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Intentionality is a central point of the philosophy of mind in this century. Introduced by Brentano, the notion was transcendentalized by Husserl and became the central core of Phenomenology. Analytic philosophers have also shown considerable interest in Intentionality, though without the transcendendal approach. John Searle in particular has made some recent attempts to develop a non-transcendental theory of Intentionality, to "naturalize Intentionality," as he puts it.(1) My aim in this paper is limited to showing that this attempt has so far failed to provide an account of Intentionality which responds to the concerns of those who support the transcendentalist theory.

I will proceed by explaining briefly Husserl's interpretation of the transcendentalist position, encapsulated in four theses. After presenting a general summary of Searle's alternative account, at least in so far as is relevant to this debate, I will confront it with each of the four theses in turn. I hope to show that on the first of these theses Searle's account actually agrees with Husserl's, despite verbal appearances otherwise, and that Searle seems either unaware of the other three theses or else underestimates their strength.


Brentano's Notion of Intentionality

Husserl key concepts of Intentionality and meaning were greatly influenced by Brentano and Frege. Intentionality, as Brentano originally introduced the term in modern philosophy, was meant to provide a distinctive characteristic definitively separating the mental from the physical. Mental states have an intrinsic relationship to an object, to that which they are "about." Physical entities just are what they are, they cannot, by their very essence, refer to anything, they have no "outreach", as one might put it. Mental states have, as it were, an incomplete essence: They cannot exist at all unless they are completed by something other than themselves, their object. Brentano's position is opposed to all theories which represent the mental as only extrinsically related to the world, that is, to all theories in which mental states are themselves self-sufficient for their own existence and only secondarily relate to the world by means of something external to their nature, e.g., neurological causation, divine intervention, or pre-established harmony. In these later cases, any mental act whatsoever could be related to any object, or indeed to none, for the relation is external to the nature of the act, it is superimposed on it by outside forces. Brentano's point is that a mental act has, by its very essence, an Intentional object without which it would not be a mental act.

Frege's Notion of Sinn

At about the same time, Frege introduced his distinction between meaning and reference.(2) His claim is that a sign succeeds in designating its object only by means of a sense. Signification is not a simple correlation of two entities; only by having a meaning can a word represent a thing or a sentence represent the truth. Frege often presents meanings as if they were eternal, Platonic-type entities whose validity is independent of any event in the physical or physical worlds. Yet somehow they enter into the concrete thinking and expressing of particular individuals.

Husserl's Transcendental Position

Husserl accepts Frege's notion of meaning but is unhappy with a purely Platonic interpretation.(3) An individual's cognitive processes must somehow be intrinsically related to the eternal validities if human truth is to be achieved. He uses Brentano's notion of Intentionality to achieve this relationship. Intentionality is the power to reach out to objects, whether logical and mathematical verities or perceptual things, but this power is achieved only by the constitution (or giving) of meaning. Phenomenology is the study of the donation of meaning, that is, of Intentionality. Husserl labelled his position "transcendental," and contrasted it with the alternative, "naturalism," especially in its psychologistic guise. I will present four theses which I think define the transcendental nature of Husserl's approach, theses which any alternative to transcendentalism must confront.

Intentional Relations are not Causal

Husserl maintains that the Intentional relation is sui generis and must not be misinterpreted as a causal relation. By causal relation he understands a relation between two entities which have already been constituted. The entities must be of the appropriate kind: two numbers, for instance, could not enter into causal relations. Causality applies to objects in the region of Nature, indeed it is partly definitive of the Natural order. It is a characteristic of causality that it be an external relation, that is, one which does not enter into the nature of the particular entity: The cause and effect are entities which could continue to be what they are without entering into this particular causal relation, although the possibility of their entering into causal relations is an essential feature of all objects in Nature.

Given this interpretation of causality, Husserl maintains that Intentionality cannot be a causal relation. In the case of Intentionality, he claims,

The Transcendental Ego, which does the constituting, is not an object of Nature, and the constituted object is not what it is prior to and independent of the constituting. Since it is Intentionality which gives the entity its meaning in the first place, it cannot be seen as an external relation to a pre-defined object. All unities are 'unities of sense.' Unities of sense presuppose ... a sense-bestowing consciousness which, for its part, exists absolutely and not by virtue of another sense-bestowal." (5)

Realism is Wrong, Objects must be Meaningful

The second thesis is directly related to the first. Since the role of Intentionality is to synthesize and give meaning to objects in the first place, transcendentalism is an idealism and stands opposed to any realism which posits objects as being themselves the source of their own meaning. The notion that there are entities which are "trees" prior to and independent of the development of the meaning "tree" is, for Husserl, absurd. The reality of objects can and must be logically prior to their entering into causal relations, but an object cannot be anything until Intentionality constitutes its meaning.

Another way of putting this is to say that meaning precedes truth. We cannot even ask whether a statement is true, false, probable, and so on, until we first understand the meanings of the terms. Prior to any epistemological or scientific question about theories and facts, or about the method of arriving at these, we need an account of how a proposition, thought or experience can have meaning. Husserl's transcendentalism is an account of the origin of meaning. Husserl's primary question is not, What propositions about objects are true? What perceptions of things are veridical? or, What desires to change the world are successful? Rather he investigates how propositions, perceptions and desires can be about the world, about an object, whether they are true or false, successful or unsuccessful. His conclusion is that only the acts of a Transcendental Ego can constitute meaning. Realism is therefore absurd for objects can only be given meaning, they can never be the source of meaning.

Psychological States are Empirical

This attack on realism brings us to the third thesis. For Husserl, mental states are are also unities of sense, that is, they are among the objects constituted by Intentionality. The objects of psychology, even of introspective psychology, are logically similar to physical objects in the sense that they derive their meaning from an Intentional act. Psychological states are constituted in a different region than physical entities, and so have different essential properties, but their status as intersubjective objects which exist for all in principle, even if universal accessibility is difficult in practice, presupposes Intentionality. The psychological realm is not, for Husserl, the source of constitution, but one other intended realm.

Husserl could therefore be described as a radical dualist. This is not to say that he is a mind/matter dualist in the Cartesian sense: Husserl distinguishes various realms of constituted being (physical, psychical, mathematical, social, etc.) but the physical/psychical distinction has no particular privilege among them. On the other hand he posits a radical dichotomy between all realms of constituted being, including the psychological, and the pure source of Intentionality, the Transcendental Ego. His transcendental position, then, is opposed not only to realism, as we saw above, but also to (subjective) idealism if by this we understand the claim that psychological processes give rise to the categories and meanings of reality.

Meanings cannot be In-Themselves, but always for an Ego

Husserl's basic insight here is that unities of sense cannot exist in-themselves. Nothing can mean anything unless it is meant that way by the meaning-act of a subject. This is not to be interpreted as an appeal to a simple, unchanging One from which all else miraculously emanates, nor to some pure eternal Act which bestows sense on everything. Husserl claims that beyond Intentionality itself his most important discovery is that of the correlation between act and object, between noesis and noema, between the intended and the intending. Intentionality is not like a searchlight that can shine indisriminately on any of its objects; the act itself has an internal structure that matches it to that which it is about. It is here that he differs from Frege for whom "a sense remains externally related to the act that grasps it."(8) An Intentional act has a structure and it is only through that structure that it attains its object. As Mohanty puts it,

Transcendentalism, then, at least in Husserl's version, involves at least four interconnected theses. Intentionality is a sui generis relation that cannot be assimilated to causality. A causal interpretation of Intentionality makes the mistake of presupposing realism, for it assumes that objects are already defined before they enter the Intentional relation, whereas to a transcendentalist the point of Intentionality is to account for how objects come to be defined as they are in the first place. Psychological states cannot account for the bestowal of sense, for they are empirical unities of sense on the same level as any other. Only appeal to the acts of a Transcendental Ego can account for the origin of meaning, that is, for Intentionality. Any alternative, non-transcendentalist theory of Intentionality must confront these theses.


Naturalism, in general, tends to ignore Intentionality altogether. Skinnerian behaviourism, for example, seems blissfully unaware of the issue. Neurophysiological reductionism treats Intentionality as epiphenomenal and assumes that it will be explained away eventually with the progress of science. John Searle, however, takes a quite different approach: He proposes to "naturalize" Intentionality without explaining it away.

He pits his project of "naturalizing" Intentionality against the notion that Intentionality is "something transcendental, something that stand over and beyond, but is not a part of the natural world."(11)  In what follows I will present briefly the central points of his theory of Intentionality, and in particular his key notion of Intentional causation by which he hopes to bridge the transcendentalist gap between the Intentional and the natural.

Searle accepts Brentano's basic definition of Intentionality as the logical property of being about an object, though he usually substitutes states of affairs for objects.(12)  Borrowing from Frege's notion of Sinn Searle maintains that every Intentional state has an Intentional content which determines conditions of satisfaction for the state. It is the Intentional content which determines to which object or state of affairs the Intentional state refers. Each state also has a "psychological mode" which determines the direction of fit: mind to world or world to mind. In belief, for example, validity (in this case truth) is achieved when the mind matches the world; in a valid (i.e., successful) desire the world must come to match the mind. The conditions of satisfaction for many Intentional states include a self-referential clause; perception, for example, includes as part of its very meaning the requirement that it be a state caused by the object perceived by it. This aspect of the Intentional content remains even in hallucinatory experiences in which the conditions of satisfaction are not met.

For example, Searle would analyze my Intentional state of seeing a car as:

Here the conditions of satisfaction are clearly laid down by the Intentional content: The perceptual state will be satisfied, i.e., it will be veridical, in the case that there is a car before me and that it is this car (and not something else) that is causing the perceptual experience. Similarly, the Intentional content of an action includes a requirement that the desired result be caused by the action itself.

In this account, part (b) of the Intentional content is of particular significance. Searle's analysis incorporates the causal relation as part of the very content or meaning of the Intentional state. It is therefore an Intentional or meaning relationship, while not ceasing to be causal. Hence he refers to causation, in this context, as "Intentional causation." He explicitly opposes his position on this point to that of Husserl for whom, as Searle points out, "causation is always a natural, non-Intentional relation (65)."(14)  This synthesis of Intentionality and causation, as Searle himself points out, would, if successful, be a major step towards naturalizing Intentionality, or Intentionalizing causation, and would enable him to overcome the dichotomy between a transcendental Intentionality and the natural world (112).


We must now ask to what extent Searle's account confronts the transcendental position I have attributed to Husserl. I will proceed by explaining and examining Searle's approach in so far as it bears on each of the four theses I have claimed form the core of the transcendentalist theory.

Searle Intentionalizes or Trivializes Causation

Surprisingly, Searle chooses to contrast his notion of Intentional causation not with Husserl's account but Hume's. Hume maintained that causal relations were always external, non-logical, contingent relations whose essence was regularity rather than efficacy. His dichotomy between the internal, logical link between ideas and the purely external relation of causality does have some similarity to the transcendental's first thesis, that causality is natural, Intentionality transcendental. In any case, it is Hume's position that Searle attacks.

Searle argues that, pace Hume, an object which is the (Intentional) cause of a perception is logically or internally, rather than contingently, related to the perception. The cause of my perception of the table must be the very table which fulfills the conditions of satisfaction laid down by the Intentional content of the perception, for logical reasons: Otherwise this would not be a (veridical) perception. Hence the causal relation is not purely empirical, but involves an element of sense. Intentional causation therefore gets beyond Hume's logical/empirical dichotomy and so bridges what I have called the the transcendental gap.

The logical relation involved here is not one of entailment, according to Searle, but a much weaker link, that between conditions of satisfaction and the state of affairs which fulfills them. It is not surprising then, that prediction and retrodiction are not possible: Just because I have the visual experience of a table doesn't mean that I can declare the table to have been its cause. I can only say that if this is a perception, that is, a "satisfied," or veridical state, then it must be caused by a table.One way to put this is to say that whereas in the Humean notion of causation any cause could in principle be empirically discovered to be linked to any effect, in the Searlean notion of Intentional causation one of the empirically discoverable links has a special privilege. The question of what actually causes the visual experience of a table is an empirical question; it might be caused by an hallucinatory drug, a table, a brain probe, etc. The case in which it is caused by a table however stands out as having a special privilege, for that is the case in which the effect (the visual experience) includes the conditions of satisfaction fulfilled by the cause (the table). In this, and only this case, is the event a "perception." Unlike a regular Humean relation, a visual experience includes a built-in norm, for the experience "should" be a perception and is "successful" only when it is.It might be objected that this position is trivial because analytic. A perceptual experience has been defined as one in which the experience is caused by the object experienced. The "weak" logical link he refers to is simply the fact that we wouldn't call it "perception" unless the cause and Intentional object coincide. Searle responds by denying that the issue is one of description.(15) While it may be true that we can label events in many ways, some events can truthfully be designated by the "success" term "perception." He is investigating how reality must be if such descriptions are ever possible. It is the Intentional state itself which has the features Searle is attributing to it; he is not investigating descriptions nor the use of words.(16)

Searle's "phenomenological" description of the kind of causation implicated in perception (and action) would therefore appear to overthrow the Humean account of causality and, in particular, Hume's logical/empirical dichotomy.

I think, however, that this is a very hollow victory on a number of grounds.

First, the billiard ball notion of cause, whether it is interpreted as regularity (Hume) or necessary connection (Husserl), has at least the advantage of being fairly clear in what it means. It involves a third-person, lawful, yet logically contingent process, which occurs between pre-defined objects. In Searle this clarity vanishes. We are given no content to the notion except the claim that we all know what it means because we have had the experience of "making something happen." Husserl too, presumably, has had this experience and his conclusion is that the relationship discovered in perception (and action) is precisely not causation, but a sui generis "Intentional relation" which has nothing in common with natural causation. It might appear that there would be no way to resolve a dispute like this until we notice that they are in fact both saying the same thing. Searle is saying that the relation between Intentional states and their objects is not at all like that which Hume describes between billiard balls. But that is precisely Husserl's point. They agree that the notions of lawfulness, logical contingency, predictability, and so on do not capture the special relationship between an Intentional state and its object. They disagree only on how to express this difference, on the vocabulary to be used. Husserl calls it non-causal, Searle calls it causal, but with a radically new sense to this word. Conceptually, on this point, there is little difference.

What then of Searle's project to "naturalize Intentionality"? If by "naturalize" he means to assimilate the Intentional relation to the order of natural causation, then he has certainly not succeeded. He has been able to include Intentionality within causality only by giving causality a new and special sense for the occasion, a sense best described, as he well knows, as "Intentional." He claims that our concept of natural causation of the billiard ball variety is derived from the experience of causation in action, specifically from indirect, instrumental action. His project, then, of Intentionalizing causation is hardly a step towards naturalizing Intentionality, as he claims, and so bridging the transcendental gap (112).

Husserl's position is that consciousness as absolute sense-bestowal

Only by stripping causality of its normal sense and using the term to describe the sui generis relation Husserl calls Intentionality, has Searle appeared to offer an alternative to the first thesis of transcendentalism. In fact since Searle claims that we cannot escape from the "circle of Intentionality," and states on a number of occasions that Intentionality is irreducible to the unintentional, his position with respect to this thesis is very similar to Husserl's.(18)

Searle is still a Realist

Underlying this discussion, however, is a more fundamental point. Husserl's main objection to assimilating Intentionality to causation is his belief that causation is a relation between pre-defined objects which are essentially independent of the relation. Intentionality, however, always assumes an essential dependence of the object on Intentionality for its very definition. How does Searle deal with this issue?

Searle points out an asymmetry between belief and action: While both include conditions which may or may not be satisfied by certain states of affairs, there are many states of affairs which obtain without being believed while there are no unintended actions.(19) He accounts for this asymmetry by noting that an action can only be defined by reference to a person's purposes. Hence unlike other states of affairs, actions are not independent entities that enter secondarily into relationships of (Intentional) causation; the (Intentional) causal relations are constitutive of them.

For Searle perception is like belief in that, since states of affairs may obtain without being perceived, their entry into perceptual relations is not essential to them. Nonetheless the perceptual relation is not between independent entities since the perceptual state could not be what it is independently of its object. The object not only causes the existence of the state, it also defines its essence. Husserl, on the contrary, considers Intentionality to be the source of all meaning, so the object cannot be accepted as a given as if its definition were in-itself. It is not the object as some hypothethical, independently real entity that enters into perception, but the object in so far as it means something for the perceiver. The effect of the object on the perceptual state is there of a secondary nature, hiding the more fundamental, transcendental relation in which the object comes to be what it is because of Intentionality. As he puts it, "the Intentional object, here thought of as 'provocative', is only in question as an Intentional, not as an external reality, which really and psycho-physically determines my mental life."(20)

So while Searle backs off from realism in the case of action, in the case of perception he remains, and describes himself, as a common-sense realist (57). The transcendentalist position is that in all Intentional relations whatsoever the object is dependent on Intentionality for its meaning. In perception, Searle would have the very meaning of the experience, its Intentional content, caused by the object.

Searle's own position is not entirely consistent for he sees that the Intentional content of a visual experience must be caused by the object not in itself, but as influenced by the perceiver's expectations, by the Background and Network. If I know that what I am seeing is a real house then it looks different than what I know to be a movie facade of a house: "though the optical stimuli may be the same, the conditions of satisfaction in the former case are that there should be a whole house there (55)." The physical cause of the optical stimuli (and so of the perception?), perhaps certain reflective surfaces, is identical in the two cases, whereas the Intentional cause is the house in one case, the facade in the other. Searle should then conclude, as Husserl does, that the Intentional cause of my perception must be the object as I define it, not some object-defined-in-itself.

In fact what Searle does is claim that an Intentional object has no special status, it is just an object like any other. If the content of my visual experience is not the same as the cause of it, it simply means that I am mistaken, that the "perception" is non-veridical. The object itself is therefore independent of my perception of it.

From Husserl's point of view, however, this is to confuse the physical and Intentional causes. Even if the properties of certain reflective surfaces were independent of my subjectivity, "house" and "facade" are unities of sense which are only meaningful for humans who define them. The entity which must be the cause of my perception is, on Searle's own analysis, the cause in so far as it has a sense for me. (Of course Husserl would also argue that "reflective surface" is a unity of sense, but that need not concern us here.)

Searle's statement, then, that "an Intentional object is just an object like any other; it has no peculiar ontological status at all (16)," is therefore consonant with Husserl's position but in a manner Searle never intended. Husserl would agree that an Intentional object has no peculiar status only because, from a transcendentalist point of view, all objects are Intentional. Since we have no access to the world except through perception it is senseless to speak of objects as they are in themselves independently of how they are given to us through the Intentional contents of perception.

Searle's realism, then, has not resolved the issues that led Husserl and others to transcendentalism. His assumption that there are objects-in-themselves which can cause the Intentional contents of perception runs directly against the transcendentalist's most basic objection to naturalism: Logical properties cannot be caused by natural events.

Visual Experience is a Thing-In-Itself

Would it be possible to get out of this difficulty by arguing that a visual experience as an event might be the effect of a cause, but its Intentional content is not? Searle himself distinguishes two aspects of a perception, the visual experience and its conditions of satisfaction (Intentional content) (45-49). The Intentional content is embodied in or realized in the visual experience (48).(21) These, he says, must not be confused. The visual experience does indeed have literal properties; he offers being pleasant or temporal properties as examples. These must be clearly distinguished from its Intentional content. The experience of a red chair is not literally red; redness is part of the contents (131). Could a transcendentalist fellow-traveler then say that the property of being caused is a literal property of the state and so does not impinge on its Intentional, logical properties?

Searle cannot agree. While he does grant that the visual experience is literally caused (131), the distinctive feature of Intentional causation is that it causes the Intentional contents. That the experience I have is of a chair} must be due to the chair, otherwise the experience is not a perception.(22) Further, he insists that a visual experience can only be identified by its content. It is only this experience because it has these conditions of satisfaction (43). To bridge the transcendental gap, Searle realizes that it is the Intentional content, not only the visual experience, that must be caused by the object.

The difficulty for a transcendentalist, however, is that it is inconceivable that a cause, as a natural event, could give rise to Intentional contents. An Intentional state has conditions of satisfaction that may or may not be fulfilled. The state has a built-in norm: it requires the fulfillment of these conditions to be veridical, otherwise it is non-veridical. But where does this distinction come from? A natural state simply is what it is, it cannot in itself be correct or incorrect. The "bivalence" of Intentional content, the "preference" for satisfaction over unsatisfaction in the conditions of satisfaction, cannot be the result of any natural cause or process.

Consider a computer with a photoelectric "eye." It has been programmed so that when a chair is placed before the eye it prints "(a) I see a chair and (b) the chair is causing this state." Note that it is the chair which is the cause of both (a) and (b). Due to a bug in the programme the computer sometimes responds by "seeing a chair" when an elephant is placed before it. What is the difference in the two cases? Searle would say that the conditions of satisfaction are met in the first case but not in the second. But note that the computer doesn't care. It doesn't matter to it whether the conditions are met or not. They are not conditions of satisfaction for it. The shapes on the screen are themselves indifferent to how the world is. Only a subject who understood English could care. Even then, an anglophone technician concerned only with adjusting the focus of the screen might see the message but not interpret it as bivalent, as being satisfied or unsatisfied. The transcendentalist claim is that no naturalistic variation on this scenario can produce real perception; we need to add a subject for whom the phrases are conditions which may or may not be satisfied; no process of causation can bring this about. Conditions of satisfaction could never be "in-themselves" but must always be "for-a-subject." That is, they could never be generated by a third person process, but must be established by an Ego.

It is not only physical states which by their nature cannot be the source of meaning. Any empirical object or state, including mental (in the sense of psychological) states, being part of third-person processes, suffer from this incapacity. For the transcendentalist there is an ambiguity in the term "mental" which is ignored by Searle. "Mental" could refer either to the psychical or to the original source of sense. For a non-transcendentalist, of course, these are the same, but for Husserl, "..in contrast to the empirical mental process there stands, as a presupposition for the sense of that process, the absolute} mental process."(23)  It is this confusion of the transcendental function of sense-bestowal with empirical psychical states that leads Searle to propose that visual experiences have, in themselves, conditions of satisfaction. For the transcendentalist, a visual experience is therefore not the kind of entity which could have conditions of satisfaction in itself.

Intentional States Presented as Stopping Points

In one sense Searle sees this point. Although he relies for much of his analysis on the analogy between the meaning of language and the meaning of Intentional states, he indicates a crucial difference between them: Language involves an non-Intentional entity which is used by an agent, that is, an entity on which an agent imposes conditions of satisfaction. But if all Intentional states are interpreted in this manner we are led into an infinite regress, for there must always be an earlier agent using the states of this agent to mean something (21). Where do we reach a stopping point? Searle's solution is to refuse to allow that an Intentional state has conditions of satisfaction imposed on it. An Intentional state intrinsically possesses its own Intentional content which determines its conditions of satisfaction; it has no degrees of freedom; there is no gap between what the state is and its meaning. (Or, in Searle's phraseology, which I think is confusing and will not adopt, an Intentional state has no meaning, for "meaning exists only where there is a distinction between Intentional content and the form of its externalization"(28).) Thus although the sentence "the moon is red" could be used to mean "the cat is black" if we chose to use it that way, the belief "the moon is red" can only mean that the moon is red.

The disanalogy between language and belief on this point is, I think, one of Searle's more important insights. Unfortunately he stops with a simple constatation of the difference. I think we need to pursue the issue further, and ask what it is about the two phenomena which accounts for the difference.

In the case of language we have a gap between two elements, the intrinsic character of the sentence as an event or being and the act of the agent in using it to mean something. It is this cleavage which allows the freedom to use the same entity to mean different things. The actual meaning of the sentence derives from the agent's using of it to mean something. It is interesting that Husserl's early theory uses this analogy for all Intentional phenomena. He proposes that there are "contents of apprehension," very similar I think to Searle's visual experiences, which are "animated" by acts of apprehension. The contents, being neutral, may be animated in a number of different ways and it is only such animation that relates them to the world, that gives them their "bivalence" as I would put it. Later he abandons this schema and refuses to distinguish a content from the act itself.(24)

We could put the issue this way. To avoid a regress it is necessary as we back up to find some point at which the cleavage between the source of sense and the carrier of the meaning vanishes. For a transcendentalist, this can only occur with a pure act of meaning of the agent, a pure "using" as it were, in which there is no distinction between the using act and that which is used. In this case we cannot speak of some entity which is what it is independently of what it means, on which a meaning needs to be imposed; the act of meaning is its own meaning in the sense that there is no more to its being than its meaning. This is precisely what Husserl finally understood by the notion of a constitutive, sense-bestowing act. To call such an act "transcendental" is to claim that it is non-natural, that it has, as it were, only purely logical properties.

Of course the "acts" of a Husserlian transcendental Ego are not acts in Searle's sense. Searle uses the term "act" to refer only to events caused by an intention. He explicitly claims that beliefs are Intentional states as opposed to acts, but only in his sense of the term (3). It is because Searle has no notion of a transcendental act that he must present it as a brute fact that Intentional contents are intrinsically embedded in Intentional states. It is true that the Intentional content "the moon is red" can only mean that the moon is red, but the reason for this is that we have to do here not with a state having various properties, but with the Intentional, meaning-giving Act which establishes that "the moon is red" means what it does.

If Searle, then, had pursued his disanalogy between language and Intentional state to the end, he might have been led to a position very similar to that of the transcendentalist. His infinite regress can be stopped not by an Intentional state with a peculiar, unexplained property, but with the Acts of a transcendental Ego.


To what extent then has Searle's theory responded to the concerns of transcendentalism or offered a viable alternative? With respect to the Intentional relation he has rather transcendentalized causality than naturalized Intentionality. He remains a realist, at least with regard to perception, and offers no argument against the transcendentalist claim that the definition of the object must precede its causal effect. He fails to account for the bivalent, need-to-be-satisfied aspect of a perceptual experience, showing no sensitivity to the transcendentalist objection that no constituted, empirical state (albeit psychic) can in itself have conditions of satisfaction. Finally, while Searle sees the need for a stopping point in the interpretation regress, he offers only an unexplained link of Intentional state to its content whereas the transcendentalist presents a stopping point, the Intentional Act, which has an intrinsic reason for preventing any further regress.

So I submit that Searle confronts the transcendentalist position directly only with respect to the first thesis, and in this case rejects it only verbally, agreeing with it on the conceptual level. He seems unaware of the other three theses which I maintain are intrinsic to the transcendentalist approach. It seems unlikely, then that a committed transcendentalist, would be convinced that Searle has offered a plausible naturalistic alternative theory of Intentionality. I should point out that this is not a verbal dispute. It is quite possible that Searle understands by "transcendentalism" a position that holds only the first of my theses and that he accepts responsibility only for confronting that position. In fact, however, the actual position to which he must provide an alternative is the fully-fledged, four-theses transcendentalism, whether he realizes this or not. He cannot simply respond that that is not what he meant by "transcendentalism." Indeed many of Searle's difficulties come from construing transcendentalism in too narrow a manner. He interprets it as if it were the same as dualism. That is, he accepts the position of Brentano and presents Intentionality only as a distinguishing criterion between the mental and the physical. His arguments are directed against a certain kind of dualism rather than against the serious alternative contender for a theory of Intentionality, transcendentalism.

© David L. Thompson
Philosophy, Memorial University
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1. John Searle, Intentionality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p.112. To distinguish the technical sense of Intentionality from the ordinary sense meaning "purpose," Searle capitalizes the term, a convention I am following.

2. While Frege's concept of Sinn is usually translated as "sense," it is often translated as "meaning" in the Husserlian tradition. I will uses sense and meaning interchangeably throughout this paper.

3. See J. N. Mohanty, Husserl and Frege} (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982) for an interesting treatment of this influence.

4. Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations, 2 vols. (New York: Humanities Press, 1970), Investigation V, 571-572.

5. Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, first book (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1983), para.55, 128-129. Hereinafter referred to as "Ideas Bk 1".

7. Husserl, Ideas Bk 1, para.54, p.128.

8. J. N. Mohanty, "Intentionality and Noema," Jour of Phil, 78 (1981):706-717, p.710

9. Mohanty, "Intentionality and Noema," p.715

10. Searle, Intentionality, p. ix.

11. Searle, Intentionality, p.112.

12. Since nothing in my argument depends on the distinction, I will use "object" and "state of affairs" interchangeably.

13. Modelled on Searle, Intentionality, Chapter 2, especially p.48.

14. In-text page references are all to Searle, Intentionality.

15. Searle, "The Intentionality of Intention and Action," Inquiry, 22 (1979):253-280, p.265.

16. Searle, "Intentionality and Method," Jour of Phil, 78 (1981):720-733, pp.728,732.

17. Husserl, Ideas Bk 1, p.112.

18. Searle, "Intentionality and the Use of Language," in A. Margalit (ed), Meaning and Use, (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1979), p. 198; Cf. "Intentionality and Method," p.722; Intentionality, pp.viii, 262; and Searle, "What is an Intentional State?" Mind, 88(1979): 74-92, p.90.

19. Searle, "The Intentionality of Intention and Action," p.257.

20. Husserl, Logical Investigations, Investigation V, pp.571-572.

21. That is, usually. In cases of "blind sight" it would appear that it is not embodied in any psychological experience. See Searle, Intentionality, p.47.

22. Searle, "What is an Intentional State," pp.86-87.

23. Husserl, Ideas Bk 1, para.54, p.128.

24. See John B. Brough, "The Emergence of an Absolute Consciousness in Husserl's Early Writings on Time-Consciousness," Man and World, 5 (1972):298-326, for a careful analysis of this development in Husserl's thought.

© David L. Thompson
Philosophy, Memorial University
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