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Is there a Non-psychological Intentionality?. Metaphysics of Mind Workshop Kyung Hee University, May 30-31 2012 Itay Shani, KHU. Part I: Context. What’s the issue?. A boundary debate : Is intentionality the mark of the mental ? Or is it the mark of the dispositional ?

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Is there a non psychological intentionality

Is there a Non-psychological Intentionality?

Metaphysics of Mind Workshop

Kyung Hee University, May 30-31 2012

Itay Shani, KHU



What s the issue
What’s the issue?

  • A boundary debate:

  • Is intentionality the mark of the mental? Or is it the mark of the dispositional?

  • Since Brentano (1874), intentionality has been conceived as a unique feature (if not the unique feature) of mental life. It has often been claimed that it is that which separates the mental from the physical.

  • However, a small minority of philosophers specializing in disposition research (in particular Place 1996, and Molnar 2003) have challenged this dogma ⇒ They argue that intentionality has a much broader scope: it is characteristic of all dispositional properties (powers, potencies). ⇒ does not separate M-P


Why it is an issue
Why it is an issue?

  • It is customary to characterize intentionality in terms of certain formal criteria such as:

  • 1) Directionality (or aboutness)

  • 2) Inexistence*

  • 3) Non-truth-functionality

  • 4) Referential opacity

  • 5) Indeterminacy*

  • These (and possibly others) are interpreted as adequacy criteria, which (almost) every intentional state must manifest.

  • Advocates of the thesis of dispositional intentionality (ID) argue that all of these criteria are equally met by simple physicochemical dispositions (e.g., acidity, viscosity, etc.).


On the significance of i d
On the significance of ID

  • 1) Significance for disposition research:

  • ID is seen by some as vital for constructing a non-counterfactual account of the connection between dispositions and their manifestations.

  • 2) Broader metaphysical significance:

  • If intentionality is ubiquitous in the physical world then:

  • A) It doesnotdistinguishthe mental from the physical.

  • B) It significantly alters our world-image.


Questions to bear in mind
Questions to bear in mind

  • While we engage in the debate concerning ID, we would do well to pay heed to the following questions:

  • 1) Degree of similarity: To what degree is it true to say that dispositions satisfy the criteria for intentionality?

  • 2) Metaphysical significance: What metaphysical implications are embedded in the degree of similarity (or lack thereof) we identify between IM and ID?



Directedness and inexistence
Directedness and inexistence

  • Directedness:

  • IM: Mental states are directed towards their intentional objects.

  • ID: Dispositions are directed towards their

  • manifestations.

  • Inexistence:

  • IM: Mental states are directed at their intentional objects regardless of whether such objects exist in actuality.

  • ID: Dispositions are directed towards their

  • manifestations regardless of whether such potential manifestations actualize.


Non truth functionality
Non-truth functionality

  • IM : (Ascriptions of) propositional attitudes are NTF

  • S1. ‘The weatherman predicts that the drought will break’ does not entail:

  • S2. ‘The drought will break’

  • ID. Ascriptions of dispositions are NTF

  • S3. ‘The cloud seeding apparatus has the capacity to bring it about that the drought will break’ does not entail:

  • S2. ‘The drought will break’


Referential opacity
Referential opacity

  • IM: Ascriptions of PA’s are referentially opaque:

  • S4. ‘Doolittle believes that all Pelicans are feathered’1

  • does not entail:

  • S5. ‘Doolittle believes that all Pelicans have intertarsal joints’2 (although 1&2 are coextensive).

  • ID. Ascriptions of dispositions are referentially opaque:

  • S6. ‘Acid has the power to turn this litmus paper red’3

  • Does not entail:

  • S7. ‘Acid has the power to turn this litmus paper the color of Post Office Pillar boxes’.4

  • (although the color of POPB’s is red)


Anscombe s indeterminacy optional
Anscombe’s indeterminacy (optional)*

  • IM: We can think of an object (say a man) without thinking of some of its attributes (say its precise height).

  • ID: A disposition (e.g., of a certain substance to dissolve in an aqua regia solution) leaves indeterminate some of the conditions of its manifestation (e.g., the precise location of the dissolution event).

  • Caveat: ‘Underdetermination’ seems a more appropriate term – both thoughts and dispositions specify certain conditions while leaving others unspecified.



A preliminary caveat
A preliminary caveat I

  • Each of the criteria for intentionality just mentioned ought to be addressed with the following concerns:

  • Formal: How robust is the similarity between IM and ID?

  • Genetic: Can the observed similarity be traced to a common cause or origin?

  • <Analogy/Homology>


More on intentionality
More on intentionality I

  • Our evaluation of the parallelism should also take into consideration the following criteria for IM:

  • Normativity: IM is fundamentally normative. It involves the possibility of representational error and error detection.

  • Aspectual shape: IM is aspect-relative. Mental states represent their intentional objects under specific aspects, or modes (of presentation).

  • Intrinsicality: There is an indispensible sense of ‘content’ in which mental states are endowed with intrinsically meaningful intentional content ⇒ content which is not thrust upon them from without.


Dispositional directedness
Dispositional directedness I

  • ID directedness: Dispositions are (a) projective, or outward-oriented (OO), (b) with respect to particular kinds of effects relative to particular types of dispositional partners. (Martin and Heil, 1999).

  • Such projectivity is (the idea goes) a primitive form of aboutness (“of-ness, or for-ness”)

  • Skepticism: Projectivity attests to the intrinsic connectedness of D’s to M’s; it indicates that they are internally related.

  • But, is the Projectivity of powers really of the same kind as the Projectivity of mental states?


Mental directedness
Mental directedness I

  • There is noconsensus on what constitutes MD. Yet, I share Place’s (1996) sympathy for the “cybernetic” model (Anderson and Rosenberg 2008; Shani 2011).

  • Feedback loop: Intentional tracking (say, of a moving prey) consists of repetitivecoordination of: (a) information inflow (b) internal states indicating possible future outcomes, and (c) behavioral outflow.

  • Outcome: (1) Focused action; (2) the directedness of thought is inherited from the role it plays in directing focused action.

  •  If so:

  • IM directedness is non-linear and cyclical in a manner unparalleled by ID. ⇒ (but wait…)*


Revisiting ntf
Revisiting NTF I

  • What lies behind the NTF of intentional and dispositional ascriptions?

  • ID: “X has the power to effect Y” does not entail Y because possibility does not imply actuality.

  • IM: “X believes/predicts, etc. that P” does not entail P because beliefs/predictions, etc. can be frustrated.

  • ID – NTF: Modality

  • IM – NTF: Normativity is N the missing criterion?


Revisiting referential opacity
Revisiting referential opacity I

  • IM: Ref. Op. is due to the aspect-relativity of mental representations.

  • Doolittle represents pelicans qua feathered creatures, but not qua creatures with intertarsal joints.

  • ID: Ref. Op. is due to… the aspect-relativity of dispositions.

  • The failure of substitutivity between ‘red’ and ‘the color of POPB’ is because powers are aspect-relative.

  • A substance X (e.g. vinegar), qua being P (an acid), has the power to transform a substance Y (a litmus paper), qua being Q (having a certain color), in a certain way R (shift to the red).

  • But not in another way S (even if S & R are correlated contingently)


Revisiting anscombe s indeterminacy optional
Revisiting Anscombe’s indeterminacy* I(optional)

  • Anscombe’s indeterminacy, too, is a consequence of aspect-relativity:

  • IM: X is represented under certain aspects (A1… Ak) but not under (Ak+1… An) → the latter remain unspecified, hence underdetermined.

  • ID: X (gold) has the power to dissolve in Y (aqua regia) qua being P (having a certain molecular structure), but not qua being Q (the time being T1) → the latter is accidental, hence underdetermined.



Where do we stand
Where do we stand? I

  • Logically, our options are:

  • 1) To accept ID and admit intentionality as the mark of the dispositional.

  • 2) To reject ID altogether.

  • 3) To opt for a third way, for example, to argue that dispositions are proto-intentional.

  • Affirming ID: (a) The 5 criteria are definitive of intentionality; (b) and they are sufficiently met.

  • Denying ID: The similarity to IM is superficial. When we dig deeper, we find crucial features -- e.g., normativity and loop-like directedness -- which separate IM from ID.

  • Proto-intentionality: Yes, there are differences, but the similarity and continuity is, nevertheless, ontologically deep.


Why proto intentionality
Why proto-intentionality? I

  • Powers exemplify: Projectivity, internal relatedness, modality (potentiality), aspect-relativity, and intrinsicality.

  • all are crucially operative in IM. Could this be an irrelevant accident?

  • Or is it rather that such features are ontological scaffolds which enable the eventual emergence of full-blown (psycho-social) intentionality?

  • Notice: The point is not that IM is a composite-aggregate of ID’s. Rather, it is that ID is (a) continuous with, and (b) necessary for, IM. (Pace Bird 2007)

  • Could we expect IM to be possible in, say, a world (atomistic, or Humean) lacking projectivity, internal relatedness, aspect-relativity, etc.?


But there is more than that
But there is more than that… I

  • First, even when IM seems to differ significantly from ID, there are still intriguing connections, for example:

  • ID – NTF: Modality

  • IM – NTF: Normativity

  • But notice: Ought → Can→ Is

  • Only a world of potentialities (ofcan-do) could be a world of (emergent) normativities (ought-to-do)


Content affordances and dispositions
Content, affordances, and dispositions I

  • The connection between IM and ID is even more intimate, at least on the following picture:

  • (Narrow) Intentional content is specified as anticipatory indicationsof interaction potentialities ⇒ i.e., of affordances.

  • Affordances are potentialities of the environment for the agent ⇒ A function of the match-up between external and internal potencies.

  • (e.g., the surface of a pond affords walking-on for little insects but not for normal humans)


Enter normativity
Enter normativity I

  • The organization of living creatures is such that its stability and growth depends on recurrent regeneration and maintenance.

  • Asymmetry: Some processes on which the system can exert a degree of control contribute to stability and growth while others are destabilizing.

  • Normativity: Emerges from this asymmetry ⇒ Some processes mustbe maintained; others counteracted.

  • Representations: Contribute to successful action by indicating how external potencies reciprocate with internal potencies in light of the imperative to satisfy certain functional norms.


Meta dispositions
Meta-dispositions? I

  • If so, representations play a role in inhibiting the manifestation of some powers while enabling, or instigating, the manifestation of others.

  • Meta-dispositions: Thus, perhaps intentional properties can be viewed as meta-dispositions (cf. Ellis 2002) – dispositions to transform dispositions.

  • On this picture:

  • IM: Meta-dispositions; holistic agency; full-blown intentionality

  • ID: Dispositions; atomistic potency; proto-intentionality

  • The differences are real, but the framework continuous…