What’s the issue? A boundary debate: Is intentionality the mark of the mental? Or is it the mark of the dispositional? Since Brentano (1874), intentionality has been conceived as a unique feature (if not the unique feature) of mental life. It has often been claimed that it is that which separates the mental from the physical. However, a small minority of philosophers specializing in disposition research (in particular Place 1996, and Molnar 2003) have challenged this dogma ⇒ They argue that intentionality has a much broader scope: it is characteristic of all dispositional properties (powers, potencies). ⇒ does not separate M-P
Why it is an issue? It is customary to characterize intentionality in terms of certain formal criteria such as: 1) Directionality (or aboutness) 2) Inexistence* 3) Non-truth-functionality 4) Referential opacity 5) Indeterminacy* These (and possibly others) are interpreted as adequacy criteria, which (almost) every intentional state must manifest. Advocates of the thesis of dispositional intentionality (I D ) argue that all of these criteria are equally met by simple physicochemical dispositions (e.g., acidity, viscosity, etc.).
On the significance of I D 1) Significance for disposition research: I D is seen by some as vital for constructing a non- counterfactual account of the connection between dispositions and their manifestations. 2) Broader metaphysical significance: If intentionality is ubiquitous in the physical world then: A) It does not distinguish the mental from the physical. B) It significantly alters our world-image.
Questions to bear in mind While we engage in the debate concerning I D, we would do well to pay heed to the following questions: 1) Degree of similarity: To what degree is it true to say that dispositions satisfy the criteria for intentionality? 2) Metaphysical significance: What metaphysical implications are embedded in the degree of similarity (or lack thereof) we identify between I M and I D ?
Directedness and inexistence Directedness: I M : Mental states are directed towards their intentional objects. I D : Dispositions are directed towards their manifestations. Inexistence: I M : Mental states are directed at their intentional objects regardless of whether such objects exist in actuality. I D : Dispositions are directed towards their manifestations regardless of whether such potential manifestations actualize.
Non-truth functionality I M : (Ascriptions of) propositional attitudes are NTF S1. ‘The weatherman predicts that the drought will break’ does not entail: S2. ‘The drought will break’ I D. Ascriptions of dispositions are NTF S3. ‘The cloud seeding apparatus has the capacity to bring it about that the drought will break’ does not entail: S2. ‘The drought will break’
Referential opacity I M : Ascriptions of PA’s are referentially opaque: S4. ‘Doolittle believes that all Pelicans are feathered’ 1 does not entail: S5. ‘Doolittle believes that all Pelicans have intertarsal joints’ 2 (although 1&2 are coextensive). I D. Ascriptions of dispositions are referentially opaque: S6. ‘Acid has the power to turn this litmus paper red’ 3 Does not entail: S7. ‘Acid has the power to turn this litmus paper the color of Post Office Pillar boxes’. 4 (although the color of POPB’s is red)
Anscombe’s indeterminacy (optional) * I M : We can think of an object (say a man) without thinking of some of its attributes (say its precise height). I D : A disposition (e.g., of a certain substance to dissolve in an aqua regia solution) leaves indeterminate some of the conditions of its manifestation (e.g., the precise location of the dissolution event). Caveat: ‘Underdetermination’ seems a more appropriate term – both thoughts and dispositions specify certain conditions while leaving others unspecified.
Part III: Critical investigation of the parallelism between I M and I D
A preliminary caveat Each of the criteria for intentionality just mentioned ought to be addressed with the following concerns: Formal: How robust is the similarity between I M and I D ? Genetic: Can the observed similarity be traced to a common cause or origin?
More on intentionality Our evaluation of the parallelism should also take into consideration the following criteria for I M : Normativity: I M is fundamentally normative. It involves the possibility of representational error and error detection. Aspectual shape: I M is aspect-relative. Mental states represent their intentional objects under specific aspects, or modes (of presentation). Intrinsicality: There is an indispensible sense of ‘content’ in which mental states are endowed with intrinsically meaningful intentional content ⇒ content which is not thrust upon them from without.
Dispositional directedness I D directedness: Dispositions are (a) projective, or outward- oriented (OO), (b) with respect to particular kinds of effects relative to particular types of dispositional partners. (Martin and Heil, 1999). Such projectivity is (the idea goes) a primitive form of aboutness (“of-ness, or for-ness”) Skepticism: Projectivity attests to the intrinsic connectedness of D’s to M’s; it indicates that they are internally related. But, is the Projectivity of powers really of the same kind as the Projectivity of mental states?
Mental directedness There is no consensus on what constitutes MD. Yet, I share Place’s (1996) sympathy for the “cybernetic” model (Anderson and Rosenberg 2008; Shani 2011). Feedback loop: Intentional tracking (say, of a moving prey) consists of repetitive coordination of: (a) information inflow (b) internal states indicating possible future outcomes, and (c) behavioral outflow. Outcome: (1) Focused action; (2) the directedness of thought is inherited from the role it plays in directing focused action. If so: I M directedness is non-linear and cyclical in a manner unparalleled by I D. ⇒ (but wait…)*
Revisiting NTF What lies behind the NTF of intentional and dispositional ascriptions? I D : “X has the power to effect Y” does not entail Y because possibility does not imply actuality. I M : “X believes/predicts, etc. that P” does not entail P because beliefs/predictions, etc. can be frustrated. I D – NTF: Modality I M – NTF: Normativity is N the missing criterion?
Revisiting referential opacity I M : Ref. Op. is due to the aspect-relativity of mental representations. Doolittle represents pelicans qua feathered creatures, but not qua creatures with intertarsal joints. I D : Ref. Op. is due to… the aspect-relativity of dispositions. The failure of substitutivity between ‘red’ and ‘the color of POPB’ is because powers are aspect-relative. A substance X (e.g. vinegar), qua being P (an acid), has the power to transform a substance Y (a litmus paper), qua being Q (having a certain color), in a certain way R (shift to the red). But not in another way S (even if S & R are correlated contingently)
Revisiting Anscombe’s indeterminacy* (optional) Anscombe’s indeterminacy, too, is a consequence of aspect-relativity: I M : X is represented under certain aspects (A 1 … A k ) but not under (A k+1 … A n ) → the latter remain unspecified, hence underdetermined. I D : X (gold) has the power to dissolve in Y (aqua regia) qua being P (having a certain molecular structure), but not qua being Q (the time being T1) → the latter is accidental, hence underdetermined.
Where do we stand? Logically, our options are: 1) To accept I D and admit intentionality as the mark of the dispositional. 2) To reject I D altogether. 3) To opt for a third way, for example, to argue that dispositions are proto-intentional. Affirming I D : (a) The 5 criteria are definitive of intentionality; (b) and they are sufficiently met. Denying I D : The similarity to I M is superficial. When we dig deeper, we find crucial features -- e.g., normativity and loop-like directedness -- which separate I M from I D. Proto-intentionality: Yes, there are differences, but the similarity and continuity is, nevertheless, ontologically deep.
Why proto-intentionality? Powers exemplify: Projectivity, internal relatedness, modality (potentiality), aspect-relativity, and intrinsicality. all are crucially operative in I M. Could this be an irrelevant accident? Or is it rather that such features are ontological scaffolds which enable the eventual emergence of full-blown (psycho-social) intentionality? Notice: The point is not that I M is a composite-aggregate of I D ’s. Rather, it is that I D is (a) continuous with, and (b) necessary for, I M. (Pace Bird 2007) Could we expect I M to be possible in, say, a world (atomistic, or Humean) lacking projectivity, internal relatedness, aspect-relativity, etc.?
But there is more than that… First, even when I M seems to differ significantly from I D, there are still intriguing connections, for example: I D – NTF: Modality I M – NTF: Normativity But notice: Ought → Can → Is Only a world of potentialities (of can-do ) could be a world of (emergent) normativities ( ought-to-do )
Content, affordances, and dispositions The connection between I M and I D is even more intimate, at least on the following picture: (Narrow) Intentional content is specified as anticipatory indications of interaction potentialities ⇒ i.e., of affordances. Affordances are potentialities of the environment for the agent ⇒ A function of the match-up between external and internal potencies. (e.g., the surface of a pond affords walking-on for little insects but not for normal humans)
Enter normativity The organization of living creatures is such that its stability and growth depends on recurrent regeneration and maintenance. Asymmetry: Some processes on which the system can exert a degree of control contribute to stability and growth while others are destabilizing. Normativity: Emerges from this asymmetry ⇒ Some processes must be maintained; others counteracted. Representations: Contribute to successful action by indicating how external potencies reciprocate with internal potencies in light of the imperative to satisfy certain functional norms.
Meta-dispositions? If so, representations play a role in inhibiting the manifestation of some powers while enabling, or instigating, the manifestation of others. Meta-dispositions: Thus, perhaps intentional properties can be viewed as meta-dispositions (cf. Ellis 2002) – dispositions to transform dispositions. On this picture: I M : Meta-dispositions; holistic agency; full-blown intentionality I D : Dispositions; atomistic potency; proto-intentionality The differences are real, but the framework continuous…