He now calls himself 'Edward Ockham.' I was pleased to receive an e-mail from him this morning in which he directs me to his latest post, Is There a Problem of Intentionality?, and suggests a crossblogging effort. So I perused his post. He opens:
Is there a problem of intentionality? That depends what intentionality is. Let's accept the following definition, for the sake of argument.
(1) Intentionality: the existence of some thoughts depends on the existence of external objects
Is that a problem? Yes, and for two reasons.
As far as I can see, the definition on offer bears little resemblance to anything called 'intentionality' in the discussions of this topic since the time of Brentano. So before discussion of any problem of intentionality, we need to come to some agreement as to what intentionality is. Here is how I characterized it in an earlier post:
The influential Austrian philosopher Franz Brentano took intentionality to be the mark of the mental, the criterion whereby physical and mental phenomena are distinguished. For Brentano, (i) all mental phenomena are intentional, (ii) all intentional phenomena are mental, and (iii) no mental phenomenon is physical. (Franz Brentano, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (1874), Bk. II, Ch. 1.)
What is intentionality? ‘Intentionality’ is Brentano's term of art (borrowed from the Medievals) for that property of (some) mental states whereby they are (non-derivatively) of, or about, or directed to, an object. Such states are intrinsically such that they 'take an accusative.' The state of perceiving, for example, is necessarily object-directed. One cannot just perceive; if one perceives, then one perceives something. The idea is not merely that when one perceives one perceives something or other; the idea is that when one perceives, one perceives some specific object, the very object of that very act. The same goes for intending (in the narrow sense), believing, imagining, recollecting, wishing, willing, desiring, loving, hating, judging, knowing, etc. Such mental states -- thoughts or thinkings, cogitationes, in the broad Cartesian sense of the term -- refer beyond themselves to objects that may or may not exist, or may or may not be true in the case of propositional objects. Reference to an object is thus an intrinsic feature of mental states and not a feature they have in virtue of a relation to an existing object. This is why Brentano speaks of the "intentional in-existence of an object." It is also why Husserl can 'bracket' the existence of the object for phenomenological purposes. Intentionality is not a relation, strictly speaking, though it is relation-like. This is an important point that many contemporaries seem incapable of wrapping their heads around.
This is nearly the opposite of what 'Ockham' is saying above. He seems to be saying that intentional thoughts are all and only those thoughts whose existence depends on the existence of an external object. Accordingly, the intentionality of a thought is its existential dependence on an existing external object.
But this misses the crucial point that the directedness of a cogitatio to a cogitatum qua cogitatum -- which is the essence of intentionality standardly understood -- does not at all depend on the external existence of the cogitatum. So I find the above definition of 'Ockham' wildly idiosyncratic. He goes on to argue against it, but that's like rolling a drunk or beating up a cripple. Too easy, a 'slap job.'