The intentionalist controversy and cognitive science

Philosophical Psychology 6 (2):181-205 (1993)
Abstract What role do speakers'/authors? communicative intentions play in language interpretation? Cognitive scientists generally assume that listeners'/readers? recognitions of speakers'/authors? intentions is a crucial aspect of utterance interpretation. Various philosophers, literary theorists and anthropologists criticize this intentional view and assert that speakers'/authors? intentions do not provide either the starting point for linguistic interpretation or constrain how texts should be understood. Until now, cognitive scientists have not seriously responded to the current challenges regarding intentions in communication. My purpose in this article is to provide just such a response. I briefly describe some of the empirical evidence in cognitive science on the importance of intentions in communication. I then discuss some of the criticisms of the intentional view that have arisen in the humanities and social sciences. Following this, I offer a partial resolution to the intentionalist controversy that recognizes the differing views on the idea of linguistic interpretation. I specifically suggest a way of thinking about linguistic interpretation in terms of the time?course of understanding that provides a metric for evaluating the role of intentions in communication. This time?course perspective on linguistic understanding provides for the plurality of ideas that now exist both in cognitive science and in postmodern philosophical thought
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