Intentional Psychologism

Philosophical Studies 146 (1):117-138 (2009)
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In the past few years, a number of philosophers ; Horgan and Tienson 2002; Pitt 2004) have maintained the following three theses: there is a distinctive sort of phenomenology characteristic of conscious thought, as opposed to other sorts of conscious mental states; different conscious thoughts have different phenomenologies; and thoughts with the same phenomenology have the same intentional content. The last of these three claims is open to at least two different interpretations. It might mean that the phenomenology of a thought expresses its intentional content, where intentional content is understood as propositional, and propositions are understood as mind-and language-independent abstract entities. And it might mean that the phenomenology of a thought is its intentional content—that is, that the phenomenology of a thought, like the phenomenology of a sensation, constitutes its content. The second sort of view is a kind of psychologism. Psychologistic views hold that one or another sort of thing—numbers, sentences, propositions, etc.—that we can think or know about is in fact a kind of mental thing. Since Frege, psychologism has been in bad repute among analytic philosophers. It is widely held that Frege showed that such views are untenable, since, among other things, they subjectivize what is in fact objective, and, hence, relativize such things as consistency and truth to the peculiarities of human psychology. The purpose of this paper is to explore the consequences of the thesis that intentional mental content is phenomenological and to try to reach a conclusion about whether it yields a tenable view of mind, thought and meaning. I believe the thesis is not so obviously wrong as it will strike many philosophers of mind and language. In fact, it can be defended against the standard objections to psychologism, and it can provide the basis for a novel and interesting account of mentality

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David Pitt
California State University, Los Angeles


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