Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

"Phenomenal Intentionality and the Modular Mind"

My aim in this paper is twofold. First, I offer a critical examination of the Phenomenal Intentionality Outlook, that is, a cluster of ideas concerning the nature and function of phenomenally consciousness states (Horgan and Tienson 2002, Horgan and Kriegel 2008, Kriegel 2009). Second, I consider the possibility of accounting for the intentionality and working of phenomenally conscious states in terms of modular architecture and information processing. In the critical part of my paper I focus on the Phenomenally Intentional Mark Thesis (Horgan and Kriegel 2008) and Kriegel's account of the so-called temporal phenomenology (Kriegel 2009). According to The Phenomenally Intentional Mark Thesis, phenomenally intentional states are paradigmatic or prototypical intentional mental states and non-phenomenal brain states qualify as mental – and, by the same token, as intentional – inasmuch as they can be described as causally or inferentially connected in the right way to phenomenally intentional states. According to Kriegel's account of temporal phenomenology what makes an agent able to tell the difference between perceptual, mnemonic and anticipatory experiences is the fact that percepts involve a phenomenology of presentness, memories involve a phenomenology of pastness and anticipations involve a phenomenology of futureness. In the constructive part of my paper I consider an alternative account of mental intentionality. I assume that human minds are structured into functionally individuated systems, most of which perform their operations in a modular fashion (see Fodor 1983, Pylyshyn 2007). With this assumption in hand I claim, first, that what makes some informational states intentional representations is their function rather than their phenomenal character. Second, I put forth a hypothesis according to which an agent's ability to discriminate between perceptual, mnemonic and anticipatory experiences can be best explained in terms of cognitive architecture rather than in terms of temporal phenomenology. Third, I conclude that the Phenomenal Intentionality Outlook puts the cart before the horse: rather than being explanatory basic, the phenomenal character of some of our mental states calls for a systematic explanation.