Phil 745: Notes on Hob/Nob

Pronouns whose antecedent-dependence relations cross an attitude verb

Stella/The waitress wasn’t honest, but Joe believes that she was.
Joe believes that Stella/the waitress was honest, but she wasn’t.

Reports of many subjects’ relations to a single content/complement

Joe and Moe believe that Stella was honest.
Joe believes that Stella was honest. Moe doubts/doesn’t believe it.
Moe hopes, but Joe already believes, that Stella was honest.

Harder cases

Like previous, but now only partial overlap of content. Also, antecedent-dependence relations cross two attitude verbs.

Joe hopes (to some extent) that Stella will be there, but also hopes (to some extent) that she won’t [be there]/will stay home.
Joe hopes that Stella will be there, but expects that she won’t [be there].
Joe hopes that Stella will be there, but Moe thinks/hopes that she won’t [be there].

Geach: Harder Cases where External Object is Missing

Yesterday, upon the stair I met a man who wasn’t there! He wasn’t there again today Oh how I wish he’d go away! … Last night I saw upon the stair, A little man who wasn’t there, … (by William Hughes Mearns, 1899, inspired by reports of a ghost in Antigonish, Novia Scotia)

I saw a man on the stair yesterday, and I saw him (the same man) on the stair again today. [Even though no man was on the stair either day.]

Can “I [met] saw α” be true if there is no α? Geach thinks so but won’t argue for it here.

Hob thinks a witch has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob wonders whether she (the same witch) killed Cob’s sow.
Grandma thinks there’s a snake in the barn, and she wants to shoot it.
Bill thought he saw a fish, and wishes he had caught it.

Side-issue about “wonder”/“want”

(JP-9, Geach’s unnumbered elaboration of Geach-19)
I wonder whether/want that the witch who’s F is G.
(JP-10, Geach-22, compare Edelberg06-14 above)
I assume that exactly one witch is F, and wonder whether/want that it is G.

Denied that JP-9 is equivalent to:

(JP-11, Geach-21)
I wonder whether/want that exactly one witch is F and it is G.

— both by direct intuition, and because (some think — see Edelberg06 §3) it implies (what clearly isn’t entailed by JP-9):

I wonder whether/want that exactly one witch is F.

Similar dialectics in deontic logic

It’s obligatory that the Samaritan help Smith who has been robbed.

should not entail:

It’s obligatory that Smith has been robbed.


If the bank is being robbed, it ought to be the case that the guard knows the bank is being robbed.

should not entail:

If the bank is being robbed, it ought to be the case that the bank is being robbed.

Back to Geach

(I’ll call G, Geach-3rev, Edelberg86-1)
Hob thinks a witch has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob thinks she (the same witch) killed Cob’s sow.

Let’s agree with most commentators that G has a use/reading that can be true even if there are no witches.

Edelberg thinks some uses/readings of G may commit speaker to existence of a witch, or at least a specific real object that Hob takes to be a witch. But others don’t. He uses de re/“de dicto” (later just “Geach reading”) to mark this contrast in “inference patterns.”

The Geach reading doesn’t require the subjects to think of the witch in entirely the same way. (Even if it’s a repeated single subject: there can be Geach-like Frege cases.)

Example 1 (one heard about witch from the other)
Hob says, “A witch blighted Bob’s mare.” Nob believes him, and says “I bet the same witch killed Cob’s sow.”
Example 2 (both heard about the witch from same source)
Gotham Village newspaper falsely reports there’s a witch “Maggoty Meg” on a rampage. Hob and Nob both read the article, Nob isn’t aware of Hob or Bob’s mare. (Or he may think the witch didn’t blight Bob’s mare.)
Example 3 (each posited similar witch to explain the same data)
By design (or by accident?) clues are left that tempt Hob and Nob, who come upon them separately, to believe a witch has moved to Gotham Village. Their beliefs aren’t about the actual sources of the clues.
[Non-]Example 4 (each their own witch — here G no longer sounds true)
Hob and Nob live in isolated villages, each of which happens to have a similar legend about a local witch.
[Non-]Example 5
Dob is seeking a witch to hex his neigbors — any witch will do. “Nob wants her to fix his roof.” Since Dob’s search doesn’t target any (even imagined) specific witch, this can’t exemplify the kind of “common focus” seen in Examples 1-3. The claim about Nob only makes sense when Nob’s desire is partly about Dob succeeding, and her is a “lazy pronoun” (see below). <~– Geach conflates unspecific intensional transitives with Hob/Nob not having “some one person in mind as a suspected witch.” –>


Reductivist Strategies

(Geach-4rev, Edelberg86-3)
As regards some witch, Hob thinks she has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob thinks she killed Cob’s sow.
As regards somebody, Hob thinks that she is a witch and has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob thinks she killed Cob’s sow.

Geach rejects such analyses of (G), because they imply there is “some definite person” Hob and Nob have in mind, but (G) doesn’t. Edelberg accepts these only as capturing de re uses of G. Denies that they capture the Geach reading of G, or that analagous forms capture his Grandma sentence (Edelberg06-14 above).

“Pronoun of laziness”: replace “she” with definite description constructed from words of/around antecedent.

(Geach-18rev, Edelberg86-4/5)
Hob thinks a witch has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob thinks the witch who [Hob thinks] blighted Bob’s mare killed Cob’s sow.

Geach rejects this analysis of (G), because it implies that Nob has thoughts about [Hob’s thoughts about] Bob’s mare, but (G) doesn’t. (G can be true in Examples 2/3.)

Lazy pronouns are needed to handle cases like:

Hob thinks a witch has blighted Bob’s mare, but why didn’t she leave signs of having been here?

where the speaker doesn’t commit/expresses doubt about any witch’s existence. See also [Non-]Example 5, above.

Hob thinks a witch blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob thinks a witch who … (as in Geach18rev) killed Cob’s sow.
Hob thinks a witch blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob thinks every witch who … killed Cob’s sow.

Against (JP-19)-type analyses: see Edelberg06 §4.

De [Exotic] Re Views

From pp. 7ff, Edelberg86 considers views that analyze G as Geach-5rev, without the initial quantifier committing speaker to any real/concrete existing object.

Edelberg86 pp.8-10 argues that variants of this that appeal to substituting (non-designating) names or descriptions for a witch/she don’t really have much advantage over views that allows a witch/she to designate exotic objects.

Candidate exotic objects:

Sandgren18 distinguishes:

Here we’re just considering the claim that Geach-5rev gives the logical form of G — compatible with either of those explanatory strategies.

Edelberg’s objections to exotic object views assume that our logic treats (unembedded) φ ∧ ψ as equivalent to ψ ∧ φ; and these examples:

A believes that someone murdered Smith, and B believes he murdered Jones.
B believes that someone murdered Jones, and A believes he murdered Smith.

In Edelberg’s Example 6, A and B both (wrongly) think both Smith and Jones were murdered, and that all the murderers are still in Chicago. A thinks there were two murderers (one for Smith, a different one for Jones). B thinks just one.

That case testifies that (19) could (on a natural reading) be true, while (20) is (on a natural reading) false. But the exotic object views would make (19) entail (20).

A lazy-pronoun analysis, on the other hand, can explain why (19) doesn’t entail (20), though it couldn’t explain truth of G in Examples 2/3. Also Edelberg’s Example 7 + sentences 26/27 (with “the mayor” replacing “Smith”, and “the commissioner” replacing “Jones”, only A knows of Smith’s job and death, only B knows of Jones’ job and death) is a more complicated version of Example 6 + sentences 19/20 where the lazy-pronoun strategy doesn’t work.

More Edelberg examples:

B believes that someone murdered Smith and Jones, and A believes he is still in Chicago.
(Edelberg86-31, compare Sandgren18 scenario b)
B believes that someone murdered Smith, and A believes he is still in Chicago.
(JP-20, Edelberg discusses in other papers)
B believes that someone murdered Smith, and A believes he didn’t murder Jones.

Edelberg argues that (30) has a false reading in his Example, and (31) and (JP-20) have true readings. (Observations like these leave open that the sentences may also have other readings.)

Edelberg86 pp. 18ff considers the view that what people “believe in” are thought-objects like *Santa* and *the person who shot Smith.* Is this another “exotic object” view? If we use it to analyze G in form Geach-5rev.

One version: these thought-objects can appear in many people’s thoughts (and not all are required to believe that *the person who shot Smith* shot Smith). Another version: a thought-object can only appear in one person’s thoughts, will instead have counterparts (≈) in other people’s thoughts.

Saying *the person who shot Smith* ≈ *the person who shot Jones* can’t explain why (Edelberg86-19) true but (20) false.

Saying they’re ≉ can’t explain falsity of (30), since each of the candidate objects seems to validate (30).

What if we say there are three thought-objects, *the person who shot Smith* and *the person who shot Jones* (both in A’s thoughts, and believed by A to be distinct), and *the person who shot Smith and Jones* (in B’s thoughts)? That can explain falsity of (30) but not truth of (31) and (JP-20).

Edelberg suspects we need all three thought objects to be in B’s thoughts, and the ones shared with A to be “parts” of B’s *the person who shot Smith and Jones.*

Another Challenge for Exotic Object Analyses

  1. How to distinguish Hob/Nob’s thoughts that the witch is scary, involving the thought-object *their witch*, from the theorist’s thought that *their witch* (like other thought-objects) is scary?

  2. Natural to say that everything we think about (even thought-objects) is via thought-objects; it’s just that in some cases these designate something real, in other cases not.

  3. Interlude about Disjoint Unions/Algebraic Datatypes. This can alleviate worries about “exoticness.”

  4. But then how to deal with anaphora in/outside of embeddings, as in (JP-1,2)? Or:

    Hob thinks a witch and these children blighted Bob’s mare, but they are surely innocent, and Nob thinks she was too busy killing Cob’s sow to be bothering Bob.

    Wouldn’t Hob be using a plural thought-object, *the witch and these children*? How are we able to make unembedded anaphoric reference to the children themselves?