Rethinking Phenomenal Intentionality

Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2022)
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My 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. I argue that it is a conceptually significant mistake to construe conscious experiences in terms of token mental states that instantiate phenomenal properties. This mistake is predicated on ignoring an important difference in the temporal character—what I call the “temporal shape”—between states and properties as opposed to conscious experiences. States and properties lack a temporal shape, but conscious experience has a temporal shape. Thus, in order to adequately capture our phenomenology of temporality we need a mental ontology that adequately reflects this distinction. A second aim of this dissertation is to defend a mereological account of phenomenal intentionality, which says that phenomenality and intentionality are related by being proper parts of a first-personal, subjective, mental event. On this approach, the conditions of satisfaction for a subject’s first-personal, subjective, mental event just are the conditions of satisfaction for phenomenal intentionality. I explore the theoretical grounds for a mereological account of phenomenal intentionality and conclude that it does a better job of explaining difficult cases like the problem of unconscious thought (e.g., your belief that “grass is green”). Thus, we have prima facie support for a mereological account of phenomenal intentionality exactly where competing accounts fail.

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Christopher Stratman
University of Texas at San Antonio


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