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Title: Intentional identity
Author: Lanier, William
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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If Hob and Nob both read the same newspaper article claiming that a witch has come into town, then the following sentence can be true, even if the article is fabricated and there are no witches:
  1. (1) Hob thinks that a witch has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob wonders whether she killed Cob’s sow.
This phenomenon is called ‘intentional identity’, and there is no consensus on the semantics of (1) or similar sentences. Intentional identity is related to important, unsettled topics in the philosophy of language (e.g., anaphora, dynamic semantics) and in metaphysics (e.g., fictional and Meinongian objects). Thus, a correct semantic account of intentional identity is desirable. In this thesis, I argue that ‘she’ in (1) is behaving semantically like a traditional definite description, and that the truth of sentences like (1) often requires a certain causal connection between the two subjects. In chapter 1, I explain the difficulty in finding a correct semantic ac- count of intentional identity sentences, and I present new evidence that the phenomenon is broader than previously thought. Chapter 2 explores the idea that (1) involves certain exotic objects—e.g., fictional, Meinongian, or merely possible witches. I show that what I call the ‘causal connection problem’ affects most versions of this idea, and that even the best version is probably incorrect. In chapter 3, I argue that ‘she’ in (1) is not being bound dynamically, and that the ‘guise theory’ approach suggested by several dy- namic semanticists is unhelpful. Chapter 4 contains my proposed solution. With a broader view of the problem, one can see that ‘she’ is functioning like a traditional incomplete definite description, and that its complete semantic value involves Hob and Nob being causally connected. This solution allows us to avoid an extravagant semantics and ontology.
Supervisor: Dorr, Cian; Rothschild, Daniel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy ; philosophy of language