To think is to have something in one’s thought

Quaestio 12:395-422 (2012)
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Along with a well-honoured tradition, we will accept that intentionality is at least a property a thought holds necessarily, i.e., in all possible worlds that contain it; more specifically, a necessary relation, namely the relation of existential dependence of the thought on its intentional object. Yet we will first of all try to show that intentionality is more than that. For we will claim that intentionality is an essential property of the thought, namely a property whose predication to the thought is true in virtue of the identity, or nature, of such a thought. More particularly, for us intentionality will again be a relation, yet a relation of ontological dependence of the thought on its intentional object; specifically, the relation for the thought of being constituted by its object. Moreover, we will try to show that if intentionality is such a constitutive relation for the thought that has it, certain metaphysical consequences ensue. First, an objectual thought, a thought whose content basically consists in its intentional object, is nothing but that object in a certain cogitative modality, or, which is the same, as playing a certain motivational role for the subject entertaining the thought itself (at a certain time). Second, if an objectual thought is nothing but an intentional object in a cogitative modality, such a thought, not only as a type, but also as a token, is an abstract entity. More specifically, an objectual thought-type, an abstract object par excellence, is indeed instantiated by objectual thought-tokens which are again abstract particulars, yet of a specific kind: namely, tropes of a relational sort depending for their existence on their bearers (and possibly also on their temporal location).

Author Profiles

Elisabetta Sacchi
University Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Alberto Voltolini
Università degli Studi di Torino


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