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Intentionality, sense and the mind

Harney, Maurita J.

Description

To say that thought is intentional is to say that thought is directed to some object. Objects to which thought is directed are problematic: unlike the objects of physical acts - like hitting - they need not exist in reality: I may think of a unicorn, or imagine a centaur, even though such objects do not exist. However, in most cases my thoughts are directed to existing objects: I may think of President Carter or I may envy Mrs. Thatcher. In such cases the object of my thought is none other than...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorHarney, Maurita J.
dc.date.accessioned2013-07-24T06:13:22Z
dc.date.available2013-07-24T06:13:22Z
dc.date.created1980-07
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/10211
dc.description.abstractTo say that thought is intentional is to say that thought is directed to some object. Objects to which thought is directed are problematic: unlike the objects of physical acts - like hitting - they need not exist in reality: I may think of a unicorn, or imagine a centaur, even though such objects do not exist. However, in most cases my thoughts are directed to existing objects: I may think of President Carter or I may envy Mrs. Thatcher. In such cases the object of my thought is none other than the existing individual that might also be the object of a physical act such as hitting or kicking. A theory of intentionality must allow us to say both that thought can succeed in achieving objective reference and that the objects of thought need not exist in reality. Brentano's essential insight was to show that the latter - the possible non-existence of the object - is the distinctive feature of the mental. However, he saw this as a problem concerning the ontological status of objects of thought, which he attempted to resolve by ascribing to such objects a mode of "existence-in-the-mind", thereby denying that mental acts can succeed in achieving objective reference. This problem can be avoided however if intentionality is seen as a feature of language rather than of phenomena. On the linguistic version of the intentionality thesis, the criteria for intentionality are stated as logical features of the sentences lie use to talk about the psychological. We can assert both that thought can succeed in achieving objective reference and that the objects of thought need not exist in reality, by appealing to Frege's notion of sense. This means that the semantical frame"1ork for our theory of intentionality must be the Fregean three-levelled framework consisting of sign, sense and referent. In terms of this framework, "objective references” which is a possibility in the case of the mental, must be understood in terns of Frege’s notion of reference as that which is mediated by sense; the distinctive feature of the psychological- viz., possible non-existence of the object - must be understood by appeal to the Fregean semantic model of signs which have a sense but which do not refer to anything. Serious problems arise for a theory of intentionality when the notion of "objective reference" is explicated without appeal to Frege‘s notion of sense. For example, if "objective referencell is characterised in terms of the Russellian two-levelled semantical framework which admits only sign and referent, then we are forced to deny the intentionality of some or, perhaps1 all psychological acts. Alternatively, if we attempt to maintain the irreducibility of the intentional, then there are seemingly intractable problems in providing a coherent account of the intentionality of acts which do succeed in achieving objective reference, when "objective reference” is characterised in the absence of the notion of sense. It has been argued by some philosophers including Quine and Putnam, that sense is itself a “mentalistic” notion a notion tied to a mentalistic theory of meaning. If this objection can be sustained, then a theory of the intentionality of the mental which appeals to the notion of sense, will be circular. This kind of objection exposes a serious shortcoming in Frege's own theory of sense. Frege provides us with no theory of how it is that sense, which is a means to reference, relates to the mind. To meet the charge of “mentalism" which is levelled against Frege's theory of sense, we Must supplement his account with a theory of how sense (or meaning) can be both "mind-related" and the means to objective reference. This supplementation can be provided by Husserl's theory of intentionality. Husserl's account of the intentionality of consciousness, and the theory of linguistic meaning and reference which is a consequence of this account, allows us to treat Fregean sense as an intentional notion; one that is thereby both mind-related and the means to objective reference.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.titleIntentionality, sense and the mind
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
dcterms.valid1980
local.description.notesThis thesis has been made available through exception 200AB to the Copyright Act.
local.description.refereedYes
local.type.degreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
dc.date.issued2013-07-24
local.contributor.affiliationAustralian National University
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