Much to be said about San Francisco, testimony, contextualism, value-laden epistemology, horribly sad news from home and the assorted things that happen over a week. But instead of saying any of them I’ll just make one small grammatical observation. I’m sure this is something that most of you know, and it is well-investigated by linguists, but it was news to me. It’s surprising, from some perspectives, that (1) is grammatical while (2) is not.
(1) John wants Mary to win.
(2) *John hopes Mary to win.
There’s a certain kind of philosophical program (one that no one really adopts but which many people seem to feel the pull of) that wants (hopes?) to have all studies into psychological states be redrawn as studies into the syntax and semantics of words for psychological states. Now I don’t think this is an entirely bad idea. It’s important to learn that not all mental states are reducible to beliefs and desires, for example, and linguistic analysis of e.g. the notion of intention can suggest grounds for anti-reductionism.
But it can also go too far. It would be a very bad mistake to conclude from the distinction between (1) and (2) that there are these two mental states, wanting and hoping, such that one of them is an attitude towards the world and one of them is an essentially first-personal attitude. Sometimes a grammatical rule is just a grammatical rule, and this is one of those times. Just how often this mistake is made is I think a fairly interesting question.
Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized