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How are we able to think about things?

Research project We live our lives in small regions of time and space, and our perceptions are limited accordingly. But in thought, we can wander far beyond these limitations. We can think about people long gone, future events, distant planets, and much more. We even seem able to think about things that do not exist. The aim of this project is to understand these thinking abilities. How is it possible for us to think about such a wide range of things from our limited perspectives?

We live our lives in small regions of time and space, and our perceptions are limited accordingly. But in thought, we can wander far beyond these limitations. We can think about people long gone, future events, abstract objects, and properties that countless objects have. We even seem to be able to think about things that do not exist. The aim of this project is to understand these thinking abilities. How is it possible for us to think about such a wide range of things from our limited perspectives? Previous research on this topic has been narrowly focused. We will broaden the horizons of the research area by investigating a set of cases that a theory of thinking abilities must take into account but that have been neglected in the literature. The project is organised around two such types of case. The first are inability cases: cases where we lack abilities to think about things. The second are complex empty cases: cases where it seems that multiple subjects think about the same thing although the thing in question does not exist. We will show that cases of these types provide important challenges to views that are widely held in the literature. Motivated by these observations, we will also develop alternatives to the existing views.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2020-01-01 2022-12-31

Funding

The Swedish Research Council

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious studies

Research subject

Philosophy and philosophy of science