A new source of data about singular thought

Philosophia, 41(4):1159-1172, 2013

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Abstract Philosophers have justified extant theories of singular thought in at least three ways: they have invoked wide-ranging theories motivated by data from other philosophical areas, they have elicited direct intuitions about which thoughts are singular, and they have subjected propositional attitude reports to tests such as Russellian substitution and Quinean exportation. In these ways, however, we haven’t yet been able to tell what it takes to have singular thoughts, nor have we been able to tell which of our thoughts they are. I propose, therefore, a methodological contribution, a new source of data about singular thought. We can tell whether a thought is singular if we ask what we can coherently deny at the same time at which we agree with the thought. When we agree with a thought that is general, we cannot coherently deny about the thought’s subject a certain description, the one that occurs in the thought’s subject position. To show how to use this new data source, I develop a linguistic method for testing whether a speaker expresses a singular or a general thought.

Keywords Singular thought, Psychosemantics, Methodology, Agreement, Disagreement