The intentionality thread at Vallicella’s has died down a bit. Except for his note here, where he wonders whether to think is always to think of something. Are we thinking of anything when we think, e.g., that that Tom is tired? Yes, he says. If we are thinking that Tom is tired, then we are thinking about Tom, for we cannot think this without thinking of him. And “If I am thinking that nothing is in the drawer, or nobody is at home, then I am thinking about the drawer and the home, respectively.”
Is that right? If I think that nothing is a unicorn, am I thinking about unicorns? More later: I particularly want to follow up the idea I broached here that we can parse ‘Tom has a thought about a unicorn’ in two ways, as follows.
Tom / has / a thought about a unicorn
Tom /has a thought about/ a unicorn
Both are of subject – verb – accusative form, and the subject is 'Tom' in both, but the verbs and accusatives are different. The first verb is ‘has’, and the accusative is ‘a thought about a unicorn’. This seems no exception to our rule that ‘has’ is always non-intentional. Thus the sentence is inconsistent with there being no thoughts about unicorns. The second verb is ‘has a thought about’ and the accusative is ‘a unicorn’. ‘Has a thought about’ is clearly intentional, for the sentence is consistent with there being no unicorns. This suggests we can analyse some (perhaps all) mental states that appear to involve a direct relation between a person and a ‘weird object’ into a relation between a person and a propositional state whose description involves a ‘weird term’. This could make the problem of intentionality tractable. Perhaps. More later.
Blog traffic has soared after the post by William Connolley here. Welcome scientists! What does intentionality have to do with science? Well, quite a lot. Intentionalists like Vallicella believe that when we think, there must be something we think about: an ‘intentional object’. These objects have a weird ontological status that seems difficult to reconcile with materialist theories of mind. (A materialist theory of mind reduces all thoughts, feelings, emotions and all ‘mental states’ in general to physical brain states).