Cruel Intensions: An Essay on Intentional Identity and Intentional Attitudes

Dissertation, The Australian National University (2016)
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Some intentional attitudes (beliefs, fears, desires, etc.) have a common focus in spite of there being no object at that focus. For example, two beliefs may be about the same witch even when there are no witches, different astronomers had beliefs directed at Vulcan, even though there is no such planet. This relation of having a common focus, whether or not there is an actual concrete object at that focus, is called intentional identity. In the first part of this thesis I develop a new theory of intentional identity, the triangulation theory, and argue that it has significant advantages over the extant theories of intentional identity in the literature. Empty attitudes (attitudes that are not, prima facie, about anything that exists) will serve as useful cases for testing theories of intentional identity. In the second part, I put the theory developed in the first part to work. I use triangulation theoretic tools to shed light on other debates about intentional attitudes. Some issues to which intentional identity are relevant are the debate about the content of intentional attitudes, the issue of whether or not we need to appeal to external constraints on the content of intentional attitudes, how we should understand the agreement and disagreement of attitudes, how we should construe communication and how we ought to solve Kripkeā€™s puzzle about belief. The second part of this thesis also motivates a broadly internalist and individualistic approach to the con-tent of intentional attitudes; it turns out that if we take a closer look at the narrowly construed psychological states of agents we find materials that allow us to make sense of phenomena usually associated with externalist constraints on the content of attitudes (such as causal constraints and eligibility constraints) in a new way.

Author's Profile

Alexander Sandgren
Australian National University


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