Object Aboutness


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


A de re objectual subject matter is a subject matter of the form how a1, a2 … are, whereas a de dicto objectual subject matter is a subject matter of the form how Fs are. An objectual subject matter is either a de re or de dicto objectual subject matter. This paper provides a systematic theory of aboutness towards objectual subject matters which, if correct, illuminates both the nature of intrinsicality and the general nature of aboutness. In addition to the familiar distinction between partial and complete aboutness, I argue that there is a further orthogonal distinction between pervasive and hereditary aboutness, resulting in four ways in which a sentence, proposition or state of affairs can be about an objectual subject matter. I state and defend a number of basic principles concerning these varieties of aboutness as they apply to objectual subject matters and propose non-reductive analyses of them in terms of each other. I also propose an analysis of aboutness towards de re objectual subject matters in terms of aboutness towards de dicto objectual subject matters and put forward an attractive solution to a puzzle regarding aboutness due to Nelson Goodman.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages76
JournalInquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy
Early online date19 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Thanks to Ethan Brauer, Simon Goldstein, Peter Hawke, Jan Plate, Lavinia Piccolo, Daniel Waxman and an anonymous referee for Inquiry for their valuable comments on this paper.

Research in this paper was supported by an Early Career Scheme grant from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong SAR, China (LU23607616).


  • Aboutness
  • intrinsicality
  • metaphysics


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