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Rethinking Phenomenal Intentionality

Christopher M Stratman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation puts forward a critique of the phenomenal intentionality theory (PIT). According to standard accounts of PIT, all genuine intentionality is either identical to or partly grounded in phenomenal consciousness. But in contemporary debates about phenomenal intentionality, relatively little attention is paid to the fundamental question of what exactly it is that we are talking about when we talk about conscious experiences. Indeed, the arguments defended by proponents of PIT rely too heavily on insecure assumptions about the nature of certain mental entities the theory postulates; namely token mental states that instantiate phenomenal properties. I argue that it is a conceptually significant mistake to construe conscious experiences in terms of token mental states that instantiate phenomenal properties because sates and properties lack a temporal shape but conscious experience has a temporal shape. So, in order to adequately capture our phenomenology of temporality, what is needed is a mental ontology of first-personal, subjective, mental events rather than one of states and properties. A second aim of this dissertation is to develop and partially defend a mereological account of phenomenal intentionality, which says that phenomenality and intentionality are related by being mental parts of an agent’s whole, unified, first-personal, subjective, mental event. On this approach, the conditions of satisfaction for an agent’s first-personal, subjective, mental events are the same as the conditions of satisfaction for phenomenal intentionality. I explore the theoretical grounds for why one might accept a mereological account of phenomenal intentionality and conclude that it succeeds in answering the most difficult case that proponents of PIT face—the problem of unconscious thought—exactly where standard versions of PIT fail. Thus, we have prima facie, defeasible evidence in support of a mereological account of phenomenal intentionality This suffices to shift the burden of argument to proponents of PIT who reject a mereological account to demonstrate what is wrong with the view.

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Recommended Citation

Stratman, Christopher M, "Rethinking Phenomenal Intentionality" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29253476.