Saturday, May 2, 2009

Being John Malkovich

Question. Nobody would have the property of being John Malkovich unless JM's parents had met and produced a child. Let's take that as given. I don't want to fight about the necessity of origins. It doesn't seem to follow, however, that the property of being JM is an extrinsic property of anything. It doesn't seem to follow from the fact that nobody would have that property unless JM stood in some relations to things besides himself that there's something that has the property of being JM relationally? I could be wrong, but if I am, what is it that has that property as an extrinsic property?

Next question. Nobody would have the property of being someone who believes John Malkovich exists unless at some time or other JM did in fact exist. Let's take that as given. I don't want to fight about thought content externalism. It doesn't seem to follow, however, that the property of being a belief that JM exists is an extrinsic or relational property of some belief or thought. I could be wrong, but if I am I'm wrong about being John Malkovich or wrong to think that there's some interesting parallel between these two cases.

3 comments:

Mike Almeida said...

It doesn't seem to follow from the fact that nobody would have that property unless JM stood in some relations to things besides himself . . Does this say that no one would have the property of being identical to JM unless JM stands in some relation to something non-identical to JM? That sounds true, but trivial, right? In any world in which there is something identical to JM, JM has the relation of being in that world.

. . . there's something that has the property of being JM relationallyYou mean something such that it does not bear the relation of identity to JM in w but does bear the relation of identity to JM in w'? I'm not sure if contingent identity is consistent with necessity of origins, but it doesn't seem entailed by it.

Clayton said...

Hey Mike,

I should have been clearer. I had meant to exclude the relation of identity and focus on extrinsic properties or relational properties that seem more like extrinsic properties.

I don't believe in contingent identities, but I suppose part of what I had in mind was this--it would seem weird to think that because the necessity of origins is true we must find something that is not intrinsically JM that has the property of being JM. I'd then want to say something similar about thought content externalism. It would be weird to think that because thought content externalism is true, we'd have to find something that is not intrinsically a belief with such and such a content that has the property of being a thought with such and such a content.

It might be clearer what I'm after if I said what prompted the post. One of Boghossian's arguments from content externalism to the sceptical conclusion that we don't know our own minds rests on the assumption that if content externalism is true the content properties of our thoughts are relational properties of those thoughts that we cannot know by inspection of the thoughts. There might be some relational properties we can know by inspection (i.e., knowing this thing to be identical to itself doesn't seem to require much beyond the inspection of this thing), but I don't see the move from externalism about content to content properties being extrinsic properties of thoughts.

Doka Dotty Wine said...

I didn't understand everything. :( But I did think "JM didn't need to exist for someone to believe in JM's existence". Santa Claus is a good example.