Re-Thinking Gareth Evans’ Approach to Indexical Sense and the Problem of Tracking Thoughts

in Grazer Philosophische Studien
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  • 1 Queen’s University

In “Understanding Demonstratives”, Gareth Evans bites the bullet regarding Rip van Winkle cases in cognitive dynamics: the fact that Rip sleeps for twenty years and completely loses track of time means he is unable to retain his original belief that “Today is a fine day”. In this paper, the author argues that Evans need not bite this bullet because there are resources in his account of the cognitive dynamics involved in belief retention developed in The Varieties of Reference to successfully confront the challenge posed by the Rip van Winkle case. In particular, when we combine the two central elements of Evans’s cognitive dynamics – the skill of keeping track of one’s spatio-temporal location in addition to memory – it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that it is indeed possible for Rip to retain and re-express his original belief.

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