Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Thinking about Obama and thinking about Pegasus seem to be the same kind of thing: both are cases of thinking about something. But they also seem to be different kinds of thing, in that one is relational and the other not. This paper aims to show a way out of the impasse by distinguishing varieties of relationality, concluding that what matters is the two-term relational nature of all intentional states, regardless of whether or not the representations they involve have referents.

In some intentional states, the mind is related to the world. When I think about Obama, I stand in a relation to him: the state I am in could not exist unless he exists. In other intentional states, this straightforward relationality is absent, for two familiar reasons: (a) my intentional state is directed at something that does not exist and (b) my intentional state is nonspecific. When I think about Pegasus, reason (a) says that I cannot be in a relational state: I am in a state that obtains even though Pegasus does not exist.


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