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«The Determinable-Determinate Relation Can’t Save Adverbialism Abstract Adverbialist theories promise an ontologically sleek understanding of a ...»

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Grzankowski - draft

The Determinable-Determinate Relation Can’t Save Adverbialism


Adverbialist theories promise an ontologically sleek understanding of a variety of intentional

states, but such theories have been largely abandoned due to the ‘many-property problem’. In an

attempt to revitalize this otherwise attractive theory, in a series of papers as well as his recent

book, Uriah Kriegel has offered a novel reply to the ‘many-property problem’ and on its basis he

argues that ‘adverbialism about intentionality is alive and well’. If true, Kriegel will have shown that the logical landscape has long been unnecessarily constrained. His key idea is that the many-property problem can be overcome by appreciating that mental states stand in the determinable-determinate relation to one another. The present paper shows that this relation can’t save adverbialism because it would require thinkers to think more thoughts than they need be thinking.

KEY WORDS: intentionality, adverbialism, determinable-determinate relation, intentional objects

1. Introduction The ‘many-property problem’ looks to be a decisive reason for abandoning adverbialist theories of intentionality. Although adverbialism promises an ontologically sleek understanding of various intentional states, the ‘many-property problem’, first offered by Jackson (1977) but many times repeated, appears to provide a recipe for creating cases in which adverbialists conflate clearly distinct mental states. Jackson’s original presentation was aimed at adverbialist theories of perpetual experience, but once one sees how the recipe works, problem cases can be created for adverbialism about thought as well. 1 If the many-property problem could be overcome, a once popular theory that has very nearly been abandoned would deserve careful Adverbialism about thought has been advanced by Goldstein (1982), Hare (1969), Kriegel (2007, 2008 and 2011), Rapport (1979), and Sellars (1969).

Grzankowski - draft reconsideration. It is both striking and important, then, that Kriegel (2007, 2008, and 2011) has offered what looks to be a new and promising solution to Jackson’s objection, particularly as it applies to thought.2 Kriegel believes that ‘adverbialism about intentionality is alive and well’ (2008, 89) and that by adopting the theory not only can one quickly solve the problem of intentional inexistence, but one can greatly streamline one’s ontological commitments.

According to Kriegel, the answer to the many-property problem lies in appreciating that some thoughts stand in the determinable-determinate relation to one another. Although prima facie promising, the present paper shows that appealing to the determinable-determinate relation can’t save adverbialism for it creates a pernicious problem of its own. Adverbialism is still dead.

2. The Many-Property Problem Kriegel’s work, as noted, concerns an adverbial theory of thought. One of the most powerful motivations for such a theory is that it handles the problem of intentional inexistence in an extremely elegant way. The problem is this: intuitively, thinkers can think about things that don’t exist. But on the face of things, to think of something is to enter into a relation with it. But to enter into a relation with a thing, that thing must exist. So our thoughts about things that don’t exist seem to demand that we add to our ontology non-existent objects, merely intentional objects, or some other kind of proxy entities that many philosophers have found unacceptable.

Adverbialists have a simple solution: deny that thinking about a thing requires entering into a relation. Taking a cue from adverbialists about perceptual experience, adverbialists about thought hold that what look to be relations are in fact non-relational ways of thinking.

According to adverbialists, ‘Sally thinks about Pegasus’, despite appearances, makes no reference to Pegasus and posits no relation between Sally and anything else. Rather, such sentences should be treated along the lines of ‘Sally thinks Pegasus-ly’, for when so treated they

–  –  –

thinking about something is to think in a way rather than to enter into a relation with a thing thought about.

The theory is attractive, but, as Kriegel himself notes, it faces a version of Jackson’s

famous ‘many-property problem’. Consider the following distinct thoughts:

–  –  –

Act-object theories can capture this distinction in terms of distinct entities thought about.

Adverbialists, however, have a difficult time drawing a distinction between 1 and 2. According to adverbialists, the truth-conditions of ‘S is thinking about a red square and a green circle’ are the same as the truth-conditions of ‘S is thinking red-ly, square-ly, green-ly, circle-ly’. For clarity, we can represent those truth-conditions as follows, where ‘s’ names our subject, ‘T’ expresses the property of thinking and ‘R’, ‘S’, ‘G’, and ‘C’ express second-order color and shape properties

that the adverbialist takes to be true of the act of thinking:

–  –  –

The problem for the adverbialist is that the thought just represented, the thought about a red circle and a green square, fails to be distinguished from a thought about a red square and a green circle. Given the commutativity of conjunction, ‘S is thinking red-ly, circle-ly, green-ly, square-ly’ has the same truth-conditions as those just represented above. Adverbialists predict one type of thought where there should be two.

Perhaps the most obvious solution is to offer additional properties that, as it were, ‘fuse’ the properties that we want to cluster together (the colors and shapes in this case) so that the needed distinction between 1 and 2 can be drawn. For example, the adverbialist might make use of the property of thinking red-square-ly, thinking red-circle-ly and so on. But as Jackson points out, such a move runs into immediate problems. From the fact that one is thinking about a red

–  –  –

a green circle, it follows that one is thinking about a circular thing. But these inferences apparently fail on the fusion view. Because the ‘fused’ adverbs are syntactically simple, there seems to be no way to recover the property of being red from the property of being red-square.

So, the adverbialist either faces the problem of failing to differentiate thoughts that are quite clearly distinct, or the adverbialist loses the ability to capture perfectly good inferences.

2. Determinable and Determinate Thoughts Kriegel has offered a clever reply to the many-property problem. When faced with the pairs of thoughts that need differentiating, he suggests we adopt the fusion view. When then faced with the hard-to-capture inferences, we should look to a non-syntactic explanation. More specifically, Kriegel argues that some thought pairs stand in the determinable-determinate relation, and it is this relation that explains the inferences. To illustrate the idea, Kriegel asks why we should hold that an inference such as the following is a good one: Jill ate a raspberry; so Jill ate a berry. It is not the case that ‘berry’ is a syntactic constituent of ‘raspberry’, but the inference is a good one nevertheless. What underwrites the quality of the inference, argues Kriegel, is the fact that the property of being a raspberry is a determinate of the determinable property of being a berry.

Adverbialists about thoughts can and should make use of a similar move. Kriegel suggests, for example, that thinking red-square-ly is a determinate of the determinable thinking red-ly.

Because anything that instantiates a determinate property also instantiates every determinable under which the determinate falls, we can see how to capture the inferences adverbialists have had a hard time capturing: John is thinking red-square-ly; whatever is a red-square-ly thinking

–  –  –

is a red-ly thinking (by virtue of the determinable-determinate relation); so John is thinking red-ly.4

3. Why The Determinable-Determinate Relation Won’t Work The determinable-determinate relation cannot save adverbialism. Property types that stand in the determinable-determinate relation adhere to some widely agreed upon truisms. 5 We just

saw one of them in the preceding paragraph, which Kriegel himself makes crucial use of:

T1: An object instantiating a determinate also necessarily instantiates every

–  –  –

Here is another truism, but one which is far less favorable for the adverbialist:

T2: An object instantiating a determinable must also instantiate some

–  –  –

Color properties are often taken to be the touchstone case of properties that stand in the determinable-determinate relation to one another and they serve here to illustrate T2. Consider an object that instantiates the property of being blue. There are more determinate properties that fall under the determinable of being blue such as being cerulean, being turquoise, and so on. According to T2, since being blue is a determinable property, there must be some or other Notice that Kriegel’s view is not that a thought’s being determinate or being determinable is read off of whether what is thought about is determinable/determinate. I might think about a red thing (i.e. instantiate the property of thinking red-ly) and I might think about a red and round thing (i.e. instantiate the property of thinking red-round-ly). On Kriegel’s view, the latter thought property is a determination of the former, but notice that being red and round is not a determination of being red (Funkhouser 2006 and Prior 1949 both offer further discussion of determination along a dimension). And related to this point, Kriegel can also allow that even if a thought is about a determinable property, the property of being that thought might be highly determinate. On what grounds and under exactly which conditions Kriegel thinks one thought is a determination of another is less than clear, but it is clear that he needs it to be the case that the relation holds when certain inferential patterns are in place.

The classical discussions are Johnson (1921) and Prior (1949). Funkhouser (2006) offers a detailed, recent discussion from which I here draw the crucial truisms T1 and T2.

Grzankowski - draft determinate under that determinable that any blue object also instantiates.6 Any stone that is blue is also some more determinate shade of blue such as turquoise or cerulean.

T2 yields an absurd view of thoughts. Kriegel provides us with pairs of thoughts that he says stand in the determinable-determinate relation. Thinking about something red is a determinable of thinking about something red and square on his view. Presumably there are many more. Given the good inference from thinking about a bumpy red square to thinking about a red square, thinking red-square-ly must be a determinable of thinking red-square-bumpy-ly, for instance. But now suppose that Mary is thinking about a square, i.e. she is thinking squarely. There are, according to Kriegel, more determinate thoughts that fall under the determinable thinking square-ly such as thinking red-square-ly. By T2, there must be some more determinate thought of Mary’s by virtue of which she is thinking the determinable thought. But this demands too much of a thinker. Surely even Kriegel agrees that it is possible to think square-ly without thinking, say, red-square-ly or thinking round-square-ly, or …. Suppose Mary knows that someone has left simple puzzle pieces all over her desk and she comes to believe that there is a square on her desk. Mary is thinking about a square, but she needn’t think any of the thoughts Kriegel would deem more determinate. 7 But it is in the nature of the determinable-determinate relation that T2 holds. So Kriegel’s view has the very unwelcome consequence that any thought that qualifies (according to him) as a determinable thought isn’t one that thinkers can think This needn’t go on forever. The truism would fail to apply to properties that are determinate but not themselves determinables of any further determinates (‘super-determinates’ as Funkhouser 2006 calls them) should there be any.

Depending on the demands one places on having thoughts, things might be worse still. A thinker who lacks various concepts may not even be in a position to adhere to truism T2.

Imagine a thinker who has only two concepts, one is a concept of an object he calls ‘Tony’ and the other is the concept of redness. Our thinker thinks that Tony is red but isn’t in a position to form any other thoughts at all such as that Tony is a red square.

Grzankowski - draft without thinking some other more determinate thought that falls under it. 8 At a minimum, that’s one thought too many.

4. Perceptual Experiences As noted above, Kriegel doesn’t offer his suggestion as a way of saving adverbialism about perceptual experience, but one might wonder whether his suggestion could succeed on that front. For reasons analogous to those just given, such an extension would be no better off. If I look at a black, square puzzle piece on my desk, I am visually presented with blackness and squareness. As adverbialists would put it, I am visually presented to black-square-ly. But it seems to follow from being visually presented with blackness and squareness that I am thereby visually presented with blackness. Following Kriegel’s line, this will be captured by taking the property of being visually presented to black-square-ly to be more determinate than being visually presented to black-ly. But if that relation holds, the view predicts that if I am visually presented to black-ly, I must also be visually presented to in some or other more determinate way such as black-square-ly. But it seems that one can simply be visually presented with blackness as when one is in a pitch-black room. In such a case, one is not visually presented with any shape properties at all. Indeed, for any additional visual presenting that Kriegel would deem more determinate, it seems unlikely that it need be a way I’m presented to when in the dark It is worth noting that the issue here isn’t about the specificity or particularity of thoughts.

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