MIND LECTURES 3. Searle on Intentionality and Mental Causation. Intentionality. Intentionality is a property of multiple kinds of things. For example, there is the intentionality of thought, language, and signs.
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Searle on Intentionality and Mental Causation
Intentionality is a property of multiple kinds of things. For example, there is the intentionality of thought, language, and signs.
Intentionality is a kind of property in virtue of which something x is about or directed at something y. It is an aboutness property.
The problem of intentionality is simply the task of explaining how something can be about or directed at something else.
The problem of intentionality is the mirror image of the problem of consciousness. Just as it is supposed to be extremely difficult to fathom how mere bits of matter inside the skull could be conscious, or could through interactions create consciousness, so it is difficult to imagine how mere bits of matter inside the skull could “refer to” or be about something in the world beyond themselves, or could through such interactions create such a reference.
I am now thinking that the sun is 93 million miles away from the Earth. My thoughts definitely refer to, or are about, the sun.. Now what is it about the thought that enables it to reach as far as the sun? Do I send mental rays all the way to the sun, just as the sun sends light rays all the way to earth?
Mary is nice. (existing entity)
Santa Clause is fat. (non-existent entity)
Herfirst born will be called ‘Jim’. (future existent)
Her dead mother was called ‘Jane’. (past existent)
What explains how the mind can refer in each of these cases?
Is there a single property for all of the cases?
Searle maintains that the intentionality of thought is prior to language.
Searle argues that intentionality of language cannot explain the intentionality of thought.
How should we understand this claim? Is it conceptual priority or metaphysical priority?
A thing has derived intentionality when it has its intentionality in virtue of something else that has intentionality either originally or derivatively.
A thing has original intentionality when it is the kind of thing which can bestow intentionality to other things, and for which there is further source from which its intentionality derives.
Signs and Language have derivative intentionality. It is because we intend to use them in a certain coordinated way that they come to be about something.
Humans have original intentionality, since they can bestow intentionality to other things, such as signs.
How is intentionality possible?
Given that intentionality is possible, how is the content of intentional states determined?
How does the whole system of intentionality work?
Functionalism about intentionality does not work, since it reduces intentionality to causal co-variation which is not sufficient.
Interpretativism about intentionality does not work, since it maintains that intentionality is only part of an act of attributing an interpretation of something. It maintains that people really don’t have beliefs and desires. We simply use belief – desire talk to interpret others.
[Intentionality] is … a form of representation. We ought to hear the question, “How is it possible to think about Santa Claus if Santa Claus does not exist?” as like the question, “How is it possible to make up a story about Santa Claus if Santa Claus does not even exist?
We should not think of intentionality as a relation like hitting something or sitting on something. That is the wrong model for intentionality.
Intentional states have both a content and a psychological mode.
Jones believes that Mary is in the next room.
Jones hopes that Mary is in the next room.
Both have the same propositional content, but the two states are different because believing and hoping are different psychological modes.
Two intentional states can have the same extensional content without having the same aspectual shape.
The Morning Star = The Evening Star = Venus
Jones loves the morning star.
Jones hates the evening star.
The aspectual shape renders coherent how it is that Jones can have opposing attitudes towards the same object.
Intentional states can be distinguished by their direction of fit –
Mind-to-World direction of fit – the content is such that it is responsible to the world. Jones’s belief that the world is flat is evidentially governed by the world. Were he to find out that the world is round, he is to revise his belief so as to fit it to the world.
World-to-Mind direction of fit – the content is such that it dictates how the world should be. Jones’s desire for milk is a demand that the world should be such that he has milk. The world is to be made to accord with the mental state.
Intentional states have conditions of satisfaction.
John’s belief that Mary is 13 is true only if Mary is 13.
John’s desire for ice cream is satisfied only if John gets ice cream.
In both cases there is a condition under which the psychological state is satisfied. The kind of satisfaction condition is different. Beliefs requires truth, desire requires fulfillment.
Perceptions, Intentions, and Memories are all causally self-referential.
Memory requires that the remembered event be the actual cause of the memory.
Perception requires that the thing perceived be the actual cause of the perception.
Intention requires that the intention cause the action that was intended to be performed.
For any intentional state, there is a distinction between the type of state it is, and its content. Where the content is a whole proposition, it will represent states of affairs in the world and it will do this with one of the three directions of fit, mind-to-world, world-to-mind, or null. Intentional states that have a non-null direction of fit are thus representations of their conditions of satisfaction. And given the network of intentionality, even those states that have the null direction of fit, and even those that do not have a whole propositional content, are still largely constituted by states that do have a non-null direction of fit.
If I am sorry that I stepped on your foot, I must believe that I did so and wish I had not done so. And if I admire Jimmy Carter I must have a set of beliefs and desires about Jimmy Carter.
In general, intentionality is representation of conditionsofsatisfaction.
A linguistic environment E is intensional when it fails substitution.
Substitution principle: If Faand (a = b), then Fb.
No failure of substitution
John is looking at the evening star.
The evening star = The morning star.
So, John is looking at the morning star.
Failure of substitution
Lois believes that Superman can fly.
Superman = Clark Kent.
Lois believes that Clark Kent can fly.
A linguistic environment E is intensional when it fails Existential Generalization.
Existential Generalization principle: If Fa, then there exists an x, Fx.
No failure of existential generalization
John lives in Nevada.
So, there is some place X such that John lives at X.
Failure of existential generalization
John is looking for the lost city of Atlantis.
So, there is something that John is looking for.
Internalism: Intentional content is only determined by features in the head. If two subjects are alike in all internal features, then they have all the same intentional states. The physical and social environment do not determine a subject’s intentional content.
Externalism: Intentional content is determined in part by features external to the head, such as the physical and social environment in which the subject is embedded. It is possible for two subjects to be exactly alike in all internal respects, but to differ in their intentional states because of a difference in their environment.
Oscar lives on Earth,he is not a scientist, he possesses a lot of the common knowledge that non-scientists have about water, he believes that it is a colorless, odorless liquid, that fills 60% of the Earth’s surface, and falls from the sky in the form of rain.
T-Oscar lives on Twin-Earth, he is not a scientist, he possesses a lot of the common knowledge that non-scientists have about water, he believes that it is a colorless, odorless liquid, that fills 60% of the Earth’s surface, and falls from the sky in the form of rain.
On Earth ‘water’ picks out H2O. On Twin-Earth, ‘water’ picks out XYZ.
Do Oscar and T-Oscar mean the same thing when they use ‘water’? Are their beliefs about the same thing?
Internalism maintains that Oscar and Twin-Oscar mean the same thing by each of their uses of ‘water’, since the two individuals have the same associated beliefs about water. Where D is the common knowledge associated with water on Earth and Twin-Earth, Oscar and T-Oscar both share D. What they don’t share is being in the same environment.
Externalism maintains that Oscar and T-Oscar do not mean the same thing by their uses of ‘water’ because the what ‘water’ is about is partly determined by the environment that they are in. Since Oscar is in an H2O environment and Twin-Oscar is in a XYZ environment, it follows that they cannot mean the same thing by each of their uses of ‘water’, even if they both share the same beliefs about water.
EXT: Thought content is determined partly by the environment.
SK: A subject can know through self-reflection what the content of their thought is.
‘E’ is the name for the environmental condition that must obtain in order for Oscar to be thinking a water thought vs. a twin-water thought.
Argument for incompatibility:
If Oscar is thinking that water is wet, then E obtains. Oscar knows (1) by reflection on EXT.
Oscar is thinking that water is wet. Oscar knows (2) by self-knowledge and self-reflection.
So, E obtains. Oscar knows (3) by a priori deduction.
Core questions: Can Oscar know through reflection alone that E obtains? Doesn’t he have to explore empirically his environment in order to know that E obtains? Couldn’t he have been switched into a distinct environment? Should we drop externalism or our views about self-knowledge?
If you ask, “How can a state of my brain have the content that Caesar crossed the Rubicon?” It seems an impossibly difficult question. But if you ask, “How can my conscious thought ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’ have the content Caesar crossed the Rubicon?” Then it is no longer impossible to answer.
I know the meanings of the words, I know how they relate to objects and states of affairs in the world and in thinking the whole thought I am aware that it has precisely this condition of satisfaction: Caesar crossed the Rubicon.
Searle’s Description of the problem:
The mind-body distinction: the mental and physical form distinct realms.
The causal closure of the physical: the physical realm is causally closed in the sense that nothing non-physical an enter into it and act as a cause.
The causal exclusion principle: where the physical causes are sufficient for an event, there cannot be any other types of causes of that event.
Causal efficacy: mental states really do function causally.
The four propositions are inconsistent.
Some reject Causal Efficacy, and embrace epiphenomenalism.
But better to reject Mind-Body Distinction.
The mind is just a higher-level description of the brain system.
One can also give a neuronal description of the brain system.
We are simply dealing with different levels of description.
The relation of consciousness to brain processes is like the relation of the liquidity of a body of water to the behavior of the H2O molecules… The higher level causes, at the level of the entire system, are not something in addition to the causes at the micro-level of the components of the system. Rather, the causes at the level of the entire system are entirely accounted for, entirely causally reducible to, the causation of the micro-elements.
When I say that my conscious decision to raise my arm caused my arm to go up, I am not saying that some cause occurred in addition to the behavior of the neurons when they fire and produce all sorts of other neurobiological consequences, rather I am simply describing the whole neurobiological system at the level of the entire system and not at the level of the particular micro-elements.
The consciousness in the brain a separate entity or property; it is just the state that the brain is in.
Two confused questions on Searle’s View:
How can the mental effect the physical?
If the mental did function causally, wouldn’t it produce over determination?
The reason why they are confused. Both questions rest on the claim that: The irreducibility of the mental to the physical does imply that there is something over and above of the physical.
However, it is simply better to note that: mentality is ontologically irreducible, but causally reducible.
Intention in Action Bodily Movement
Neuron Firing Physiological Changes
Rationality as a requirement on explaining human behavior:
Presupposition of freedom.
Explanation of action has to have a specification of a goal.
Intentional causation as part of the explanatory nexus.
1-3 are required for rational explanation of human behavior.