items. The book aims to articulate a set of considerations that favour metasemantic productivism over metasemantic interpretationism, to reconcile a general productivist metasemantic approach with contemporary truth-conditional semantics, and to apply the approach to more specialized case studies in the philosophy of language broadly construed. Finally, a major concern in contemporary philosophy of language after Quine is semantic indeterminacy, the worry that there is no fact of the matter as to the semantic significance of our words. The book articulates a distinctly metasemantic strategy to counter the worry. It is shown how the present approach delivers a more successful response to semantic indeterminacy than extant alternatives, a response that emphasizes the priority of reference over truth, which is both intuitively compelling and theoretically motivated. (shrink)
A reply to Fine’s critique of Aboutness. Fine contrasts two notions of truthmaker, and more generally two notions of “state.” One is algebraic; states are sui generis entities grasped primarily through the conditions they satisfy. The other uses set theory; states are sets of worlds, or, perhaps, collections of such sets. I try to defend the second notion and question some seeming advantages of the first.
The Information Artifact Ontology (IAO) was created to serve as a domain‐neutral resource for the representation of types of information content entities (ICEs) such as documents, data‐bases, and digital im‐ages. We identify a series of problems with the current version of the IAO and suggest solutions designed to advance our understanding of the relations between ICEs and associated cognitive representations in the minds of human subjects. This requires embedding IAO in a larger framework of ontologies, including most importantly the Mental (...) Func‐tioning Ontology (MFO). It also requires a careful treatment of the aboutness relations between ICEs and associated cognitive representa‐tions and their targets in reality, which implies in turn a new treatment of the relation of truthmaking. (shrink)
In 'Aboutness' (MIT Press 2014), Yablo argues for the importance of the notions of partial content and partial truth. This paper argues that they are involved in a much greater range of entities than acknowledged by Yablo. The paper also argues that some of those entities involve a notion of partial satisfaction as well as partial existence (validity).
This book argues that words and thoughts are typically about whatever they are about necessarily rather than contingently. The argument proceeds by articulating a requisite modal background and then bringing this background to bear on cognitive matters, notably the intentionality of cognitive episodes and states. The modal picture that emerges from the first two chapters is a strongly particularist one whereby possibilities reduce to possibilities for particular things (or pluralities thereof) where the latter are determined by the natures of the (...) particular things (or pluralities) involved. The next three chapters are devoted to the aboutness of referring terms in language and thought. The approach espoused is, again, strongly particularist in allotting explanatory priority to cognitive episodes and states regarding particular things (aka de re attitudes). (shrink)
This paper concerns Yablo’s theory of asserted content as it is developed in his new book Aboutness. Yablo’s central idea is that in order to specify the asserted content of a sentence, we have to subtract those parts of its full semantic content that concern irrelevant subject matters. The paper argues that it is doubtful whether Yablo’s account successfully deals with its most basic envisaged application: to account for a difference of apparent truth value in cases of ordinary presupposition (...) failure. In addition, some doubts are raised concerning the success of the extension of Yablo’s account to fictional talk, the informativeness of identity statements, and ontological commitments of number talk. (shrink)
A lightning fast summary of Yablo, Aboutness, cutting many corners in the interests of brevity. The emphasis is on “ways.” Substituting “ways for S to be true” in for “worlds in which S is true” improves a number of philosophical explanations. The subject matter of S is identified with S’s ways of holding in a world, or failing, as the case may be. S contains T iff T is implied by S, and T’s ways of being true are implied (...) by ways for S to be true ; this kind of way-implication is the same as subject matter inclusion. S’s surplus content over T is explained as that portion of the content of S that is not about whether T. Subject matter is cast throughout as a full partner in meaning. (shrink)
Competent speakers of natural languages can borrow reference from one another. You can arrange for your utterances of ‘Kirksville’ to refer to the same thing as my utterances of ‘Kirksville’. We can then talk about the same thing when we discuss Kirksville. In cases like this, you borrow “ aboutness ” from me by borrowing reference. Now suppose I wish to initiate a line of reasoning applicable to any prime number. I might signal my intention by saying, “Let p (...) be any prime.” In this context, I will be using the term ‘p’ to reason about the primes. Although ‘p’ helps me secure the aboutness of my discourse, it may seem wrong to say that ‘p’ refers to anything. Be that as it may, this paper explores what mathematical discourse would be like if mathematicians were able to borrow freely from one another not just the reference of terms that clearly refer, but, more generally, the sort of aboutness present in a line of reasoning leading up to a universal generalization. The paper also gives reasons for believing that aboutness of this sort really is freely transferable. A key implication will be that the concept “set of natural numbers” suffers from no mathematically significant indeterminacy that can be coherently discussed. (shrink)
constructive empiricism asserts that it is not for science to reach a verdict on whether a theory is true or false, if the theory is about unobservable entities; science's only interest here, says Van Fraassen, is to discover whether the theory is ‘empirically adequate’. However, if a theory is soley about observables, empirical adequacy and truth are said to ‘coincide’, here discovering the theory's truth value is an appropriate scientific goal. Constructive empiricism thus rests an epistemological thesis on a semantical (...) distinction. This paper critically examines the notion of aboutness and its epistemological significance. * I am grateful to members of my philosophy of science seminar during Spring, 1983 for useful discussion and to the two anonymous referees of this journal for providing helpful suggestions. I also thank the University of Wisconsin, Madison Graduate School for support in the form of a Romnes Faculty Fellowship. (shrink)
A central problem for any truthmaker theory is the problem of negative truths. In this paper, I develop a novel, piecemeal strategy for solving this problem. The strategy puts central focus on a truth-relevant notion of aboutness within a metaphysically modest version of truthmaker theory and uses key conceptual tools gained by taking a deeper look at the best attempts to solve the problem of intentionality. I begin this task by critically discussing past proposed solutions to P-NEG in light (...) of Russell’s debate with Demos. This reveals a central difficulty with addressing the problem, specifically that one cannot be committed to incompatibility facts in one’s account of negation and of the truth of negative truths. I then present an aboutness-based version of truthmaker theory. Utilising what I call the strict and full account of aboutness, I extract aboutness-based theories of truth and falsity. I use this machinery to present a promising new strategy for solving P-NEG which does not have the problems of alternative approaches. Finally, I present and respond to some potential objections. (shrink)
Central to the paper below, is an emphasis on the spontaneously responsive nature of our living bodies, and on the special intertwined, dialogic, or chiasmic nature of events that can occur only in our meetings with others and otherness around us. As participants in such meetings, immediately responsive ‘withness-understandings’ become available to us that are quite different to the ‘aboutness-understandings’ we arrive at as disengaged, intellectual spectators. I argue that Goethe’s “delicate empiricism”, far from being an arcane form of (...) understanding, is a deliberately extended version of this kind of withness-understanding – an anticipatory form of practical understanding that gives us a direct sense of how, in Wittgenstein’s terms, to ‘go on’ with the others and othernesses around us in our daily lives. (shrink)
Over the last twenty years, many attempts have been made to discard the intentionality possessed by prima facie contentful mental states (intentional acts; atttudes, in Russell’s terms), where this is understood as the special, mental-orsemantic, quality of being ‘directed’ upon something. This has also involved dispensing with special ‘aboutness’-properties like being about O, which stand to intentionality as species to genus. These naturalistic strategies have been oriented in two ontologically different ways, conservative or revolutionary. The first has been pursued (...) either reductionalistically or non-reductionalistically. The reductionist is a radical naturalist, who believes that intentionality exists, but it is a quality in nature investigated by the empirical sciences. The non-reductionist, vice versa, is a moderate naturalist, for whom intentionality merely supervenes on a non- mental-or-semantic quality. The revolutionary option, on the other hand, is eliminativistic. The position is one of extremist naturalism, for which intentionality exists no more than phlogiston or sunsets. In what follows, I first criticize the reductionists’ position. By relying on the two main features of intentionality, namely that of being ‘directed upon’ an object which may not exist and that of being an internal relation between the relevant attitude and such an object, I try to show why reduction of any kind - conceptual, metaphysical or nomological - cannot work. Secondly, the second features then allows me to show why moderate naturalism is also doomed to fail. Finally, I argue against eliminativism by showing that, qua genuine property, intentionality is indispensable for the individuation of attitudes. It thus turns out that attitudes endowed with intentionality as well as with the related ‘aboutness’-property are individuated in terms of non-natural properties. This is to say, beliefs as well as all other prima facie contentful mental states are effectively contentful insofar as they possess a particular ‘aboutness’-property.. (shrink)
Is it possible for the name of a particular person not to refer to that person? Ori Simchen defends a negative answer to this question, and presents a new account of aboutness, or intentionality. He argues that intentional items--such as words, thoughts, photos--are about whatever they are about as a matter of necessity, rather than contingency.
La autora presenta una critica a la concepcion clasica de los sentidos asumida por la mayoria de autores naturalistas que pretenden explicar el contenido mental. Esta crítica se basa en datos neurobiologicos sobre los sentidos que apuntan a que estos no parecen describir caracteristicas objetivas del mundo, sino que actuan de forma ŉarcisita', es decir, representan informacion en funcion de los intereses concretos del organismo.El articulo se encuentra también en: Bechtel, et al., Philosophy and the Neuroscience.
Trust may have many different informal definitions. In this work, formal definitions are proposed in Modal Logic in order to have clear rules for reasoning about trust. We start from trust in some properties of an information source, like sincerity, competence or vigilance, about a given proposition. Then, this definition is extended to trust about all the propositions which are about a given topic. A further extension is about all the propositions which inform about a given individual. Specific logics are (...) presented for reasoning about the fact that a given proposition is about a given topic and for reasoning about the fact that a proposition informs about a given individual. At the end, we give a brief extension to qualitative graded trust. (shrink)
The author suggests that educational philosophy should benefit from addressing questions traditionally asked within discourse in the philosophy of mind, namely: the relation between the mind and world and the problems of intentionality , meaning, and representation. Peirce's semiotics and his category of creative abduction provide a novel conceptual framework for exploring these questions. A model of reasoning and learning, based on Peirce's triadic logic of relations, is analysed. This model, it is argued, is fruitful for overcoming the paradox of (...) new knowledge that was first debated by Socrates in his dialogue with Meno. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to reinforce anti-physicalism by extending the hard problem to a specific kind of intentional states. For reaching this target, I investigate the mental content of the new intentional states of Jackson’s Mary. I proceed in the following way: I start analyzing the knowledge argument, which highlights the hard problem tied to phenomenal consciousness. In a second step, I investigate a powerful physicalist reply to this argument: the phenomenal concept strategy. In a third step, I (...) propose a constitutional account of phenomenal concepts that captures the Mary scenario adequately, but implies anti-physicalist referents. In a last step, I point at the ramifications constitutional phenomenal concepts have on the constitution of Mary’s new intentional states. Therefore, by focusing the attention on phenomenal concepts, the so-called hard problem of consciousness will be carried over to the alleged easy problem of intentional states as well. (shrink)
Pretheoretically, ‘all believers are immortal’ is about all believers, but B is not about any unbeliever. Similarly, ‘all mortals are unbelievers’ is not about any immortal, but M is about all mortals. But B and M are logically equivalent universal generalizations, so arguably they are about exactly the same objects; by, they are about those mortals who are unbelievers, contradicting. If one responds by giving up, is there still a sense in which B treats unbelievers differently from believers? I argue (...) that there is. B is uninformative about unbelievers but informative about believers, in the following sense: for any object o, the information that B provides only about o—namely, ‘o is a believer only if o is immortal’—is entailed by ‘o is an unbeliever’ but not by ‘o is a believer’. (shrink)
The following Principle of Substitutivity holds for the former, but not for the latter sentence: (PS) The truth value of (the proposition expressed by) a sentence that contains an occurrence of t1 remains constant when t2 is substituted for t1, provided that t1 and t2 are codesignative singular terms. It is an undeniable fact that different sentences behave differently when it comes to which substitutions preserve their truth value. What is curious is that this fact has been presented by the (...) philosophical tradition as a puzzle. To be more precise, what is supposed to be puzzling is the breakdown of PS in some sentences. Meanwhile, it is assumed that everything is as it should be, that nothing needs to be explained when we observe that the substitution of 'the number of planets' for 'nine' in 'nine is greater than seven' guarantees the preservation of truth value, in spite of the fact that the subject matter of the former sentence and the subject matter of 'the number of planets is greater than seven' are radically different. The former sentence expresses a claim about numbers and their relationships, whereas the latter sentence makes an assertion about our solar system. (shrink)
I attempt to show that when someone is, E.G., Angry about something, The events or states that conjointly are causing him to be angry conform to a certain structure, And that from the causal structure underlying his anger it is possible to 'read out' what he is angry about. In this respect, And even in some of the details of the structure, My analysis of being angry about something resembles the belief-Want analysis of intentional action. The chief elements of the (...) causal structure I describe are a belief and an attitude so related in content as to constitute either a wish-Frustration (in the case of negative emotions) or a wish-Satisfaction (in the case of positive emotions). The analysis makes otiose, In those cases for which it is a correct analysis, The mysterious non-Causal relation between an emotion and its 'object' which is invoked by the majority of philosophers now writing on emotions. (shrink)
Propositions are often aligned with truth-conditions. The view is mistaken, since propositions discriminate where truth conditions do not. Propositions are hyperintensional: they are sensitive to necessarily equivalent differences. I investigate an alternative view on which propositions are truthmaker conditions, understood as sets of possible truthmakers. This requires making metaphysical sense of merely possible states of affairs. The theory that emerges illuminates the semantic phenomena of samesaying, subject matter, and aboutness.