AS EXISTENCE, AND THE END OF INTENTIONALITY
by Ted Honderich
This is the
third paper devoted to the theme that cranialism with respect at least
to perceptual consciousness is a mistake. The true answer to 'Where is
your consciousness of this room?' is not that it is inside your head.
There is an abstract for the paper, or rather a lecture hand-out, at
the end. For the full theory of which this was forward-planning, see the book Actual Consciousness.
It was only in the last century of the past millenium that the Philosophy of Mind became a part of philosophy with some autonomy, enough for students to face examination papers in it by itself. Despite an inclination in some places to give it the name of Philosophical Psychology, it is not any science of the mind. This is not to say that the Philosophy of Mind is unempirical, but that it is like the rest of philosophy in being more taken up with good thinking about experienced facts than with establishing, elaborating or using them. Logic, if not formal logic, is the core of all philosophy, and so of the Philosophy of Mind. The discipline's first question is what it is for a thing to be conscious, whatever its capabilities. The discipline's second question is how a thing's being conscious is related to the physical world, including chairs, brains and bodily movements -- the mind-brain or mind-body problem.
The question of what it is for a thing to be conscious presupposes what is true, that we have some grip of what it is to be conscious from our own personal histories, presumably by remembering the last bits of them. In one sense, indeed the main sense, we have a complete grip, since consciousness itself is what we have without the aid of inference. Despite some light philosophy and a good deal of psychological and therapeutic stuff to the contrary, consciousness in itself it has no hidden depths -- whatever may be under it, of whatever sort.
If you answer the first question by saying that what it is to be conscious somehow consists in nothing but physical facts now known elsewhere, neural or electrochemical facts as they are now known and undertood in neuroscience, you do already answer one part of the second question, the part about consciousness and brains. Conciousness is related to the brain in that it is strictly identical with electrochemical activity in it. These answers of Eliminative or Nothing-But Materialism have remained the property of enthusiasts, usually in places of strong sunlight.
You could argue, despite the mediaevals and Hobbes and Descartes, that the Philosophy of Mind began in 1949 with Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind1. Certainly that book signalled the flourishing of the Philosophy of Mind. As the century ended, it was the most vigorous part of philosophy, what some called First Philosophy.2 But the burden of my reflections will be that having learned a lot, we need in this new millenium to give up on what we have. We need to begin again, in a certain very different way.
Ryle certainly rejected Substance-Dualism, associated with Descartes and a lot of religion. That may be taken as the view that what it is to be conscious is something that can happen without dependency on any physical thing, and something not itself in space and hence not physical. Physical things may be understood as (1) space-occupiers that are perceived and (2) space-occupiers that are in causal or other lawlike connections with the space-occupiers that are perceived. Sofas are in the first category, atoms in the second. Ryle also rejected Property-Dualism, usually the view that what it is to be conscious is for a physical thing to have non-physical properties dependent on it, these themselves being out of space and thus the physical realm. These two rejections issue in Naturalism with respect to consciousness. This is the attitude that what consciousness comes to is somehow physical, but not necessarily nothing but physical facts as now known and understood elsewhere, say neuroscience. This distinction between Naturalism and Eliminative or Nothing-But Materialism is not easy, but let us not be delayed by it.3
Ryle rejected more than Substance-Dualism and Property-Dualism. Although the matter is bound up with doctrines of his that we need not enter into, he himself did not take consciousness in our species to be no more than the neural or electrochemical properties of neuroscience. He was not an Eliminative Materialist. He denied too that his doctrine was what what it otherwise would have been taken as, a certain kind of Behaviourism. The trouble about Ryle is that his several relevant doctrines, notably the large one about category mistakes, do not explain how consciousness is for him both physical and also more than neural and bodily properties.
Certainly Ryle contributed to Functionalism, one of the two ruling families of doctrines about consciousness in the last decades of the past millenium. Functionalism comes from the Behaviourism to which Ryle seems committed despite his denial. Functionalism's best source or motivation is not Turing Machines or computers but such a plain truth as that desires, for example, need partly to be conceived as things somehow owed to perception and as somehow issuing in or tending to issue in action. Functionalism gets out of sight of such truths by conceiving events of consciousness as no more thantypes of conscious events as desires are conceived as no more than certain internal effect-causes or functions, but that conscious events generally are conceived as some general class of such effect-causes and conceived in no other way. The general proposition is the philosophically fundamental one. internal events that are effects of other such internal events and of inputs, and causes of other such internal events and of outputs. That is what is comes to freed of the lumber. What I mean is not only that such
Against this family of doctrines, philosophically considered, there is the objection that begins with a question: What general class of effect-causes is it that consists in conscious events generally? It needs to be kept in mind, in trying to answer it, that serious and exclusive Functionalism is different from certain hybrid and commonsensical doctrines. It does not allow that there is more to conscious events than a large class of effect-causes. It does not allow, for example, that conscious events involve some funny subjectivity, maybe an "inside," or "qualia" as usually understood.
To come towards the crux of the matter of serious Functionalism, and to put the question one way, in terms of just our species, it needs to be remembered that our lives are replete with effect-causes internal to us. In any hour of my life, my weight changes. Of these myriad effect-causes, as we non-Functionalists know and can say, only some are conscious -- the ones that have some character other than being just any old internal effect-causes. The point is not that they have non-causal properties, which they may have, but that they have certain special causal properties rather than any old causal properties having to do with other such internal events and with input and output. They fall under a different conception.
Such a conception is officially impossible for Functionalism. In fact, in elaborating itself and concerning itself with just beliefs, desires and so on, it is incoherent. Evidently it depends on something whose existence it denies, a conception of conscious events as other than effect-causes of whatever sort. It uses this to exclude my unnoticed weight changes from its study.
Can this objection be put aside as somehow over-punctilious? An attempt to do so may be made by a scientist of mind. Suppose he says what is true, that we do all depend in our thinking about consciousness on having some grip of what it is to be conscious, got from our personal histories. Suppose he says that what the Functionalist does is to use this grip to locate a subject-matter of which he then discovers, coherently, that it consists in no more than his or her effect-causes. This reply is no good. It cannot conceivably end with the conclusion that Functionalism plainly needs, that our grip was only of effect-causes. If the conclusion were true, our grip would include effect-causes that patently are not included, such as my hourly weight-change.4
There is the same objection of incoherence, although I will not go into the matter, with the other and related ruling family of doctrines about consciousness in recent decades. That is Artificial Intelligence or Cognitive Science With Philosophical Ambition. Here conscious events are taken as only something like logical states, or states of a computation. The simple fact is that we are at every moment in myriad states that fall under such a description and are certainly not all conscious states.
If you are a card-carrying Functionalist or member of the Artificial Intelligentsia, you will take more convincing of the need to turn in your card. Many others in and around philosophy, however, are persuaded that we need to start the new millenium with something a lot different. Thomas Nagel is one -- see his "Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem," his Royal Institute Annual Lecture for 1998.5 Certainly we have had enough of accounts of consciousness that are in fact denials of its existence -- denials of that on which we have a grip. Thomas Kuhn spoke of a period of what he called normal science coming to an end with a paradigm shift.6 Have we not come to an end of some normal Philosophy of Mind? Do we not need a new paradigm with consciousness? With that want of humility so natural to the philosophical temperament, I would like to carry forward the proposing of one. It was begun in two previous papers.7
What is it for you in the room you are in to be perceptually conscious at this moment? What is it for you to be aware of your surroundings? It is for a world somehow to exist.
What it is for you to be perceptually conscious is not, on this view, for a world somehow to exist -- of which you are conscious or aware or the like. There is no such circular addition. The sum of the view is that for you to be aware of your surroundings is just for a world somehow to exist. It is the beginning of an analysis of perceptual consciousness, one that takes the claim that someone is perceptually conscious to be a certain existence-claim. The nub is what that existence claim is or comes to. It is that a collection of things, reasonably referred to as chairs and the like, are in space and time and have other properties, but are not exactly physical.
Recall the earlier quick definition of the physical -- space-occupiers that are perceived or space-occupiers that are in lawlike connections with space-occupiers that are perceived. To say that something is physical in the first sense may be to say that it has a several-sided dependency on perceivers in general or some of them, most familiarly on their perceptual apparatus. Their contribution to secondary properties of things, the founding fact of British Empiricism, is one large side of this story of dependency. In contrast, to say that your being aware of this room now is for a world somehow to exist -- for a particular world of perceptual consciousness to exist -- is to say that things are in space and time and have other properties, but have a several-sided dependency on you alone.
The chairs now in your world of perceptual consciousness are certainly not in your head or mind, or out of space, but right there in space outside of you. This is perfectly consistent with their having a dependency not only on the atoms and so on in the other half of the physical world, what we can call the scientific world, which dependency certainly is important to the view in question, but also a unique dependency on you alone among perceivers.
Their existence in this way, this state of affairs, is no more mysterious than things existing physically, that other state of affairs. It is in several ways less mysterious. The first sort of existence, personally-dependent, is in fact somehow fundamental to the second. We get to or make up or posit the physical world from the material of our perceptual worlds. In short, what we have are two related ways of conceiving of what there is, where by those latter words we can gesture at whatever it is to which we bring our perceiving, conceptualizing, science and so on, something like a Kantian noumenal world.
Taking Naturalism as before, as the attitude that we should somehow or in a way restrict our thinking to the physical world, this doctrine of Perceptual Consciousness As Existence is not exactly Naturalism. But it is not far off, and it is as good as identical in spirit. This existentialism about perceptual consciousness could not be regarded as Substance-Dualism, and is remote from Property-Dualism as traditionally and now conceived. It does not turn perceptual consciousness into ghostly stuff or events whose character goes unexplained. It has a considerable if accidental affinity with meaning-doctrines of Anti-Individualism, Externalism and Wide Content -- it might be thought to make sense of them.8 It can properly be spoken of as Near-Naturalism. To repeat, your being conscious of this room is for chairs etc. to be in a way in space and time and to be brown, etc., where this is dependent, in so far as it is dependent on persons, on you as against anyone else.
So much for a quick sketch of the doctrine of perceptual consciousness as existence. Does it make clear that it is an analytic advance rather than a circularity? That it is far from saying, in a common way, that what it is to see something is for the thing to exist in one's mental world? I hope so, and hope too that it may be a basis for an account of consciousness generally -- its other two parts. These are reflective consciousness, which roughly speaking is thinking without perceiving, and affective consciousness, which has to do with desire, emotion and so on. Let me as quickly note what I take to be some recommendations of existentialism about perceptual consciousness.
(1) To say that for me to be aware of my surroundings is for a world somehow to exist is certainly to be true to what is called the phenomenology or seeming nature of the awareness. That is a really good start. Suppose, as seems pretty undeniable, and as was remarked at the start, that the seeming nature of perceptual conscious is it's only nature, since consciousness itself contains only what we have without inference. Then the recommendation of truth to so-called phenomenology is the greater.
(2) Despite a temptation to etherealize consciousness, we do, to speak a little loosely, take it to be a reality. Something does go out of existence when I lose consciousness. Consciousness is such a reality in the view under consideration. Compare, for example, conscious events as merely logical states, the stock in trade of Artificial Intelligence or Cognitive Science With Philosophical Ambition.
(3) Any view of perceptual consciousness must account for what we call its subjective character, its real subjectivity. The view under consideration does this uniquely, without being elusive. It explains how there is a difference between your awareness and mine, these being different worlds of perceptual consciousness, and, more important, differences between both awarenesses and the physical world in its particular objectivity. These three worlds have different things in them, numerically and qualitatively. The first two involve different real points of view.
(4) With any view of perceptual consciousness, its upshot for the mind-body or mind-brain problem is crucial. We demand, almost above all, that a view of consciousness should explain, or at any rate not make more obscure, how it is that consciousness can be both effect and cause of physical things. The view in hand, I take it, passes the test. The nub is that being perceptually conscious, as was not the case for Descartes and his followers, is something that is not only in time but also in space. This it can be, clearly, without also being exactly physical. The fact has to do in part with its other dependency, on what was called the scientific world.
As it seems to me, the two Naturalist families of accounts of consciousness mentioned, Functionalism and the Artificial Intelligence, fail to satisfy the first three of these four requirements -- about phenomenology so-called, a reality, and real subjectivity. This is so, perhaps, because they are responses above all to the fourth, the mind-body problem, this fact having something to do with their kinship to the sciences of consciousness. Perceptual consciousness as existence, by contrast, satisfies all four requirements. However there may be another one. It is the main concern of this paper.
It has been a philosophical commonplace that most of non-perceptual consciousness, and perceptual consciousness as well, has a property or nature that is its intentionality. In the Philosophy of Mind since Roderick Chisholm's Perceiving of 1957,9 an awful lot has been heard about it. Many have contemplated that this intentionality may be the mark of the mental, and taken consciousness as at least a main part of the mental, the remainder being our various capabilities and dispositions. Intentionality is typically introduced by way of certain remarks.
(i) In consciousness there is something before the mind.
(ii) The mind has a capacity to direct itself at things.
(iii) Conscious events are directed at or have reference to things.
(iv) They are about things.
(v) They are of things.
(vi) We do not just believe, or just desire, or just see, but believe, desire or see something.
(vii) We can believe what is not the case, want what does not exist, and so on
Do you suppose, on hearing or rehearing these remarks, that you have already been told what intentionality is? That would perhaps be in line with Dennett's initial definition of intentionality in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy as simply "aboutness."10 But of course there is something philosophically more important that has the name of intentionality. This is some more clarified property or character of conscious events, this property or character being their intentionality properly speaking. Such a property or character is given to us in a philosophical doctrine, one of a family of philosophical doctrines.
Thus we can take the initial remarks as parts of what has been called folk-psychology -- that of which it is tempting to say that it is what we actually know about the mind. The subsequent doctrines of intentionality are not part of folk-psychology. They are in a way on a level with the Dualisms, Eliminative Materialism, Functionalism, philosophical Artificial Intelligence, certain doctrines of the subjective character and of the content of conscious events11, and so forth. This is so although the doctrines of intentionality may not compete with but may enter into the Dualisms and so on. Nearly all of these, save Eliminative Materialism, have somehow added to their materials at least a recognition of a somehow clarified property or character of intentionality.
The general question in front of us, then, is whether the various philosophical doctrines of intentionality satisfy a requirement on accounts of consciousness that is given in the various remarks, and also whether the account of perceptual consciousness as existence satisfies the requirement.
Of course, it is not very clear how much of a requirement it is. On reflection, we do not have much of a test of philosophical doctrines of intentionality or the doctrines of Dualism etc. into which they enter in the particular truth (vi) that to see is always to see something -- that being understood as a remark in an ordinary unphilosophical tone of voice. Functionalists have not yet become so insecure as to claim the recommendation that they too can allow that when we see, we always see things. Perhaps the day is coming but we are not yet there.
What about the remark that (i) in consciousness there is something before the mind, or the remark that (ii) the mind has a capacity to direct itself upon things? Does the latter introduce a bit of folk doctrine, if there can be such a thing -- something beyond the truth that seeing is always seeing something? To the extent that the term "the mind" can be assigned a plain man's meaning, do we get more of a requirement on accounts of consciousness?
Let us not reflect further on the use of the opening remarks about intentionality. Let us assume that the remarks may be some guide as to perceptual consciousness, but leave the matter a little unsettled. Let us not struggle, either, to arrive at the single best understanding of the philosophical doctrines of intentionality. One reason for not doing so is that we would lose things of interest and possibly of value. Rather, let us look at seven philosophical doctrines of intentionality or the like. No doubt there are more, yet more obscure, but these seven will serve my dark purpose.
Doctrine (I) rather than Brentano's paragraph is my concern. Evidently it has in it nothing whatever about objects or contents outside the head of the perceiver -- objects or contents of which it is remarked, by other doctrinalists to whom we will come, that they may not exist. Also, this first doctrine is in accord with the truism that a relation requires the existence of its terms, and in particular that a dyadic relation requires the existence of two terms. If the second term in the doctrine, the mentioned object or content in consciousness and the head of the perceiver, did not exist, the token relation would not exist, and hence the particular event of perceptual consciousness would not exist. But there is no reason whatever to raise a question of such an inner object or content not existing.
What is to be said of (I)? It seems out of touch with the initial remarks as ordinarily understood that (i) in consciousness there is something before the mind, that (ii) the mind has a capacity to direct itself at things, and that (vi) in seeing we see something. According to them, do I not have before me, direct myself at, and see, ordinary rooms outside my head? Folk-psychology is not the Sense-Datum or Representative Theory of Perception, not Phenomenalism. Even when a supposed external object in fact does not exist, say the fountain of youth in Hampstead, what I seem to get in hallucinating it is not what I as a member of the folk would then describe as a fountain in my head. Very definitely this first doctrine of intentionality as applied to perceptual consciousness is wonderfully incomplete. Seeing involves some relation to something outside the head in question. That is built into the concept.
We need to object, too, that the relation in this first doctrine, inside the head, is left about as metaphorical and obscure as in the ordinary remarks with which we began. Certainly the relation, although reference to the object or content is mentioned, could not possibly be one of representation, like that between a word or picture and what it stands for. What the account evidently wants to bring in as the first term of the relation is something like the mind, which itself, whatever it is, can be no representation or symbol. Also, what is this thing called the mind? We are doing philosophy now, not chatting, and so we need to know.
A further objection will have counterparts with respect other doctrines of intentionality to which we are coming. We have it that an event of perceptual consciousness in a head includes within itself an object or content. The account says nothing of the nature of this item, about whether it is conceptual or not and so on, but leave that. The relevant fact is that the object or content is understood as being within or a part of the consciousness of the perceiver. It is as much so as if it were a sense-datum -- which, for all we are told, it may be. It would also be within or a part of the consciousness of the perceiver if it were the original sort of thing in the intentionality tradition, the intentio of the mediaevals, this being an idea, concept or notion.13
But when I am aware of this room now, what is within my consciousness is the room and no other relevant thing. Seeing isn't always seeing double. Seeing isn't seeing by way of using some conscious means to that end, an image or idea or whatever else. There's no picture or word or the like in the story of my perceptual consciousness now. There is no minimizing this objection. The very centrepiece of this first account of intentionality is missing from its subject-matter, from the reality of perceptual consciousness. The reality is Hamlet without the prince.
Does some scientist of consciousness now say that this last objection is beside some large point? And say that that point is that the object or content need not be within or part of the conscious event? Well, that is not at all like the account we have been considering, the one closest to Brentano's paragraph, but of course we can contemplate something distant from Brentano's paragraph but yet related to it.
Is there a reason for changing the subject, for contemplating this second account? Could it be that someone's reason, so-called, is just some fuller account of perceptual consciousness, something that calls for the relocation of intentionality outside of consciousness as we have a grip on it? Maybe hybrid or modified Functionalism, having in it the story of inner causal relata but also something about "qualia," these being a matter of consciousness but not intentionality? But that is not a defence of non-conscious intentionality, a reason in favour of it. It is in effect pretty much the opposed doctrine -- and thus near to begging the question. We want a ground for moving from intentionality within consciousness to non-conscious intentionality, not an assertion of the latter. By contrast, as it seems to me, the objection that this doctrine of non-conscious intentionality gives no account whatever of something, as implicitly promised, is not the question-begging assertion of another account.
One of the initial remarks about intentionality was that (vii) we can believe in or want what does not exist -- and of course hope for it and so on. This plain fact is thought to be catered for in some14 It may be replaced by a fact about language now philosophically familiar, the fact of intensionality with an "s.". This linguistic fact is; doctrine of intentionality. It is not catered for in the first doctrine, as noticed, or presumably the second. There is nothing in either doctrine about any relation one of whose terms does not or may not exist. The plain fact that we can believe in or want or hope for what does not exist may be turned into something else, as it was by Chisholm.
Is there some doctrine of intentionality, as distinct from anything else, that does cater for the fact that we can believe in or want what does not exist -- some doctrine that does involve us in the problem, as it called, of a relation to something that does not exist? Indeed there is. Consider the following candidate, anticipated in passing earlier.
There is also the fact that the second relation, to say the least, is obscure. If it is said to be representation, what is that in general? No philosophical question is further from an answer. As for the philosophical question of what this sort of conscious representation, as against representation with real sentences and pictures, is supposed to be, this is a philosophical question often regarded as unanswerable.16
That is not the end of the trouble. There is worse. It is no good tripping lightly past the so-called "problem" of a non-existent term of a relation. This is in fact a simple contradiction. The relation of representation or whatever is indeed presented as a relation. What we are thus offered is nothing other than the nonsense of the possibility of a dyadic relation with one term, the nonsense of a relation between something and nothing.
Do some of us come to tolerate the so-called problem by concentrating on the many happy cases where the thing outside the conscious event and the head does exist -- say the fountain in South End Green rather than the fountain of youth? Can it be supposed that despite the contradiction in the second case, we can have a clear and good account of this relation in the first case? Exactly the opposite can be argued. The so-called relation of representation, it seems, is the same in both cases. Well then, what is clear about the first case is not part of that relation.
Let me be brief about something else, a once hopeful doctrine that is best regarded as a part of or serious and exclusive Functionalism and hence something we have put aside. It could, however, be made part of doctrine (IV) just considered or of something else. It is distinctive in being a certain attempt to make an escape from the obscurity of the second relation at which we have been glancing, regarded as one of representation, aboutness or whatever. What it does is to suppose that:
Before turning to the fullest and best-known account of intentionality, let us consider a very recent one, by Tim Crane.18 It has to do with something so far not mentioned, a consensus that intentionality is not a feature of certain conscious or mental states -- such bodily sensations as having a pain and such moods or feelings as undirected anxiety or depression. This doctrine is also different in another way. The previous ones, those that do not change the subject, have at least the smell of the Sense-Datum Theory of Perception about them. Here, we get rid of it.
In this exposition, tentative and not doctrinally-burdened, the consensus about bodily sensations and moods not being intentional is questioned. The essential first move in this connection, certainly arresting, is simply to detach intentionality from a mental state's being (iv) about anything, or (v) ofrepresenting anything. The facts that a pain and being gloomy about nothing in particular are not of or about anything and do not represent anything -- these were of course just the reasons that those states were not regarded as intentional. Now they can be. The main plank of the doctrine is said to be captured by or expressed in or inspired by what we have treated as a guiding remark, that (vi) we do not just believe or desire or see, but believe or desire or see something.19 This main plank is: anything, or
So we have these two instances of something being "given to the mind," which fact is the fact of intentionality. The view is said to be close to previous doctrines of intentionality for two reasons. One, alas, is that it involves what appears to be a relation between thinkers and the objects of their thoughts -- despite, as is allowed, the fact that this cannot be true in general. Secondly, the view is true to the idea so far unmentioned that when something is apprehended as the object of an intentional state, it is apprehended in a certain way. This is an idea closely associated with intensionality with an "s."
This view must prompt a number of reflections. One, of some importance, has to do with the initial remarks, also a matter of consensus, that an intentional state certainly is about something or ofrepresents something. Are these items not pretty much the heart of the matter? The ease with which this heart is jettisoned should go some way to curing anyone of the thought that with intentionality we have philosophical doctrines that at least have agreed foundations. To say the least, things are not that clear. And, putting aside foundations, there is not even a decent consistency. But another reflection is still more important. something. There is also the philosophical commonplace that an intentional state
We have long had philosophical accounts of the various kinds of consciousness -- including accounts of seeing and other perceiving, and of sensations like pain, and of being subject to the emotions. Accounts of the latter two things are offered in the doctrine we are considering. A view of seeing and other perceiving is also favoured in the doctrine -- Direct or Naive Realism, in line with what is preferred in connection with the pain and gloom. The doctrine's main aim, however, is to characterize a wholly pervasive character of consciousness. The aim is rightly higher than a certain disjunction: consciousness is either such-and-such, as when it consists in seeing and the like, or such and such, with pain and the like, or.... The aim, rather, is to come up with a common character of conscious events, their intentionality.
We have the sum total of that character, I take it, when we are told that in consciousness something is given to the mind. Regarded as a philosophical account, this is very safe, because it says so very little. In fact it would fit well into the initial remarks which we began. Presumably more than a metaphor is intended, but what? My apprehension is that we learn nothing from this account. If it goes beyond the remark that (vi) in believing, desiring and seeing we believe, desire and see something, where does it go? Is it helped on its way at all by additional unexplained talk of "directedness?"
The thinness can be made clear in a particular way. Consider the "of-ness," "about-ness" and representativeness of other mental states than pain and gloom etc., those that do indeed seem to have it, belief above all. Is this what it is for them to be instances of something's being given to the mind or is it not? If it is, then we have no general philosophical account of intentionality, one that also applies to the pain and gloom. This is the disjunctive failure. But if the "of-ness" etc. is not what it is for something to be given to the mind, then what is this givenness? Could it be that what we have here is no more than a generalized Direct or Naive Realism -- something pretty unlikely to throw light on consciousness itself or a fundamental character of it. In its talk of direct awareness, it has never analysed awareness, but only asserted it to be direct.
The doctrine under consideration also has in it something else to give us pause. Not only consciousgiven to them. Unconscious ones can. What is it for something to be given to something else if the latter thing is not conscious -- if it is, as presumably it is, a neural structure? Do remember, by the way, if you are willing to tolerate non-conscious representation, that this givenness of something is specifically not its being represented by or to anything. states can have things
Let me also remark quickly, as in another case earlier, that if we are giving an analysis of a fundamental fact of consciousness or mentality, and something called "the mind" turns up in it essentially, we are not a long way forward. Finally, and as important as anything else, there is that matter of a wonky relation between thinkers and the objects of their thoughts. Can you say, in effect, as our philosopher does in this case, that something is usually a relation but sometimes is not? That in general intentionality is a relation, but not always?21 No you can't. At best you face immediate questions. What is that thing? One thing it isn't is a relation.
(VII) Let us finish this survey by looking a little more closely at John Searle's doctrine in his book Intentionality.22 There is too much of it to be summarized in a sentence or two, but it is in part that in your now being aware of this room, there exists something called a content, but no directedness towards it. Nor, then, is there anything that is directed towards it. What can be said, at most, is that a person has the experience. The content, then, is no object of awareness. It is not a sense-datum, sensum, impression, copy, kind of picture or the like -- this doctrine, like the previous one, is a version of Direct Realism as against the Sense-Datum Theory or Phenomenalism. The content is not a "linguistically realized" item either.23 Despite not being any of these things, however, it is something else. This content is directed to something. It is a propositional content or representative content. It may represent an object or state of affairs, as in the case of your awareness of a yellow station wagon or this room. Or, it may represent without there being any object or state of affairs that it represents.
Several other things are said of contents in general. One is that instead of taking a conscious experience to be a relation between a person and the content, it would be more accurate to say the experience was identical with the content somehow realized. With respect to the representative character of the content, gestured at by what is admitted to be only the metaphor of directedness, it is allowed that it is not possible to give an analysis of it in simpler terms. Intrinsic intentionality is a ground-floor property of the mind.
Despite this, however, light can be shed on it by way of the derived intentionality or representativeness of sentences of language, real pictures, and so on. These latter things, in what is called their logical character as against any of their ontological realizations, are a matter of (i) a truth condition or other "condition of satisfaction," (ii) a psychological mode, such that the sentence or whatever is a belief, desire or the like, which mode determines (iii) direction of fit. In the case of a sentence that is a belief, the belief needs to fit the world, rather than the world be changed to fit the belief, as in the case of a command. So with your awareness of this room, and perceptual consciousness in general. To speak of any content being a representation is just shorthand for such "logical" facts about it.
To return to perceptual experience in particular, it is added that it has what are spoken of as phenomenal properties. Above all, while it is true that your being aware of this room is more or less a representation, it is more natural tor regard it as a presentation of a state of affairs -- directly of it, immediate, and involuntary. Also, with perceptual experience, it enters into the content somehow that the content is caused by the object it represents. This is "shown" in the experience. Finally, a perceptual content may involve an aspect under which an object is presented, as in the case of the duck/rabbit drawing.
This account of intentionality seems to me both admirable and a disaster -- being philosophy, it can be both. If it escapes metaphor, scientism and spirituality, it faces some of the seemingly insuperable difficulties as its predecessors. Also, for a large reason not yet given, it seems in the end to raise a question about itself, a general question about its own interpretation.
The exclusion of anything about a relation of a content to anything so vague as the mind or the like is of course understandable. But the exclusion is also impossible. It runs up against the seeming necessity that a representation is something that is to or for someone or something. A mark or propositional content or whatever such that there is no possibility of there being a reading or understanding of it by something is no representation. This remains true if representation is reduced to satisfaction-conditions and so on. It thus seems that eschewing of the vagueness of a mind or whatever in relation to the content will not do. An account of that thing to which something is a representation is needed, and no account at all is given. Nor, secondly, is any account given of any relation from the thing to the representation. That is quite as bad, not an incidental failing.
To come on to the other relation, content to object, there is the other old difficulty of there being no sense in talk of a dyadic relation with only one term. There still is a relation asserted, of course, when representation is conceived in the way just mentioned, by way of the several notions -- satisfaction-conditions and so on. It is no good saying, as it is said, that intentionality cannot be "an ordinary relation" since the object or state of affairs at one end of it need not exist.24 It obviously cannot be a relation at all, ordinary, extraordinary, plain, fancy or of any other kind whatever.
To come on to other difficulties of this account, they involve us in what seems to be a general question of how to interpret it. It may seem in a way clear enough. The content of a perceptual experience is not an object of awareness, not seen, not a sense-datum or the like, and not a linguistically realized item. However, that does not exclude a related possibility -- very likely exactly what you have had in mind in contemplating the whole story. It is just that the content is within or a part of the experience, in consciousness, something reportable without inference.
One reason for this interpretation is that the content, as you will remember, is on the way to being identical with the experience, and that the experience is of course something had by the perceiver, something that is experienced by the perceiver. It is at least indicative, too, that it is said that such a content, which has a self-referential side having to do with causation mentioned in passing earlier, can be made explicit in a certain form. "I have a visual experience (that there is a yellow station wagon there and that there is a yellow station wagon there is causing this visual experience.)"25
That same conclusion, that the content is within consciousness as a part, can be based as well on the content's having, as you will remember, such phenomenal properties as being a presentation. It seems we can tell or indeed are given this difference of perceptual experience from other consciousness. Remember as well that perceptual experience may involve an aspect under which an object is presented. It is certainly worth keeping in mind, too, that Searle's official position with respect to the ontology of conscious events is against Reductionism -- against, as it seems, their having only neural properties.26 Further, while he does indeed distinguish his position from the Representative Theory of Perception and Phenomenalism, he stresses that for him experiences are real in a way that he takes to be denied in some other versions of Direct Realism.
The burden of all this is that the account we are considering is that in seeing the room we have the content in our experience -- and, as we know, it is certainly not the object, which is such a thing as the yellow station wagon out there in the world. This is all very well, but there are reasons for hesitation. There are reasons to consider a very different interpretation. It is that the content of which we have heard so much is not in consciousness.
We have learned in recent Philosophy of Mind that the language of consciousness is easily degraded. The meanings of terms can be reduced to what is far less than the realities the terms are supposed to be about. This is true of "consciousness," of course, and "content" itself, but also such other terms as have turned up in the exposition of this doctrine of intentionality, including "experienced," "representation," "aspect" and so on. It does indeed seem unlikely that Searle should be among the degraders, given his role as the hammer of the Artificial Intelligentsia. But for certain reasons it is not impossible.
One reason is that he insists that his doctrine gives the logical properties of intentionality, and not the ontology of the experiences that realize those properties. The distinction is perhaps sufficiently clear, and it does certainly leave us with the question of the ontology or actual nature of perceptual consciousness. We hear about that in another book.27 We are told there that a Reductionist account of that nature is not intended, but it is uncertain how such an account is avoided. To come to a principal contention of mine in the past, it certainly is not avoided by what is mainly said of consciousness, that it consists in higher-level biological events of the brain caused by lower-level wholly neural events in the brain.28 That description, certainly, allows the higher-level events to be wholly neural.
It is not reassuring either that in one place in Intentionality where he says his contents are not objects, that there are no internal objects of awareness, he also goes further. "The visual experience is not the object of visual perception, and the features which specify the intentional content are not in general literal features of the experience."29 That does not sound at all like the first interpretation. Do we need to hear all the lines about experience, awareness and so on in a way very differently from before?
Let me notice in passing, on the way to a conclusion about the interpretation of the doctrine, that there is a special difficulty in saying that no analysis is possible of the intrinsic intentionality of consciousness. If this ground-floor property of the mind does defy any analysis, how can we know that light is shown on it by the intentionality of language, pictures and so on derived from it? This is not obvious, if only for the reason that there is no sense in which causes have to be like their effects.
Let me notice, too, that there is a remarkable difference between derived intentionality and intrinsic intentionality. With derived intentionality we have actually got representations -- words in English, sentences, pictures, images and so on. When I use your name in saying good morning to you, that representation of you is about as real as you. If we cannot actually find any analogue with intrinsic intentionality, why should it be thought that it can have light cast on it by derived intentionality? How could something so unlike intrinsic intentionality cast any light at all?
I shall not attempt to settle the general question of interpretation that has emerged. Like much impressive philosophy, what we have may be an attempt to have it both ways. Let me suggest, rather, that we have a dilemma. If content is taken to be within consciousness, there is a large problem, and if it is not so taken, there is as much of a problem.
With respect to the first supposition, that contents are within consciousness, parts of perceptual experience -- this is false. It is not only false that in perceptual experience we have a content as a sense-datum or other object of awareness, but as false that we have the content otherwise conceived somehow within or as a part of the experience. What I have in my awareness of this room is nothing more than this room. What we get, in Searle's terms, is just the object. We just get the station-wagon itself. That is the so-called phenomenology of it, as noted already with several other doctrines of intentionality. So on this interpretation of the doctrine what we again get is Hamlet without the prince. No more needs to be said.
The second interpretation is that really Searle wishes to relocate all that stuff about content out of consciousness as we have a grip on it. On his account correctly understood, it is really somewhere else. The proper response to this is the same as before, with another doctrine of intentionality, the second we looked at it. It is that we are left with no account at all of perceptual consciousness itself, and no reason for changing the subject.
So much for this last doctrine of intentionality -- now let me rehearse a bit.
It seemed possible that an adequate account of perceptual consciousness needs to satisfy a requirement having to do with intentionality conveyed by a number of remarks, the first being that in consciousness there is something before the mind. The remarks in question have issued in a number of philosophical doctrines of or related to intentionality, seven noticed by us, which doctrines can enter into dualisms and the like. We have looked at these doctrines of intentionality in order to see if they satisfy a requirement of intentionality conveyed by the remarks. Do they?
They do not. They do not satisfy any requirement of interest. This is because these doctrines are a mess. I have been a little relentless in laying out objections to them, some of which may have been noted by you before. My aim has partly been to reinforce a suspicion or at any rate a tentativeness that should have become a suspicion -- maybe a suspicion or tentativeness less expressed because of the idea that there is no alternative to some doctrine of intentionality or other. In any case, the doctrines are a mess.30
The largest reason for saying so, now familiar, is that what most of them centrally affirm, an object or content internal to perceptual consciousness, is a fiction. The reality of perceptual consciousness is no prince. The second reason is the nonsense of a relation to an object or state of affairs that does not or need not exist, a dyadic relation with one term. The third is the vagueness of that to which something is a representation, maybe a mind. The fourth is obscurity about the second relation, often said to be representation. A fifth, as with Crane, is the obscurity of some relation or other, givenness, in the Direct or Naive Realism. A sixth, in the case of several doctrines, is incompleteness. A seventh, in two cases, is missing the subject entirely. Finally, there is the uncertainty about the general interpretation of the fullest account, Searle's, which helps to open it to all of the objections already mentioned.
The first of my principal conclusions in this paper, then, is that we need to give up on doctrines of intentionality -- anything of the sort we have considered. Doctrines of intentionality should be regarded as having no future. We should give up on them. The second conclusion is that reflection on these philosophical doctrines has results for something else. It has results for the proposition that what it is for you to be perceptually conscious is for a world in a way to exist.
Existentialism about perceptual consciousness does not exactly follow from, but is certainly suggested by, there being no object or content within perceptual consciousness. Might it be that it is only this existentialism that that is both arguable and also consistent with the fact of the missing object or content?
Existentialism about perceptual consciousness is suggested too by the nonsense about a relation lacking a term. In this existentialism, there is no such relation -- and no relation which can tempt anyone in the direction of the nonsense. You are right to suppose there are other relations, between a world of perceptual consciousness and the scientific world, and between a world of perceptual consciousness and a brain, and between such a world and the perceived part of the physical world, but no question whatever arises of a relation existing in the absence of one of its terms. If existentialism about perceptual consciousness has to fit in illusion and hallucination, which it does, and about which nothing has been said, it does not have to do so by pretending that a non-relation is a relation.
There is the very same story with our other reflections on the doctrines of intentionality -- incompleteness, vagueness about the possessor or whatever of a representation, obscurity about the relation of this thing to the representation, obscurity of the relation of representation to an object, and missing the subject-matter entirely. These shortcomings of philosophical doctrines of intentionality -- not to mention startling inconsistencies between them -- point to something very different, arguably our existentialism.
Let us return briefly to the bundle of remarks with which we began, the folk psychology as against the developed philosophical accounts of intentionality. How does perceptual consciousness as existence stand to that bundle? Also, how much of a requirement on accounts of perceptual consciousness is the bundle? Does perceptual consciousness as existence, for a start, accord with the remark that in consciousness (i) there is something before the mind?
Well, you could say that the view actually gets rid of the distinction between "the mind" and "something before it" -- thereby meaning just the central proposition that to be perceptually conscious is for a world in a way to exist. You could also say, however, that the view gives a certain sense to the remark that in consciousness something is before the mind -- that in a perceptual experience there exists a particular world rather than any other. You could say, too, that our existentialism about consciousness does better than did certain doctrines of intentionality in accomodating the remark. My own first reaction, however, is one that does not accord too much respect to the remark. It is that it is a recommendation of the view that it gets rid of the mind as a ghostly entity, which the remark seems to take it to be.
So too with the remark that (ii) the mind has a capacity to direct itself at things. Of this it can also be said that in a perceptual experience there exists a particular world rather than any other. But I leave to you further reflection on the bundle and the extent to which we have catered for it, and how far we should be constrained by it.
Finally, three general reflections on intentionality from elsewhere.
The first is by the distinguished Brentano and Husserl scholar, Reinhardt Grossman.31 It is about dilemmas, and begins with what can seem to be one -- that in perceptual and other consciousness either the mind is related to what is before it or it is not. The second horn of this dilemma is a horn because there is no plausible non-relational account. The first horn is a horn because it leads to difficulties of which you have heard something from me. That is, a relational account must deal with the proposition that we can believe in and desire things that do not exist. Thus what we have is either that there can be a relation to things that do not exist, a weird relation, or certain things that do not really exist do somehow exist -- another dilemma.
In the tradition of Brentano and Husserl, I take it, the response to the first dilemma has indeed been that there is no non-relational account of perceptual consciousness. Thereafter a lot of fortitude has gone into trying to make sense of a relation underdescribed as weird, or to make sense of objects that somehow do not and also do exist. As you will anticipate, my response is different. We need not get into all that deep water, since, to go back to the first dilemma, so-called, there now is a non-relational account of perceptual consciousness -- as a kind of existence.
The second reflection is by Quine.32 It has to do with both the tradition of Brentano and also his idea, so far unmentioned, that intentionality is not only the mark of the mental but something that cannot be accounted for in physical terms. There can be no account of it that preserves a Naturalism. Quine's response in effect is that if there is inconsistency between a supposed fact of intentionality and Naturalism, then it is the supposed fact that must be given up. Does this response come to an entire disregarding of the requirement we have been considering on an account of consciousness? Does it come to supposing there is no sense or truth in the remark that in the consciousness on which we have a grip something is before the mind? Then it is no tolerable conclusion.
But that does not drive us far from Quine's position. If the choice was between something about the mind inconsistent not only with Naturalism but also with the Near-Naturalism of perceptual consciousness as existence, my own inclination would be to give up that thing. That is not the choice we face. It may be a recommendation of taking perceptual consciousness to be a kind of existence that we can satisfy what requirements we need to satisfy in connection with intentionality and still remain philosophically respectable.
The third reflection is Fodor's, often reported, that "...if aboutness is real, it must really be something else."33 What is supposed to stand in the way of taking aboutness to be real? Fodor's answer, and the answer of many, is that it has seemed not to fit into naturalism at all, and particularly has not been open to the hopeless causal analysis mentioned earlier.34 That is, there is no serious chance of taking B's being a representation of A as just the fact that A causes B.
A response to Fodor is that getting near
to Naturalism is enough, and certainly that it would be absurd to
that intentionality is somehow non-causal. But of course consciousness
as existence isis a causal account of
perceptual consciousness. Aboutness is real, and no doubt is
a fact of more of consciousness than perceptual consciousness. But,
our account of perceptual consciousness as the basis of consciousness
aboutness really is something else than has been supposed. He's
right about that.
1 London: Hutchinson
2 John Searle, Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p. ix
3 By my understanding, Functionalism -- serious and exclusive Functionalism -- is within Naturalism, as is Cognitive Science with Philosophical Ambition, and also the doctrine that conscious events are physical events in heads but different from physical events recognized now in neuroscience. For a version of this latter view, see my "Consciousness, Neural Functionalism, Real Subjectivity," American Philosophical Quarterly, 32/4 (October, 1995). Thomas Hobbes, U. T. Place and Patricia Churchland count as Eliminative Materialists, as do those Behaviourists who said that conscious events are no more than behaviour, the latter being movements.
4 For some more along these lines, and also the objection that Functionalism despite its pretensions is in fact no advance on Eliminative Materialism, see my "Functionalism, Identity Theories, The Union Theory," in R. Warner & T. Szubka, eds., The Mind-Body Problem: A Guide to the Current Debate (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), pp. 215-235.
5 Thomas Nagel, "Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem," Philosophy, July, 1998.
6 T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962)
7 "Consciousness as Existence," in Anthony O'Hear, ed., Current Issues in the Philosophy of Mind, Royal Institute of Philosophy lectures for 1996-7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 137-155; "Consciousness as Existence Again," in Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Vol. 9, Philosophy of Mind, ed. B. Elevitch (Bowling Green: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1999), and also forthcoming in Theoria. The second paper corrects the first in certain important respects.
8 More sense than made by me in "The Union Theory and Anti-Individualism," John Heil and Alfred Mele, eds., Mental Causation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
9 R. M. Chisholm, Perceiving: A Philosophical Study (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1957)
10 "Intentionality," in Robert Audi, ed., The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
11 I take the opportunity to affirm that existentialism about perceptual consciousness is no continuation at all of my positive lines of thought in "Seeing Things, " Synthese 98, 1, January 1994, and "Consciousness, Neural Functionalism, Real Subjectivity."
12 Psychology From an Empirical Standpoint, ed. Oskar Kraus, Linda L. McAlister (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 88. For interpretation of the paragraph, in particular in connection with existence-in rather than non-existence, see David Bell, Husserl (London: Routledge, 1990), Ch. 1.H
13 For introductory sketches of intentionality, see Stephen Priest, Theories of the Mind (London: Penguin Books, 1991); Owen Flanagan, The Science of the Mind (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1984), Robert Stalnaker, Inquiry (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1984), Ch. 1, and Tim Crane, "Intentionality," Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1998), ed. Edward Craig.
15 See my A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988) or Mind and Brain (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999), both p. 71 ff.
16 Tim Crane, "Representation," Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
17 Cf. Jerry A. Fodor, Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge, Ma.: Bradford Book, 1987).
18 "Intentionality as the Mark of the Mental," in Current Issues in the Philosophy of Mind, Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures for 1996-97, pp. 229-251
19 Op cit, pp. 246, 238, 243
20 M. G. F. Martin, "Setting Things Before the Mind," in Current Issues in the Philosophy of Mind.
21 "Intentionality as the Mark of the Mental," p. 244.
22 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983
23 Intentionality, p. 6
24 Intentionality, p. 4
25 Intentionality, p. 48
26 John Searle, The Rediscovery of the Mind (London & Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1992), p. xi ff, p. 1 ff, p. 113 ff
27 The Rediscovery of the Mind
28 For a general assessment of Searle as reductionist, dualist or whatever, see my "Consciousness, Neural Functionalism, Real Subjectivity," especially pp. 337-338
29 Intentionality, p. 44, p. 45
30 Searle takes the intentionality tradition before him to be "something of a mess." Intentionality, p. 1
31 Reinhardt Grossmann, "Intentional Relation," in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), ed. Ted Honderich
32 W. V. O. Quine, Word and Object (New York: Wiley, 1960), p. 221
33 Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind, p. 97
34 See intentionality doctrine V.
ABSTRACT / LECTURE HAND-OUT:
world of your perceptual consciousness is related to the first of the
parts of the physical world: the one that consists in space-time
with secondary properties for perceivers generally (e.g. sofas), as
space-time occupants (e.g. atoms) in lawlike connection with space-time
occupants in the first category.
or requirements for accounts of perceptual consciousness have to do
(i) so-called phenomenology, (ii) reality, (iii) subjective character,
and (iv) the mind-body problem. Also (v) intentionality?
as typically commented on: (1) In consciousness there is something
the mind. (2) The mind has a capacity to direct itself at things. (3)
events directed at or have reference to things. (4) Are about
or (5) of things. (6) We do not just believe, desire or see,
believe, desire or see something. (7) We can believe what is
the case, want what does not exist, etc.
Philosophical Doctrines of Intentionality:
Consciousness involves a relation of directedness or reference between
something or other unspecified and an object or content internal to the
conscious event in question. The event in question is of course
as taking place in the head of the perceiver, as must its contained
or content. Cf. Brentano's famous paragraph.
An event of perceptual consciousness involves a relation of
between something or other, perhaps something more congenial to the
20th Century than the mind, and an object or content not
to the event of perceptual consciousness, but within the head or body
There is intensionality with an "s" -- in part that it may not
from the use of a referring expression, that the thing referred to
An event of perceptual consciousness is such that a mind is in a
of directedness with respect to an object or content internal to the
but there is a second relation between the object or content and some
outside the event and the head in question. The second relation may
between the content or object and a thing that does not exist.
The relation of representation or aboutness between the internal object
or content and the particular thing outside the head is that the latter
causes the former.
What it is for something to be an intentional state is for it to be
to the mind. Pain and undirected depression considered. (Crane)
What it is for you to be aware of this room is for a propositional
to represent an object outside the head. Etc. (Searle)
of objections to doctrines of intentionality: (a) Hamlet without the
(b) nonsensical relation to non-existent object, (c) vagueness of
(d) vagueness of mind-to-content relation, (e) obscurity of
"relation" of representation, (f) incompleteness, (g) missing the
entirely, (h) general interpretation problem with Searle.
first conclusion about doctrines of intentionality at the millenium is
that they are a mess with no future.