- Different philosophers, I have found, approach their research with different goals in mind. One of my goals in philosophy is to understand the common world that we all encounter. That world is populated by an enormous variety of kinds of things — from cows to cabbages, from cathedrals to catheters. There is genuine novelty in the world: The invention of the printing press with movable type brought into being a new kind of thing. The things that we are familiar with come into existence and go out of existence. They do not just gain and lose qualitative properties. Different kinds of things go out of existence under different conditions: The thing that is a feather goes out of existence when you pull it apart; the thing that is an automobile goes out of existence when you put it in a crusher that replaces the car with a heavy metallic cube. Moreover, different kinds of things have different kinds of effects. A battle-flag may rally the troops; a similar piece of cloth that was not a battle-flag would not.
- Using such down-home observations as a starting point, I want to sketch a philosophical picture of the world that we all encounter — the world that has us in it, along with the other animals, artifacts, artworks, and all the other things that we are familiar with. What concerns me is the root idea of a world full of variety and novelty. I would like to get the technical details right, but frankly, I am willing to amend any definition or thesis that leaves the basic non-reductive picture intact.
- The down-home observations lead quickly to some philosophical theses. One is that things have some properties essentially — properties that they cannot lose without going out of existence. Another is that many kinds of things are intentional. I’ll call a phenomenon — an event, a process, an object, whatever — ‘intentional’ if and only if it could not exist or occur in a world without propositional attitudes. All artifacts and artworks are intentional in this way. The automobile that comes to an end in the crusher and the battle-flag that causes young men to sacrifice themselves are examples of intentional objects: in a world without propositional attitudes, there would be no automobiles or battle-flags.
- With these assumptions and others — such as that medium-sized objects are three-dimensional things that endure through time — I’ll propose a beginning of a comprehensive account of the world that we encounter.
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