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Metaphysics / Philosophy

Intentionality and Reasoning

This post is part of the series Words and Concepts

Other posts in this series:

  1. Intentionality and Reasoning (Current)
  2. Intentionality and Rational Action
  3. Thoughts

I have previously shown that rational intentionality is different from natural intentionality. In order to understand how it is different, concepts that are distinctive of rationality must be examined. One of these concepts is that of reasoning. Now all reasoning proceeds by beginning with a fact and moving from that to what is not known. So it is probably best to classify reasoning as another name for theoretical knowledge. Theoretical and factual knowledge require rational intentionality but perception does not require it.

Theoretical knowledge and factual knowledge both use concepts. Theoretical knowledge uses concepts because it takes the affirmations of factual knowledge and explains why these affirmations are true. Since the affirmations of factual knowledge are simply the joining of two or more concepts together, theoretical knowledge uses concepts.

Concepts have the main feature of rational intentionality – that one thing can represent another without natural intentionality linking the two. Concepts can apply to any feature of a thing. They can either name a thing demonstratively or name it conceptually. In either case, it is possible that a concept refer to something that is unconnected to the person themselves. For example, we could demonstratively name someone we have heard of but never met – such as “Barack Obama” or conceptually name something such as “liquid helium”. So it cannot refer to a capacity, essence or existence of a person. All that it left is that there is some relation between the person who has the concept and the thing that the concept is about. Furthermore, this relationship would have to be causal.

This is not really possible. It is not Barack Obama that causes us to have the concept of Barack Obama. Neither do we come to name something such as liquid helium because of the helium. We believe such things because of other people in both cases. Furthermore, they did not transmit their belief in these things deterministically in the same way that they were caused to believe them. Therefore, there is no true causal relationship between our concepts and what our concepts are about. This means that concepts – both demonstrative and conceptual – have rational intentionality.

There is only one question remaining. Is perception like this or not? Does perception have a causal relationship between what is perceived and what results from perceiving? My answer is that it does. Each sensory modality has a particular feature of the world that it perceives. For example, our eyes see color and motion. If something is moving, and we see it, we see it moving because it is actually moving. Similarly with everything else we see and all other sensory modalities. Not only this, but correctly functioning senses function deterministically in this manner. The features of the world that they are sensitive to are always seen the same way in the same circumstances. If we perceive something through a glass, we perceive it deterministically in the same way that we would perceive it without the glass.

Next, the concept of responsibility and ethical action must be examined.

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