An Empirical Solution to the Puzzle of Macbeth’s Dagger

Erkenntnis:1-38 (forthcoming)
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Abstract
In this paper I present an empirical solution to the puzzle of Macbeth's dagger. The puzzle of Macbeth's dagger is the question of whether, in having his fatal vision of a dagger, Macbeth sees a dagger. I answer this question by addressing a more general one: the question of whether perceptual verbs are intensional transitive verbs (ITVs). I present seven experiments, each of which tests a collection of perceptual verbs for one of the three features characteristic of ITVs. One of these features is Nonexistence: the failure of sentences involving transitive verbs to entail the existence of their direct objects. The experiments reveal that with respect to all three of these features, "see" behaves much more like a paradigmatically extensional verb than an intensional one. But surprisingly, unlike "see", "perceive" behaves much more like a paradigmatically intensional verb. This shows that the category of perceptual verbs is not uniform with respect to the features of intensionality; while Macbeth does not see a dagger, he may still perceive one.
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First archival date: 2019-10-24
Latest version: 3 (2020-06-04)
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2019-10-24

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