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February 12, 2005


Brad Weslake

My "relatively pre-theoretical judgments" are:

(A1) True
(A2) False

Likewise for B1 and B2, and C1 and C2.


Without having read your comments on Soames (just got hold of a copy of the Soames text itself), I'd also say that (A1), (B1), (C1) are true and (A2), (B2), (C2) false, though (A2) is less clearly false than (B2) and (C2).


You have asked for pre-theoretical judgements, so you will get some (N.B. not a native English speaker):
All are true. Here is why: The stipulation at the beginning is really special: it says, that "Lee" is the name for the youngest Chinese spy whoever it is. This being so, Huey believes/knows 6 tautologies. De dicto/de re doesn't really matter here, because (A2), (B2), (C2) are to be taken as: "Concerning the individual who is the youngest Chinese spy: Huey etc...."


Gregg Rosenberg

A1 is true; A2 is false. To my ear, the pronouns in A2 read as de re and the name in A1 reads as the name of a description.


It also seems to me that A1 is true and A2 false.

Dennis Whitcomb

It's hard to give pre-theoretical intuitions about cases that are described in theoretical terminology like "de re" and "a priori". Merely thinking in those terms seems to put on one's theoretical cap, as it were.

To the extent that I can make *relatively* theoretically uninfected judgements,
A1 and B1 seem true, and A2 and B2 seem false. C1 and C2 don't seem either true or false.

Mike DePaul

Replacing "believes" with "knows" produces sentences that sound odd to me:

(B2) Concerning Lee (the individual who is the youngest Chinese spy): Huey knows of him or her that he or she is the youngest Chinese spy, if anyone is.

(I suppose (A2) sounds a bit odd as well, but maybe I am more used to de re belief formulations.) So I was wondering whether (B2) is equivalent to the following, which does not strike me as an odd formulation:

(B2') Huey knows Lee to be the youngest Chinese spy.

Sorry this doesn't respond to the original question. I do not have views about the -2's that are settled enough to count even as intuitions.

Luka Yovetich

A1, B1, and C1 seem true to me. A2, B2, and C2 seem false.

John Turri

A1 and B1 are true. A2, B2, C1, and C2 are false.


A1 and B1 are true. Since 'Lee' just means 'the youngest Chinese spy, if there is one,' A1 just turns into "Huey believes that (The youngest Chinese spy...) is the youngest Chinese spy if anyone is." This is true, and the same applies to B1. Since I believe one cannot have de re beliefs about objects without having any (direct or indirect) causal rapport with the object, I find A2, B2 and C2 to be false.

C1 is slightly more complicated. I was tempted to agree with John that it is false, but changed my mind upon further reflection. Huey does in fact believe a priori that Lee is the youngest Chinese spy - no a posteriori knowledge is necessary - and he is correct, for (the youngest Chinese spy) is the youngest Chinese spy.


How are some people interpreting C1 as false? I would have thought it just as clearly true as A1 and B1?

I'm inclined towards calling all the X2s false, though I find it less clear exactly what those statements are claiming.


Seems like A1 is true and A2 is false. Suppose that Louie is in fact Lee (though no one knows this, not even Louie). It certainly seems that Huey can point to Louie and say, "I don't believe of him that he is the youngest Chinese spy. I believe that Lee is in (say) Prague".

marc moffett

First, this response surely counts as post-theoretical. Second, in the interest of avoiding contamination, I haven't read any other responses.

It seems to me clear that (A1) is true. 'Nuff said.

(A2) is the stickler. I think that (A2) is false. First, if it is de re, then we ought to be able to put the parenthetical descriptive content to one side. Thus:

(A2'): Concerning Lee Huey believes of him or her that he or she is the youngest Chinese spy, if anyone is.

Now suppose that Lee is Wang. Then it seems to me that (A2') ought to be necessarily equivalent to (A2''):

(A2''): Concerning Wang Huey believes of him or her that he or she is the youngest Chinese spy, if anyone is.

[I know, people have denied this sort of substitutivity for de re attitude ascriptions, but I think they are wrong.] Finally, suppose that Huey knows Wang and does not believe that he is a spy, and so ipso facto, does not believe that he is the youngest Chinese spy. In such circumstances, it seems to me that Huey does not have an inconsistent belief set. So I don't think that, construed as a de re attitude ascription, (A1)--or the associated stipulation--entails (A2).

It further seems to me that the situation is similar to our inability to have de re thoughts about merely possibile (if such there be). In those cases, we are not able to either causally or descriptively single out a given individual. In the present case, the hedge "if anyone is" suggests that a similar point holds for such purely descriptive reference fixing strategies. In fact, if you compare the above case with a case in which H, D, & L are justified in believing that there is a unique youngest Chinese spy, then I think that (A2) minus the "if anyone is" clause is true.

It follows that (B2) and (C2) are false.

I also happen to think that (B1)is ture. However, I have my doubts that (C1) is true. As Evans showed us, we have a way of losing our hold on names.

Lee W

A1 - C1 seem to me to be straightforwardly true, by definition.

A2 - C2: I also think are true, but am less sure. If asked "can you tell me anything about the indivudal Lee?" I would reply "He is the youngest spy"

Does this depend on Lee not being an empty term? Can we have de re knowledge about entities that do not exist?

Heath White

I guess I'm a contrarian voice. Both (A1) and (A2) seem true to me. I don't know how honestly pre-theoretical those intuitions are, though. I don't think (B2) and (C2) can be true because it doesn't seem like one can know something of an individual that one does not know to exist.

My (post-theoretical) position on de re ascriptions is Brandom's, and on that position I am pretty sure (A2) comes out true. I'll elaborate if anyone cares.


A1, B1, and C1 are true and A2,B2, and C2 are false. It's fairly simple I think. It's stipulated at the outset that the name "Lee" refers to the youngest chinese spy, if there happens to be one. De dicto belief, knowledge, and a priori knowledge here only concern the naming of the youngest chinese spy as "Lee" if there is a youngest chinese spy, they do not concern the concrete individual who is in fact the youngest chinese spy, who Huey, Dewey,and Louie have not interacted with in any way.

Also I should add that it doesn't really matter whether or not they have interacted with the individual who happens to be the youngest chinese spy. What matters in the case of de re belief and de re knowledge is that they know they have interacted with the individual who happens to be the youngest chinese spy. Mike made this point before basically when he said that Louie could be the youngest chinese spy and that it's conceivable that none of them, not even Louie, could know it. Even though "Lee" refers to the individual, Louie, in virtue of him satisfying the description associated with "Lee" none of them know that Louie satisfies this description or if anyone does at all.


I'd say A1-C1 are all true, and A2-C2 are all true if Lee exists, and lack a truth value if Lee does not. I'm not quite sure about the C's, since I'm not sure what I think about aprioricity. Also, I'm unhappy with the way the question is set up. I'd be inclined to deny that HDL "have no direct or indirect interaction" with Lee, given that they use a word "China" that is causally downstream of the situation in China, including Lee.


Naive pre-theoretical intuitions:

A1 and B1 are true; C1 I think is false because Huey, Dewey and Louie collaborate in the stipulating, which seems sort of like promising. If they promised to do something they'd know they were prima facie obliged to do it but I think they wouldn't know that a priori.

I have a shaky intuition that A2 is true. Suppose they speculate about what the youngest Chinese spy is like, tell jokes about what the youngest Chinese spy does in his spare time, etc. Eventually they meet Lee and say "You wouldn't believe the things we've been saying about you." I think they have genuine de re beliefs about Lee prior to meeting him, and even before they start telling stories, once they've stipulated that "Lee" refers to the youngest Chinese spy.

B2 and C2 seem false because intuitively to count as de re knowledge there would have to be some rapport with Lee himself to explain the acquisition of any beliefs they have about him.


Thanks to all. To tabulate results:

A1: 17 true, 0 false
A2: 5 true, 12 false
B1: 13 true, 0 false (4 silent)
B2: 3 true, 11 false (3 silent)
C1: 9 true, 2 false (2 maybe, 4 silent)
C2: 3 true, 10 false (1 maybe, 3 silent)

So each of A1, B1, and C1 is judged true by most respondents, and each of A2, B2, and C2 is judged false by most respondents. That's more or less what I expected (and corresponds to my own intuitions), but I wanted to check.

For those who didn't read the original entry on Soames chapter 4, the reason for checking was that Soames appears to assume without argument a sort of "exportation principle" for descriptive names, according to which the truth of ascriptions such as A1, B1, or C1 would entail the truth of ascriptions such as A2, B2, and C2. The results here suggest that such an exportation principle runs strongly counter to the most common pattern of judgments about these cases.

Clayton Littlejohn


I don't know whether polling is closed, but as the comments thread is still open, I'll pitch in my $.02.

If you still have your ears on, let me ask you this. Forget about the descriptively introduced names for a second and just think about descriptions. Suppose you believe that Chinese spies are always better paid than American spies. My neighbor it turns out is a Chinese spy and seeing him in the hall I remark:

(1) Dave believes you to be better paid than an American spy.

This seems true, has the form of the usual de re ascriptions, but its truth doesn't seem to require you to have what anyone would regard as a de re thought (there's denotation but no vivacity or of-ness). Are you willing to accept (1) or:

(2) Dave believes my neighbor to be better paid than an American spy.

I'm prepared to accept both and when I have examples like this before the mind, I'm inclined to accept (A2) but with reservations because like Mike DePaul, the locutions used in (A2) (as well as (B2) and (C2)) strike me as completely unnatural and so odd even in the cases that are supposed to be paradigm instances of belief de re. Examples such as (1) and (2) strike me as ones that force us to rethink the connection between ascriptions of the form typically associated with de re beliefs and the existence of such attitudes. Those are my relatively pre-theoretical theoretical judgments.


A pretheoretical answer.
It seems to me that A1 is true, but A2 false. For Huey knows nothing about Lee himself (de re). If presented with him he would be likely to react as if he didn't believe that he's the youngest chinese spy.

Bryan Frances

gut intuitions occurring before any real thinking:

a1, a2, b1, c1 all true. b2 and c2 false.

a1 & b1 & c1: true because we should understand 'lee' descriptively when it comes to these co-stipulators. the belief is "true by definition".

a2: true because de re belief is cheap and easy. we're not saying that he has drawn a bead on lee; the belief just happens to be directly on lee, even though the stipulators don't really know that fact.

b2 & c2: false because 'knows', even de re, should not be cheap and easy. it requires something more.

again: these are just gut intuitions, before I get "sophisticated" (or before i read any of your other posts or even the comments occurring before this one). i don't even agree with all of my intuitions--and they're MY intuitions!


All true. This is not by any means 'pre-theoretic', however. I don't think that 'Lee' is a descriptive name. And, to paraphrase Stalnaker, why would knowing that Lee's friends call him 'Wang' change anything? (A1) is de re if 'Lee' is a genuine name (as I think it is), so it is equivalent to (A2). Same same for the other options.


All true. Hard to have uncontaminated "pretheoretic" intuitions about these sentences though - they sound like things only a philosopher would ever want to utter.

Scott Hagaman

T, T, T, T, T, T =)

I got there by keeping explicitly in mind the reference of "Lee" given in your story. After all, it's stipulated that "Lee" refers to "the youngest Chinese spy, if there is one". Thus, instead of reading the sentences with *your* parenthetical "the individual who is the youngest Chinese spy", I substituted for the parenthetical "the individual who is stipulated to be the youngest Chinese spy, if there is one". I wonder if that's affecting intuitions here?

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