Angela Mendelovici

The Phenomenal Basis of Intentionality

(Accepted for publication with Oxford University Press in 2018)


Some mental states seem to be "of" or "about" things, or to "say" something. For example, a thought might represent that grass is green, and a visual experience might represent a blue cup. This is intentionality. The aim of this book is to explain this phenomenon.

Once we understand intentionality as a phenomenon to be explained, rather than a posit in a theory explaining something else, we can see that there are glaring empirical and in principle difficulties with currently popular tracking and functional role theories of intentionality, which aim to account for intentionality in terms of tracking relations and functional roles.

This book develops an alternative theory, the phenomenal intentionality theory (PIT), on which the source of intentionality is none other than phenomenal consciousness, the subjective, felt, or qualitative aspect of mental life. While PIT avoids the problems that plague tracking and functional role theories, it faces its own challenges in accounting for the rich and complex contents of thoughts and the contents of nonconscious states. In responding to these challenges, this book proposes a novel version of PIT, on which all intentionality is phenomenal intentionality, though we in some sense represent many non-phenomenal contents by ascribing them to ourselves. This book further argues that phenomenal consciousness is an intrinsic feature of mental life, resulting in a view that is radically internalistic in spirit: Our phenomenally represented contents are literally in our heads, and any non-phenomenal contents we in some sense represent are expressly targeted by us.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    1. Fixing reference on intentionality
    2. Goals and methodology
  2. Alternative theories of intentionality
    1. The mismatch problem for tracking theories
    2. Functional role theories and tracking theories again
  3. The phenomenal intentionality theory
    1. The phenomenal intentionality theory
    2. PIT's status as a theory of intentionality'
  4. Problematic cases for the phenomenal intentionality theory
    1. Thought
    2. Nonconscious states
  5. The aspect view
    1. The aspect view
  6. Conclusion
    1. Conclusion