Intentionality is for something to be about something. But this definition could also suffice for meaning: something can have meaning if it is about something. What is the major distinction between intentionality and meaning? I understand that different philosophers treat the concepts of intentionality and meaning differently, so I'm mainly looking for broad intuition here.

  • Who specifically are you reading? "Broad intuition" is not going to be very helpful here.
    – virmaior
    Dec 6, 2015 at 0:19
  • Brentano and Dennett specifically, but my confusion seems to apply to all philosophers talking about intentionality haha Dec 6, 2015 at 0:36
  • 2
    One possible distinction (and I think according to e.g. Kant and Husserl) is that intentionality is an act of a subject while meaning is a property of a linguistic expression, may it be a sentence, term or "concept". That is quite a difference.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Dec 6, 2015 at 2:22

1 Answer 1


A first reference is SEP:

Concerning intentionality see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intentionality/ Accordingly

Intentionality is the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs.

Concerning meaning see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/meaning/ Accordingly meaning is a property of words, sentences and - more general - symbols of a language:

The first sort of theory - a semantic theory - is a theory which assigns semantic contents to expressions of a language. [...] The second sort of theory - a foundational theory of meaning - is a theory which states the facts in virtue of which expressions have the semantic contents that they have.

  • So the main distinction here is the domain of discourse? Dec 6, 2015 at 0:30
  • Yes. But I am sure that not everybody subscribes to this strict separation. Let's wait for further answers :-)
    – Jo Wehler
    Dec 6, 2015 at 0:32

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