The Denver Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › The Intentional Stance

The Intentional Stance

A former member
Post #: 996
One reader noted (offline) that I addressed Ken as Spry during our compelling discussion of intentionality.

Can this be explained from The Intentional Stance?

Are my intentions best described by what you think I believed or by what you think you would have believed in my situation?
Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,157
One reader noted (offline) that I addressed Ken as Spry during our compelling discussion of intentionality.

Can this be explained from The Intentional Stance?

Are my intentions best described by what you think I believed or by what you think you would have believed in my situation?

I can only guess, but more likely the latter, since the former might be unknowable, unless you yourself previously provided information on that.
A former member
Post #: 997
iDave: Are my intentions best described by what you think I believed or by what you think you would have believed in my situation?

Jeanette: I can only guess, but more likely the latter, since the former might be unknowable, unless you yourself previously provided information on that.

Yes, I suppose to the extent we know each other, we are better able to know each other's motivations and use the former method (i.e., what you think I think rather than what you think you would think in my shoes) to predict the future; in the general case of The Intentional Stance, the best we can do might be the latter, just assume the person is a standard vanilla rational agent. So it works pretty well because we are all pretty rational.
A former member
Post #: 998
Frog Psychology

As mentioned in an earlier post, when we take The Intentional Stance, we figure out what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its place in the world and its purpose. Daniel Dennett received criticism from his friend Stephen Stich when this was first published. Stephen Stich didn't think The Intentional Stance could work for frogs (ribbit):

Daniel Dennet (IS pg 106): Stich closes his paper with a series of questions:

Ought the frog to believe that there is an insect flying off to the right? Or merely that there is some food there? Or perhaps should it only have a conditional belief: if it flicks its tongue in a certain way, something yummy will end up in its mouth?

Stephen Stich does not know exactly which belief he should assign to Ms. Frog (not surprising since frog-world is so different from human-world).

Daniel Dennett (IS pg 106): Let us look more closely at the suggested contrast between us and the frogs. The frog is situated in its environment in a very complicated way, bathed in potentially useful information thanks to the myriad interactions between its sesory receptors and items in the world around it. It is capable at any waking moment of exploiting that bath of information in ways that can be roughly summarized by saying things like this:

"Now the frog sees your shadow looming. He wants to get away from you. He believes you are right behind him, and since he can't see your net guarding the opening on the left, he thinks that's the way to escape, so he'll jump left."

Let us consider ... the mentalistic idioms that are exploited in this adoption of the intentional stance toward a frog. Frogs have eyes so of course in some sense they see. Do they really see? (Does a flea really see? Does a blue-eyed scallop really see?)...

This is kinda fun. Do you and I really "see"?

Anyway, the same issue comes up for other "mentalistic idioms" like, "Do frogs really believe?" Seems that Stich wanted to pin down too much detail like "If frogs really believe a predator is nearby, what concept of a predator does the frog have?" This seems (to me) to be going too far in projecting our human experience onto simpler brains, a project bound to fail.

Daniel Dennett (IS pg 108): And yet this anthropomorphizing way of organizing and simplifying our expectations about the frog's next moves is compelling and useful. Treating frogs, birds, monkeys, dolphins, lobsters, honeybees -- not just men, women, and children -- from the intentional stance not only comes naturally, but also works extremely well within its narrow range. Try catching frogs without it.

The vast difference in range between an adult human believer and a frog suggests that the application of belief talk and desire talk to frogs is only a metaphorical extension of its proper use in application to human beings, the true believers. This suggestion is immensely persuasive. It is probably the single most powerful source of skepticism toward my position, which maintains that there is nothing more to our having beliefs and desires than our being voluminously predictable (like the frog, but more so) from the intentional stance.

And there you have it. People who criticize Daniel Dennett do not like being compared to frogs.
A former member
Post #: 999
Time to wrap this up, back to workaday world.

IS Chapter 5, Beyond Belief, is thick; probably enough there for a separate book discussion or two. Daniel Dennett surveys two important areas of contentious debate about how to characterize a person's psychological state:

  • Propositional Attitudes are like little bundles of true or false propositions in your head, true or false mental representations of things;
  • Sentential Attitudes are like sentences in the head.

In either case, you describe a person's psychology with logical sentences like "x believes that p". Like any formal system of logic, the result is incomplete or inconsistent.

So I agree with Jeanette this book is challenging though I would not say "the horror" like in Apocalypse Now (lol). I prefer this style of writing to Daniel Dennett's more usual "playful" style (as he calls it); his "playful" strikes me sometimes as a "political" distraction from otherwise interesting subjects.

From the low-level physical stance of describing atoms and molecules to the mid-level design stance used in biology and on up to the abstract high-level intentional stance we use daily to make sense of our world, I think Daniel Dennett has done a good job of setting up a model, a framework for managing how we talk about minds even as we continue to discover new details of the process.

Ciao.
A former member
Post #: 57
Hi Ken, glad you can join us.

Thanks, youDave.

Ken Roberts: With apologies to the fine editors of the OED, I suggest we not assume that the concept of intentionality has already been fully excavated -- and, if so, the definitions currently on offer are but suggestive starting points.

Indeed, intentionality seems quite baffling. Just trying a quick google search on "what is intentionality?" yields a mind-boggling array of answers. . . .

Yes, it certainly does. Of course, this reflects both the complexity of the phenomenon, and the many, many years of reflection upon the subject.

Nevertheless, we can reflect upon it ourselves -- we need not pay any special homage to Dennett, or even Brentano -- and reach our own conclusions.

Still, there seems to be a common thread here, however subtle. . . .

Yes. This also reflects the many years of discussion. There is, at least, some consensus concerning the basics.

There are various "flavors" of intentionality philosophers evidently argue about. . . .

Now, here's where it gets interesting. In the example that follows, Fodor, following Searle, is on to an extremely important distinction: that between genuine intentionality and what could probably best be described as both imputed and derived intentionality.

John Searle is right about one thing; he's right about artifacts [i.e., vending machines that "sense" if a quarter was inserted, computers that "know" how to perform arithmetic, etc.] like that. They don't have any intrinsic or original intentionality."

Yes, Fodor is surely right, and there are several reasons why this distinction is important. One reason is this: artificial intelligence folks are constantly inflating their case, confusing real and derived intentionality, either by intent, to make it appear that we've gone further toward creating artificial intelligence than we really have, or else from something that looks suspiciously like stupidity.

This comes out perhaps most strikingly when we hear AIists say things like:

"Garry Kasparov lost a chess match to IBM's Deep Blue computer in 1997."

But, in saying this, they've failed to notice that there's a problem here. Computers don't know that there are games. They don't know that chess is such a game. They don't know that games are played competitively, or even that there are winners and losers in matches. All of these concepts are, to some degree or another intentional. What computers can do is behave [this choice of terminiology not being accidental] in accordance with algorithms programmed into them by authentically intentional agents (like programmers and computer scientists).

So Garry was playing chess. On the other hand, "Deep Blue" -- not an agent, but rather a collection of functional components -- was behaving in accordance with an algorithm. And there was an agreement in place to pretend that "Deep Blue" was "playing chess." But, in a very fundamental sense, it wasn't.

But there's an even more important issue at stake here. This arises next:

The doctrine of original intentionality is the claim that whereas some of our artifacts may have intentionality derived from us, we have original (or intrinsic) intentionality... As Searle has noted, "Dennett ... believes that nothing literally has any intrinsic intentional mental states

As you note, rightly, Dave, it is here where Dennett's impoverished ontology begins to bite, and where he desperately needs to understand the relevance of emergent phenomena. Dennett can't admit to the distinction that I drew above between agents who conduct themselves through intentionality, and apparatus that behaves in accordance with instructions, because Dennett's is a reductionistic materialism.

Ken Roberts: The phenomenon [of intentionality?] is so peculiarly entwined with consciousness that it is difficult to isolate in its own right, though we are able to go some way toward that courtesy of various, ingeniously constructed, ambiguous perceptual figures, such as the one developed by Edgar Rubin in 1915...

You seem to be conflating concept and phenomenon, Spry:

Hmm. An interesting slip, and a relevant one, in that it's the sort that a computer wouldn't commit, because it's what might be called a "category error" -- and computers don't make use of abstractions like categories. Again, all they can do is crank algorithms.

  • A concept is a cognitive unit of meaning—an abstract idea or a mental symbol sometimes defined as a "unit of knowledge"

  • A phenomenon is any observable occurrence.

  • Certainly, intentionality, like emergentism, is a concept, but both are concepts concerning phenomena.

    It is good you mention illusions. It highlights the notion of shortcuts taken by us (as Robert quickly predicted an AngieBrad article) and by nature (in terms of evolutionary "design")

    Yes, this is a good point; but an even better one is this: like your slip above, taking a shortcut is the sort of thing that one does while conducting an action. It relies upon the use of an abstraction (in this case, the class of possible actions that will result in any given desirable outcome). And this sort of action isn't passive or mechanical (at least not fully), as the behavior of computers always is.

    Daniel Dennett (IS pg 50): (We are not immune to illusions -- which we would be if our perceptual systems were perfect.) To offset the design shortcuts we should also expect design bonuses: circumstances in which the 'cheap' way for nature to design a cognitive system has the side benefit of giving good, reliable results even outside the environment in which the system evolved. Our eyes are well adapted for giving us true beliefs on Mars as well as on Earth, because the cheap solution for our Earth-evolving eyes happens to be a more general solution.

    This is a fine example of how Dennett's ontological blinders lead him into making further erroneous assertions. While the argument here has the appearance of sound scientific explanation, it is fundamentally an explanation grounded, once again, in reductionistic materialism, as opposed to emergentist materialism.

    And this is particularly sad, because Dennett is a colleague of Nicholas Humphrey, who has pointed out where Dennett always goes wrong in his arguments from evolution in his outstanding book, "A History of the Mind: Evolution and the Birth of Consciousness." (As does Hans Jonas in "The Phenomenon of Life.")

    I can't go into Dennett's miscontrual of evolution here because I don't have either the time or the space, but, briefly, evolution works primarily with and through emergent phenomena, and only secondarily with or through reductionistic phenomena.

    Best,
    Ken
    A former member
    Post #: 1,000
    Hi Ken Roberts,

    With all due respect, I cannot take The Pretentious Stance seriously in any context but Rortian wordplay. I think you have plenty of open questions on your plate from me and others so will not contribute additional food for thought at this time.

    Regards,
    iDave.
    Dan
    danlg
    Group Organizer
    Broomfield, CO
    Post #: 1,379
    Just going to throw this out here, see what happens:
    Out Of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain by Alva Noë
    A former member
    Post #: 1,001
    Just going to throw this out here, see what happens:
    Out Of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain by Alva Noë

    Thanks, Dan.

    That is a great article, the kind of dialog it would be nice to have here rather than so much political posturing. I may subscribe to that magazine, it is written clearly so "even I" understand it. wink

    I will read more carefully later today, busy busy at work.

    Regards,
    iDave.
    A former member
    Post #: 58
    Hi Ken Roberts,

    With all due respect, I cannot take The Pretentious Stance seriously in any context but Rortian wordplay. I think you have plenty of open questions on your plate from me and others so will not contribute additional food for thought at this time.

    Regards,
    iDave.

    Which questions would you like me to address, uDave?

    --K.
    Powered by mvnForum

    Sign up

    Meetup members, Log in

    By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy