The intentionality of formal systems

Foundations of Science 11 (1-2):81-119 (2006)
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One of the most interesting and entertaining philosophical discussions of the last few decades is the discussion between Daniel Dennett and John Searle on the existence of intrinsic intentionality. Dennett denies the existence of phenomena with intrinsic intentionality. Searle, however, is convinced that some mental phenomena exhibit intrinsic intentionality. According to me, this discussion has been obscured by some serious misunderstandings with regard to the concept ‘intrinsic intentionality’. For instance, most philosophers fail to realize that it is possible that the intentionality of a phenomenon is partly intrinsic and partly observer relative. Moreover, many philosophers are mixing up the concepts ‘original intentionality’ and ‘intrinsic intentionality’. In fact, there is, in the philosophical literature, no strict and unambiguous definition of the concept ‘intrinsic intentionality’. In this article, I will try to remedy this. I will also try to give strict and unambiguous definitions of the concepts ‘observer relative intentionality’, ‘original intentionality’, and ‘derived intentionality’. These definitions will be used for an examination of the intentionality of formal mathematical systems. In conclusion, I will make a comparison between the (intrinsic) intentionality of formal mathematical systems on the one hand, and the (intrinsic) intentionality of human beings on the other hand.



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