A philosophical project of mine depends on an assertion which at first seems problematic, but one that I believe is correct.


Following Husserl, modern philosophy is in accord that the uniting reality of mental states is that they are intentional in the sense of being object-directed. Debates concerning the semantics of 'object directed', particularly concerning those attitudes that effect object-directedness, have represented a crucial battleground for the spat between functionalists and qualophiles concerning philosophy of the mind.

But can one not describe intentionality better than simply as 'object directed'?


If one follows Wittgenstein in assenting that there is no separation between an act and its apprehension, does it not follow that our thoughts about objects are to an extent as if in their presence? To put it another way, is there not a (necessary, non-zero) correlation of affect, attitude and (inner) perception between thoughts of an object and those that would be directly caused by the object's presence?

Of course one distinguishes pictures of objects and objects. Absences are treated as a serial property of impresence at points of attention in an environment. Abstractions are seen to place oneself in the presence of exemplars, be they real or imaginary.

So my questions: Are there obvious counter-examples to this assertion? Are there any philosophers who have explicitly dealt with phenomenology on these terms?


1 Answer 1


I guess my interpretation of Husserl is a bit different than yours, as I see your assertion as simply restating his insight. When we say that consciousness is intentional, we say that it is intended toward something; in other words, it is always consciousness-of. However, by doing so, we are making no judgments whatsoever about the nature of this something, whether it is an external object or an internal object (i.e., a thought, memory, imagining, etc...)

So, to answer your question: I don't know of any counter-examples.

  • Hmmm... It's odd because I have a friend who's PhD is about phenomenology- he agrees with my reading of Husserl and he's pretty dubious about my take on intentionality (though we've yet to find the time to debate it properly). I suppose I would rather be unoriginal than wrong, though. :) On the other hand, I do think it's possible you might be misunderstanding me. My point about these something s is that to the extent they appear in our consciousness- though we make no judgement as to their actual origin- it is phenomenally as though they were external. Feb 15, 2012 at 10:10
  • That was my reading of you, and is also my reading of Husserl; we are placing the question of the external existence of the intended objects under Epoché. Feb 15, 2012 at 12:37

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