Mechanism and Intentionality: The New World Knot

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 194)


Mental life presents many holistic phenomena. Gestalt perception comes to mind as does the manifold of intentions—beliefs, desires, and actions—and the fabric of linguistic meanings. In this paper I want to argue that none of these wholes resist analysis except for conscious intentional attitudes. It seems we cannot get a theoretical grasp of the difference between tacit (unconscious or preconscious) beliefs, desires, etc. and conscious feeling-laden belief. As I shall endeavor to explain, perception, unconscious attitudes, linguistic competence, and even intellectual skills accompanied by raw feeling (kinesthetic sensation at the edge of attention while typing or playing a musical instrument) are explainable in principle within the computer paradigm. Conscious attitudes alone seem not to be explainable in such terms and are perhaps absolutely holistic.


Mental Event Mental Life Adequacy Condition Neural Event Computer Logic 
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  1. Nelson Goodman, Ways of World Making. Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis, 1978, pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  2. This is no place to take up Kripke’s arguments against the identity theory, which many consider to be devastating. See Kripke (1980), also in Davidson and Harman (1972). I think his argument can be defused. See Nelson (1982) pp. 331–335; and my article “On Causal Reference”, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  3. D. Lewis, “General Semantics” in Davidson and Harman (1972), p. 170.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1988

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