The Essential Indexical
John Perry, in "The Problem of the Essential Indexical" (1979), argues that indexical beliefs are necessary for action. That is, if he's walking around the supermarket while sugar slowly leaks from a torn bag in his cart, he may have the belief
(1) John Perry is making a mess.
But, he claims, this is insufficient for action (ie stopping to remedy the problem of the torn sack of sugar) unless he also has the belief
(2) I am John Perry.
or instead has the belief
(3) I am making a mess.
Those in Arthur's class will remember this, and many other similar examples, from section M of the text.
An article by Evan C. Tiffany entitled "What is Essential about Indexicals?" (2000) disagrees with this conclusion. Consider an example (not directly taken from Tiffany) where I hold these four beliefs:
(4) The resident of of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is responsible for the war.
(5) The President of the United States resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
(6) War is wrong.
(7) If one believes that war is wrong, and there is a war occuring, then they should protest the actions of those responsible.
Are these sufficient for explaining my actions of driving to DC to protest the president? Or, must there also be an indexical belief about the here or now hidden within their midst?
Difficult question--At first glance, it seems that these are certainly sufficient, but consider the following beliefs:
(8) The war is occuring now.
(9) I am a citizen of the country perpetuating the war.
(10) I am here and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is there.
(11) Protesting is the right thing for me to do.
Are any of these, or something like them, also required for action?
What say you, fellow philosophers?