Early in the piece Bill characterises Ed's 'robust sense of reality' thus,
(C1) For any x, x exists iff x is both extramental and extralinguistic.He ends by saying that he regards the following as consistent:
This is not intended as a definition of 'x exists' but as a clarification of how Ed is using 'exists' and cognates. We could call (C1) the Independence Criterion: the existent is independent of (finite) mind and language.
a. Tom is thinking of a unicornVery neat. But let's apply it to the 'Sally wants a baby' case. As Bill says earlier in the piece,
b. Unicorns do not exist in the (C1)-sense.
c. Tom's mental state is object-directed; it is an intentional state.
d. The object of Tom's mental state does not (C1)-exist.
e. The merely intentional object is not nothing.
f. The merely intentional object enjoys intentional existence, a distinct mode of existence different from (C1)-existence.
In the normal case, when a woman wants a baby, what she wants is not some particular baby already in the world; what she wants is motherhood: she wants to be the receptacle through which a new baby comes into existence.So, at the time of her wanting, the object of Sally's wanting does not (C1)-exist. Being an object of an intentional state, presumably it enjoys intentional existence. But what Sally wants is a real flesh-and-blood baby that C1-exists, not some simulacrum in some barely understood realm of existence. Note the similarity between this argument and the familiar arguments that reject psychologistic solutions to the puzzle.
Bill's solution fails for the usual reason that Ed Ockham points out every time. Things start to go wrong as soon as Bill exports the object of Tom's thinking, Sally's wanting, etc, out of its intentional context and makes it the subject of some predication. Step (d) in the above. In fact, Bill rather spectacularly begs the question against Ed in the course of his rebuttal:
Ed's complaint may be that I am committing the Existential Fallacy by engaging in existentially loaded exportation. Well, let's see. One thing is clear: if Tom is thinking about a unicorn, then he is thinking about something, not nothing. He has a more or less definite object before his mind. That object is not nothing; so it is something. This is a phenomenological datum that every theory must cater to or accommodate. To think about a unicorn is not to think about a flying horse or about the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. This object is the object of the mental intention, or, the intentional object. It may or may not exist in reality apart from the mental acts trained upon it. So one cannot infer the extramental existence of intentional object O from O's being an intentional object.Sadly, the very first sentence in the above paragraph that makes this false move, Bill regards as expressing a phenomenological given. One can't be confident that any entente can be reached on this topic.
An observant reader will notice that I make exactly this move in my little argument above about Sally's baby, and may be inclined to think that I'm not observing my own strictures. But all I'm doing is taking Bill's position, making the moves that he allows, and showing that we arrive at a contradiction. This demonstrates that Bill's view is incoherent. Diagnosis: Treating the grammatical object of an intentional sentence as an existent of any kind or of any mode of being leads to disaster.
What I find hard to understand is how Bill can give a perfectly adequate account (quoted above) of what 'Sally wants a baby' means and yet still find it necessary to invoke the rigmarole of 'modes of being'. But perhaps I shouldn't put words in his mouth.