Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Intentionality: more objections

More objections at Valicella's place. Let's summarise where we are. In the two posts here and here, I gave three criteria for distinguishing 'queer' from 'straight' terms. As follows.

(1) the term is categorial (read ‘noun phrase’). This rules out trivial examples like ‘not’ and ‘the’.
(2) a significant number of people think it does refer or denote. This addresses Bill’s objection about ‘net too wide’. The net is just wide enough to catch the right sort of fish.
(3) the reason these people think it refers is not based on mere empirical considerations. This rules out non-referring/denoting terms like ‘ghost’.
(4) the term, in fact, does not refer or denote.

The next part of the question, which I haven’t answered yet, is what are the sub-criteria by which we address criterion (4)? How do we engage the people picked out by criteria (2) and (3), who will naturally challenge (4)? I will address this shortly. The reason I haven’t addressed it before is so we can be absolutely clear about the form of nominalism I am defending – namely the nominalism defended by Ockham in chapters 49-51 of the Summa Logicae, and throughout the whole section of that book where he discusses Aristotle’s theory of categories. (Ockham argues that the Aristotelian ten categories of being really reduces to two, and that we only really need substance and quality. In chapters 49-51 he is discussing relation, arguing that a relation is nothing absolute and distinct from the terms related, when suitably referred to).

More tomorrow, where I will tie the question back to the thread about 'intentional inexistence'.

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