In J. Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Routledge (forthcoming)
Some things are _about_, or are _directed on_ , or _represent_, other things. For example, the sentence 'Cats are animals' is about cats (and about animals), this article is about intentionality, Emanuel Leutze's most famous painting is about Washington's crossing of the Delaware, lanterns hung in Boston's North Church were about the British, and a map of Boston is about Boston. In contrast, '#a$b', a blank slate, and the city of Boston are not about anything. Many mental states and events also have "aboutness": the belief that cats are animals is about cats, as is the fear of cats, the desire to have many cats, and seeing that the cats are on the mat. Arguably some mental states and events are not about anything: sensations, like pains and itches, are often held to be examples. Actions can also be about other things: hunting for the cat is about the cat, although tripping over the cat is not. This -- rather vaguely characterized -- phenomenon of "aboutness" is called _intentionality_. Something that is about (directed on, represents) something else is said to "have intentionality", or (in the case of mental states) is said to be an "intentional mental state"
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