Towards a pluralist theory of singular thought

Synthese 195 (9):3947-3974 (2018)
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This paper investigates the question of how to correctly capture the scope of singular thinking. The first part of the paper identifies a scope problem for the dominant view of singular thought maintaining that, in order for a thinker to have a singular thought about an object o, the thinker has to bear a special epistemic relation to o. The scope problem has it is that this view cannot make sense of the singularity of our thoughts about objects to which we do not or cannot bear any special epistemic relation. The paper focuses on a specific instance of the scope problem by addressing the case of thoughts about the natural numbers. Various possible solutions to the scope problem within the dominant framework are assessed and rejected. The second part of the paper develops a new theory of singular thought which hinges on the contention that the constraints that need to be met in order to think singularly vary depending on the kind of object we are thinking about. This idea is developed in detail by discussing the difference between the somewhat standard case of thoughts about spatio-temporal medium-sized inanimate objects and the case of thoughts about the natural numbers. It is contended that this new Pluralist theory of singular thought can successfully solve the scope problem.

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Michele Palmira
Complutense University of Madrid


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