Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dennett on original intentionality

A redated post. This was the closest I could come up with to AMC's request. Though he may be thinking of a Menuge paper.

This is a well-known Dennett paper on the issue of original intentionality. He seems to be arguing:

1. If naturalism is true, then humans cannot possess original intentionality.
2. Naturalism is true.
3. Therefore human beings cannot possess original intentionality.

It wasn't me, but an atheist fellow graduate student at University of Illinois at Urbana who suggested that the argument could be turned around into an argument for theism against naturalism.

1. If naturalism is true, then humans cannot possess original intentionality.
2. Human beings do possess original intentionality.
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.

10 comments:

Ahab said...

I think humans have intentionality. But do they have 'original' intentionality?
Victor, how do you substantiate your claim that human's intentionality is original?

By the way, thanks much for the link to Dennett's article. I have not yet had the chance to read any of his books. May have to try and make some time to do so.

My initial response to the article is one of basic agreement with what Dennett says. This whole issue of intentionality is more complicated than I had assumed. Seems people have quite different understandings of what intentionality really means.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That is a good paper by Dennett. I side with Dretske, incidentally, who has offered a naturalistic theory of original intentionality that seems on the right track.

Anonymous said...

Dretske has interesting ideas. What a pity that they're as about as naturalistic as Aquinas and Aristotle, at heart.

Anonymous said...

Ironically it was Dennett who convinced me that a dualistic account of the mind is the only explanation for how things work. For example, it's quite clear that Dennett's mind leaves his body everytime he tries to speak on matters outside of the philosophy of mind...

Victor Reppert said...

LOL!

Blue Devil Knight said...

The most useful way I have found is to treat Dennett as a mine with a few veins of ore that you have to look for. There is a lot of crap in there I don't want, but every chapter or so there is something that makes the digging worthwhile. His overarching view doesn't make a lot of sense, but even for those of us that disagree with him, there are some great ideas that we can treat as modular units, and integrate into our own views of things.

Sometimes he says things that seem patently crazy. Other times he is clearly just dogmatic. For instance, his insistence that there is no Cartesian theatre has somehow percolated into the mindset of the majority of naturalistic philosophers, despite the lack of good arguments for this claim.

Other times he displays flashes of philosophical genius. For instance, his essay 'Where am I' is a delightful extension of the brain in a vat (I discussed it some here). His most recent cranking of the Mary the Brain Scientist arguments is quite fascinating (it's 'Swamp Mary' from his book Sweet Dreams).

Yet all the time he says he derides philosophical thought experiments. Like I said, a strange fish.

Anonymous: what specifically is not nauralistic in Dretske's theory of intentionality (say, from his book Knowledge and the Flow of Information, or Explaining Behavior?).

Anonymous said...

Arguing that nature is rife with (non-conscious) intentionality and aboutness, and that objects have intrinsic natures, is a nice idea. But in the end it's just final causation redux. His examples of type I, II and III "representational systems" in particular screams "neo-thomism".

And who said they weren't naturalistic? I just said that Dretske's ideas on intentionality were as naturalistic as Aquinas' or Aristotle's at heart. Apparently, just about anything can be naturalistic nowadays. I'm just pointing out who else is getting caught in that net.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: he doesn't say that nature is rife with intentionality. He says that nature is rife with properties that co-vary whether anyone with intentional contents is there to observe it or not. He then uses this basic fact to try to build up to a theory of intentionality, in which such co-variations are necessary, but not sufficient for having concepts.

Anonymous said...

As I said, non-conscious intentionality. Call it proto-intentionality if you like. It's intrinsic aboutness present in nature. And again, it's not very original. His "natural meaning" and "information" is broadly the "formal and final cause" of Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as others. (Unless he intends to cash out these things as nothing but causation qua causation, in which case we're back to square one.)

Blue Devil Knight said...

OK, if you want to say covariations are a type of intentionality, he and I would disagree, but if you want to define things that way that's up to you I guess.

In that sense, there is a protointentional relationship between iron volume and ambient temperature. I think that is a weird way to describe things, but it does make things interesting.