What Makes Thoughts about Specific Things?

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Hugo Heagren


Some thoughts have ‘objects’—things those thoughts are about. Answers to questions about the relation between thoughts and their objects often appeal to a distinction between singular and general thoughts. Singular thoughts are supposed to have somehow more particular or specific objects, general thoughts less so. I argue that no such distinction exists, and that though one could be constructed this would not be philosophically useful. §1 surveys views on the nature of the singular/general distinction. §2 lists three problems with this distinction. Consideration of these problems leads to a finer-grained distinction between singular and general concepts in §3, and I motivate this with examples and methods of argument from literature in §4. In the last section I consider a possible objection. I argue that though there is a sense in which it is technically correct, it does not achieve anything philosophically useful.

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