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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 17, 2008


Hilan Bensusan, Manuel de Pinedo
Pages 15-22

Holism and Singularity Towards an Ontology of the Unfitting

Holism about thought content – especially coupled with a measure of semantic externalism – can provide us with an attractive account of how thinking relates to the world. It can help us to tell a neat story that starts out with the inseparable entanglement of truth and intelligibility: in order to understand thought, to confront it to the world and to give verdicts about that confrontation, we need to grasp a considerable amount of truths. A variety of positions that emerge under the influence of Davidson’s arguments (see, for instance, his 1974) deny the possibility of severing the connection between thought and facts of the world. However, this holistic understanding of thought seems less attractive when it is forced to account for our capacities to engage with singularities. A (roughly) Davidsonian conception of thought faces serious problems when it tries to answer questions regarding singular thoughts, de re attitudes and beliefs, and the nature of items of the world that cannot be described or referred to without the aid of demonstratives. This tension between thought and singularity is a well-known one and shows up in different traditions of philosophy. We aim at easing the tension without giving up the intuitions behind holism.