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Content, indexical

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-W018-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

Many of our thoughts are about particular individuals (persons, things, places,…). For example, one can spot a certain Ferrari and think that it is red. What enables this thought to latch onto that particular object? It cannot be how the Ferrari looks, for this could not distinguish one Ferrari from another just like it. In general, how a thought represents something cannot determine which thing it represents. What a singular thought latches onto seems to depend also on features of the context in which the thought occurs. This suggests that its content is essentially indexical, contextually variable much as the content of an utterance such as ‘I am hungry’ depends on who utters it and when. The indexical model of singular thought is not limited to thoughts about individuals one perceives, but applies also to thoughts about individuals one remembers or has been informed of, such as an old bicycle or Christopher Columbus. In each case, a certain contextual relation, based on perception, memory or communication, connects thought to object.

Citing this article:
Bach, Kent. Content, indexical, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-W018-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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