Tero Tulenheimo: Intentional objects – some logical points of view

We aim to formulate a theory according to which an intentional attitude may have a definite object which however need not be real in any sense. We take as our starting point the view according to which intentional attitudes involve relations between existent and possibly non-existent objects. This position is not only counterintuitive in attributing reality to non-existent things, but it is also of limited applicability, as often intentional attitudes have general propositions for their content. We proceed to discuss Hintikka’s theory which analyzes attitudes via the notion of context (scenario, possible world) compatible with the attitude. On this view, the propositional content of an attitude may concern any objects or object types without thereby being committed to the actual existence of such objects; their existence only needs to be compatible with the attitude. The question remains what logical resources are needed in order to express that an agent’s attitude is definite but need not actually exist. In particular the de dicto reading of ‘Jacob belives that a witch is looking for Isac’ does not preclude distinct witches in distinct scenarios. We show that by notationally distinguishing syntactic subordination and semantic dependence, the desired sorts of de objecto attitudes become expressible.

Keywords: de objecto, independence-friendly logic, intentional object, non-existent object, possible worlds semantics, propositional attitude