David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Ansgar Beckermann & Brian P. McLaughlin (eds.), Oxford Handbook to the Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press. 474--493 (2007)
The central and defining characteristic of thoughts is that they have objects. The object of a thought is what the thought concerns, or what it is about. Since there cannot be thoughts which are not about anything, or which do not concern anything, there cannot be thoughts without objects. Mental states or events or processes which have objects in this sense are traditionally called ‘intentional,’ and ‘intentionality’ is for this reason the general term for this defining characteristic of thought. Under the heading of ‘thought’ we can include many different kinds of mental apprehension of an object—including relatively temporary episodes of contemplating or scrutinising, as well as persisting states like beliefs and hopes which are not similarly episodic in character. These are all ways of thinking about an object. But even construing ‘thought’ in this broad way, it is clear that not all mental states and events are thoughts: sensations, emotions and perceptual experiences are not thoughts, but they are also paradigmatically mental. Do these mental states and events have objects too? Or are there mental states and events which have no objects? 1 The view that all mental phenomena have objects is sometimes called ‘Brentano’s thesis’ or the thesis that intentionality is the ‘mark’ of the mental.1 Sometimes the name ‘Brentano’s thesis’ is given to certain other views too: for example, to the view that only mental phenomena are intentional, or that all and only mental phenomena are intentional, or that nothing physical is intentional. These views are, however, distinct from the view that all mental phenomena are intentional. For holding that all mental phenomena are intentional does not imply that nothing nonmental is.2 And holding that all mental phenomena are intentional does not imply (pace Dennett 1969) that nothing physical is intentional; since if physicalism were true, then the mental itself would be physical. What I am concerned with here, however, is the idea that all mental states are intentional, regardless of whether anything else is, or whether anything physical is. In recent years there has been considerable debate over whether all mental states are intentional; in particular, over whether all conscious mental states are intentional or entirely intentional.
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Ned Block (2010). Attention and Mental Paint1. Philosophical Issues 20 (1):23-63.
Declan Smithies (2013). The Nature of Cognitive Phenomenology. Philosophy Compass 8 (8):744-754.
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Berit Brogaard (2010). Strong Representationalism and Centered Content. Philosophical Studies 151 (3):373 - 392.
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