Friday, April 22, 2011


The post on copy and original got me thinking about intention. What is intention and does it involve mental states and if so does it involve specific kinds of mental states? Can zombies and machines have intention? Let's say that you think intentions must involve a kind of "what it feels like to intend to do A" or any kind of phenomenal mental state. What if mind-body reductionism or eliminativism is true? That would either mean that the what it feels like or phenomenal quality is just some physical process in the brain or whatever or in case of eliminativism, there is nothing that it is like, just an illusion of what it's like perhaps.

Let's look at mind-body reductionism. If it is true, then there must be some specific physical process necessary if those who think that the "what it feels" is necessary for intention. But that seems implausible. What makes that process any different and special (deserving of being called intention) from a functionally similar process and externally identical one that does the same thing? Indeed, philosophers have definitions of intention that do not include a mental state criterion.

If our brains are just computational devices and our thoughts, emotions, and other mental states are just computations or the results thereof and the Church-Turing thesis is correct then it would seem that "intention" can be captured by a fully functional analysis. Indeed, think of even computers now. An example is a chess playing program. We may term a particular move made by the program as an intention to do something (capture a queen, set a trap, checkmate, etc). It has some of the features of intention such as a goal and decision(s) made among possible options towards that goal, etc, though presumably, no phenomenal mental features

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