The Metaphysics of Intentionality
Debates about the ontological status of the bearers of collective intentions have led philosophers to focus on providing truth-conditional analyses for sentences like ‘we built the house together’ and ‘the homeowner’s association is responsible for the change in policy’. Much effort has been expended in showing that the truth conditions for sentences of this sort do not involve appeal to minds above and beyond the minds of individual members. In this talk I initially sidestep questions of the metaphysics of intentionality by looking at a related question: what is the mental state associated with the utterance of a sentence giving voice to a collective intention? Rather than proposing truth conditions for sentences like ‘we built the house together’, which appear to report on some putative fact about the world, I offer an analysis of the semantic content of sentences like ‘we shall build the house together’ which express a collective intention rather than report on one. In doing so I urge we shift from a truth-conditional world-representing analysis of collective intentions to a plan-theoretic attitude-expressing analysis. At the end of the talk I return to questions about the metaphysics of intentionality and outline a number of proposals suggested by this analysis.