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The Relation Of Intentionality To Consciousness

Every intentional state is mental, but not every conscious mental state is intentional. For example, one may have feelings of anxiety that do not have any intentional content. One is not anxious about any particular thing; one just has a general undirected feeling of anxiety. Such a state is conscious and therefore mental without being intentional. If Brentano was wrong that intentionality is the mark of the mental, this leads to the larger question: What exactly is the relation between intentionality and consciousness? The answer is that there is a very heavy overlap but the two are not coextensive. At any given point in my life, many of my intentional states are unconscious. For example, I can believe that in 2004 George W. Bush was president even when I am not thinking about it or when I am asleep. And many of my conscious states are not intentional, as, for example, the undirected anxiety that I mentioned above.

There does, however, seem to be a close connection between intentionality and consciousness in the following respect: Whenever someone has an intentional state that is unconscious, as when one is sound asleep, we understand it as that particular intentional state only in virtue of the fact that it is the kind of thing that can become conscious. A person might be unable to bring intentionality to consciousness because of being asleep or because of brain damage or repression, for example; but our understanding of an intentional state as a mental state is dependent on our being able to conceive of that state as occurring in consciousness.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Incomplete dominance to IntuitionismIntentionality - Intentionality And Its History, Two Mistaken Theories Of Intentionality, The Relation Of Intentionality To Consciousness