Phenomenal Intentionality as the Basis of Mental Content
Brian Loar
Rutgers University


The mental or psychological content of a thought is a matter of how it conceives things; and that is what we hope to grasp, at least approximately, when we try to understand another person. We want to know not merely what her thoughts represent as it were impersonally, but also how they represent things to her. A person's thoughts represent things to her -- conceive things -- in many ways: perceptually, memory-wise, descriptively, by naming, by analogy, by intuitive sorting, theoretically, abstractly, implicitly and explicitly. These various manners of conceiving have something in common: they have intentional properties, and they have them essentially. The conceiving cannot be pulled away from the intentional properties, in our ordinary reflexive understanding of them. But this creates a problem. It is not unnatural to suppose that conceivings are in the head. So if the intentional properties of conceivings are essential to them, intentionality must be in the head as well. The problem is that there are fairly compelling externalist reasons to the opposite conclusion. Yet it seems to me that there must be something right about the internalist conclusion and the intuition that backs it, something quite basic to our understanding of the mental. This is what I will try to make coherent.

Mental content has often been supposed to be what "oblique" that-clauses capture. That would lead directly to a considerable difficulty in the idea of internal intentionality. For that-clauses capture references, and the references of our outwardly directed thoughts are -- according to the most believable theories 1 -- determined by external relations. There is a quick way to deal with this difficulty, and I hereby adopt it. Mental content is in fact individuated independently of that-clauses. This seems to me to follow from the semantic behavior of that-clauses together with a basic constraint on mental content or ways of conceiving -- what is often called "Frege's constraint". Something counts as a judgment's content only if we cannot make sense of a person's judging both it and its negation -- unless she in some way compartmentalizes those judgments. You can make sense of a person's judging that Paderewski plays well and at the same time judging that Paderewski does not play well even though the two beliefs have the same reference and draw on the same public name. Nothing semantic distinguishes the ordinary meanings of those that-clauses except the negation. Given Frege's constraint, this means that mental content is individuated more fine-grainedly than the interpersonally shared "oblique" content of certain that-clauses. I rather think the phenomenon is all-pervasive, that for virtually any that-clause a similar underspecification of content can be shown. 2 A closely related point is this. Consider any perceptually nuanced conception of mine. I can invent a neologism to express that conception, and use it in self-ascribing that-clauses. But the that-clauses are then secondary: what matters is my reflexive grasp of the perceptual concept, its psychological content. That-clauses as they are standardly used apparently capture too little information, even on oblique interpretations, and that information is not of the right sort: that-clauses are more about socially shared concepts and their referents than about the various perceptually-based and other ways in which thoughts conceive their referents. They are not especially psychologically informative.3

If mental content is accessible and is not literally expressed by that-clauses, how does it get conveyed? Typically in the gaps between the words. Suppose you say that Guido thinks that the woman over there resembles Greta Garbo, and you say this while he has the woman in full view. I understand you to mean that Guido's thought picks her out visually. That visual mode of presentation is a constituent of (what I mean by) the mental content of his thought. That we might invent a word to capture just that highly specific visual mode of presentation, and insert it in a that-clause, is not interesting -- nor is it even particularly interesting that we can say 'the person he is looking at'. Guido's thought involves, among other factors, a visual mode of presentation, and we conceive it independently of what is mentioned in that-clauses. But this is neutral between internalist and externalist views of mental content. For it is compatible with "neo-Fregeanism"4, the idea that e.g. perceptual modes of presentation are to be individuated object-dependently and property-dependently. The present point, though, is simply to put space between mental content and that-clauses. Our conceptions of mental content have a life of their own apart from that-clauses -- there are for example perceptually based demonstrative concepts, as we intuitively understand when we think about Guido.5 Conceptions of mental content in the analytic tradition have tended to be phenomenologically impoverished, largely because of the emphasis on language and reference. And when we turn to the phenomenology, as I will try to show, we do get a grip on internal intentionality.

A compelling intuition about mental life sees it as a stream of conscious thoughts, feelings and perceptions. This is not all or even perhaps the larger part of the mind. But it is central to our founding conception of the mental. When we conceive these various conscious states, moreover, we conceive them as intentional. The stream of conscious thoughts, memories and perceptions seems to have a life of its own that is constituted independently of its external environment. This is intuitively supported by an obvious thought experiment. Apparently I can imagine what it is like to be an isolated brain that is a physical duplicate of my own brain. What I imagine includes not just that brain's non-intentional phenomenal states, its flutters and pains, but also states and events that correspond to my own outward directed thoughts and perceptions. I imagine my isolated twin's states and events as subjectively representing things in the same manner as those thoughts and perceptions of mine. The intuition supports the view that my own mental stream's intentional features -- even those of its outward directed thoughts -- are constituted independently of my actual situation in the world. (Note well that we have said 'intentional features' and not 'references'.) This is not to say that the seeming imagining of the isolated brain's intentional states proves there is such a thing as internal intentionality. But it surely makes one wonder if we can make sense of the idea, make a case for its coherence.

The reader will reasonably want to know what is meant by 'intentional' if not 'referential'. Let me say for the time being that the internal intentionality of perceptions and thoughts consists in their apparent directedness, in their purporting subjectively to refer in various complex ways. This is, according to what follows, an ineliminably phenomenal feature that is shared by my and my isolated twin's states as I imagine them.

Why care if a phenomenological conception of internal intentionality can be made sense of? It is there for the noticing; and we have a wrong philosophical view of our intuitive conception of the mind if we persuade ourselves in the abstract that internal intentionality cannot be there. Does this matter to commonsense psychological explanation? Yes of course. There have been strenuous efforts to explain how causal and social relations to distal objects can be essential to psychological explanations of behavior; and the resulting theories are, in my view, more than a little strained. A consequence of making sense of internal intentionality is to vindicate a classical internalist view of commonsense psychological explanation, or at least to make it coherent. Still the main question is more basic than the explanation of behavior. It concerns whether mental properties as they are in themselves have merely contingent connections with behavior and environment. That is hardly a small matter if we are interested in what we are: we have inner mental lives.

The intuitive idea that the intentionality of outward directed thoughts can be internally determined has run into serious trouble; for a certain externalist conception of intentionality has considerable intuitive force. Tyler Burge, as much as any other philosopher, has made a powerful case for externalism about mental content.6 This he has done by arguing that -- to put it in a way more abstract than his -- the semantic resources of the analytic tradition, whereby intentionality consists in the truth-conditions and satisfaction-conditions of thoughts, cannot support internalism about intentionality. I agree with this. But I draw a different conclusion: what matters to intentional internalism does not depend on those classical truth-conditional factors. Something theoretically novel (though familiar in experience) needs acknowledging. My homage to Burge in this volume will be expressed by my being driven to extremes.7

While the internalist intuition appears to me correct, the core of current externalist theory also appears correct. So the core of externalist theory must be compatible with intentionality's being an internally constituted feature of mental states. Externalists are right about the reference and truth-conditions of thoughts. But despite vivid appearances to the contrary, intentionality does not presuppose reference and it is not externally determined. That is the idea I will try to make sense of.


1. Externalism about intentionality

Externalists about intentional mental content regard the opposing position as conceptually incoherent. 8 Here is the externalist reasoning, as I try to put it straightforwardly to myself. (It is worth noticing that this externalist line of reasoning does not presuppose that mental content is as that-clauses capture it. The earlier point in denying this was not to confute externalism directly but to open up mental content as it were to phenomenological access.) The externalist's first premise is that thoughts can be intentional or "directed", can "purport to refer", only by presupposing actual references. The externalist may grant that a thought can purport to refer to something external even if it does not succeed in referring, even if there is so to speak nothing there. Even so it must represent what it purports to refer to as such and such, as having some property F. And so it must succeed in referring to that property. The second premise is that such reference is constituted by externally determined -- causal, social etc -- relations. If the premisses were both correct, no sense could be made of the isolated brain's having the same intentional states as me; intentional mental content could not be internally determined.

Almost everyone agrees that any singular concept may fail to refer and still have the intentional content it would have if it had succeeded. This holds in the most obvious way of ordinary definite descriptions. 'The oldest dolphin in Andorra' purports to refer, and for all I know it fails. It also holds of perceptual-demonstrative concepts: I may exercise a visual-demonstrative concept -- 'that horrifying animal' -- and yet be hallucinating. Despite their failing to refer both concepts intuitively have full intentional content: each purports to point, quite specifically, to an object, even though the world does not put an object in its way. But the presupposition thesis is satisfied because, on the face of it, the intentionality of singular concepts depends on what those general concepts refer to: 'dolphin' and 'animal' refer to kinds or properties, and according to the externalist this constitutes, at least in part, the singular concept's intentionality. The externalist may of course allow that a property-concept can itself fail to refer, even while fully purporting to pick out a property. But this must be grounded in further concepts that actually refer and that hence stand in externally determined relations to externally constituted properties. Another way to put the externalist's (often implicit) point about intentionality: thoughts cannot purport to refer unless they impose success-conditions, or satisfaction-conditions; and these depend, however indirectly, on reference to objective properties. Externalism about intentionality assumes, on this account, that intentionality presupposes reference.

The externalist's second premise is that referring to and connoting external properties consist in externally determined relations between concepts and properties, at least for concepts that purport to be outward directed. Externalist positions about reference may diverge: some regard all basic reference relations as non-socially-mediated causal relations to things, and others, Tyler Burge famously, as including social relations to the usage of others. I accept Burge's view to this extent: we cannot realistically deny the role of social relations in the mediation of much ordinary reference. How much farther we should go is not clear. Suppose one's concept 'animal' derives its reference socially, from biologists' conceptions. It is not clear whether their more basic concepts might ultimately be determined purely personally by non-social perceptual and conceptual-role relations. But this issue is beside the present point.9

In agreeing with externalism about reference I accept this: basic property-references and property-connotations are constituted by relations that, at least in part, are externally determined, whether socially or not. In the standard debate, this concedes substantial ground to externalism about intentional content. But it does not imply it; for it does not imply that intentionality presupposes reference.

On the externalist view of mental content, another brain's perceptual states and thoughts can be intentionally equivalent to my externally directed perceptual states and thoughts only if we share at least some of my actual external references. The equivalence would require an overlap in property-reference. If the isolated brain's perceptual states and other concepts do not pick out some of the same properties as my externally directed perceptual states and thoughts, then none of its mental states can have the same intentional content as my outward directed mental states. This is the externalist premise to which we must reply, for we agree that property-reference consists in externally determined relations.

To sum up the externalist line of reasoning: (i) mental content is intentional; (ii) intentionality presupposes reference; (iii) reference, for outwardly directed thoughts, consists in externally determined relations (especially to kinds and properties); (iv) my outwardly directed thoughts therefore do not have internally determined mental content or intentionality -- that is, the mental content of my outward directed concepts cannot be shared with an isolated brain. I must emphasize the distinction between externalism about reference and externalism about intentional mental content: I accept the former and deny the latter.
2. Conceptual roles and mental content

What we seek is a conception of mental content that is available commonsensically and that is internally determined. This could seem to be easily delivered by an established idea, namely, that we implicitly individuate thoughts in terms of their conceptual roles. A thought's conceptual role consists in its inferential and probabilistic connections with other thoughts, desires etc., and with perceptions. Conceptual role theory standardly avoids appeal to intentionality. That can seem to be a considerable advantage, for it permits an attractive clarity: the horizontal and vertical aspects of mental content are factored out, i.e. internal-explanatory conceptual role and external-referential intentionality. Externalism about intentionality is acknowledged, but internalism about mental explanation is nevertheless defended.

Now I am quite sure that conceptual role is central in individuating thought-contents. How a thought conceives things must consist in part in its conceptual commitments. That is essential to what I will propose. But conceptual role on its own seems to me inadequate to explain our ordinary understanding. Conceptual roles are too blank to constitute internal mental content as we conceive it. Thinking is something lively -- there is something that it is like to engage in it. So phenomenological reflection on thinking hardly conceives its properties in purely dispositional terms. But perhaps we might add phenomenal states to conceptual roles -- and would this not give us the internal liveliness? We might then think of perceptual states and other phenomenal states as among the realizers of conceptual roles, or somehow intimately connected with such realizers. The liveliness of thinking in general would stem from perceptual states, linguistic states, various forms of imagery, with conceptualizing supplied by their connections within an interlocking network of conceptual roles. And who knows what innate conceptual structures there might also be into which perceptual states could nicely fit.10

While the picture thus vaguely put is doubtless on the right track, it does not seem to me to promise an internalist conception of mental content. For we apparently lack appropriate non-intentional conceptions of perceptual states. We can hardly peel the phenomenal aspects of vision away from its intentionality; we just do not have non-intentional conceptions of "visual fields" or the like. Or try as I might I cannot muster such conceptions. Visual perception is phenomenologically focussed on objects, spaces, and their properties; there are no pure visual etc sensations that might add non-intentional life to conceptual roles. If the externalist is right about intentionality, a phenomenal elaboration of a conceptual role theory will not yield ordinary, intuitive, conceptions of internal mental content.

The externalist might in any event complain that the project would be futile even if we had purely phenomenal and non-intentional conceptions of perceptual states. Internal goings on would not on their own constitute a mental life: for they would, phenomenologically, not look out to external space. It would be in McDowell's dramatic phrase "all darkness within".

Now I can envisage a spirited defense from the conceptual role theorist. Both of the foregoing objections ignore the availability of a deflationary notion of intentionality, that is, of reference and truth conditions. It may well be that we cannot conceive visual qualia non-intentionally. But this could have the following explanation. "We cannot conceive ordinary visual experience unconceptualized -- that is, unless it is minimally conceptualized by object-concepts, spatial-concepts etc. This conceptualization may be understood in terms of something like conceptual role or conceptual structures as long as we also grant the conceptual role theorist what he is classically entitled to, namely, a 'disquotational' or deflationary notion of reference.11 To conceive a way of conceptualizing visual experience simulationally will then employ object-conceptions etc. And when we reflect on them we can hardly avoid, as it were, disquoting. They are our concepts and we can hardly think of them in non-simulational objective terms."

This is tantamount to proposing a deflationary internalist theory of intentionality, which it may be argued quite adequately accounts for the phenomenology. In the next section I will consider such a theory and say why I do not think it can succeed.

3. An internalist theory of intentionality rejected

What we might call a standard internalist conception of intentional mental content denies that the reference of basic concepts is constituted by externally determined relations (the second externalist premise). At the same time, it does not question that intentionality presupposes reference (the first externalist premise.) On this standard internalism, certain basic concepts express properties and relations independently of causal relations between the mind and those properties. This might, for example, be held of our concepts of shape and spatial relations -- that they express spatial properties and relations without externally determined referential mediation.12 And a similar view may be taken of concepts of categorial properties such as causation and physical-objecthood. Now externalists are dismissive, and there are two rather different objections. The first is the thought that the externalist thought-experiments of Kripke, Putnam and Burge13 show that reference is environmentally and hence externally determined. The second objection is more basic, and harder to get a grip on: such internalists are accused of holding implicitly a magical theory of reference (as Putnam called it), that the mind somehow grasps externally constituted properties independently of natural relations to those properties. Let us see how a reasonable internalist about reference might respond to each objection.

As a preliminary we classify concepts according to the apparent role that wide contexts play in determining their references. By 'reference' I mean not only the reference of singular terms and predicates, but also the truth-conditional contributions of logical connectives, and more generally of all concepts. So we have:

A. Wide concepts, whose reference is determined by externally determined relations to external contexts. These include singular indexicals and demonstratives, and kind terms such as 'water', 'tiger', 'arthritis'. Whether a concept belongs to this type is decided by thought experiments that shift contexts between earth and twin-Earth, between your favorite arthritic twins, and the like.

B. Narrow concepts, for which reference is context-independent, that is, independent of contexts that transcend 'internal conceptual role' and the like. Paradigms are the logical connectives. If a connective has the conceptual role of 'and' or 'all' it eo ipso expresses conjunction or the universal quantifier. There are no twin-Earth reference-shifts for logical connectives. Presumably mathematical and modal concepts belong here as well. (It will be convenient, if somewhat inelegant, to include in group B indexicals that pick out internal states: 'this sensation', 'this thought'; for their referring arguably does not consist in externally determined relations.)

C. Debatable cases, predicates that do not uncontroversially or determinately belong to class A or to class B. These are the concepts already mentioned: 'cause', 'physical object', spatial concepts, and perhaps others. As I have found among philosophers in conversation, intuitions about such concepts are far more open than they are about 'water' and the like.

A conservative internalist strategy -- which I will describe but not endorse -- proceeds as follows. Assign concepts in class C to class B. E.g. if a concept has the internal mental role (conceptual, imagistic) of our spatial concept 'between', then count it as by that very fact referring to spatial betweenness, regardless of context. On this proposal even isolated brains can think about space. Next, count such concepts as descriptive primitives. Then count kind- and property-concepts in class A as abbreviations for descriptions whose logical and non-logical primitives are the B and C concepts. Perhaps with a few additions logical, categorial, causal, spatial, and sensory concepts make up a basic working stock of primitives. This is a familiar description-theoretic internalist idea. Next, take 'water' to mean something like 'the so and so stuff that causally grounds our use of "water"'. The reference of the concept 'water' then varies with the reference of 'our'. Reference-shifts and reference-constancies of familiar sorts are accommodated. 14 If the description-theorist runs into circularity problems with terms of class A -- explaining 'parent' via 'child', 'Cicero' via 'Cataline' etc, there are generalized descriptive techniques for dealing with that.

This assumes that we legitimately assign concepts of class C to class B and not to class A. But might there not be analogues of twin-earth thought-experiments for those basic concepts? Can isolated brains conceive of spatial relations? The internalist I have in mind says that we are conflating cases that can easily be kept apart. The Kripke, Putnam, Burge thought experiments tell us something substantial concerning our intuitions about concepts in group A, but those intuitions need not extend to concepts of group C: the internal properties of our spatial experience determines which spatial properties and relations our thoughts are about.15

It would be wrong to charge our conservative internalist with magic. Perhaps some unreflective philosophers, and some dualists, do have a magical conception of reference, implicitly taking the mind somehow to reach out and grasp, nonnaturally, externally constituted properties. But there is a less dramatic way to deny that reference is essentially causally-socially determined. No magic underlies the intuition that 'and' stands for conjunction without mediation by a causal or other contingent natural relation. That standing-for relation can be explained prosaically. Adopt a deflationary conception of the reference of 'and' and of all expressions in class B: all there is to the reference of 'and' is capture in this schema -- 'P and Q' is true iff P and Q. Suppose a connective of another's language has the same conceptual role as a connective of our language. Then assign to their connective the deflationary truth-conditional interpretation of ours.16 This (as it were projectivist) way of putting things is equivalent to the (non-projectivist) idea that, for group B concepts, conceptual role determines reference, i.e. contribution to truth-conditions, without the mediation of further contingent relations. Our notion of reference, we might suppose, simply takes the reference of such logical concepts to be thus minimally determined. The internalist theory of reference then, as I am characterizing it, takes concepts of class B (including C) to refer in a minimal or deflationary sense.

So denying externalism about basic predicate reference does not thereby commit internalists to magic. For, in a plain sense, internal conceptual role determines reference for concepts of class B cum C without mediation. What does 'determines' mean here? There is a conventionalist element in deflationary theories; on them, reference is not substantively determined. It is as if we conventionally assign certain references to certain basic conceptual roles17. A projective-deflationist theory of reference captures that conventional assignment without its appearing arbitrary.

This account seems to work well enough for 'or' and 'all'. Does it work for spatial concepts? Keep in mind that magic is beside the point. The question yet remains whether reference to spatial properties is like reference to truth-functions or like reference to water. I do not find it so plausible to count isolated brains as capable of concepts that pick out spatial relations, and here is why. My own spatial concepts appear to have a crucially demonstrative element, pointing visually and tactually to certain relations and properties, at least vaguely.18 I of course cannot define 'straight line' by pointing. But this does not mean that what determines spatial reference is not in part demonstrative. By pointing to the sorts of relation and properties that are to count as curviness, betweenness etc, spatial perception apparently gives worldly content to otherwise purely abstract concepts. Without such diffuse pointing in visual and tactile experience, spatial concepts would, it seems to me, be empty. The internalist about reference may say: but brains in vats have visual and tactual experiences, and purport thereby to refer demonstratively. Quite so. But the perceptual factors of spatial concepts imply something about how their reference is determined: if those concepts are in part both visual and demonstrative, then their references will have to be determined in part in the manner of visual demonstrative concepts. If spatial concepts depend on concepts of the form 'a relation of that general sort', where 'that' points visually, then the reference of 'that' depends on seeing, and seeing is an externally determined relation.19 It follows that spatial concepts are wide concepts: they belong to class A, where all outwardly directed perceptual-demonstrative concepts belong.20 But if spatial concepts are not in class B then the internalist about reference really has no hope. No description-theoretic explaining away of the apparent external determination of reference for concepts of class A will be viable.

4. Phenomenal intentionality

How are phenomenal aspects of perceptual states related to their intentional properties? Several views are current. At one extreme there are pure qualia views. The qualitative aspects of (say) visual experience are in themselves non-intentional; those sensational aspects of visual experience are intrinsically as non-representational as the blotched paint on a stucco wall. This is familiar from certain ways of construing color perception: the property red1-ness of certain surfaces causes experiential red2-ness. Externalists comfortable with qualia might then regard the phenomenology of perception as layered: a given visual experience has the property of red2-ness, and that property, although not itself intrinsically intentional, will be a component of a perceptual representation whose intentionality lies in a causal relation to red1-ness. 21

At another extreme, phenomenal aspects of experience are held to be an illusion. Representationism22 holds that the only phenomenal qualities we can discern are the properties perceptions represent their (purported) objects as having: there is red1-ness and not red2-ness. Externalist representationism holds that such representation is a matter of externally determined (e.g. causal) reference relations. The view is apparently widely held, and, interestingly, often on phenomenological grounds.23 These two very different externalist views of the relation between phenomenal qualities and intentionality provide useful contrasts with the internalist view of phenomenal intentionality that I find intuitive. On the one hand I rather think that we have a coherent conception of the felt aspects of perceptual experience; on the other hand I do not think these aspects are "purely" qualitative, that is, in themselves non-intentional.

Let us begin with the latter point, for it is an important source of the representationist's intuition. The idea of non-intentional visual qualia appears (to me) unmotivated. We cannot phenomenologically separate the pure visual experience from its purporting to pick out objects and their properties. It may seem that this makes sense for certain after-images, phosphenes, and the like; even that strikes me as dubious, but I will not discuss the issue here. What seems to me obvious is that ordinary visual experience admits of no phenomenological bracketing of intentional properties: we simply cannot attend to the pure "visual field" and its non-intentional components. In some sense, ordinary visual experience comes phenomenologically interpreted.24 But this does not imply representationism -- although it seems often supposed to do so. It is compatible with, and in my view best explained by, a certain internalist view of intentionality that relies on the idea of "qualitative" aspects of experience. Let me first sketch the basic idea and then consider the representationist's denial of qualitative aspects of experience.

What I will call phenomenal intentionality is a phenomenologically accessible feature of virtually all perceptual experience and of perceptually based concepts, e.g. visual demonstrative concepts. The following will I hope convey the gist. Suppose some indistinguishable lemons are one after the other brought to my visual attention. The lighting, the position of my eyes and so on, are held constant. I am asked to think something about each lemon in turn, say "that's yellow". Afterwards I am told that some of the apparent lemons were hallucinations (that is what the wires were for.) I am asked whether, despite this, my successive visual demonstrative thoughts all visually presented their objects in the same way. Surely a natural reply is yes, in a rather intuitive sense.

This presents itself as sameness in an intentional feature. For those demonstrative concepts (both the ones that succeed in referring and the ones that do not) all purport to pick out some object visually. You cannot capture this common feature by generalizing over objects: "there is some object that the demonstrative concept visually presents". And surely the content of those thoughts is not itself existentially quantified: "I am seeing some lemon or other and it is yellow." The thoughts in question are demonstrative and they are not self-consciously reflexive. An apt way to put those concepts' common feature seems to be this: those visual demonstrative concepts, and the perceptions that underlie them, are all singularly visually directed. This is a non-relational phenomenal feature, by which I mean something rather strong: we are aware of internally determined phenomenal features of visual experience, of their manifold felt aspects, and among those features -- though not separable in imagination -- is the directedness just mentioned.

The feature presumably belongs primarily to a visual perception, and derivatively to the visual demonstrative concept that incorporates the perception. I will speak loosely of its being a feature sometimes of the perception and sometimes of the concept. Why call it intentional? I do this in the hope of engaging archaic intuitions. A natural way to capture the phenomenon is this: "the visual perception purports to refer", "it is directed", "it points". When we considered whether conceptual-role properties, individuated "syntactically", leave out something importantly representational about thoughts, we could surely have noted the relevance of phenomenal directedness. Does the idea of phenomenal directedness commit me to there being some mark -- a little arrow -- in the visual field? Well the visual field would have to be packed with arrows, since virtually every one of its parts is directed on some bit of the passing scene.25 When I say that directedness is 'phenomenal' I mean merely that I can identify it in experience. I apparently can tell that hallucinatory experiences have a "purporting to refer" property that is also present when visual experiences pick out real objects in the normal way.

Even if singular directedness is an internally constituted property of perceptual concepts, it does not on its own vindicate an internalist view of perceptual intentionality. For the externalist will surely object that a visual perception that fails of reference will nevertheless purport to refer to its (non-existent) reference as having some property F. We earlier noted that this requires (in the simplest case) reference to the property F, which is in general externally determined. So even if a singular demonstrative has a phenomenal directedness that is independent of the demonstrative's reference, internalism about intentionality is hardly thereby made coherent. The point is clearly correct.

The present idea though is not that the singular phenomenal directedness of a visual demonstrative concept is sufficient for internalism about that concept's intentionality. But it is a key step in constructing the notion of internal intentionality. The apparent intentional properties of a singular visual demonstrative concept are not exhausted by the references of its constituent kind-terms (its "as F" contents.) The latter do not account for the intentionality of the visual demonstrative as a whole, for that apparently is an intentional property over and above the referential properties of the constituent qualifying concepts. So there is an intentional property, (singular) directedness, that does not consist in (singular) reference and is not explained merely by the reference of kind terms. Perhaps it will be said that this directedness is just a matter of conceptual role. That can be said, but it hardly neutralizes the phenomenology. Who knows whether what appears as directedness consists in some underlying factor that might aptly be called conceptual role? We apparently do not conceive it in terms of its place in some system of conceptual roles. We have a phenomenological take on it, and that is what I call attention to. Once phenomenal directedness is admitted, it is difficult not to admit also, as we will see below, something analogous for a crucial group of kind-concepts. I will argue that this is all we need as a satisfactory basis for internally constituted intentionality for thought in general.

5. The how and the what of intentionality: mere intentional objects considered.

As I see it, phenomenal intentionality is a matter of how one's perceptions and thoughts represent things if they succeed, rather than of what is thereby represented. The representationist says the latter. It may be replied that the 'how'-'what' distinction is bogus. For to say how a visual perception purports to present something is to say what it presents it as. Even if no appropriate physical object is there, my perception presents something as a snake. And that presupposes reference to a property, at least the property of being a physical object of a certain approximate size and shape. Right. But this misses my point. As we noted above, directedness is needed in addition to predication to explain the how of an empty visual demonstrative concept. The non-relational intentionality of predicative concepts is yet to be discussed. But for now let us be content to say that the directedness of a visual perception is an aspect of how the perception (and the demonstrative concept that incorporates it) presents things. It is not a matter of the perception's presenting something as F, but rather of its style or manner or mode of presentation.

But the representationist has a reply. Representationists typically count a perception that fails to refer as yet having an intentional object -- a mere intentional object so to speak. This suits the 'what' conception of intentionality: the intentional properties of even an empty thought or perception would consist in what it represents (as being such and such), namely, its intentional object. (cf Harman) But this is a peculiar way for the representationist to put things. The representationist is a referentialist. In the lemon hallucination the only references to be noted are properties, i.e. the references of the perceptual demonstrative's as it were predicative factors. There is no further reference: the perception purports to refer and fails. And failing to refer is not a form of reference, however apt talk of "representation" may appear. Speaking of mere intentional objects is all right in its way; but it should not mislead one into claiming to have characterized phenomenal intentionality in purely referential terms. An intentional "how a perception presents-things" cannot easily be avoided.

To pursue the point, here is a simple fact: in the veridical case there are not two intentional objects, the mere intentional object and the real object. What the hallucinatory perception has in common with the veridical perception is then not a "mere intentional object". The two perceptions have something intentional in common, and it is that common feature which concerns me. The representationist may say that while they do not share having a mere intentional object, they do however share the property of having an intentional object. But it is hard to take this seriously. The veridical perception has an intentional object in a transparently relational sense: it refers. It could only be a fanciful Meinongianism that construes having a mere intentional object relationally. But suppose we went Meinongian. It is still far-fetched to suppose that we then end up with something that the veridical and hallucinatory perceptions have in common, for "having an intentional object" would have to stand for two very different relations. The simple fact is this. What the two cases have in common is something phenomenological. We could call it 'having-an-intentional-object', with the hyphens marking a non-relational reading. But it is less misleading to use an overtly non-relational form, e.g. 'directedness'. And this clearly concerns the manner in which a perception or visual demonstrative concept presents-things rather than what is represented. Why call directedness "intentional" if it is non-relational, if it is about the how rather than the what of perception? What else to call it? It seems to be the primitive basis of our intuitions of the phenomenal "aboutness" of perception.

The determined referentialist may pursue a different strategy. For there is still the language of "as if", the language of appearances. We can describe the lemon hallucination by saying that it is as if I am seeing a lemon, or "it appears to me that I am seeing a lemon".

If one holds an externalist view of reference one will also hold an externalist view of such appearances: for the function of a that-clause (as in "appears that") is to capture the references of the state or property thereby ascribed. If appearances-properties are then of that form, intentional qualia will turn out to involve relations to external objects and properties, and so cannot be regarded as entirely internal properties.

Now this rather overlooks the representationist's commitment to phenomenology.

Recall how Smart attempted to capture the experience of a yellowish-orange after-image: something is going on in me which is like what is going on in me when I am seeing an orange. The problem with this analysis of sensory experience is that it is phenomenologically blank: it does not imply that there is anything in particular that it is like to experience a yellowish-orange afterimage. The language of appearance is, unlike Smart's locution, at least mental in its implications. But to say that it appears that ..., or that it is as if ..., is not to say how it phenomenally appears. And the point of the lemon case was that there is something phenomenologically in common among the various visual experiences, and that it included something that is phenomenologically intentional. Mere talk of apperance may point to that extrinsically, but it does not capture what it is like. This does not mean that "appears" has no phenomenological role. For one can say to oneself "it appears thus" and point in memory or imagination or present experience to a phenomenal type. But that of course does not help the externalist.

6. Is there phenomenal paint?

According to Gilbert Harman26, when you turn your attention to your perceptual experiences, all you can discern phenomenologically are properties of the (apparent) object of the experience, that is, shape, color and so on. This is in strong contrast with how pictures appear: we can attend to the paint in a picture, but, according to Harman, there is no phenomenal paint of which we are introspectively aware. Phenomenal paint fails to appear not only in unreflective experience but even on phenomenological reflection. Of course he does not deny that some perceptual experiences can lack real objects and yet have a fully phenomenal presence. But he is content to appeal to mere intentional objects, intentional objects that do not exist. An experience's qualities in such a case consist in the properties it attributes to the object that isn't there. The structure remains the same: we are aware not of the experience's phenomenal qualities (for there are no such properties) but of the properties of the apparent object of experience.

Now the argument of the last section, concerning the need for a non-relational commonality between veridical and non-veridical perceptions, does not apparently touch Harman's point. For it does not imply that the phenomenology delivers any highly specific qualitative aspects of experience, as opposed to highly specific properties of the apparent objects of experience. Perceptual experience is phenomenally transparent: we seem to be directly aware of properties of objects rather than properties of experience itself. And it may seem that carping about mere intentional objects will not neutralize that observation. So the question I wish now to raise is this, is there phenomenal paint? The concept of directedness purports to be of a phenomenal property in the sense of a property of experience rather than a property of an apparent object of experience. At the same time, the directedness of perception is not separable in imagination from the more specific phenomenal aspects of perception. It seems then that if there is phenomenal directedness there must be phenomenal paint.

Is there not a phenomenal difference between visual and tactual perceptions of shapes, a difference in the felt qualities or qualia of vision and touch, which is to say, a difference between visual and tactual paint? Consider the obvious phenomenological differences between seeing and touching a quarter. The representationist's reply, as I understand it, is this. What we are inclined to think of as specifically visual and tactual differences in how we perceive a quarter are in fact differences in its perceived qualities over and above its shape and size, differences between its color and luminosity, and its texture and solidity.27 So we are not forced by the phenomenal differences between sight and touch to admit differences in qualitative aspects of experience, i.e. differences in how experiences represent rather than what they apparently represent.

Bill Lycan, whose position is strongly representationist, has developed an interesting strategy for defusing apparent cases in which the representational content of two perceptions is shared while their phenomenal manner of presentation differs. The idea is to take the alleged difference in qualitative manners of presentation to be in fact differences in apparent properties of intentional objects. Lycan's account requires finding multiple levels of intentional objects in problematic experiences. I will describe an experience and consider how Lycan's strategy avoids qualia in accounting for it. Keep one eye open and use your fingers to stretch it in different directions. You see some apples in a bowl say, in blurry distortion. Surely the perception does not represent the apples as themselves blurry. Rather, the proponent of qualia will say, the perception blurrily represents the apples. The blur is a qualitative aspect of the visual experience. Lycan says not so: there could be a scene that is objectively "blurry" in that way, and that (non-existent) scene is a sort of secondary intentional object of the blurry visual experience. There are two levels of intentional objects here: the ordinary apples in the bowl, and the (non-existent) objectively blurry-apples-in-a-bowl.

Now I am willing to grant that there could be an objective scene that looks to the normal eye just like that.28 But it seems to me that Lycan's is a forced and ultimately wrong account of visual blur. The blur is an aspect of how the perception represents its objects, certain normal apples; it is not in its normal role a perceived property of some abnormal apples. The question is whether that can be argued more or less conclusively in its own terms, or whether a larger argument for visual qualia is needed in order to give the qualitative account of visual blur and the like its proper force. The latter is in fact what I am inclined to think. But let me first present an analogy from ordinary depiction to nudge intuitions in the right direction. For there is an intuitive distinction between what is depicted in a picture and how it is depicted, where by the 'how' I do not mean the surface of the picture but something intentional.

7. Aesthetic interlude: the how and the what of pictures

Consider representational paintings that are not photographically realist, e.g. one of Picasso's portraits of Marie Therese Walther. It represents its subject distortedly, if quite gracefully. Marie Therese is captured with rounded swooping lines and bright colors, and fragmentedly -- her head, say, has one half in profile and the other half full-face. Doubtless there could be a real three dimensional scene that looks just like this picture. But we do not see the Picasso portrait as representing a Martian: it seems unmotivated to say that it represents Marie Therese by way of representing a Martian. The picture does not, at least as I am inclined to see it, represent any object as having that distorted shape. Rather it gets you to see its object in a distorted way (and part of the visual pleasure lies in deciphering the picture, following here and there and back again how it represents its object.) The distortedness is not a matter of intentional content but of intentional style, not a matter of what is represented but of how it is represented.

There are Picasso pictures that do seem to represent a distorted object -- a figure on a beach, made out of bony pieces, like a surrealist sculpture of a seated bather. Two points about these pictures are it seems to me instructive. First if the picture is of a bony sculpture, then that sculpture is itself represented in a realistic way, and that is itself a manner of representation, an intentional style -- one that we usually do not attend to, for it is, until noticed, diaphanous. The diaphanousness of a realistic portrait should not blind us to pictorial realism's being an intentional style. Second, the realistically depicted surrealist sculpture itself represents something distortedly; and the sculpture does not represent a further surreal or distorted object, etc. It represents a woman, surreally. You cannot get rid of the manner, the how. I am not speaking of the physical paint, but of something perceptual, an intentional way in which -- as we visually engage it -- the picture presents its objects. (The Picasso picture is even more interesting than I have made it. We can move back and forth between the picture's realistically presenting a bony surrealist sculpture, and its surrealistically depicting a woman on a beach.)

The same holds for visual representations. It is difficult to see how you can get rid of the how, or the manner, of perceptual representation. That manner is as accessible as the how of pictures; and it is intentional. This seems to me to be a coherent view of blurriness and the like. The question is now whether we can turn that coherence into something stronger.

8. Inverted spectra and inverted worlds

Harman's and Lycan's representationism is externalist. Those aspects of visual experiences of which we are phenomenologically aware are their ordinary referential properties; they involve externally determined relations to external objects and properties. There is a familiar, quite elementary reason for rejecting this view, which I find persuasive. We can coherently, and easily, conceive of subjectively different color-experiences that are of the same objective properties of objects. (The idea of inverted spectra is one way of conceiving this.) We can also conceive of a single color experience that is, in different circumstances, of different objective properties. This is persuasively shown by Block's "inverted earth", a color version of twin-earth.29 The arguments of representationists against these possibilities do not, I think, depend on phenomenological intuition so much as on externalist theory. The phenomenology of imagination -- and that is after all our current field of play -- seems squarely on the side of the qualia-exponent. And all the subjectivist apparently needs here is that the phenomenology is coherent, which it appears to be. We must add this: these color qualia are not pure qualia for they are phenomenally intentional: they phenomenally represent (what we conceive of as) object-surfaces as having certain properties. How to interpret this remains to be explained, as it will be below; but its making sense seems clear to me from the basic thought-experiments. There are color-qualia, and they are intrinsically intentional.

9. Isolated brains.

Externalists, as we have seen, often have no trouble regarding visual demonstrative concepts that fail of reference (in a hallucination say: 'that hand reaching out from the wall') as having genuine intentional content.30 But according to these externalists, that intentional content is essentially anchored in the properties that the perception represents the (merely intentional) object as having. Putting colors aside, these properties will include physical-object-types, spatial relations and so on. (The visual hallucination represents the hand as an object with protruding appendages thrusting in my direction.) According to the externalist, my perceptual state represents a merely intentional object as spatially located only if that perceptual state stands to certain externally constituted properties in externally determined reference-relations.

Evidently standard inverted spectra and inverted earth thought experiments do not count against this point. For they hold constant the basic physical properties that visual perceptions represent. So not surprisingly, we require a more radical conceptual possibility than those if we are to establish intentional internalism. It must show this, that we can hold constant phenomenologically accessible intentional visual qualia while varying all the properties that they represent things as having.

Brains in vats to the rescue. One of the interesting facts about the current debate about representationism is how tame the thought experiments are. If the game is phenomenology, then we really ought to exploit all possibilities that are phenomenologically conceivable and prima facie coherent. So, once again: I could have a mental twin whose brain is a molecule for molecule duplicate of me; and I can conceive that twin as having the same visual experiences that I have, even though its brain is isolated from all the normal causal relations to the world that give my visual experiences their actual references. The point is that when I imagine how the brain's visual experiences represent their (merely intentional) objects, I apparently imagine those experiences as in some sense intentional, despite its difference from me in all its references. Is this coherent? Discussions of representationism and qualia avoid this thought experiment, it seems to me, because defenders of qualia think they don't need it. This is because they are concerned with qualia and not intentionality; they want merely to show that color qualia make sense. Even if visual qualia are phenomenally intentional this will not in itself support a purely internalist conception of visual experience.

What is wrong with the idea that my twin-in-a-vat can have visual experiences intentionally equivalent to mine? There seems no phenomenological incoherence in the idea. There has been thought to be a conceptual incoherence however. For if the brain's visual experiences are intentionally the same as mine, then according to the referentialist about intentionality they must share references with mine, which according to externalism about reference is impossible. But of course the argument is fragile, for it ignores the coherence of non-referential or phenomenal conceptions of intentionality. When I imagine the brain's visual states and at the same time conceive of them as having no references in common with mine, what am I conceiving? Here we return to the how vs the what. What I hold constant in imagining the brain's visual experiences is how it conceives-things. That is, I can coherently imagine a complete sharing of my experience's phenomenological details conjoined with a complete unsharing of its references, at least with regard to my outwardly directed states.

So we need an analogue of the phenomenal directedness of singular perceptual demonstratives for the other representational factors in perception, i.e. the factors that represent external properties and relations. Suppose we can extend the idea of directedness to those aspects of visual experience that purport to represent spatial properties etc. Then my twin's visual experiences and mine share that directedness; but mine refer to spatial properties (metaphysically rather than phenomenally spatial so to say) while his do not. If all this can be made out, we are aware of directed qualia, qualia that internally purport to refer not only to objects but to basic properties. My twin and I conceive things thoroughly in the same intentional manner. This what we hold constant across twin-brains, i.e. highly specific forms of property-directedness. There are no shared properties of intentional objects.

To return to the promised relevance of conceptual roles, we hold constant not only intentionalized phenomenal experience but also conceptual roles. Internal intentionality is to be located primitively in perceptually based concepts. It will be derivatively located in non-perceptual concepts via their conceptual connections with perceptual concepts. The subjective intentional properties of non-perceptual concepts are always of matter of, as it were, looking sideways via their connections with perceptual concepts. The earlier complaint about the intuitive deficiencies of our conceptions of narrow conceptual roles -- as purely syntactic, as not capturing how thoughts subjectively represent the world -- is I think answered on this picture.

 10. Recognitional concepts

The idea can be extended to demonstrative concepts that purport to pick out, perceptually, kinds and properties rather than individuals, what we can call recognitional concepts. They are an important if somewhat elusive variety of kind-concept or property-concept. They appear to me to have an intuitively evident sort of internal intentionality, which may be thought of, by analogy with 'object-independent', as 'kind-independent' or 'property-independent' intentionality. As we have seen, some committed externalists about intentional content concede that individual demonstrative concepts have an object-independent conceptual or psychological integrity. But they standardly draw the line at property-concepts, kind-concepts, relation-concepts, insisting that their psychological or intentional individuation must incorporate the kinds, properties or relations for which they stand.31 I am quite committed to externalism about the reference of these property-concepts: that a given recognitional concept refers to a given kind is of course a matter of some external, e.g. causal, relation between the thinker and the kind. What I wish to deny is that either the external relation or the kind itself is part of the intentional individuation of the recognitional concept.

Recognitional concepts are personal, and they are perspectival. Their reference is determined by non-socially-mediated actual and dispositional relations between the thinker and the kind. And these concepts are individuated, in part, by the perspective from which they are conceived -- for example a perceptual perspective. So a visual demonstrative kind-concept concept may pick out a kind by virtue of past perceptions of its instances and a disposition to pick out further instances from its defining visual perspective. It is important to be clear about the following point. Visual recognitional concepts are not descriptions of the form 'the kind to which this thing, and that thing etc. belong', that is, not descriptions that embed singular visual demonstrative concepts. Suppose I have a solid recognitional conception of a species of elm, without knowing its name. I need have in mind no particular elms, nor any group of them: my conception is of them in general, but from a certain perspective, from which I can take one of them in at a glance, say, while being able to see its bark and its branches. So we are not proposing a descriptive account of the kind-independent intentionality of recognitional concepts.

How then shall we intuitively conceive the directedness of a recognitional concept -- its purporting to pick out a certain kind of tree? Think of exercising the concept in imagination without applying it perceptually. For example, one wonders whether there are trees of that kind in Philadelphia; here one points in imaginative memory to a kind. What is useful about these cases, where the concept is not applied directly in perception, is that it makes it easy to isolate the purported reference to a kind ("that kind of tree") from corresponding purported references to individuals ("that tree".)

The question is whether we have here an object-independent intentional property. It won't surprise you that it seems clear to me that we have. Conceiving of a given visual kind-demonstrative's failing of reference is not hard: one can be wrong in thinking that, from a certain perceptual perspective, one has picked out, or is able to pick out, a kind. But one's recognitional concept may nevertheless have been as coherent as any, and perceptually focussed as if on a kind. So the analogy with the lemon-hallucination seems fair. We also would like to establish a further analogy with the lemon case, that is, that recognitional type-demonstratives hold constant across reference change. And so I have to inflict on you a familiar waving of intuitions, but with a new emphasis.

Imagine, then, some worlds like ours, as superficially similar as you like, but populated with different underlying kinds. Could that same recognitional concept -- the visually embedded concept that kind -- occur in all those worlds even though it picks out different kinds in each? This strikes me as straightforwardly evident. And, as in the lemon case, what intuitively we hold constant across these worlds -- certain conceptual and experiential factors -- are not easily equated with some combination of functional or syntactic and purely sensational properties. A kind of intentional directedness is again present, associated with the kind-demonstrative. It is analogous to the directedness of singular demonstratives -- and doubtless derives from it -- despite the difference between singular demonstrative pointing and pointing to a kind via a recognitional capacity. So it seems quite easy to conceive of a recognitional concept kind-independently and yet intentionally, as purporting to refer, pattern recognitionally, to a kind.

Let us be clear about what the point has been so far. It is not that we finally have shown that recognitional concepts have purely internally determined intentional properties. That cannot be so, for we haven't yet dealt with those further general concepts that are presupposed by say an ordinary visual recognitional concept (of elms, say), especially the spatial concepts that are entwined with visual experiences, as well as the general concept of three-dimensional objects persisting through motion and change. What rather it seems to me we have shown is that recognitional concepts have kind-independent intentionality in this sense: even though a recognitional kind-demonstrative fails to pick out a kind, it nevertheless has (and now we speak phenomenologically) an overall intentional content that is organized around the concept's visual kind-directedness, that is, its purporting as a whole to pick out, visually, a kind, property etc.

A recognitional concept purports to refer in two ways. a) It purports to refer by way of an imaginative capacity. This can only be conceived intentionally, for one has little grip on purely sensory visual imagination. This imaginative capacity somehow involves as it were schematic singular visual demonstratives. The generality of the directedness of a recognitional concept, and the schematic form of imagined occurrences of individual visual demonstratives, are somehow closely connected. b) It purports to refer by way of a disposition to respond to singular demonstrative visual experiences, where, as before, these are conceived intentionally and object-independently.

11. General concepts of physical objects and spatial relations

Now we turn to spatial and other concepts, which we argued belong among wide (class A) concepts, whose reference is externally determined; these concepts include certain general concepts of approximate spatial relations, shapes and the like, and a certain conception of a three-dimensional object as it persists over time. If we can extend to these concepts something analogous to the treatment of recognitional concepts, we will have rather a strong reason to think that concepts whose references are externally determined can in general be individuated by internal intentional properties. Class C concepts will moreover play a crucial structural role in explaining the internal intentionality of the huge remaining class of wide terms and predicates.

Certain basic physical and spatial concepts do not have and do not need socially-deferential roles. Of course "isosceles" may well, for many of us, have as socially deferential a role as "arthritis". But having the concept of an isosceles triangle would not be possible unless we independently had recognitional -- visual and tactual -- conceptions of more basic spatial relations. That at least is how it strikes me. Of course our recognitional concepts are not very precise; we hardly acquire the concept of a (perfect) right angle from perception alone. And yet concepts of more or less angular and curvy boundaries, of spatial betweenness, of relative distance -- that is, the raw material of further precision in spatial concepts -- are plausibly regarded as recognitional concepts. To say that they are recognitional concepts is not to deny them structural interrelations. It's not a topic we can pursue here, but there seems to me no fundamental difficulty in the idea of structural interrelations among recognitional concepts. Quality spaces, after all, are structured. We also appear to have a recognitional concept of physical object in general. This does not mean that we have an image of a physical concept in general; but there is nevertheless a perceptual ability to group together three dimensional objects of all shapes and sizes. To say 'perceptual' leaves it open that some recognitional concepts are transmodal, that is, apply on the basis of both visual and tactual information. But I take transmodal concepts themselves to be perceptual concepts and not (as it were) pure categorial concepts, that is, not amodal. Do these general recognitional concepts have the kind-independent phenomenal directedness we claimed for less general recognitional concepts? Here we must again appeal to the fully intentional mental life of my twin-in-a-vat. All externalists abandon me at this point, however indulgently they have followed so far. I hope though that now we have not merely an intuition, but something approaching a principled account of it. Given externalism about the reference of these concepts, none of that twin-brain's concepts pick out physical-objecthood or spatial properties. The internalist claim is that my brain-twin's concepts are exactly similar intentionally to my recognitional concepts of the various spatial properties and relations. For they conceive the properties and relations to which they purport to refer in precisely the same way as my concepts do, via the same highly specific visual and tactual experiences and guided by the directedness of 'that property', 'that relation', and so on. The twin-brain has a fully phenomenally intentional visual field. Given that the special directedness of recognitional concepts, including spatial and basic-object concepts, derives from the singular directedness of perceptual experience, it makes perfectly good sense to regard the intentionality of the brain's general (i.e. non-singular) concepts to be identical with mine. We need not decide whether the twin-brain's spatial concepts refer to some non-standard properties and relations -- e.g. properties of the visual system itself, or fail of reference entirely. It is not clear that this is an interesting question. But if we can make sense of intentional properties that persist through shifting kind-references and the failure of kind-reference, then I cannot see why that should not also apply to spatial recognitional concepts.

You may object. "The sense we made of intentional directedness in connection with less general recognitional concepts depended on their having qualifying concepts that themselves were could take for granted were somehow intentional. And that was intuitively crucial in supporting the intuition that, say, the recognitional conception of elms had its own kind-independent intentionality." Well, yes. But that does not mean that we then depended upon the intentional properties of those basical qualifying concepts being externally determined. It appears to me that is quite coherent to ascribe object-independent intentional directedness to recognitional concepts all at once, including basic spatial etc. concepts.

12. The paint that points

Before turning to non-perceptual concepts and the question of their intentionality, let us look back to the representationist-qualophile dispute. I have agreed with the representationist that visual experience is intrinsically intentional but denied that this requires externalist treatment. I have also argued that the notion of 'mere intentional object', which the representationist requires if he is to be true to the phenomenology, is dubiously compatible with externalism about intentionality. Moreover, I argued that what appear to be coherent phenomenological intuitions support the qualophile's thesis that we have intuitive conceptions of the qualitative aspects of experience, although we have no way of separating the qualia from the intentionality. But this is all right, given that the phenomenological intentionality of perception is to be explained via "directedness", which is itself a phenomenal notion. Now if by "paint" one means something that we can conceive independently of its intentionally -- like the paint on a canvas -- then, at least in vision, there is no (pervasive) paint. But if "paint" means qualitative aspects of experience that can be separated from referential properties, then there is such a thing as phenomenal paint. And it points.
13. Personal systematic concepts

Presumably there are concepts that are neither recognitional concepts nor socially deferential concepts nor logical concepts. Calling them "theoretical" makes familiar sense from philosophy of language, but it is perhaps somewhat overblown, and what I mean is not all that grand. So let me call them personal systematic concepts. To begin with, here's what I mean by "personal". Suppose that Fiona thinks that one way of becoming a mother is adopting a child and caring for it. When we tell her that 'mother' means a biological relation, she replies, determinedly, "When I say 'mother' it means what I mean and not what someone else means." What construal shall we give of Fiona's undeferential concept? We might try a description, or a cluster of descriptions. But that would, at best, be a matter of local convenience, and not a strategy for cashing out her personal theoretical concepts en masse. The reason is circularity. It is doubtful that we could explain those concepts using ordinary descriptions or description-clusters that appeal only to recognitional and logical concepts. We have to invoke other concepts that are in the same boat, concepts such as "female", "child", "raising", and so on. Getting its content from having a role in a network of conceptual connections with similar concepts is what makes Fiona's concept systematic, or if you prefer "theoretical".

Now consider her personal systematic concepts as a whole. They are bound to be multifariously linked with recognitional concepts, including the general concepts of physical object and spatial relations. Recognitional concepts that pick out children, that pick out the subjective psychological state of attention, that pick out attentive behavior, that pick out feelings, that pick out kinds of physical activity will also play essential roles in giving content to Fiona's systematic concepts.

Now we come to the question: how are we to conceive of the internally determined intentionality of personal systematic concepts? What I want to suggest is that their intentionality properties are dispositional. We do not take in the intentional properties of a systematic concept all at once. We do so rather by finding our way about among a systematic concept's lateral interconceptual connections. You may ask how the conceptual role of a concept can amount to an intentional property. We are used to thinking of conceptual role as "syntactic" role (as is often said). But what we uncover is hardly just the concept's syntactic or functional connections. For one constantly engages, at every turn, perceptual, recognitional conceptions that have their own independent directedness. The phenomenological world-directedness of a personal theoretical concept, I want to propose here, derives from its intimate conceptual connections with perceptual intentionality.

So the idea that every concept can be revealed in an introspective glance, or even in an introspective stare, is not essential to the defense of internal, phenomenological, intentionality. This is not simply to assert that the conceptual roles of concepts are crucial to their individuation; that does seem to me beyond doubt. The point is not so much about individuation as about intentionality. The intuitive world-directedness of a concept -- that phenomenological property -- need not consist in its having its own perceptual focus, as do perceptual demonstratives. Its intentionality may come rather from the accessibility of conceptual repositionings and sidelong glances.

14. Socially deferential concepts

Socially deferential concepts include most of the proper names in one's repertory, and the extensive group of kind-terms to which Tyler Burge has called attention. Socially deferential concepts are of course not perceptually based in the manner of recognitional concepts, for recognitional abilities do not fix their reference. And so perceptual focus does not give us an intentional property of such concepts as a whole. Socially deferential concepts have about them something more (discursive and linguistic?): they involve conceptions of other speakers and of the shared language.

What I propose is that socially deferential concepts belong among the personal systematic concepts. This is perhaps perplexing: how can socially deferential concepts be personal concepts? There are two ways in which a concept can be said to be personal. The first concerns how its reference is determined, that is whether it is socially deferential or not.

The second -- as used in the phrase 'personal systematic concept'-- concerns how the concept is individuated, which is to say by the systematic role that the concept has in one's own thoughts. And when I say that the socially deferential concepts belong among the personal concepts, I mean simply that those concepts -- including their internal intentional properties -- are determined in that way. At the same time, their reference is determined socially. The link between the two is this: that a concept of mine is socially deferential depends entirely on its systematic role in my thoughts. If it has the socially deferential role in my thoughts, then its reference is determined socially. If not, then its reference is determined otherwise, perhaps in the manner of a recognitional concept, or in the manner of personal systematic concepts that are not social.

As a last note on social deference, we might observe that my twin in a vat of course also has socially deferential concepts, but only in the sense that he has concepts that are equivalent in their internal intentionality to my socially deferential concepts. Might they have reference? Well if they have reference, it is not via the expected routes; my twin in a vat has no concepts that refer via the usage of other people. Perhaps its concepts refer to some states of its own? I doubt that our concept of reference applies here; better to say that, like most of the rest of my twin in a vat's concepts his "socially deferential" concepts fail of reference.

15. Directedness and reference

How are internal intentionality and reference connected? Intentional directedness is an object-independent property, and it does not involve relations to objects. Reference comprises various causal and other relations to objects, and it is absurd to think of those reference relations as somehow instantiated without objects.

My answer may not be fully digestible without more explaining and consequent ruminating, but here goes. Directedness is an object-independent property. But it is intimately involved with what is often called the diaphanousness of perception. Directedness is diaphanousness without the actual object. Earlier I pointed to the inadequacies of "mere intentional objects" in furthering the representationist project. But that leaves intact the usefulness of intentional objects in phenomenological description; and, in a phenomenological vein, we might say that directedness is diaphanousness towards intentional objects, whether "mere" or real. Now imagine having one of the lemon-experiences without knowing whether it is veridical. You are strongly tempted to say "that object". Your perceptual-processing presses mightily on your belief-inclinations, so strongly that you seem both to commit yourself, by using a demonstrative, and to take it back at the same time: "that object may or may not exist". The phenomenology gives you the feel of a sort of ontologically neutral object that could have the property of existing or not-existing; and directedness is phenomenologically very like a relation to that neutral object, which could turn out to be real. Suppose you then discover that it is real. At this point the question arises of the object's actual non-phenomenological relation to your perception. It turns out that a certain optical-causal relation holds in all such cases. The ghostly internal relation gets embodied in something non-mental and out there.

The point of this fanciful description is to explain the relationship between directedness and reference. But the explanation of course is phenomenological-psychological; it is from a combined first-person/third-person perspective that directedness is intimately connected with reference.32

16. Concluding remarks

The lemon demonstratives had this property in common: they purport-to-pick-out-an-object. This was said in a phenomenological vein. We are, it seems to me, as entitled to speak of phenomenological intentionality as we are of the felt qualities of a sensation. And the Cartesian intuition that is rejected by externalists about content is after all primarily a phenomenological intuition. We might reject that intuition by rejecting phenomenological or subjective conceptions in the philosophy of mind. But the only way to reject phenomenological intentionality selectively is to show that there is after all no such apparent phenomenon, or that the idea is incoherent. It is hard to see that externalist arguments are of the right sort to show that it is incoherent.

If there is no reason to deny the phenomenon of intentional focus and no reason to regard that phenomenal feature as object-dependent, then there is no warrant for the externalist idea that internalism about mental content somehow leaves mental content blind, or that then "it is all darkness within". In fact it is odd of the externalist to see his theory as providing interior illumination. The metaphor seems to flow in the opposite direction: if the only intentional content is externally determined then it is all darkness within. Still the thought naturally arises, how could something in the brain account for intentional directedness? But just this question arises about phenomenal features in general, and here I am content to put it aside.


  1. Classic texts are Kripke 1972, Putnam 1975, Burge 1979, Burge 1982.
  2. As Kent Bach puts it: "every case is a Paderewski case." Loar (1986a; 1986b; 1987; ms.)
  3. Perhaps some socially shared concepts are in part perceptual; think of "the Moon". Even here though one suspects that, given the usual ways of individuating social concepts, this would wrongly exclude congenitally blind people from sharing that social concept.
  4. Cf Evans 1982; McDowell 1986.
  5. Your ascription of Guido's belief does not even implicitly convey an exact conception of his highly specific visual conception; we rarely have an exact conception of another's mode of presentation. What is conveyed rather is a type of mode of presentation to which Guido's precise visual concept belongs. It is the specific modes of presentation that individuate beliefs; but we typically merely gesture in their direction. The theory that types of modes of presentation are implied contextually in the gaps between the worlds in that-clauses (so to speak) was first introduced by Stephen Schiffer [1979]. He has subsequently argued against his own theory [Schiffer 1992], but I am not persuaded.
  6. See, for example, Burge 1979; Burge 1982; Burge 1986.
  7. I engaged some of Burge's arguments in an earlier paper. [Loar 1986]. There I made four proposals. i) Burge's arguments depend on the supposition that the psychological content of the predicative aspects of thoughts is identical with what obliquely interpreted that-clauses capture. ii) That-clauses do not capture psychological content -- any that-clause can apply by virtue of different psychological contents. iii) Thoughts with the same psychological contents will in different contexts require different that-clauses to express them. iv) Psychological content can be understood in terms of "realization conditions".
  8. It has for a long time seemed to me that the fourth proposal is incorrect, because it relies on semantic resources (basically possible worlds) equivalent to those mentioned in the text as referential. As will become clear below, any such proposal is vulnerable to further externalist argument about reference -- putting aside issues about that-clauses. Another paper of mine, [Loar 1987] proposed a notion of subjective intentionality that is non-referential and hence different different from that of "realization conditions". My current account of "subjective" intentionality is different again from the 1987 account, which was not "phenomenal" in the same way.
  9. That is, the externalists who pose the most serious threats to the internalist conception of intentionality. One can notionally conceive of an externalist position that holds that internalism is coherently conceivable but that, as a matter of fact, intentionality consists in externally determined properties. (i) To this it may be added that all there are non-social external reference relations but they are all to particulars. (ii) One has also to keep in mind the more radical thesis that the properties to which our predicates refer are themselves in part socially constituted.
  10. See Spelke 199x.
  11. Field 1994.
  12. Indeed it seems not uncommon for philosophers simply to conflate concepts and properties.
  13. Kripke 1972, Putnam 1975, Burge 1979.
  14. It is not to the point to note the infelicity of substituting a metalinguistic description for occurrences of 'water' in that-clauses. For as noted above, the current topic is not that-clause ascriptions, but the modes of presentation that can make true such ascriptions without being explicitly captured by them. (Doubtless the metalinguistic ascription is semantically inequivalent to the unmetalinguistic original.)
  15. Cf McGinn's "weak externalism". McGinn 1989.
  16. Field 1994.
  17. This is quite close to the theory I proposed in Loar 1981. There it was expressed without appeal to deflationism in the home case. Conceptual roles for primitive concepts determined truth-conditional contributions. The spirit of this part of the theory was certainly conventionalist.
  18. A propos the deflationary theory: we do not assign to someone else's demonstrative concept the same reference as a demonstrative of ours merely by virtue of the two concepts' having the same internal conceptual role.
  19. This is not to deny that spatial concepts may depend on transmodal perceptual concepts. "Transmodal" does not imply "non-perceptual". The transmodal spatial conceptual capacities of blind people will get their content, presumably, from tactile, auditory, and proprioceptive perceptual states. To the extent that we sighted people can understand the mental contents of blind people, to that extend presumably we conceive of tactile, proprioceptive etc modes of presentation.
  20. It is not unconnected with this point that deflationism in general appears to me to founder on demonstrative reference.
  21. Some proponents of this view regard the purely qualitative aspects of sensation as experienced only obliquely or even as inferred. See Hill 1991; Shoemaker 1994.
  22. To use Ned Block's term.
  23. Harman 1990. Lycan 1996.
  24. Hill 1991; Shoemaker 1994.
  25. The visual experience supports a complex intentional structure. If you shift attention to another aspect of the visual experience, that reveals a distinct intentional directedness. Evidently there is a compact and quite complex set of such intentional directednesses within most visual experiences.
  26. Harman 1990.
  27. Are colors secondary qualities? Harman does not take color to be an objective surface property and in fact takes it to be a dispositional property. One naturally wonders whether things don't now go in a circle: for the disposition would be a secondary quality, a disposition to produce certain phenomenal states. Harman proposes an answer to this worry, in Harman 1996.
  28. I also grant that there could be an external arrangement of lights that look, undistorted, just like phosphenes, pace Block 1996.
  29. Block 1990.
  30. Burge 1986, and Recanati 1993, as against Evans 1982, and McDowell 1986.
  31. See Burge 1986; and Recanati 1993.
  32. See Loar 1995.