A problem for the Brentano thesis
As discussed yesterday, a 'Brentano equivalence' holds when we can convert existential sentences of the form 'an A-B exists' and categorical sentences of the form 'Some A is B'. The Brentano thesis is that every such (genuinely) categorical sentence is convertible.
This effectively amounts to the claim that any sentence of the form 'something is such and such' is existential. If anything is such and such, then that thing is an existing thing. The range of our natural language quantifiers 'every' and 'some' covers the entire realm of existence. Every thing is an existing thing.
There are strong arguments for this thesis. But there are strong arguments against, as well, which brings us back to the problem of intentionality. Surely the following inferences are all valid.
- Jake is looking for a gold mine in Surrey, therefore Jake is looking for something (namely a gold mine in Surrey).
- Bill wants a cigarette, therefore Bill wants something (a cigarette).
- Andy is thinking about Pegasus, therefore Andy is thinking about something (Pegasus).
The problem is that any of these antecedents could conceivably be true, the inference seems valid, yet the 'something' in the consequent does not appear to be any existing thing. Clearly Jake can be deludedly looking for a Surrey gold mine, and so looking for a mine, and so looking for something. Yet, as far as we know, there are no gold mines in Surrey. The simple categorical sentence 'Jake is looking for something' can be true, without requiring that the something exists, contra Brentano.