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Title: Mental files
Author: Goodsell, Thea
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 4193
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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It is often supposed that we can make progress understanding singular thought about objects by claiming that thinkers use ‘mental files’. However, the proposal is rarely subject to sustained critical evaluation. This thesis aims to clarify and critique the claim that thinkers use mental files. In my introductory first chapter, I motivate my subsequent discussion by introducing the claim that thinkers deploy modes of presentation in their thought about objects, and lay out some of my assumptions and terminology. In the second chapter, I introduce mental files, responding to the somewhat fragmented files literature by setting out a core account of files, and outlining different ways of implementing the claim that thinkers use mental files. I highlight pressing questions about the synchronic and diachronic individuation conditions for files. In chapters three and four, I explore whether ‘de jure coreference’ can be used to give synchronic individuation conditions on mental files. I explore existing characterisations of de jure coreference before presenting my own, but conclude that de jure coreference does not give a useful account of the synchronic individuation conditions on files. In chapter five, I consider the proposal that thinkers must sometimes trade on the coreference of their mental representations, and argue that we can give synchronic individuation conditions on files in terms of trading on coreference. In chapter six, I bring together the account of files developed so far, compare it to the most developed theory of mental files published to date, and defend my account from the objection that it is circular. In chapter seven, I explore routes for giving diachronic individuation conditions on mental files. In my concluding chapter, I distinguish the core account of files from the idea that the file metaphor should be taken seriously. I suggest that my investigation of the consequences of the core account has shown that the file metaphor is unhelpful, and I outline reasons to exercise caution when using ‘files’ terminology.
Supervisor: Hawthorne, John Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy ; philosohy of mind ; philosophy of language ; singular thought ; mental files ; de jure coreference