Notions of intentionality - of linguistic meaning, mental content,
aboutness generally - lie at the heart of our conception of ourselves
or others as perceiving, thinking and acting beings. A central
question in much recent philosophy has been whether int entionality,
fundamentally, is a matter of representing an independent reality
('representationalism'), or rather one of enabling adaptive forms of
action and interaction ('anti-representationalism'). In crude
metaphors: are thoughts mirrors of reality or tools for coping?
With regard to linguistic meaning and thought content, the guiding
question has been what role such semantic notions as reference and
truth should have in accounting for these phenomena, with
representationalists assigning them a substa ntive explanatory role,
and anti-representationalists aiming to deflate their import,
prioritizing instead notions of warranted move, expression or use. We
will examine the reasons for and commitments of rejecting the
We will als o consider the idea that meaning and thought has an
inherently normative dimension, traditionally central to
anti-representationalists, looking in particular at how this idea can
be squared with a broadly anti-realist view of normativity, as has
been favo ured by many anti-representationalists.
Intentional notions have gained prominence in accounts of perceptual
experience, and are heavily invoked in cognitive science. While
representationalist conceptions of intentionality have been dominant
in these doma ins, anti-representationalist perspectives, often
inspired by the pragmatist and phenomenological traditions, are
increasingly influential. We will investigate the prospects for some
notable alternatives of this sort.
Finally, but not least, we shall expl ore what interrelations there may
be between different forms of (anti-)representationalism, e.g. between
anti-representationalism about thought content and, say, enactivist
views of perception.