Do Acquaintance Theorists Have an Attitude Problem?

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):67-86 (2018)
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This paper is about the relevance of attitude-ascriptions to debates about singular thought. It examines a methodology (common to early acquaintance theorists [Kaplan 1968] and recent critics of acquaintance [Hawthorne and Manley 2012], which assumes that the behaviour of ascriptions can be used to draw conclusions about singular thought. Although many theorists (e.g. [Recanati 2012]) reject this methodology, the literature lacks a detailed examination of its implications and the challenges faced by proponents and critics. I isolate an assumption of the methodology, which I call the tracking assumption: that an attitude-ascription which states that s Φ's that P is true iff s has an attitude, of Φ-ing, which is an entertaining of the content P (with entertain used in a stipulated sense). I argue that the tracking assumption must be rejected, not because it has deflationary consequences, but because it leads to unstable commitments. I also show that there are independent reasons to reject it, because ordinary attitude ascriptions underdetermine even the truth-conditions of the mental-states they ascribe. However, I argue, this does not involve rejecting the claim that attitude-ascriptions express relations between agents and contents. Instead, they state different relations depending on contextual factors other than the nature of the mental-states ascribed.

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Rachel Goodman
University of Chicago (PhD)


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