Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

This dialogue explores the question of whether intentionality––the “ofness”, “aboutness”, or “directedness” of mental states––is a relation. We explore three views: the Naive View, on which intentionality is a relation to ordinary, everyday objects, facts, and other such items; the Abstract Contents View, on which intentionality is a relation to mind-independent abstract entities; and the Aspect View, on which intentionality is a matter of having intentional states with particular (non-relational) aspects that are our contents. We consider the challenges facing these views, which include empirical challenges in accounting for all the contents our intentional states can represent, metaphysical challenges in making sense of how contents can be entertained or otherwise represented by us and how they can play a psychological role in the mental economy, and challenges in making sense of how intentionality connects us to the world––if at all. Along the way, we consider the question of how consciousness is related to intentionality and how this affects one’s choice of views.

David: Should we write this paper in the form of a dialogue? This would allow us to explore the ideas we disagree on without having to reach an agreement.

Angela: I don’t know. People would probably think it’s boring and annoying. I don’t want to be the target of ridicule.

David: On your view, it’s not even clear that people can target you with their thoughts. All they can entertain are their own private ideas “of you”, and it’s not clear that those ideas can even single you out. So you’re safe!

Angela: Whoa. Are we already getting started? I thought we were still deciding the format.

David: This paper was due six months ago. Just go with it.

Angela: Okay, but I’m not…

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