Phenomenology, intentionality, empathy, and the end of separatism
In “The Intentionality of Phenomenology and the Phenomenology of Intentionality,” Terence Horgan and John Tienson argue that human mental states have phenomenal content if and only if they have intentional content and are conscious. Paradigmatic intentional mental states, insofar as they are conscious, necessarily have phenomenal characters, and mental states that are paradigmatic phenomenal mental states necessarily have intentional content. Horgan and Tienson argue for two theses that affirm this necessary two-way relation, the Intentionality of Phenomenology thesis (IP) and the Phenomenology of Intentionality thesis (PI), and in so doing reject the separatism thesis, which claims that phenomenology and intentionality are logically independent, and that there is no necessary relation between the two.
While I think that Horgan and Tienson are correct in their rejection of separatism, I am more cautious about accepting their specific proposal regarding the necessary relation between intentionality and phenomenology. I do agree with the general nature of their project. That said, I argue that re-formulations of their two theses are necessary in order to successfully answer various critiques of their account. Assuming that my proposed re-formulations of Horgan and Tienson’s two theses are correct, I discuss how, by taking these two theses seriously, we can not only come to see how people do interact with each other, but also how they come to have an empathetic understanding of other people as people, each with their own different phenomenal experiences in relation to their similar intentional contents. To reach this conclusion, I discuss all of the following: the importance of Horgan and Tienson’s overall project; their specific account of the relationship between phenomenal and intentional mental content; why that account is ultimately inadequate; and why my suggested re-formulation of their argument both succeeds and provides a plausible explanation of why and how we attribute mental lives to others.