Towards Non-Being: The Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality

Towards Non-Being: The Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality

Graham Priest presents a ground-breaking account of the semantics of intentional language--verbs such as "believes," "fears," "seeks," or "imagines." Towards Non-Being proceeds in terms of objects that may be either existent or non-existent, at worlds that may be either possible or impossible. The book will be of central interest to anyone who is concerned with intentionality in the philosophy of mind or philosophy of language, the metaphysics of existence and identity, the philosophy of fiction, the philosophy of mathematics, or cognitive representation in AI.

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Intentionality is basically "a mental state whereby it is 'directed towards' an object of some kind." (5), though Priest himself admits that it is much more difficult than this. This work is a clever defense of noneism, the view that one can have meaningful intentional states directed towards non-existent (even impossible!) objects. Likewise, since intentional verbs are not the type of things which are closed under entailment, Priest introduces open worlds. Following this, Priest uses open worlds to solve the hooded man paradox, talk about intentional predicates, and then discuss the characterization principle (CP). Priest believes we can get around this by saying that A(x) is any condition, and thus any condition or set of conditions may hold in some other world, though not in the actual world. Now we may not have some object cA in the actual world, so it will not be the case that @ -+ A(cA), but given some agent a and intentional operator in the form '... I will permit that Priest wants a well founded and established first-order language of intentionality before he moves onto the more philosophical issues concerning noneism, but I'm not sure that this is the best approach. First, the claim that intentional verbs are open to entailment has too many counter-examples to seem as obviously true as Priest maintains. Given Priest's format, he approaches the philosophical issues using the semantics which are founded on world-talk. Even saying that if the author didn't exist, the fictional object wouldn't either. Priest claims that Doyle did not determine Holmes's status, but instead was the first to imagine him, or have a certain intentional relation to his characterization. When one imagines a fictional object, one brings into existence an intentional state towards a particular characterization. Others who imagine a slightly more specific (or characterized) world which contradicts that of some other will be creating a further non-existent entity not identical to, but related to the original non-existent object. Maybe one can set up a distinction between those non-existent objects which have intentionality by an agent towards them and those that do not. Quine wonders how such non-existent objects can be identical, if they can be, and if so, when they are. So they have an intentional attitude ' where it is non-actual rather that which represents the object as actual. To Priest, there is a possible world with a Gregor Samsa which fits Kafka's characterization perfectly, but wouldn't Kafka just say that this is just a coincidence and that he intended it to be a fiction? Wouldn't that come to mean that we intend something very different from a possible world when we conceive of a fiction? So any intentional state towards some non-actual fictional object will be of the form a'A? Meinong gave these objects a special status (subsistence) but Priest thinks that since they do not exist spatiotemporally, they are just as non-existent as fictional objects. There is a difference for the noneist between fictional and abstract objects. A fictional object could exist in some possible world, but abstract objects don't seem to be the type that could have existed actually. Priest claims that worlds are not necessarily abstract objects. But wouldn't it be better and more intuitive to say that had the actual world been some other possible way, one could causally interact with it? If we understand our causal relationship with these worlds in this way, don't we simply interact with fictional objects and not the world that houses them? Priest thinks that since this view assumes platonism and noneism are symmetrical, there is no reason to claim that platonists aren't just noneists in disguise. Such a platonist, Priest contends, claims that these objects exist at all worlds (some transcendent platonic heaven) where a noneist claims that these non-existent objects are at various possible worlds. Thus, they are non-existent objects from the perspective of all worlds.

  • English

  • Philosophy

  • Rating: 4.00
  • Pages: 190
  • Publish Date: December 7th 2007 by Clarendon Press
  • Isbn10: 0199230552
  • Isbn13: 9780199230556