Cognitivism: A New Theory of Singular Thought?


  • I would like to thank two extremely helpful referees from Mind & Language for comments. Thanks also to audiences at the University of Manchester and the University of Sussex, to whom earlier versions of this article were presented.

Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QN, UK.


In a series of recent articles, Robin Jeshion has developed a theory of singular thought which she calls ‘cognitivism’. According to Jeshion, cognitivism offers a middle path between acquaintance theories—which she takes to impose too strong a requirement on singular thought, and semantic instrumentalism—which she takes to impose too weak a requirement. In this article, I raise a series of concerns about Jeshion's theory, and suggest that the relevant data can be accommodated by a version of acquaintance theory that distinguishes unsuccessful thoughts of singular form from successful singular thoughts, and in addition allows for ‘trace-based’ acquaintance.