The Publicity of Thought

Philosophical Quarterly 68 (272) (2018)
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An influential tradition holds that thoughts are public: different thinkers share many of their thoughts, and the same applies to a single subject at different times. This ‘publicity principle’ has recently come under attack. Arguments by Mark Crimmins, Richard Heck and Brian Loar seem to show that publicity is inconsistent with the widely accepted principle that someone who is ignorant or mistaken about certain identity facts will have distinct thoughts about the relevant object—for instance, the astronomer who does not know that Hesperus is Phosphorus will have two distinct thoughts Hesperus is bright and Phosphorus is bright. In this paper, I argue that publicity can be defended if we adopt a relational account on which thoughts are individuated by their mutual relations. I then go on to develop a specific relational theory—the ‘linking account’—and contrast it with other relational views.
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