Intentionality

Also: intentional object; intentional stance; intentional strategy; intentional system

Bringing the body to mind is the ultimate expression of the brain’s intrinsic aboutness, its intentional attitude regarding the body… (Damasio 2010:90)

Thanks to folk physics we stay warm and well fed and avoid collisions, and thanks to folk psychology we cooperate on multiperson projects… I do have an explanation of the power and success of folk psychology: we make sense of each other by adopting the intentional stance. (Dennett 1989:11)

I will argue that any object… whose behavior is well predicted by this strategy is in the fullest sense of the word a believer. What it is to be a true believer is to be an intentional system… (Dennett 1989:15)

Our use of the intentional strategy is so habitual and effortless that the role it plays in shaping our expectations about people is easily overlooked. … It also works on some artifacts… More modestly, the thermostat will turn off the boiler as soon as it comes to believe the room has reached the desired temperature. (Dennett 1989:22)

Only some things in the universe manifest intentionality. … But that idea [that intentionality comes from minds], perfectly good in its own way, becomes a source of mystery and confusion when it is used as a metaphysical principle, rather than a fact of recent natural history. … Darwin turned this doctrine upside down: intentionality doesn’t come from on high; it percolates up from below, from the initially mindless and pointless algorithmic processes that gradually acquire meaning and intelligence as they develop. … It is what John Searle… has disparaged as mere “as if intentionality”… (Dennett 1995:205)

…it is finally time to dispose once and for all of the hunch that original intentionality of a (human?) artificer. (Dennett 1995:422)

Then your selfish genes can be seen to be the original source of your intentionality… It follows from the truth of Darwinism that you and I are Mother Nature’s artifacts, but our intentionality is none the less real for being an effect of millions of years of mindless, algorithmic R and D instead of a gift from on high. (Dennett 1995:426–27)

But even preschool children delight in playing games in which one child wants another to pretend not to know what the first child wants the other to believe (fifth-order intentionality): “You be the sheriff, and ask me which way the robbers went!” (Dennett 2006:111)

The actor needs to be able to see the world from another individual’s point of view. …being able to do this requires a very special ability, the ability to think reflexively about beliefs and desires. (Dunbar 1996:128)

Individuals can have beliefs about their own states of mind (‘I believe that I want X’), and this constitutes what is termed ‘first order intentionality’. They can have beliefs about someone else’s state of mind (‘I believe that you want X’), which involves second order intentionality. ‘I believe that you think that I want X’) is third order intentionality… (Dunbar 1996:128–29)

(See also Theory of mind.)

Leave a Reply