The fiction of phenomenal intentionality

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Abstract:

This paper argues that there is no such thing as “phenomenal intentionality”. The arguments used by its advocates rely upon an appeal to “what it is like” (WIL) to attend on some occasion to one’s intentional state. I argue that there is an important asymmetry in the application of the WIL phenomenon to sensory and intentional states. Advocates of “phenomenal intentionality” fail to recognize this, but this asymmetry undermines their arguments for phenomenal intentionality.

The broader issue driving the advocacy of phenomenal intentionality is the belief that consciousness must somehow be implicated in intentionality. With this I agree. But because of the asymmetry of application of WIL, the path chosen by advocates of phenomenal intentionality to secure this conclusion cannot succeed. A brief overview of recent philosophy of mind explains the temptation to take this wrong path. Fortunately, there are other routes that implicate consciousness in intentionality. In consequence, though there is no phenomenal intentionality, there is a phenomenology of intentionality.

Keywords: consciousness; first-person perspective; intentionality; phenomenal; phenomenological; “what it is like”

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/ce.4.2.06geo

Affiliations: East Carolina University

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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