Edited by Robert D. Rupert (University of Colorado, Boulder, University of Edinburgh)
About this topic
Summary Intentionality is a property possessed by representational states or states with content or meaning, their property of being about something. Mental states appear most prominently among the inventory of intentional items, being directed toward such varied objects as historical events, people, and numbers. When a person believes that Hitler led the Nazis, her belief is about Hitler and about the Nazis. Philosophical work on intentionality ranges from phenomenological investigations of the experience of having thoughts about objects -- including nonexistent ones -- to investigations of the semantics of sentences used to attribute mental states, to the physical or causal determinants of the semantic values of mental representations. This category subsumes work in all of these areas, as well as work in cognitive science on concepts, symbolic representations, and mental images and work in consciousness studies on the intentionality of phenomenal states (such as the what-it's-like to see red).
Key works As part of a proposal for distinguishing the subject matter of psychology from that of the physical sciences, Franz Brentano (Brentano 1874) claimed that intentionality is the mark of the mental and is present in mental states themselves (not a function of their relation to something beyond the psychological realm). Although this focus on internally accessible intentional objects may have comported well enough with the introspectionist psychology of Brentano's day and may have grounded rich phenomenological projects (e.g., Husserl 1980), the rise of behaviorist psychology tended, in the Anglophone world of analytic philosophy, to work against Brentano's approach and its close cousins. Instead, many of the most influential English-language works of the twentieth century marginalized or re-interpreted intentional claims (Ryle 1949, Quine 1956). Later parts of the twentieth century, however, saw the cognitivist revolution in the empirical study of the mind and the widespread rejection of philosophical behaviorism, and these developments led to renewed interest in mental representation and, accordingly, in intentionality, particularly in the promise that we might best understand intentionality as a physical, scientifically respectable phenomenon. Thus began efforts to "naturalize" intentionality, by grounding it in information-related, nomic, causal, or evolutionary facts (Dretske 1981Fodor 1990, and Millikan 1984 provide exemplary efforts of these sorts). Recent years have seen attempts to locate intentionality closer to where Brentano and the phenomenologists envisioned, as something directly experienced in, or as an intrinsic property of, conscious thought (see, e.g., Horgan & Tienson 2002, Kriegel 2007).
Introductions Rupert 2008Fodor 1985Adams & Aizawa 2010Crane 1998Margolis & Laurence 1999
Related categories
History/traditions: Intentionality

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  1. Teleology and World From Different Perspectives: Philosophy of Mind and Transcendental Phenomenology.Rodolfo Giorgi & Danilo Manca - 2018 - Humana Mente 11 (34).
    During the last century, most philosophers of science have tried to expunge teleological explanations from the fields of epistemology. They took for granted that the Darwinian concepts of natural selection and evolution effectively dispense us with any presence of goal-directedness in nature: based on an anti-metaphysical attitude, they hold purposes and goals to be of religious and spiritual nature, thereby obstacles to any effective comprehension of biological processes. Accordingly, teleological categories have been abandoned in many ways in favor of mechanical (...)
  2. Towards a Pluralist Theory of Singular Thought.Michele Palmira - 2018 - Synthese 195 (9):3947-3974.
    This paper investigates the question of how to correctly capture the scope of singular thinking. The first part of the paper identifies a scope problem for the dominant view of singular thought maintaining that, in order for a thinker to have a singular thought about an object o, the thinker has to bear a special epistemic relation to o. The scope problem has it is that this view cannot make sense of the singularity of our thoughts about objects to which (...)
  3. The Irreducibility of Emotional Phenomenology.Jonathan Mitchell - 2018 - Erkenntnis 1:1-28.
    Emotion theory includes attempts to reduce or assimilate emotions to states such as bodily feelings, beliefs-desire combinations, and evaluative judgements. Resistance to such approaches is motivated by the claim that emotions possess a sui generis phenomenology. Uriah Kriegel defends a new form of emotion reductivism which avoids positing irreducible emotional phenomenology by specifying emotions’ phenomenal character in terms of a combination of other phenomenologies. This article argues Kriegel’s approach, and similar proposals, are unsuccessful, since typical emotional experiences are constituted by (...)
  4. Act and Intentionality.Benjamin Sheredos - 2016 - Dissertation, University of California, San Diego
    Understanding the “intentionality” of mental phenomena is widely regarded as a key problem in philosophy of mind. Franz Brentano (along with his students, especially Edmund Husserl) is widely credited with bringing intentionality to philosophers’ attention. In early treatment by the Brentano school, intentionality is at least nominally understood as executed, brought about, or achieved in mental acts. And in the early 20th century, historians of psychology regarded this “act conception” of intentionality as integral for understanding the phenomenon. Yet the secondary (...)
  5. Emotion as Position-Taking.Jean Moritz Mueller - 2018 - Philosophia 46 (3):525-540.
    It is a popular thought that emotions play an important epistemic role. Thus, a considerable number of philosophers find it compelling to suppose that emotions apprehend the value of objects and events in our surroundings. I refer to this view as the Epistemic View of emotion. In this paper, my concern is with a rivaling picture of emotion, which has so far received much less attention. On this account, emotions do not constitute a form of epistemic access to specific axiological (...)
  6. Towards a Theory of Singular Thought About Abstract Mathematical Objects.James E. Davies - forthcoming - Synthese.
    This essay uses a mental files theory of singular thought—a theory saying that singular thought about and reference to a particular object requires possession of a mental store of information taken to be about that object—to explain how we could have such thoughts about abstract mathematical objects. After showing why we should want an explanation of this I argue that none of three main contemporary mental files theories of singular thought—acquaintance theory, semantic instrumentalism, and semantic cognitivism—can give it. I argue (...)
  7. Externalism and Internalism in the Philosophy of Mind.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - Oxford Bibliographies.
    Annotated bibliography of works on externalism and internalism in the philosophy of mind.
  8. Intencjonalność i semantyka.Andrzej Dabrowski - 2013 - Kraków, Polska: Universitas.
    The problem of intentionality, which constitutes the basic theme of the book, has its roots in Brentano’s philosophical and psychological reflections. Intentionality refers to mental phenomena (perceptions, beliefs, desires, judgments etc.) being directed toward something. Intentionality plays a crucial role within phenomenological epistemology. Furthermore, it is one of the most important issues of analytic philosophy, particularly within analytically-oriented philosophies of mind and language. In the latter framework, intentionality constitutes, among other things, part of the pragmatic theory of language, which explains (...)
  9. Walking in the Shoes of the Brain: An "Agent" Approach to Phenomenality and the Problem of Consciousness.Dan J. Bruiger - manuscript
    Abstract: Given an embodied evolutionary context, the (conscious) organism creates phenomenality and establishes a first-person point of view with its own agency, through intentional relations made by its own acts of fiat, in the same way that human observers create meaning in language.
  10. Los intereses, el objeto especulativo de las redes sociales. Una cuestión ética.Jorge Montesó Ventura - 2018 - Daimon: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 74:137-153.
    Philosophy has always shown concern about human interests in their study of knowledge. Nowadays, with the emergence of new social customs promoted by the massive use of networks, this concern is moving towards a more practical slope analysis. Interests -guide of our attention and, therefore, knowledge too- have becoming object to commercialization of trademarks. Such maelstrom has contributed to social networks become big banks of interests dedicated to make business with our privacy, a behaviour that awakes many ethical controversies and, (...)
  11. The Enactive Roots of STEM: Rethinking Educational Design in Mathematics.Michael David Kirchhoff, Daniel D. Hutto & Dor Abrahamson - 2015 - Educational Psychology Review 27 (3):371–389.
    New and radically reformative thinking about the enactive and embodied basis of cognition holds out the promise of moving forward age-old debates about whether we learn and how we learn. The radical enactive, embodied view of cognition (REC) poses a direct, and unmitigated, challenge to the trademark assumptions of traditional cognitivist theories of mind—those that characterize cognition as always and everywhere grounded in the manipulation of contentful representations of some kind. REC has had some success in understanding how sports skills (...)
  12. Evolving Enactivism: Basic Minds Meet Content.Daniel D. Hutto & Erik Myin - 2017 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
    An extended argument that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. -/- Evolving Enactivism argues that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. Building on their earlier book Radicalizing Enactivism, which proposes that there can be forms of cognition without content, Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin demonstrate the unique explanatory advantages of recognizing that only some forms (...)
  13. Mirrors and Misleading Appearances.Vivian Mizrahi - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    ABSTRACTAlthough philosophers have often insisted that specular perception is illusory or erroneous in nature, few have stressed the reliability and indispensability of mirrors as optical instruments. The main goal of this paper is to explain how mirrors can contribute to knowledge and at the same time be a source of systematic errors and misleading appearances. To resolve this apparent paradox, I argue that mirrors do not generate perceptual illusions or misperceptions, by defending a view of mirrors as transparent and invisible (...)
  14. Reply to Fine on Aboutness.Stephen Yablo - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (6):1495-1512.
    A reply to Fine’s critique of Aboutness. Fine contrasts two notions of truthmaker, and more generally two notions of “state.” One is algebraic; states are sui generis entities grasped primarily through the conditions they satisfy. The other uses set theory; states are sets of worlds, or, perhaps, collections of such sets. I try to defend the second notion and question some seeming advantages of the first.
  15. Neo-Pragmatism, Primitive Intentionality and Animal Minds.Laura Danón - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-20.
    According to Hutto and Satne, 521–536, 2015), an “essential tension” plagues contemporary neo-Pragmatist accounts of mental contents: their explanation of the emergence and constitution of intentional mental contents is circular. After identifying the problem, they also propose a solution: what neo-Pragmatists need to do, to overcome circularity, is to appeal to a primitive content-free variety of intentionality, different from the full-blown intentionality of propositional attitudes. In this paper, I will argue that, in addition to the problem of circularity, there is (...)
  16. Du contenu intentionnel et son contexte.Denis Fisette - 1992 - In Daniel Laurier (ed.), Essais sur l'intentionnalité et le langage. Paris-Montreal: Vrin-Bellarmin. pp. 17-35.
  17. What is the Extension of the Extended Mind?Hajo Greif - 2017 - Synthese 194 (11):4311-4336.
    Two aspects of cognitive coupling, as brought forward in the Extended Mind Hypothesis, are discussed in this paper: how shall the functional coupling between the organism and some entity in his environment be spelled out in detail? What are the paradigmatic external entities to enter into that coupling? These two related questions are best answered in the light of an aetiological variety of functionalist argument that adds historical depth to the “active externalism” promoted by Clark and Chalmers and helps to (...)
  18. Teaching Art and Design: Communicating Creative Practice Through Embodied and Tacit Knowledge.Kylie Budge - 2016 - Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15 (3-4):432-445.
  19. (Mock-)Thinking About the Same.Alberto Voltolini - 2017 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 24:282-307.
    In this paper, I want to address once more the venerable problem of intentional identity, the problem of how different thoughts can be about the same thing even if this thing does not exist. First, I will try to show that antirealist approaches to this problem are doomed to fail. For they ultimately share a problematic assumption, namely that thinking about something involves identifying it. Second, I will claim that once one rejects this assumption and holds instead that thoughts are (...)
  20. The Real Trouble with Recalcitrant Emotions.Alex Grzankowski - 2016 - Erkenntnis (3):1-11.
    Cognitivists about the emotions minimally hold that it is a necessary condition for being in an emotional state that one make a certain judgement or have a certain belief. For example, if I am angry with Sam, then I must believe that Sam has wronged me. Perhaps I must also elicit a certainly bodily response or undergo some relevant experience, but crucial to the view is the belief or judgement. In the face of ‘recalcitrant emotions’, this once very popular view (...)
  21. The Real Trouble with Recalcitrant Emotions.Alex Grzankowski - 2016 - Erkenntnis (3):1-11.
    Cognitivists about the emotions minimally hold that it is a necessary condition for being in an emotional state that one make a certain judgement or have a certain belief. For example, if I am angry with Sam, then I must believe that Sam has wronged me. Perhaps I must also elicit a certainly bodily response or undergo some relevant experience, but crucial to the view is the belief or judgement. In the face of ‘recalcitrant emotions’, this once very popular view (...)
  22. Intentions and Motor Representations: The Interface Challenge.Myrto Mylopoulos & Elisabeth Pacherie - 2017 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (2):317-336.
    A full account of purposive action must appeal not only to propositional attitude states like beliefs, desires, and intentions, but also to motor representations, i.e., non-propositional states that are thought to represent, among other things, action outcomes as well as detailed kinematic features of bodily movements. This raises the puzzle of how it is that these two distinct types of state successfully coordinate. We examine this so-called “Interface Problem”. First, we clarify and expand on the nature and role of motor (...)
  23. The Code Model of Biosemiotics and the Fate of the Structuralist Theory of Mental Representation.Majid Davoody Beni - 2017 - Biosemiotics 10 (1):99-107.
    In this paper I am advocating a structuralist theory of mental representation. For a structuralist theory of mental representation to be defended satisfactorily, the naturalistic and causal constraints have to be satisfied first. The more intractable of the two, i.e., the naturalistic constraint, indicates that to account for the mental representation, we should not invoke “a full-blown interpreting mind”. So, the aim of the paper is to show how the naturalistic and causal constraints could be satisfied. It aims to offer (...)
  24. Gestalt Psychology.Barry Smith - 1998 - In Edward Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 4. London: Routledge. pp. 51-52.
    The term ‘Gestalt’ was introduced into psychology by the Austrian philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels in an essay entitled “On ‘Gestalt-Qualities’” published in 1890. ‘Gestalt,’ in colloquial German, means roughly: ‘shape’ or ‘structure’ or ‘configuration’, and Ehrenfels demonstrates in his essay that there are certain inherently structural features of experience which need to be acknowledged in addition to simple tones, colours and other mental ‘atoms’ or ‘elements’. His essay thus initiated a reaction against the then still dominant atomism in psychology, a (...)
  25. Self-Notions and Top-Down Distortion.Daniel Morgan - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (3):277-294.
    John Perry offers an unusually substantive, and initially plausible, account of the conceptual role of first-person thought. This paper critiques Perry’s account, particularly in what it says about action explanation, and offers a partial alternative. It also identifies three high-level assumptions about what accounts of conceptual roles should look like that plausibly explain why Perry’s account goes off track in the ways that it does – this is the top-down distortion of the title. Identifying and arguing against the three assumptions (...)
  26. LA INTENTIO COMO CLAVE DE LA TRANSOBJETIVIDAD DE LA INTELIGENCIA EN LA FILOSOFÍA REALISTA / The Intentio as key to the transobjectivity of intelligence in the realist Philosophy.Miguel Acosta - 2011 - In Manuel Oriol (ed.), Filosofía de la Inteligencia. Madrid, Spain: CEU Ediciones. pp. 79-102.
    Uno de los temas fundamentales de la filosofía realista es la intentio. Este concepto surgió en la filosofía árabe a partir de la idea aristotélica que explica la posibilidad del alma de apropiarse de las formas de las cosas. La intentio es el vínculo referencial entre la realidad y el intelecto en el acto de conocer. En la primera parte del artículo se hace una revisión conceptual del término con especial énfasis en Avicena y Averroes; y en la segunda parte (...)
  27. LOS EFECTOS DE LA "INTENTIO" COMO ACTO VOLITIVO EN LAS PASIONES HUMANAS SEGÚN TOMÁS DE AQUINO.Miguel Acosta - 2013 - In J. L. Fuertes Herreros (ed.), La teoría filosófica de las pasiones y las virtudes. De la Filosofía Antigua al Humanismo Escolástico Ibérico. Textos e estudos de Filosofía Medieval, 6. Ribeirão (Portugal): Ediçoes Húmus. pp. 61-80.
    El estudio acerca de la influencia de las pasiones en el voluntario libre ha sido recurrente en la tradición tomista. Sin embargo, las causas de los dos efectos psicológicos de la intentio volitiva mencionados por Tomás de Aquino, la redundantia y la distractio, pasaron desapercibidas, y podrían aclarar algunos comportamientos consecuencia de la dinámica de las pasiones del hombre. La acción de la intentio volitiva originada por los afectos, al alcanzar cierto grado de intensidad, puede llegar a sobrepasar el control (...)
  28. LA INTENCIONALIDAD EN MARITAIN Y HUSSERL.Miguel Acosta - 2013 - Notes and Documents (25-26):20-26.
    La teoría de la intentio hoy conocida como “intencionalidad” había pasado desapercibida en la filosofía moderna y fue recuperada por Brentano, pero sobre todo fue puesta de relieve por Husserl, quien se apoyó en ella como uno de los elementos básicos de su fenomenología. Sin embargo, en esta corriente la intencionalidad perdió su sentido clásico. Así lo pone de manifiesto Jacques Maritain en su gnoseología. ¿Por qué Husserl cambia el sentido del concepto?, ¿cuál es la crítica principal de Maritain a (...)
  29. Keep Making Sense.Gabriel Segal - unknown
    In a number works Jerry Fodor has defended a reductive, causal and referential theory of cognitive content. I argue against this, defending a quasi-Fregean notion of cognitive content, and arguing also that the cognitive content of non-singular concepts is narrow, rather than wide.
  30. Spinning Threads: Peacocke on Moderate Rationalism.Robert De Gaynesford - unknown
  31. Routledge Handbook of Consciousness.Rocco J. Gennaro (ed.) - 2018 - Routledge.
    There has been an explosion of work on consciousness in the last 30–40 years from philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists. Thus, there is a need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive volume in the field that brings together contributions from a wide range of experts on fundamental and cutting-edge topics. The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness fills this need and makes each chapter’s importance understandable to students and researchers from a variety of backgrounds. Designed to complement and better explain primary sources, this volume is (...)
  32. Présentation.Camille Riquier - 2011 - Philosophie 109 (2):3-5.
    Après la deuxième guerre et jusqu’à peu, on pouvait bien parler de « philosophie française », c’était par commodité, sans croire qu’un tel vocable recouvrît une réalité clairement délimitée. Il y avait d’ailleurs plusieurs manières d’en contester l’usage, quel que fût l’intérêt qu’on continuait à lui porter. Devait-on lui reconnaître sa richesse, d’avoir marqué l’histoire de la pensée comme au Grand...
  33. Présentation.Mireille Duchastelle-Cabanes - 2012 - Philosophie 114 (3):3-5.
  34. Présentation.Laurent Perreau - 2012 - Philosophie 115 (4):5-6.
    En 1922, George Herbert Mead publie dans le volume XIX du Journal of Philosophy un texte intitulé « A Behavioristic Account of the Significant Symbol ». Cette contribution a depuis fait l’objet d’une réédition due aux soins de A. Reck. Nous avons choisi d’en proposer ci-après une traduction en langue française. Trois raisons justifient l’intérêt que l’on peut porter à ce...
  35. Présentation.Gilles Blanc-Brude - 2013 - Philosophie 117 (2):3-10.
  36. Présentation.Hans Vaihinger - 2014 - Philosophie 120 (1):3-11.
    L’article de Hans Vaihinger que nous traduisons possède à nos yeux l’intérêt historique suivant : il montre, à travers une controverse qui a opposé Ferdinand Brunetière à Louis Couturat sur le statut de la guerre chez Kant, la variété de la réception de Kant en France au tout début du xxe siècle, et le croisement de cette réception avec les enjeux politiques de l’époque. Nous allons découvrir, à travers...
  37. Analyticity and Katz's New Intensionalism: Or, If You Sever Sense From Reference, Analyticity Is...Jonathan Cohen - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (1):115.
  38. Is a Thomistic Theory of Intentionality Consistent with Physicalism?James D. Madden - 2017 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 91 (1):1-28.
    I argue that a Thomistic theory of intentionality is both philosophically plausible and inconsistent with physicalism. I begin by distinguishing two types of intentionality and two senses in which something can be said to be non-physical. After sketching the relevant background hylomorphic philosophy of nature, I develop a Thomistic theory of intentionality that supports a certain kind of anti-physicalism. I then consider criticisms of the Thomistic theory of intentionality raised by Peter King and Robert Pasnau. In reply I argue that (...)
  39. The Case for Cognitive Conservatism: A Critique of Dan Lloyd's Approach to Mental Representation.William E. Smythe - 1989 - Behavior and Philosophy 17 (1):63.
  40. Intentionality Naturalized. [REVIEW]John Heil - 1986 - Behavior and Philosophy 14 (1):51.
  41. Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind.Jerry Fodor - 1990 - Behavior and Philosophy 18 (1):59-61.
  42. Contrasting Approaches to the Legitimation of Intentional Language Within Comparative Psychology.Cecilia M. Heyes - 1987 - Behavior and Philosophy 15 (1):41.
  43. Some Computers Can Add : Defending ENIAC's Accumulators Against Dretske.Ronald Laymon - 1988 - Behavior and Philosophy 16 (1):1.
  44. Must Intentional States Be IntenSional?Kathleen Emmett - 1989 - Behavior and Philosophy 17 (2):129.
  45. What is Representation? A Reply to Smythe.Dan Lloyd - 1989 - Behavior and Philosophy 17 (2):151.
  46. Searle on Social Institutions.Raimo Tuomela - 1997 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research: A Quarterly Journal 57 (2):435-441.
  47. Sainsbury on Thinking About an Object.Tim Crane - 2008 - Critica 40 (120):85-95.
    R.M. Sainsbury's account of reference has many compelling and attractive features. But it has the undesirable consequence that sentences of the form "x is thinking about y" can never be true when y is replaced by a non-referring term. Of the two obvious ways to deal with this problem within Sainsbury's framework, I reject one and endorse the other. This endorsement is also within the spirit of Sainsbury's account of reference. /// La explicación que ofrece R.M. Sainsbury de la referencia (...)
  48. Spinning Threads: Peacocke on Moderate Rationalism.Robert De Gaynesford - unknown
  49. "Self-Awareness: A Semantical Inquiry" by Harald Delius. [REVIEW]Barry Smith - 1985 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (1):170.
  50. Expérience et horizon chez Husserl: Contextualité et synthèse à partir du concept de « représentation vide ».Fausto Fraisopi - 2009 - Studia Phaenomenologica 9:455-475.
    The work on the sixth Logical Investigation presents, to Husserl and moreover to transcendental phenomenology a new set of problems, questions and theoretical issues, which are deeply related to the concept of intuitive fulfilment. Here, the relation between core and halo, developed in 1908, must be integrated with the concept of horizon as a fundamental stucture of perception and every other kind of experience. The experience also became a contextual experience, essentially related and determined from a contextual situationality. More generally, (...)
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