Reclaiming Russellian Singular Thought

Croatian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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There is an important difference between a thought that is directed towards a particular object and a thought that is not so directed. For example, there is a difference in my thoughts about my brother, and my thoughts about brothers, more generally. The first has the earmarks of singular thought, while the latter does not. After showing that there is no agreement about the nature of singular thought, I revisit early Russell to find greater clarity. I then advance a version of Millianism that that builds on early Russell’s view of singular thought. I argue that the advocates of the direct reference view who argue that being on the receiving end of a name is sufficient for having singular thoughts about the object named have not provided good reasons for their view. Passing on a name can provide the recipient with a general understanding of the name, but not specific understanding. That is, when acquiring the name, the recipient may not learn the identity of the object named as this very object which, I argue, is required for one having singular thoughts of that object.

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Heimir Geirsson
Iowa State University


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