intentionality and possible facts

Download Intentionality and Possible Facts

Post on 21-Jan-2017




1 download

Embed Size (px)


  • Intentionality and Possible FactsAuthor(s): Richard E. AquilaSource: Nos, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Nov., 1971), pp. 411-417Published by: WileyStable URL: .Accessed: 15/06/2014 20:53

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

    .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


    Wiley is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Nos.

    This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:53:57 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • Intentionality and Possible Facts


    Intentional objects need not be actual. Or so it would seem if the honest man whom Diogenes was seeking or the fact that Caesar was Greek are genuine cases of intentional objects. Thus if an in- tentional proposition asserts a relation between some person, or one of his mental states, and intentional objects, then it at least sometimes asserts a relation to things or facts which are not actual. This account of intentional propositions has been, with regard to facts at least, defended by Gustav Bergmann and others. Consider a mental act which is a thought that a is F. There must be some relation, on Bergmann's view, between that act and the fact which it intends. If there were not, then there would be no way of "keeping minds and their intentions from falling apart," and we are on the road to idealism (Bergmann 1, p. 270).1 Since the thought that a is F could not intend the fact that a is F unless there were really some relation between the two, it follows that, apart from an inten- tional relation, there could be neither knowledge nor belief about the external world. But there could be no relation at all between a thought and the fact which that thought intends, so long as there is no such fact for that thought to be related to in the first place (Bergmann 1, pp. 307-8). Hence every belief is related to a fact which exists: true beliefs to actual facts and false beliefs to merely possible ones (Bergmann 1, p. 308; 2, pp. 214-5). But what is a merely possible fact, and what distinguishes it from an actual one? I shall argue that Bergmann fails to make plausible any theory of facts which both allows for some distinction between actual and

    1 Strictly speaking, Bergmann speaks of an intentional "nexus" and not an intentional relation. But nothing which I shall be saying hangs on this dis- Unction.


    This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:53:57 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • 412 NOOS

    possible facts and also allows for an account of intentionality in terms of some relation to facts.

    A fact for Bergmann is a certain sort of complex entity. The fact that a is F is a complex of which two of the constituents are a and F standing in a certain connection, that is, in the "nexus of exemplification" (Bergmann 2, pp. 26-7). Call this complex a- being-F. On Bergmann's theory, there can be no such fact as a- being-F, whether actual or merely possible, so long as there is no such connection tying a with F. Hence the actual and the merely possible facts that a is F cannot be distinguished by the presence or absence of a connection between a and F. It follows that there are two alternatives for distinguishing them:

    (1) The possible fact that a is F is one in which a is con- nected with F by exemplification in the mode of possibil- ity (exemplification,); the actual fact is one in which they are connected by exemplification in the mode of actuality (exemplification,,).

    (2) The two different modes of the fact that a is F are a feature of these facts as a whole and not simply a func- tion of two distinct modes of the tie which connects their constituents.

    Let us consider alternative (1). We must, then, distinguish the two modes of a-being-F: a-beinga-F and a-being,-F. When a is not in fact F, only the latter of these two complexes exists. But when I believe that a is (actually) F, it is the existence of the former which I intend. Thus if there is any fact at all which is the object of my intention, it is the fact of a's being F, and not the fact of a's being, F. For if it were the latter, then I would not be judging that a is F at all, but only that it is possibly F. It follows that when a is not F my thought that a is F cannot consist in an intentional relation to the fact which is the object of my judgment, and hence alternative (1) does not appear to allow for an account of intending as a relation to facts. The following objection might be raised, however, to this treatment of alternative (1). I have argued that the admission of merely possible facts requires complexes to be tied by a kind of tie which is merely possible exemplification. I then objected that since mistaken judgment often involves, if it involves the intending of any facts at all, the intending of actual facts (i.e., complexes tied by actual exemplification), the admission

    This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:53:57 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    of possible facts would be irrelevant to it. For they are complexes whose constituents are ordered in a way which is other than the order which we are intending. But it might be objected that this is simply not implied by the admission that the two modes of facts are a function of two distinct modes of the connection which ties things into facts. It does not follow from this admission that exempli- fication, is a different ordering among the constituents of a complex from exemplificationa. All that follows is that their ontological status is different. Thus exemplificatiana and exemplification, are not two different ontological ties at all, but the very same tie in two differ- ent modes of existence. So far as I can see, this objection is intelli- gible only upon the assumption that the ordering or connection among the constituents of a fact is itself an entity in addition to those constituents. For unless the connection between a and F is itself a real entity, it makes no sense at all to distinguish two differ- ent modes of that connection from two distinct modes of the existence of that connection. In Bergmann's world, this condition is fulfilled: the fact that a is F contains three constituents, one of them being the nexus of exemplification itself (Bergmann 2, p. 42).

    Let us consider, then, the collection of entities (a, F, n), in which the third entity is assigned the task of connecting the first two. Either the very nature of the entity n will be such that to speak of it is also to speak of the entities a and F., or it will not be such. In the latter case, no problem will have been solved at all by appealing to n. For since n will be as indifferent to a and F as these are to one another, it will be no easier to generate a single entity out of the three of them than it was in the first place to generate a- being-F from the mere collection of a and F. Hence yet another entity n' will be needed, and we have the start of an infinite regress. This, of course, Bergmann sees. He therefore draws a categorical distinction between entities such as a and F and entities such as n. The latter have by their very nature a radical dependence upon other entities, whereas the former are, in the sense in question, independent of one another and of any other entities. The categori- cal difference is what makes it possible to hold of a nexus such as n that it does not require any further tie to tie it to the entities which it ties (Bergmann 2, pp. 43-4). The regress may thus be stopped at n. It could mean, however, only one thing to appeal in this way to a radical and categorical dependence on the part of n: it is in the very nature of n that it be conceived as connected with the entities a and F, and hence that it needs no further entity to connect it

    This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:53:57 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • 414 NOUS

    with a and F. But in that case, I simply fail to see what difference there could be between referring to the entity n and referring to the complex a-being-F itself. For the sort of dependence we are at- tributing to the former seems to be precisely that which we must attribute to the latter of these entities: a-being-F is by its very nature dependent upon the entities which it combines into a whole. It will not, of course, do to point out that n must clearly be some- thing different from a-being-F, on the ground that n is by supposi- tion a constituent of a-being-F. For this is just the point at issue. The question is simply whether to refer to a nexus and to refer to a complex is in fact to refer to two different entities, one a con- stituent of the other, or whether it is not rather to refer in two different ways to one and the same entity-a fact-once merely em- phasizing the "fact" that it is a fact and not a mere collection, and


View more >