A lot of hatred and a ton of desire: intensity in the mereology of mental states

Abstract

Certain measurement-related constructions impose a requirement that the measure function used track the part-whole structure of the domain of measurement, so that a given entity or eventuality must have a larger measurement in the chosen dimension than any of its salient proper parts. I provide evidence from English and Chinese that these constructions can be used to measure the intensity of mental states like hatred and love, indicating that in the natural language ontology of such states, intensity correlates with part-whole structure. A natural language metaphysics of psychological intensity meeting this requirement is then developed and integrated into the semantics. Further complications arise when looking at attitudes like want, wish, and regret, which also permit measurements of intensity in the relevant constructions. To account for such attitudes, the ontology and semantics are then enriched in a way that integrates ordering and quantification over possible worlds into the part-whole structure of attitude states, so that even in these more complicated cases, the constructions at hand have a unified compositional semantics.

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Correspondence to Robert Pasternak.

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For their insights, many thanks to Lucas Champollion, Masha Esipova, Dan Finer, Kai von Fintel, Thomas Graf, Sabine Iatridou, Angelika Kratzer, Richard Larson, Maša Močnik, Friederike Moltmann, Milo Phillips-Brown, Philippe Schlenker, Roger Schwarzschild, Benjamin Spector, Ildikó Emese Szabó, Jiwon Yun, and audiences at the UMass Semantics Workshop, the MIT Syntax-Semantics Reading Group (LFRG), the Leibniz-Center for General Linguistics (ZAS), Institut Jean Nicod, and the LSA 2018 Annual Meeting. For extensive Chinese judgments, I am grateful to Lei Liu, Yaobin Liu, Hongchen Wu, and Chong Zhang. Comments from Regine Eckardt and two anonymous reviewers for Linguistics and Philosophy were extremely helpful. All remaining errors are my own.

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Pasternak, R. A lot of hatred and a ton of desire: intensity in the mereology of mental states. Linguist and Philos 42, 267–316 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-018-9247-x

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Keywords

  • Mental states
  • Attitudes
  • Measurement
  • Event semantics
  • Mereology
  • Natural language metaphysics
  • Comparatives
  • Monotonicity