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Revi ew

David Woodruff Smith and Ronald McIntyre, Husserl


and Intentionality: A Study of Mind, Meaning, and
Language, Reidel, Dordrecht and Boston, 1982, 423
+ xxiii pp., $49.50 (cloth), S 19.99 (paper).
In the last twenty years, beginning with a seminal paper
by Dagfinn Follesdal published in 1969,1 analytic
philosophy has shown a renewed and increasing interest
in Husserl's phenomenology. 2 In Husserl and Inten-
tionality, David Woodruff Smith and Ronald Mclntyre
give an important contribution to this line of research.
The book is written in the analytic tradition, and
represents in part an attempt at making phenomenology
palatable to those who look suspiciously at 'continental
philosophy'. Thus it provides a double service: it
introduces phenomenology to an analytic public, and it
shows to those raised in the opposite tradition what kind
of reception their tradition has overseas.
The book is divided into threeparts. The first part
introduces various theories of intentionality, and relates
them to topics discussed within the logic of intensional
contexts (in particular epistemic contexts). The second
analyzes in detail Husserl's theory of intentionality as it
developed from his early to his latest works. The third
expands Husserl's theory, via his notion of horizon, to
make it more sensitive to results obtained by Carnap,
Hintikka, and others in the field of possible world
semantics. The last chapter of the book (written by
Smith alone) deals with a specific problem that arises
within Husserl's theory, concerning definite or de re
intentions.
Consciousness is always consciousness of something,
and intentionality is the property that gives it the
character of being directed to an object, of being about
an object. More specifically, all mental acts (like
desiring, perceiving, judging, etc.) are intentional acts
because they are directed toward an object or a state of
affairs. The objects of these acts are often puzzling:
sometimes they do not exist (I may think of Pegasus),
sometimes they are indeterminate or incomplete (I may
desire something sweet, without desiring anything in
particular), and in general they are dependent on the
particular conceptual perspective from which one
intends them (I may believe something of the man who
denounced Catiline, without believing anything of the
author of the De Fato). Or, to tell the story in terms of
the acts themselves, it is not clear what kind of relation
an intentional relation is: it does not depend on the
existence of its second term (the object), but does
depend on the perspective the first term (the subject)
has on it. Those who are familiar with epistemic logic
will see the similarity of these puzzles with problems of
existential import and failure of substitutivity that arise
in that context: the intentionality of mind and the
intensionality of language share something more than
mere assonance.
There are two main ways in which these puzzles can
be addressed. One can concentrate on the ontological
status of the objects to which intentional acts are
directed, or one can simply disregard that status and
concentrate on the structures of the mind that make it
directed toward objects. Correspondingly, there are
object-theories and content-theories of intentionality.
Object-theories hold that the objects of intentional
acts (or intentional objects) are ontologically different
from ordinary entities (from things we eat, for example).
Franz Brentano in early works held that intentional
objects were mind-dependent entities (i.e., entities
existing 'in' the mind, in some sense of existence). But
this attitude generates more problems than it solves: as
Roderick Chisholm points out, 3 Diogenes was looking
for a real honest man, not for an immanent object.
Brentano himself became aware of these problems, and
later on offered a different theory.
The move from object-theories to content-theories
(among which Husserrs is to be found, in Smith and
McIntyre's reading of him) is suggestive of Kant's
Copernican revolution: instead of inquiring into the
objects themselves, one inquires into the conditions that
make it possible for the mind to refer to objects (distinct
Topoi 6 (1987), 139--142.
9 1987 by D. Reidel Publishing Company.
140 REVIEW
f r om itself). Husser l finds an answer by descri bi ng t he
experi ent i al ( phenomenol ogi cal ) cont ent of ment al acts.
It is in vi rt ue of t hei r i nner st r uct ur e that i nt ent i onal acts
have this ' poi nt i ng at' charact er. Mor e specifically, he
finds a model f or t he i nt ent i onal i t y of ment al acts
in linguistic reference: as expressi ons r ef er to t hei r
denot at a t hr ough t he senses t hey express, ment al acts
r ef er t o obj ect s t hr ough t hei r phenomenol ogi cal con-
tent. In bot h cases, an ent i t y of t he nat ur e of a meani ng
plays t he maj or r ol e in det er mi ni ng t he "hooki ng up"
with t he object. Such an ent i t y Husser l called (in t he
latest f or mul at i on of his t heor y) noe mat i c Si nn.
In per f or mi ng ment al activities, we are never i mme-
di at el y aware of noemat i c Sinne: we can onl y grasp t hem
by reflecting on t hese activities. For exampl e, if I t hi nk
of a per son I met t en years ago, and I t hi nk of hi m as
having cert ai n pr oper t i es (like weari ng glasses, liking
det ect i ve stories, and what have you), t he obj ect I i nt end
will be my fri end, and he will be i nt ended via t he
noemat i c Sinn t hat pr escr i bes t hose pr oper t i es, but t he
Sinn itself will not be what I i nt end.
Let us see how t he t heor y addresses t he puzzl es
ment i oned above.
(1) An act is i nt ent i onal onl y in vi rt ue of its cont ent ,
whet her it has an (existing) obj ect or not. 4
(2) The obj ect s of i nt ent i onal acts are always
i nt ended t hr ough a noemat i c Sinn, a n d hence t hr ough a
part i cul ar perspect i ve.
(3) However , t he obj ect s i nt ended oft en t r anscend
that perspect i ve, in t hat t hey ar e ri cher in det er mi na-
tions t han any descri pt i on, however compl ex, we might
give of t hem.
(4) Act s with a di fferent phenomenol ogi cal cont ent
may be di r ect ed t owar d t he same obj ect .
Fur t her mor e, t he noemat i c Sinn is, accor di ng t o
Husserl , t he cor e of a mor e compl ex No e ma , whi ch
i ncl udes t he ki nd of exper i ence I am having: my act of
imagining t hat it is snowi ng out si de, and my act of
hopi ng t hat it is snowi ng out si de, will have t he same
cont ent (t he same noemat i c Sinn), but will be ent er-
t ai ned in di fferent ways, and hence be part s of di fferent
Noemas.
Smi t h and McI nt yr e summar i ze t hei r i nt er pr et at i on
of Husserl ' s t heor y with t he following diagram:
Act . . . . noema --- object
entertains prescribes
I t
intends
whi ch t hey expl ai n as follows: "an act i nt ends (is
di r ect ed t owards or i nt ent i onal l y rel at ed t o) an obj ect , if
and onl y if t he act [ . . . ] ent ert ai ns a cert ai n noemat i c
Sinn and t hat Sinn prescri bes t hat obj ect ". (p. 143) 5
Thes e r emar ks ar e cl earl y suggestive of Frege' s
t heor y of Sinn and Bedeut ung, and in fact, it was
Fol l esdal ' s original insight, fully shared by Smith and
McI nt yr e, t hat noemat i c Si nne wer e t he same ki nds of
entities as Frege' s Sinne. And since t he l at t er are Si nne
o f l i ngui st i c entities, t he suggestion emerges t hat we can
under st and i nt ent i onal r ef er ence in anal ogy with linguis-
tic reference. Smi t h and McI nt yr e find in Husser l t wo
pri nci pl es support i ng this suggestion:
(a) Language is t he expr essi on of t hought , and hence
linguistic meani ngs are t he noemat i c Si nne of underl yi ng
i nt ent i onal acts or attitudes.
(b) Ever y noemat i c Sinn is in pri nci pl e capabl e of
bei ng expr essed in language, as t he meani ng of some
appr opr i at e linguistic expressi on.
To t hose who are suspicious of meani ngs, and in
general of any mentalistic t heor y, Smith and Mcl nt yr e
suggest t o be pragmatic. A t heor y - - t hey say - - is good
if it works:
To admit that there are limits to Husserl's analysis of the
fundamental notions underlying his theory of intentionality, is not
itself a criticism of Hussefl. Ultimately analysis must stop
somewhere, and every theory must at that point accept some
notions as primitive. The important question is whether what
Husserl says about his basic notions is enough to enable us to
understand them and the way they work. [...] As with any
theory, much of its acceptability turns on its success in handling
the problems that prompted the need for a theory in the first
place. (pp. 144--45)
So let us consi der a concr et e exampl e and appl y t he
t heor y to it. Consi der my pr esent act of seeing an appl e
t r ee ( t hi s appl e t ree) bl oomi ng in t he garden. Accor di ng
t o Smith and Mcl nt yr e, t he noemat i c Sinn i nvol ved in
my act mi ght be expr essed by t he descr i pt i on ' this appl e
t r ee bl oomi ng in t he garden' , or bet t er ' this as an appl e
t r ee bl oomi ng in t he garden' . But how exact l y is t he Sinn
in quest i on supposed t o pi ck out t he obj ect ? Husser l
says:
[...] the predicates are predicates of 'something', and this
'something' [...] is the central point of connexion for the
predicates, their 'bearer', but in no wise their unity in the sense in
which any system or connection of predicates might be called a
unity. It must be distinguished from these, although it should not
be set alongside them and should not be separated from them, as
inversely they themselves are its predicates, or more accurately
REVI EW 141
from the predicate-noemata. (Ideas: General Introduction to Pure
Phenomenology, 6 p. 337)
I t woul d b e i nt er es t i ng t o c o mp a r e t he ' s ome t hi ng'
Hus s e r l t al ks a b o u t he r e wi t h Ka nt ' s c o n c e p t of t he
t r a ns c e nde nt a l obj ect , whi c h he al so s ome t i me s calls
"t he c o n c e p t o f s ome t hi ng i n gener al ". ( A2 5 1 ) 7 Bo t h
Ka nt and Hus s e r l r e ga r d t hi s c o n c e p t as wha t gi ves uni t y
t o a sensi bl e ma ni f ol d a nd t r a ns f or ms it i nt o t he
e xpe r i e nc e o f an obj ect . An d b o t h t hi nk t hat t he
t r a ns c e nde nt a l obj ect is n o t an obj e c t o f exper i ence,
a l t hough it is a c ondi t i on o f o u r exper i enci ng obj ect s.
No r can we c a pt ur e it i n pur e l y c o n c e p t u a l t er ms ; all we
can say is - - a nd Ka n t is cr yst al cl ear a b o u t t hi s - - t hat
[...] this something [...] is only the transcendental object; and by
that is meant a something ~ X, of which we know; and with the
present constitution of our understanding can know, nothing
whatsoever, but which [. . . ] can serve only for the unity of the
manifold in sensible intuitions [...]. (A250--51)
But Smi t h a nd Mc l n t y r e ar e n o t i nt er es t ed i n
expl or i ng t hes e suggest i ons. The i r ma i n goal is t o f i nd a
pl ausi bl e t h e o r y o f i nt ent i onal i t y, and wi t h t hi s goal i n
mi nd, t hey f i nd Hus s e r l ' s a c c o u n t uns at i s f act or y.
To begi n wi t h, he r e is t hei r r eadi ng o f pas s ages l i ke
t he above: "
Each Sinn is a complex that can be factored into two fundamental
components: an aggregate of predicate-senses, which prescribes
the properties an object is given as having: and a'component of a
different sort, called an ' X' or a 'determinable X' , which
prescribes the object to which these properties are ascribed in the
act. By virtue of its X, each Sinn relates to a specific object and so
determines what the act is directed towards; and by virtue of its
predicate-senses, the Sinn ascribes properties to this object and
so determines what is intended as. (p. 219)
An d a c c o r d i n g t o t hem, t hi s X l eaves t o o ma n y
ques t i ons una ns we r e d:
If the [. . . ] meaning of 'this' on a given occasion is the X in the
speaker's perception of the referent, then the X in a perception
varies from case to case. But what does this mean? Is there a
different X in every perception? That would entail that in
principle no two perceptions could ever have the very same
phenomenological content, which is implausible. Furthermore, if
two perceptions with two different X' s are directed toward what
is in fact the same object, what is it about the X' s in virtue of
which the perceptions reach the same object? Or do perceptions
apprehending what is in fact the same object all share the same
X? That is, is there in the noematic realm a unique X
corresponding to each object in the transcendent world? Surely
that is implausible. Husserl simply doesn't tell us how, via its X, a
perception intends the right object. For Husserl, it seems, the
mystery and mystique of intuition reside in that special type of
sense, an X. (ibid.)
So s ome t hi ng mo r e mus t be b r o u g h t i nt o t he pi ct ur e,
and agai n l i ngui st i c r e f e r e nc e pr ovi de s i nt er est i ng
suggest i ons. Th e p r e s e n c e of t he X i n t he noe ma t i c Si nn
suggest s t hat t he bes t mo d e l f or i nt ent i onal r e f e r e nc e is
of f er ed not by def i ni t e des cr i pt i ons af t er all, but r a t he r
by p r o p e r n a me s o r i ndexi cal expr es s i ons . I n ot he r
wor ds , t he i nt e nde d obj e c t is not wha t e ve r sat i sfi es a
cer t ai n des cr i pt i on, but r at her , i n t he cas e o f p e r c e p t i o n
at least, a speci f i c obj ect . I f I pe r c e i ve s omet hi ng, t he
obj ect I i nt end is t hi s obj ect , t he o n e i n f r ont o f me.
Ho we v e r , if we ma k e i ndexi cal expr es s i ons t he mo d e l
of t he i nt ent i onal i t y o f pe r c e pt i on, we mus t a b a n d o n t he
st ri ct l y i nt er nal a c c o u n t t hat Hus s e r l want s t o gi ve o f
i nt ent i onal i t y, si nce i n o r d e r t o est abl i sh t he r e f e r e nc e o f
t he i ndexi cal we mus t br i ng i n t he cont ext o f t he
per cept i on. An d
[. . . ] there is no evidence of such a view in Husserl; throughout
his work he consistently characterized perception -- and intuition
in general -- as an experience whose intentional relation to an
object is achieved by means of its phenomenological content, or
Sinn [...]. For Husserl, then, demonstrative reference is 'direct'
not because it is achieved in a physical, contextual relation
between speaker and referent, but because it is founded on the
speaker's 'direct' intention, or intuition, of the referent. (p. 217)
Yet , as Smi t h a nd Mc l n t y r e r i ght l y poi nt out , Hus s e r l
was n o t c ompl e t e l y i nsensi t i ve t o t he r e l e va nc e o f t he
cont ext i n de t e r mi ni ng t he obj e c t o f a def i ni t e i nt ent i on,
and t r i ed t o c a pt ur e t hi s r e l e va nc e t h r o u g h t he n o t i o n of
hor i z on. Br i ef l y, any i nt ent i onal e xpe r i e nc e we ha ve o f
an obj ect calls f or t h a s ys t e m o f o t h e r pos s i bl e exper i -
ences we coul d ha ve o f t he s a me obj ect : t hes e exper i -
ences cons t i t ut e t he h o r i z o n o f t he or i gi nal act. Th e y ar e
associ at i vel y c o n n e c t e d wi t h t he bel i efs, expect at i ons ,
and me mo r i e s t hat t he obj ect as or i gi nal l y i nt e nde d stirs
u p i n us and t hat cons t i t ut e a b a c k g r o u n d o f pr a gma t i c
pr e s uppos i t i ons ope r a t i ng mo r e o r l ess c ons c i ous l y i n
o u r i nt ent i onal behavi or . But t h i s a c c o u n t is still
ext r emel y ment al i st i c, si nce t he h o r i z o n o f a gi ven act is
"t he set o f pos s i bl e act s wh o s e Si nne ar e c o- r e l a t e d wi t h
and c ompa t i bl e i n c ont e nt wi t h, but al so mo r e ' det er -
mi na t e ' i n c ont e nt t han, t he Si nn o f t he gi ven act ". (p.
232) Fu r t h e r mo r e , "t he act ' s ' expl i ci t ' Si nn onl y t oge t he r
wi t h t he Si nne o f t hes e f unda me nt a l b a c k g r o u n d bel i efs
pr ovi de s t he ' f r a me o f i nde t e r mi na t e ne s s ' i nt o whi ch t he
' i mpl i ci t ' Si nne, t he Si nne o f t he act s i n t he hor i z on, mus t
142 REVI EW
fi t ". ( p. 2 5 2 ) I n o t h e r wo r d s , t he b a c k g r o u n d o f p a s t
e x p e r i e n c e s i s j us t a system of ment al contents, wh i c h
i nf l ue nc e s o u r p r e s e n t e x p e r i e n c e s b y s e t t i ng b o u n d -
a r i e s t o t he m.
So Hu s s e r l ' s i n t r o d u c t i o n o f h o r i z o n s d o e s n o t
c h a n g e t he p i c t u r e i n a s u b s t a n t i a l way, a n d we a r e st i l l
l ef t f a c i ng t h e f act t ha t t he n o e ma t i c Si nn d o e s n o t
a c c o u n t f o r t h e c o n t e x t o f p e r c e p t i o n . Ac c o r d i n g t o
Smi t h a n d Mc l n t y r e , Hu s s e r l ' s t h e o r y r e l i e s t o o h e a v i l y
o n an u n e x p l a i n e d d i r e c t i n t u i t i o n o f t he obj e c t . Th u s
t he t h e o r y mu s t b e mo d i f i e d , a n d Smi t h ( a l one , t hi s
t i me ) mo d i f i e s i t b y i n t r o d u c i n g a n a d d i t i o n a l e l e me n t i n
t h e s t r u c t u r e o f t h e n o e ma t i c Si nn e n t e r t a i n e d b y a n a c t
of p e r c e p t i o n , wh i c h h e cal l s p e r c e p t u a l l y a c q u a i n t i n g
s ens e. Suc h a s e ns e is t he s e n s e o f an o b j e c t as s i ngl e d
o u t i n a p e r c e p t u a l f i el d. I t p r e s c r i b e s t h e o b j e c t as
s e n s u o u s l y b e f o r e t he p e r c e i v e r at a c e r t a i n l o c a t i o n ,
a n d mu s t b e d i s t i n g u i s h e d f r o m t he X i n t he Si nn:
[ . . . ] the X merely presents the object ' itself' that is prescribed by
the acquainting sense. We may say the acquainting sense ' intro-
duces' the X, for it is precisely in virtue of the presentation of an
object as sensuously before the perceiver that a definite object - -
'this' object - - is presented [ . . . ] it is not the X but the
acquainting sense that is most properly and fundamentally a
' demonstrative' sense [. . . ]. Prescribing an object as sensuously
before one, it specifically appeals to the environment of the
perceiver at the time of the perception. Consequently, the object
it prescribes depends on the context of the perception [. . . ].
(p. 364)
But t h o u g h t hi s s e ns e a l l ows o n e t o di s t i ngui s h
v a r i o u s f o r ms o f i nt ui t i on, a n d ma k e s t he t h e o r y mo r e
s e ns i t i ve t o c o n t e x t u a l p h e n o me n a , I t h i n k t ha t i t d o e s
n o t a v o i d Smi t h ' s o wn ma j o r c r i t i c i s m o f Hu s s e r l . An
e l e me n t o f i n t u i t i o n o f t he o b j e c t i s u n a v o i d a b l e , a n d t he
p e r s i s t e n t p r e s e n c e o f t h e X i n t he n o e ma t i c Si nn i s t he
t r a c e i t l e a v e s (cf. p. 391) . Smi t h ' s mo v e mi ght t hus b e
s e e n as t he a d d i n g o f o n e mo r e e pi c yc l e , as a n a d d i t i o n a l
c o mp l i c a t i o n i n a n a l r e a d y qui t e c o mp l i c a t e d ma c h i n e r y ,
wh i c h d o e s n o t r e s o l v e t h e or i gi na l p r o b l e m s i mp l y
b e c a u s e t ha t p r o b l e m c a n n o t b e r e s o l v e d : b e c a u s e i f t he
a i m i s t ha t o f goi ng ' z u d e n Sa c h e n s e l bs t ' , t h e r e wi l l
a l wa ys b e a n e l e me n t e s c a p i n g c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n , a n d
t h e r e wi l l a l wa ys r e ma i n , t o s o me e xt e nt , wh a t he cal l s
t he " my s t e r y a n d my s t i q u e o f i nt ui t i on" . ( p. 2 1 9 ) 8
N o t e s
l ' Husserl' s notion of noema', Journal of Philosophy 66 (1969),
680--87.
2 Before this paper was published, the standard American inter-
pretation of Husserl' s theory of intentionality was the one proposed
by Aaron Gurwitsch (' On the intentionality of consciousness', in
Marvin Farber (ed.), Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund
Husserl (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1940), pp. 65- -
83).
The basic disagreement between Follesdal and Gurwitsch con-
cerns the notion of noematic Sinn. Gurwitsch thinks of noematic
Sinne as the objects of our intentional experiences, as they are
intended. The objects as intended can be seen as aspects of complex
objects which we can never completely grasp. Follesdal, on the other
hand, thinks that objects and noematic Sinne are different kinds of
entities. The latter are meaning-entities or concepts, which prescribe
the objects of intentional experiences.
3 'Intentionality', in Paul Edwards (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(MacMillian and the Free Press, New York, 1967), pp. 203--4.
4 If the object does not exist, then the act will still retain its
intentional character, though it will be directed to nothing.
5 Husserl's theory, and Smith and McIntyre's elaboration of it, are
more complex than my account shows. But I think that this account
should give an idea of the basic features of the theory.
6 Translated by W. R. Boyce Gibson, Collier MacMillian, London,
1962.
7 Quotes from Kant are from the Critique of Pure Reason, transl, by
Norman Kemp Smith (St. Martin' s Press, New York, 1965).
8 Smith addresses this point again in ' Content and context of
perception' (Synthese 61, 1984, pp. 61--87). There he analyzes
perception as having an intrinsic demonstrative character, which
he tries to capture by considering the '.'interplay between [its]
phenomenological content and [its] physical context" (p. 61). And he
refers once more to the "demonstrative, or perceptually acquainting,
content of the perception" (p. 73). But I do not think that this new
articulation meets my objection. Although he presents his view as an
improvement on Husserl's account of the intentionality of percep-
tion, all he does is just add some cmer conceptual elements to the
picture: the illusion of reaching the object is still bound to remain
such.
CLOTI LDE CALABI
University of Milan
20100 Milan, Italy