Trading on Identity and Singular Thought

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (2):296-312 (2022)
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On the traditional relationalist conception of singular thought, a thought has singular content when it is based on an ‘information relation’ to its object. Recent work rejects relationalism and suggests singular thoughts are distinguished from descriptive thoughts by their inferential role: only thoughts with singular content can be employed in ‘direct’ inferences, or inferences that ‘trade on identity’. Firstly this view is insufficiently clear, because it conflates two distinct ideas—one about a kind of inference, the other a kind of process that grounds inferences—under the title, ‘trading on identity’. Secondly, this leaves us without a notion that can be used as an alternative to relationalism about singular thought. The first notion is no more applicable to singular than to descriptive thought. The second may help us better understand singular thought, but does so, not by replacing the view that singular thoughts are information-based, but by helping us understand the nature of information-based thought.

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Rachel Goodman
University of Chicago (PhD)


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