The Mereology of Attitudes
Robert Pasternak
July 2018

This dissertation explores the intersection of attitude semantics---the semantics of lexical items expressing concepts like desire and belief---and event semantics. More specifically, this work constitutes an initial foray into the nature of the part-whole relations of attitude states, and the impact these mereological structures have on semantic interpretation. The two main topics covered are (i) the mereological basis of attitude intensity and (ii) non-distributive ascriptions of belief. After a cursory overview (Chapter 1) and a discussion of prior theories of the semantics of attitudes (Chapter 2), in Chapter 3 I argue that in the model used for semantic interpretation, the intensity of mental states in general, and attitudes in particular, is encoded in the part-whole structure of such states. Put simply, a more intense desire state is "bigger" in a particular dimension than another, less intense desire state. The crux of the argument is that there are several measurement-related constructions in English that impose requirements relating the measure function to the part-whole structure of the measured domain, and all of these constructions can be used to measure the intensity of mental states. While some data from Chinese initially complicate the picture, I show that the similarities and differences between Chinese and English are best accounted for by positing that intensity does indeed track the part-whole structure of attitude states. Having established the mereological basis for attitude intensity, in Chapter 4 I provide a natural language metaphysics of desire states that meets the conditions set forth in the previous chapter. This requires intertwining the traditional ordering and quantification over possible worlds with the part-whole structure of attitude states, as well as imposing requirements about how these world-orderings and part-whole structures must relate to each other. In Chapter 5 I shift gears, discussing cases in which beliefs are ascribed to a plurality that cannot be ascribed to the individuals that make up that plurality (i.e., non-distributive belief ascriptions). To account for these cases, I offer principles relating the beliefs of plural individuals to those of their atomic parts, focusing on how (dis)agreements between individual epistemic agents are negotiated. The account is then revised so that the mechanisms at play can differentiate between relevant and irrelevant disagreements between individual experiencers.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004140
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Stony Brook University dissertation
keywords: attitudes, mereology, event semantics, measurement, plurality, monotonicity, semantics
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