The colour flows back: Intention and interpretation in literature and in everyday action


Abstract
The notion of the author’s intention is logically tied to the interpretation we give to her work as the notion of the agent’s intention is logically tied to the interpretation we give to her action. When we find a discrepancy between what the author or agent says and the meaning we find in her work or the sense we make of what she does, this does not show that the intention is irrelevant in determining this meaning or sense. As Frank Cioffi has argued, we are rather favouring one criterion of intention over another. Taking a close look at the early criticism surrounding The Turn of the Screw I draw attention to this phenomenon—much discussed by Wittgenstein—of favouring one criterion of intention over another. Because Wittgenstein’s views, though mentioned frequently, are still ill-understood, I go on to tease out the philosophical assumptions that lurk in the background of disputes about the relevance of intention for interpretation
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