Papers on Reference and Intentionality

BFO-based Data and Information Ontologies

Barry Smith, How not to talk about what does not exist", in R. Haller (ed.), Aesthetics, Vienna: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984, 194–196.

Defends a view of intentional directedness according to which those seemingly object-directed acts—involved for example in reading works of fiction—which lack existing objects as targets, are not intentional (thus: not directed towards any object). Rather, each such act seems to its subject as if it were so directed because it is associated with a belief of a certain special sort, whose intentional directedness is not towards any putative external object but rather towards the very act itself with which the belief is associated.

Barry Smith, Acta cum fundamentis in re”, Dialectica, 38 (1984), 157–178.

The paper defends a theory of mind according to which certain sorts of acts are ‘real material relations’ and compares this theory to causal theories of reference and perception. All mental acts are dependent for their existence upon the subject (person, organism) whose acts they are. Relational acts are dependent also on intended objects in the world. The relational theory thus implies a rejection of the Cartesian thesis to the effect that we could in principle have exactly the same thoughts even though the objects of these thoughts did not exist. It implies thereby also a rejection of Husserlian phenomenology. Husserl’s earlier work on the formal ontology of part, whole and dependence nevertheless provides a framework which can allow a precise formulation of the relational theory.

Kevin Mulligan and Barry Smith, “A Relational Theory of the Act”, Topoi, 5/2 (1986), 115–130.

The paper defends a view of perceptual acts as real relations of a subject to an object. To make this view coherent, a theory of different types of relations is developed, resting on ideas on formal ontology put forward by Husserl in his Logical Investigations and on the theory of relations sketched in my “Acta cum fundamentis in re”. The theory is applied to the notion of a Cambridge change, which proves to have an unforeseen relevance to our understanding of perception.

Kevin Mulligan and Barry Smith, “A Husserlian Theory of Indexicality”, in Grazer Philosophische Studien, 28 (1986), 133–163.

It is well known that Husserl’s Logical Investigations contain the beginnings of an account of the meanings of indexical expressions, expressions whose meanings depend essentially on some sort of explicit or implicit pointing or indication [Anzeigen], and therefore on some contribution by the surroundings of speaker and hearer. Husserl in fact speaks explicitly of ‘occasional expressions’, that is of expressions like ‘this’ and ‘that’ whose meanings depend on features of the occasion of use, but it is possible to gauge the full implications of his explicit remarks on the problem of indexical or occasional meanings only if these are read in conjunction with what he says elsewhere in the Investigations, especially on the subject of perceptual judgments and proper names. Moreover, Husserl’s deliberations on indication, perception and naming, as also what he has to say on demonstrative pronouns, spatial and temporal adverbs and tenses, must themselves be understood—like everything else in this work—as applications of a very general theory of meaning and of structure or dependence. In what follows we shall set out Husserl’s account of indexicality and develop it in various ways. Unlike Husserl himself—who retrospectively described his own account as an ‘act of violence’—we are strongly of the opinion that this effort is worthwhile.

Barry Smith, Husserl, Language and the Ontology of the Act”, in D. Buzzetti and M. Ferriani (eds.), Speculative Grammar, Universal Grammar, and Philosophical Analysis of Language, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1987, 205–227.

The ontology of language is concerned with the relations between uses of language, both overt and covert, and other entities, whether in the world or in the mind of the thinking subject. We attempt a first survey of the sorts of relations which might come into question for such an ontology, including: relations between referring uses of expressions and their objects, relations between the use of a (true) sentence and that in the world which makes it true, relations between mental acts on the one hand and underlying mental states (attitudes, beliefs), on the other, relations between my acts and states, associated uses of language and overt actions on my part and on the part of those other subjects with whom I communicate.

Barry Smith, On the Cognition of States of Affairs”, in K. Mulligan (ed.), Speech Act and Sachverhalt: Reinach and the Foundations of Realist Phenomenology, Dordrecht/Boston/Lan–caster: Nijhoff, 1987, 189–225.

The theory of speech acts put forward by Adolf Reinach in his "The A Priori Foundations of the Civil Law" of 1913 rests on a systematic account of the ontological structures associated with various different sorts of language use. One of the most original features of Reinach's account lies in hIs demonstration of how the ontological structure of, say, an action of promising or of commanding, may be modified in different ways, yielding different sorts of non-standard instances of the corresponding speech act varieties. The present paper is an attempt to apply this idea of standard and modified instances of ontological structures to the realm of judgement and cognition, and thereby to develop a Reinachian theory of how intentionality is mediated through language in acts of thinking and speaking. Barry Smith,

Werner Ceusters and Barry Smith, Aboutness: Towards Foundations for the Information Artifact Ontology”, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Biomedical Ontology (ICBO), Lisbon, Portugal (CEUR 1515), 2015, 1-5.

The Information Artifact Ontology (IAO) was created to serve as a domain‐neutral resource for the representation of types of information content entities (ICEs) such as documents, data‐bases, and digital im‐ages. We identify a series of problems with the current version of the IAO and suggest solutions designed to advance our understanding of the relations between ICEs and associated cognitive representations in the minds of human subjects. This requires embedding IAO in a larger framework of ontologies, including most importantly the Mental Func‐tioning Ontology (MFO). It also requires a careful treatment of the aboutness relations between ICEs and associated cognitive representa‐tions and their targets in reality.