Consciousness and Intentionality

Authored by: David Pitt

The Routledge Handbook Of Consciousness

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936218
eBook ISBN: 9781315676982
Adobe ISBN:


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A mental state is conscious just in case there is something it is like to be in it. The properties in virtue of which there is something it is like to be in a mental state are phenomenal properties, or qualia. A mental state is intentional just in case it is about something, and thereby has truth or veridicality conditions. The feature of an intentional state in virtue of which it has these properties is called its intentional content. In analytic philosophy of mind there was for many years a consensus that consciousness and intentionality are properties of metaphysically exclusive kinds. Conscious qualitative states, such as visual, auditory and olfactory experiences, do not, per se, have intentional content; and intentional states, such as thoughts, beliefs, desires and intentions do not, qua intentional, have phenomenal properties. To be sure, perceptual states such as seeing a dog or hearing it bark are perceptions of dogs and barks, and thereby have intentional content. But their intentionality was typically taken to be determined by causal relations between perceiver and perceived, and not by any intrinsic qualitative features they might have. And though thoughts, beliefs and desire may be conscious, whatever qualitative features might be associated with thinking, believing and desiring were taken to be irrelevant to their intentional content. In general, the phenomenal character of conscious states was seen as having no essential connection to their intentional contents.

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