Intention Recognition as the Mechanism of Human Communication

In Arthur Sullivan (ed.), Sensations, Thoughts, Language: Essays in Honor of Brian Loar (2019)
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Intentionalism is a research program that seeks to explain facts about meaning and communication in psychological terms, with our capacity for intention recognition playing a starring role. My aim here is to recommend a methodological reorientation in this program. Instead of a focus on intuitive counterexamples to proposals about necessary-and-sufficient conditions, we should aim to investigate the psychological mechanisms whose activities and interactions explain our capacity to communicate. Taking this methodologi- cal reorientation to heart, I sketch a theory of the cognitive architecture underlying language use that I have defended elsewhere. I then show how this theory can be used to give an account of non-communicative language use—a phenomenon that has long posed a challenge to intentionalism.

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Daniel W. Harris
Hunter College (CUNY)


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