UC Santa Barbara
Tracking down the Conditions for Singular Thought
- Author(s): Lee, Jeonggyu
- Advisor(s): Salmon, Nathan U
- et al.
The primary aim of this dissertation is to investigate the conditions for having a singular thought, a thought directly about an object. For example, if I think about Trump that he is the present U.S. president, I have a singular thought about Trump, while if I simply think that the 45th U.S. president is the present U.S. president, I only have a descriptive thought regarding Trump. In the dissertation, I defend the trackability condition for singular thought: in order for a subject S to have a singular thought about an object O, S can track down O in principle. Then I address the intimately related questions of whether there is the contingent a priori and whether names are predicates.
In Introduction, I first clarify what the central topic of this dissertation is by disambiguating the concept of singular thought. I shall make clear that our issue is about the conditions for having object-relative singular thought. Then I introduce two arguments for a substantial constraint on singular thought.
In Chapter 1, I consider the acquaintance condition for singular thought. I first introduce Russell’s strict notion of acquaintance as a condition for singular thought. Then I present Kripke’s objections against the Russellian theory of ordinary names and explain what the moderate notion of acquaintance is. Lastly, I argue that there are some intuitive cases for having singular thought that even the moderate notion of acquittance cannot cover.
In Chapter 2, I criticize the so-called “knowing-wh” constraint on singular thought, according to which we must know what an object is in order to think about it. I provide the following as a plausible analysis of knowing-wh: “S knows who (or what) N is” is true in C if and only if for some property P, “S knows that N has P” is true in C (where P is important for interlocutors’ interest and purpose). Then I argue that knowing-wh, understood this way, is neither necessary nor even sufficient for singular thought.
In Chapter 3, I suggest trackability as the condition for singular thought: in order for a subject S to have a singular thought about an object O, S must grasp a certain track of O. In principle, S will encounter the very object O at the starting point of the track if she keeps following the track she grasps. I argue that this tracking idea provides a unified explanation for various cases about singular thought. Then I provide responses to liberalists’ objections against a substantial constraint on singular thought.
In Chapter 4, I argue against the possibility of knowing the contingent singular proposition a priori. I first start from clarifying the argument for the contingent a priori and point out one implicit assumption the argument for the contingent a priori hinges on, which is the real issue behind the contingent a priori: the assumption that stipulative linguistic knowledge can play a justificatory role in having extra-linguistic knowledge in question. I argue that this assumption is implausible and, hence, so is the argument for the contingent a priori.
In Chapter 5, I consider another related issue: predicativism about names, the view that names which occur in argument positions have the same type of semantic contents as predicates. To defend the referentialist view that the semantic content of a name is simply its reference, I present three objections to predicativism – the modal, the epistemic, and the translation objections – and show that they succeed even against the more sophisticated versions of predicativism defended by Fara and Bach.