Review: A Critical Study of Husserl and Intentionality



This remarkable book is one of the most significant studies in Husserl's philosophy to appear in recent decades. It is a major expression of a tendency in Husserl interpretation that has been developing for some time, rooted primarily in the work of Dagfinn Føllesdal, but involving a number of his students and others — such as Jaakko Hintikka and Hubert Dreyfus — who were at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, during the 1970s. It is one of the most clearly written works in philosophy that I have ever read, even when dealing with the more abstruse topics. Its interpretations are unfailingly challenging and illuminating of fundamental issues, even on points where one is inclined to disagree.

The book as a whole is an essay on the nature of intentionality: "The property of a thought or experience that consists in its being consciousness 'of' or 'about' something." (xiii) Intentionality is "the theme of our study," the authors tell us, and "the focus of our study is the theory of intentionality developed ... by ... Edmund Husserl." (xiii) They estimate that approximately half of their work is devoted to exposition of Husserl's theory of intentionality, and the other half to evaluating and extending that theory. Of this latter half, it seems that about three-fourths is devoted to explaining the semantical views of Frege, Tarski, Carnap, Hintikka and various other authors who philosophize along similar lines — "analytic" philosophers, if that description is still usable for purposes of communication — as their views bear upon the general nature of intentionality or meaning and upon the main distinctions among intentions or meanings. The book is, accordingly, a treatise on intentionality. But I think that its significance for current philosophical research will, nonetheless, prove to lie in its interpretation of Husserl.


The overall structure of the book is as follows: Its opening chapter begins with a preliminary characterization of "acts" of consciousness, proceeds to a specification of the main characteristics of their intentional relations (existence-independence, conception-dependence, transcendence, definiteness or indefiniteness (Maclntyre and Smith [hereafter "MS"] pp. 10-21; cf. 147151), and moves onward to a discussion of the peculiarities of intensional contexts in language especially the failure of substitutivity of identity and of existential generalization. These familiar matters are carefully explained because of the essential relationship which the authors believe to hold between intentionality and intensionality. They hold ". . . that the problems of intensionality in [mental] act sentences are at base <187> themselves due to the peculiarities of the intentional phenomena they describe or report and to the conception of these phenomena as intentional that is inherent in our language about them." (24; cf. 33) Accordingly they believe that "a well developed theory of intentionality should enable one to develop a semantics for act contexts that would explain their intensionality." (33) They note that, for Husserl, linguistic reference "is itself a species of intention," and that ". . . theory of reference and semantic theory generally (in the tradition of Frege), turn out to be subparts of Husserl's theory of intentionality." (34-35)

On the other hand, as we shall see, it is a primary thesis of the book that intentionality is itself made possible by intensional components of mental acts. Accordingly, the significance of intensionality for the investigation at hand is further developed in Chapter II, which distinguishes between "object" and "mediator" theories of intentionality. On theories of the former type (Meinong and Brentano are taken as representatives), it is the object of the act — in some sense of "object"— that determines what the act is of or about. This view is, for very good reasons, shown to be untenable (47-61), and Frege's theory of Sinn as determinative of referent in language is introduced. Fregian Sinne turn out, as is well known, to be intensional entities that are supposed to mediate or establish the relation between linguistic expressions and their referents. It is observed that Husserlian "noemata" or "noematic Sinne" are also intensional entities, and are moreover "the cornerstone of Husserl's theory of intentionality." (69) For both Frege and Husserl, then, the Sinn of an experience or thought makes its referring or intentional direction possible and specific, but in the usual case it is not the object of the experience or thought. Thus: "Our short study of Frege is the transition that leads our discussion away from the object approach to intentionality and into a study of Husserl." (82)

Chapters three, four and five (87-265) constitute the heart of the book, so far as the interpretation of Husserl and his phenomenology are concerned. We will shortly return to examine crucial points in the authors' interpretation of Husserl on Sinne and intentionality; but, to complete our outline of the book, we now note that two fundamental theses emerge as their discussion progresses: One is that "occasional" or — in the language of Reichenbach, "token reflexive"— expressions and mental acts have their reference or intentionality determined by the facts of the occasion in which they occur, as well as by certain "background" beliefs. The authors contend that "Husserl says nothing that suggests an adequate answer" (218) to the question of how this works: of how, for example, the "occasional" or context-dependent nature of a perceptual intention upon precisely and only this pen is to be accounted for. The 'this', the ‘X’ which presents just this identical object, appearing in many ways in various experiences, is held by them to remain a mystery. "Husserl simply does not tell us how, via its X, a perception intends the right object. For Husserl, it seems, the mystery and mystique of intuition resides in that special sense, an X. We are forced to conclude that although Husserl sharply indicated the occasional nature of perception, he did not offer an account of perception that adequately explains or even properly addresses that important feature of perception. Nor, it seems, did he fully comprehend the problem it poses for his basic theory of intentionality." (219)

The other fundamental thesis emerging from the discussions in Chapters three through five is that Sinne and intentionality can only be adequately analyzed in terms of possibility. This very plausible thesis is advanced on the basis of the essential connection, for Husserl, between the Sinn of an act and what he calls the act's "horizon". This second thesis is then placed into relationship with the <188> contemporary doctrine of possible worlds, and with the later Carnap's analysis of language meanings in terms of meaning functions between extensions and possible worlds. The authors regard the possible worlds interpretation of possibility and the Carnapian analysis of linguistic meaning as at least suggestive of how Sinne are to be more clearly understood than provided for in Husserl's own expositions, and not inconsistent with them.

Thus, the occasional or indexical aspects of certain intentions or meanings require the introduction of pragmatical considerations into intentionality, and the horizontality of intentions or acts leads to the introduction of possible worlds, all in order to provide necessary extensions of Husserl's account of intentionality. These extensions are the main task of Chapters six, seven and eight, completing the book.


We now turn to a statement of Husserl's mature (Ideas I) theory of intentionality, as the authors understand it. Proceeding from the general Husserlian thesis that the intentionality of an act is entirely determined by "the act's own intrinsic character" (92) — that is, by what is contained in it, its 'content'— the act's contents are exhaustively divided into those which are "reel" (reelle) and those which are ideal. (The authors seem to take the "irreelle," the intentional and the ideal contents of the act to be the very same things.) These two types of contents taken together constitute the "phenomenological content" (92-93, 104, 115, 136) of the act. The reelle contents are individual, dependent phases or "moments" which, like the whole act itself, are non-shareable and non-repeatable — the noetic phases as well as the hyletic. The ideal contents, by contrast, are repeatable and shareable, identically the same in many acts, and hence are universals, of a special type. In the Logical Investigations (1901) Husserl held that the universal intentional contents were instanced or exemplified in corresponding reelle contents, as their essences. (117) By the time of Ideas I, however, as is generally assumed today, "Husserl had changed his mind about the ontological category of intentional contents and the relation of real to intentional contents ... [and] no longer took intentional contents to be essences or types [of the real contents], but a special category of ideal entities, which are 'correlates' of real contents in an appropriately different way" (117), without being predicates or properties of them.

On the L.I. model there is just the act and the intentional property of the act — viz. precisely that property common to all acts which are of or about the same objectivity in the same manner and same propositional attitude. The specific intentionality ("matter" + "quality") of the act consists precisely in this complex property. The authors correctly remark that, on the L.I. position, — an act's being intentionally related to a certain object just consists in its having the property of being directed in a certain way, that is, its having a certain intentional essence. . ." (141-142) In a parenthetical comment immediately following this remark, and deeply revealing of the differing philosophical positions of the authors and Husserl, they ask us to "Note that there is no interesting relation between the ideal content or essence, and the object of an act." (142) As this passage continues, Husserl's L. I. theory is (for the most part rightly) classified with the contemporary 'adverbial' theories of intentionality, according to which "intentionality is a nonrelational property of an act, a complex quality or type that receives no further ontological analysis." (Are the elaborate eidetic analyses which Husserl brings to bear upon intentions and intentionality in the L.I. not to count as ontological? <189> Surely nothing is more so.) Then the claim is made that "if in the Investigations Husserl holds that intentionality is in some sense relational insofar as consciousness is 'of' or 'about' something, then the analysis he has offered is simply incomplete. Ideas, in fact, offers a further analysis."

We must pause immediately to make three comments upon this important passage. First of all, it is true that the account of intentionality in L.I. is incomplete, and that Husserl later realized it to be so. However and this goes to the heart of the difference between the authors and Husserl — Husserl found his account in L.I. to be descriptively incomplete. That is, he found that it was not a full presentation of the essential aspects and interrelations which are open to reflection upon the act of thought (or the meaningful use of linguistic expressions). But this, I believe, is not the incompleteness which concerns the authors. Rather, they want a "further ontological analysis," to avoid being left in the position where an act's being directed as it is is due just to its having the property of being directed in that way. (142) Reference to "intrinsic nature" is not to be taken as illuminating.

But yet, secondly, only two paragraphs later the authors return, precisely, to intrinsic nature — not of the act, now, but of the act's noema specifically, its Sinn. It will be helpful for the remainder of this study to quote them at length;

The highlights of Husserl's mature theory of intentionality in Ideas we might summarize as follows. Intentionality is analyzed in terms of an act's real and ideal content: the real content of an act includes the act's noesis; the ideal content is the act's noema, which centrally includes a Sinn. By virtue of its noesis, each act bears a characteristic relation to a unique noema, and so to the Sinn in its noema. Husserl says the noema is the "correlate" of the noesis; and of the relation between the noesis and the Sinn he says that the noesis "gives" the Sinn, or that the noesis "bestows" the Sinn on the act. Let us say instead, using a neutral term, that the act entertains its noema, and specifically its Sinn. Further, a Sinn bears a characteristic relation to an object (to at most one existing object), inasmuch as it is the Sinn’s intrinsic nature to 'point to', to 'represent', to present' that object; let us say a Sinnprescribes an object. The intentional relation of an act to object is then analyzed as the composition of two relations, the relation of act, or noesis, to noematic Sinn (the 'entertaining' relation) and the relation of Sinn to object (the 'prescribing' relation): an act intends, (is directed toward or is intentionally related to) an object if and only if the act (or its noesis) entertains a certain noematic Sinn and that Sinn prescribes that object.


Thus a mediator between act and object is found, providing a "further ontological analysis" of act intentionality. It is from this new mediator ontology for the mental act that we are to receive "explanations of the traditional problems of intentionality." But with regard to one point an immediate question arises: Why is it not as unilluminating to say that "a Sinn bears a characteristic relation to an object . . . inasmuch as it is the Sinn’s intrinsic nature to 'point to', to 'represent', to 'present' that object," (cf. 107) as it was to say the similar thing about the mental act itself? If an adverbial theory of the act's intentionality is unilluminating and incomplete, why is not the same true of an adverbial account of the noema or its Sinn? What is it about the intrinsic nature of Sinne, or of the 'X's in noematic Sinne, which allows them to do what the intrinsic nature of acts cannot? If "pointing" or "aboutness" is going to be ultimate at some point, as it certainly is for Husserl (Logical Investigations, II, subsection 31 ["L.I." hereafter referring to the English edition]), what is it about the act which disqualifies it for this ultimate property, and what is it about the Sinn that qualifies it'? One hopes that these questions will be answered. Perhaps an adverbial interpretation of the Sinn’s intentionality will be avoided.

But (third comment) the issues here run very deep, touching upon the question of how the enterprise of analyzing or giving an account of intentionality <190> is to be conceived, and of how philosophical inquiry proceeds. It is the radical difference on this point which must, above all, be kept in mind when comparing Husserl and Frege, and which leads one to think that Frege's views perhaps have little use in the exposition of Husserl. It is, I think, not clearly true that "The goal of a Husserlian theory of intentionality is to tell us just what kind of entity an act's content [read "noema"] is and to convince us that an experience's involvement with an entity of that kind is both necessary and sufficient for the intentionality of the experience." (105) The goal for Husserl is, instead, to describe intentionality in terms of its essential characteristics and differentiations, and in relation to the internal complexities of the acts upon which, in its various forms, it is founded or essentially depends — the descriptions to be guided by intuition of those characteristics, differentiations and inner founding structures themselves. (See, for example, the statements in the last paragraph of Subsection 134 of Ideas I and in the third paragraph of Subsection 90, in the Boyce Gibson translation, hardbound edition [hereafter "BG"], pp. 373 and 262.) Maclntyre and Smith's procedure seems, by contrast, to be to postulate an intensional entity, a "meaning," of the now familiar Fregian sort, and then to show how that sort of entity, along with postulated relations of "entertaining" and "prescribing," permits explanation of the admitted features of intentionality, such as existence independence, concept dependence, transcendence, and definiteness/indefiniteness. In a note to an earlier paper by the authors ["Intentionality via Intensions,"Journal of Philosophy, LXVIII, '18 (Sept. 16, 1971), p. 543] they comment that "exactly what intensions, as abstract entities ['of the same kind as meanings'], are like is no less (or more) a mystery with Husserl than with Frege, Church, et al. All that we presume to know of noemata is what Husserl tells us they do in his theory of intentionality." [Emphasis the authors'.]

Certainly Husserl did not regard noemata (or "intensions" as he would understand them, or, more generally, universals) as mysterious at all. He repeatedly discusses the nature of these entities, as well as the empiricist and (for him) consequently skeptical principles that make them and all knowledge seem mysterious or impossible. (See L. I., "Prolegomena to Pure Logic," Appendix to Subsections 25 and 26, and all of chapter 7, along with chapter two of Part One in Ideas 1.) Frege and Church are, to be sure, no empiricists. Nevertheless, their invocation of abstract entities (and of reference to or consciousness thereof) looks much more like some form of transcendental argument, from the requirements of semantic analysis or of scientific knowledge generally, than anything to be found in Husserl. Husserl, by contrast, claims to do his work on the "conditions of the possibility of knowledge"— which of course, in his own way, includes all the standard semantical issues — by returning the concepts of logic and epistemology to the "things themselves"— to intentionality or meaning, to concepts, propositions, truth, logical relations, Evidenz, fulfilment (verification), and so forth. He very well understood the difference between his work and Kant's, and even claimed superiority of his "critique" over Kant's on the very basis that:

Kant never made clear to himself the peculiar character of pure Ideation, the adequate survey of conceptual essences, and of the laws of universal validity rooted in those essences. He accordingly lacked the phenomenologically correct concept of the a priori. For this reason he could never rise to adopting the only possible aim of a strictly scientific critique of reason: the investigation of the pure, essential laws which govern acts as intentional experiences, in all their modes of sense-giving objectivation, and their fulfilling constitution of 'true being'. Only a perspicuous knowledge of these laws of essence could provide us with an absolutely adequate answer to all the questions regarding our understanding, questions which can be meaningfully raised in regard to the 'possibility of knowledge'.

(L.I. 833-834)

<191> If such remarks carry any weight at all, they seem to me to apply equally well to the Frege tradition in semantic analysis and its extensions or modifications through the use of pragmatics and possible worlds.

Husserl does his work, at least on his own interpretation of it, by turning his attention to essences themselves. As he says over and over, his aim is not Erklärung but Aufklärung, not explanation but illumination. And there certainly is, for him, an "interesting relation" between the meanings of L.I. and the corresponding objects. That relation — essentially involving noemata, it later becomes clear — is to be opened up to insight precisely by directly comparing the essences which make up, which are, the intentional qualities in the act with the essential qualities and other components in the relevant object or objectivity. This is done by reflectively living through the process of fulfilment (or else 'disappointment'), where the "empty" intentions found in the "mere meaning" of the linguistic or other cognitive act are seen to come into congruence (or else contradiction) with relevant objectivities. But why intentions are of such a general nature as to "agree" or "disagree" with select objectivities is not something which Husserl will explain by invoking more general laws or definitions. That pattern of explanation is appropriate in various ways to the various sciences, but, on his view, not in clarifying the very possibility of science or knowledge. (L. I. 264-265.) The fundamental concepts of the theory of knowledge — and the concept of the relation between meaning or intention and its object is certainly one of these — can only be clarified by bringing one's talk and thought involving them over against "the things themselves," and allowing the former to be adjusted to the latter.


We shall return below to this point about the general nature of Husserl’s analysis of intentionality, where we consider the extensions of Husserl's theory of intentionality proposed by the authors by means of contemporary concepts of pragmatics and possible worlds. For now, however, we turn to the question: Is it true that the noema is the ideal content of the act, on Husserl's matureview, and that the noesis falls wholly within the reele content? (MS 119, 121) The following preliminary reflections must give us pause in accepting what seems to be McIntyre and Smith's position on this question. First of all, we should notice that the noetic dimension of the mental act was introduced long before the Noema and was never regarded by Husserl merely as that in which L. I. meanings are exemplified. The noetic is introduced by Husserl as "the ideal conditions whose roots lie in the form of subjectivity as such, and in its to knowledge" (Subsection 32 of the "Prolegomena" of 1900, L.I. 136); or the "Ideal ... noetic conditions which have their grounds, a priori, in the Idea of knowledge as such, without any regard to the empirical peculiarity of human knowledge as psychologically conditioned." For example, "it is evident a priori ... that thinking subjects must be in general able to perform, e.g., all the sorts of acts in which theoretical knowledge is made real. We must, in particular, as thinking beings, be able to see propositions as truths, and to see truths as consequences of other truths, and again to see laws as such, to see laws as explanatory grounds, and to see them as ultimate principles, etc." (Sub section 65 of "Prolegomena," L.I. 232-233. Cf. Subsection 145 and the end of Subsection 147 or Ideas.) Thus the noetic consists in the ideal, intrinsic nature of mental acts which makes it possible for propositions, theories and logical relations, along with objectivities generally, to be grasped in them (but not by buttons and tree leaves), thus making human and any other knowing possible. Noematic Sinne do <192> not do this, though they have a role in it. Accordingly, the noetic is an essential part of Husserl's account of human knowing, with regard to its intrinsic nature not to be confused with the essence of theory as such, dealt with by pure logic (L.I. 233), nor with the real conditions of the possibility of human knowing, the psychological." (p. 232)

Now there is surely some serious reason to think that Husserl always retained this conception of the noetic as a domain of ideal entities and structures, and indeed that it became even more prominent as he moved toward the great works of his last years, concerned ever increasingly with the cultural fate of reason. Here we cite the whole of the "Fourth Section" of Ideas 1, especially p. 399 where the phenomenology of reason is described as "noetics in a pregnant sense of the term. "

But we should also note that the term "noesis" is first introduced into Ideas I to refer to "what forms materials [hyla] into intentional experiences and brings in the specific element of intentionality" (BG 249), which is explicitly identified (244) with the "act character" of L. I. (Cf. BG 284 where the noesis is identified with the 'animating apprehension" of sense data, as in L. I.) Although the "sense-giving" realized through the noetic moment is of many types, the giving of sense to the hyletic is the fundamental one, attaching itself to the "pregnant" concept of Sinn (249), and never changed in Husserl's career. (I cannot help but think that the authors are quite mistaken to cite (MS 120) Subsection 85 of Ideas I to support the view that the sense "given" to the act by the noesis is the noema. This section is a discussion of how the act character (also called "noesis") confers a sense, an ofness, on otherwise dead sensa by forming them, giving them the character of "pointing beyond themselves,' which certainly will be accompanied by the emergence of a noema. (Cf. L.I. 594 and Husserliana XXII, pp. 306-307.)

In any case, we can say that there is nothing that is just reale or reelle on Husserl's view. If indeed the noema is not the essence of the act, the act must still have an essence, and in that sense also an ideal content. The authors would agree with this, I think, though their insistence that the noema is the ideal content of the act might mislead us. For his part, Husserl comments upon the "historical and natural" movement of thought which leads us at first to "take the immanent study of pure experience, the study of their own proper essence, to be a study of their reellen components," whereas "on both sides [noetic/noematic] in truth there open up vast domains of eidetic inquiry, and these are constantly related to each other, though it turns out that they keep separate for a long stretch." (BG 36) Further, to suggest that, in general, meaning is not a necessary constituent in the essence of the act is surely to allow nothing less than that you could have the same act as is present in a given case, but that act be of or about something other than what it is or about. Conversely, to suggest that one could analyze the intentionality of an act without regard to its essence would be quite odd, for that would mean that the meaning or aboutness of an act is indifferent to the kind of act it rests upon. Consequently, to say that the noema or Sinn of an act is not its type or essence — which, for good reasons, Husserl does say in his later years — must be to say something quite different than simply that the intentionality of an act is not of the essence of that act. The intentionality of an act has to be in its essence. Yet how can this be if the intentionality or meaning of an act is exhausted by its noematic Sinn?

With these preliminary reflections in mind, and continuing to focus upon the claim that the noema is the ideal content of the act on Husserl's mature view, let us turn to what he actually says about the noeses in Ideas 1, and bring that over <193> against what is in effect, on the tradition of Husserl interpretation now under discussion, the dismissal of the noesis from the analysis of intentionality apparently on the grounds that, being reele, it necessarily fails to be intensional, and hence can be of no use in accounting for intentionality. Let us give the noesis its long-awaited day in court.

When we look at Ideas I as a whole, we immediately see that Phenomenology finds much more to do than to account for the intentionality of acts in terms of noemata and their Sinne. The distinction between noesis and noema is but one of those "most general peculiarities of the essential nature of the pure sphere of experience" (BG 215) which survive the various "reductions" and, according to Husserl himself, provide the "main themes" of phenomenology. (214) Before coming to that distinction Husserl discusses reflexion (Subsections '77-79), the relation of experiences to the pure ego ('80), phenomenological temporality ('81-82), the unity of the stream of experience as a Kantian "idea" ('83), intentionality ('84), the relation of intentionalities to the sensa which they inform or animate and thus "use" in intending an object ('84), and the "functional" aspects of consciousness, the use of all sorts of elements (including whole acts) within consciousness itself in the further intention of objectivities of various appropriate kinds ('86). Finally, as one more "general feature of pure experience," Husserl comes upon what he later describes as "the essential two-sidedness of intentionality. " (BG 359)

Now it is important to notice that it is intentionality which is said to be bilateral (Doppelseitig), and not just that acts of consciousness have two correlated aspects. I believe it to be Husserl's view that two intentionalities— two strata of ofnesses and aboutnesses— run side by side in essential interdependence within the flow of mental acts which make up our conscious life. (BG 294) The parallelism involved is fundamentally a parallelism of noetic and noematic characters (290), and then, and only in virtue of that, a parallelism of reelle and irreelle phases or "moments" of the whole mental act or act stream — the entire structure in the concrete act resting upon an appropriate, though somewhat less parallel, accompaniment of hyletic data. Thus in every experience, every whole act, there are three types of moments: hyletic, noetic and noematic. The latter are "irreelle," the meaning of the term deriving wholly from a specific contrast with the other, reelle aspects of the act — the irreelle is that "das dem Bewusstsein selbst ein Gegenüber, ein prinzipiell Anderes, Irreelles, Transzendentes ist." (285). The irreellen, though belonging to the act, are not parts of the act, and appertain to the object in a distinctive way reellen aspects do not (BG 286, 291); and hence their properties, their essences, are not communicable to the act itself, as are those of the reelle "moments."

The ideal content of the act then consists of the three interlocking ranges of essences embedded in the three ranges of moments which, in their distinctive ways, make up the act. Correspondingly, we have three pure or eidetic disciplines: pure hylectics (253), along with pure noetics and noematics. (287)

Hence, if our view is right, noetic intentionality (298-299), the intentionality of an act to its (usually transcendent) object is to be understood very much as presented in the L.I. It seems to me that Husserl explicitly says this in Ideas Subsection 94, in his remarks about the L.I. doctrine of the "intentional" and the "epistemological" essence. Noematic intentionality is, then, a supplement to, not a replacement for, noetic intentionality; and, as Ideas moves along, noetic intentionality is presented as prior to noematic intentionality in several interesting respects: (i) In the order of research, of course, the psychological interests saw to it that the <194> noetic was initially overemphasized, and that a one-sided presentation of intentionality emerged which overlooked noematic intentionality altogether. (36; cf. 256) (ii) Ontologically, the noema — though not, we emphasize, its essence — is wholly dependent, and hence is "abstract," in a sense painstakingly clarified in the IIIrd L.I. It exists or has being, however. One of the expressions of Husserl's ontological genius was his clean separation of being from independence, tying it solely to the possession of qualities or "true predicates. ""The seen trees as such ... is indeed itself, logically speaking, an object." (287) That is precisely to say, it is a subject of true predicates. However — injecting a special type of dependence again to make an illuminating historical contrast — "Its essence consists exclusively in its 'percepi', except . . . here the percipi does not contain the esse as a real (reelles) constituent. " (287) (iii) Eidetically, "the Eidos of the noema points to the eidos of the noetic consciousness; both belong eidetically together. The intentional object as such [noema] is what it is as the intentional object of a consciousness which is articulated thus or thus, and which is the consciousness of it." (BG 287) There is, Husserl insists, "a noematic intentionality over against the noetic. The latter carries the former in itself as a correlate of consciousness, and its intentionality passes in a certain way through the noematic intentionality and beyond it." (294) Nevertheless, the noema and its intentionality permits of being considered, descriptively analyzed, on its own account: "As we go more closely into ... [the 'meant as such'], we become aware that in fact the distinction between 'content' and 'object' must be drawn not only in the case of 'consciousness', of the intentional experience, but also in that of the noema taken in itself. Thus the noema also refers to an object and possesses a 'content', 'by means of' which it refers to the object, the object being the same as that of the noesis; so the 'parallelism' is once again thoroughly verified." (363) Although the noematic correlate of consciousness is Sinn only "in a very extended meaning of the term" (258), still, in ways which open up to further study, it shares with the intentional experience itself the property of having a meaning, of "having something in mind [im Sinne zu haben], . . . the cardinal feature of all consciousness, that on account of which it is not only experience generally, but meaningful, 'noetic'." (261-262; cf. 249) (Note that in Husserl's presentations it is the noema, not the noesis, which "also" has a Sinn or refers to an object and possesses a content. Cf. BG 360: "The noema itself has an objective relation through its own proper Sinn.)

Assuming the specifically noetic intentionality portrayed above, we are then prepared for a specifically noetic phenomenology, especially the phenomenology of reason (399) and of reason's claim to valid relations to an object. This is no science of reelle, but of ideal, contents of the mental act. (The "Fourth Section" of Ideas 1.) We are also prepared to hear of noetic predicates (305), nucleii (267, 262), ideas and judgments (274), phenomena (418), Eidos (287), Evidenz (382), and even noetic formal apophansis (408; cf. 274): — with the understanding that in every case we are dealing with ideal contents of experiences, from the viewpoint of eidetic description. And on the other hand we are prepared to hear Husserl speak of the "noesis" as being the whole concrete act (279, 289), as well as being the noetic phase or moment in the act (249), for we understand that these are both being dealt with solely and only as incorporating the pure noeses (289), which are the ideal objects and structures of noetic phenomenology. He is making what he calls "judgements of eidetic generality. " (BG 58).

Can the interpretation of the noesis presented by Maclntyre and Smith do justice to these "textual facts"? Surely on that interpretation the "huge field" of eidetic research into "the essential relations between the noetic and the noematic"<195> (BG 285-286), "a parallelism which must be described on both sides" (288), just disappears; and Husserl's statement, repeated many times over in discussing various act types, that ". . . with the new noetic phases new noematic phases, on the correlative side, also appear" (327), is rendered trivial — or possibly even false, since, as just reellen, new noetic phases might well have "the same" noema (in essence). For the authors, we recall, "Noesis is Husserl's mature version of an act's real phenomenological content, and noema is his mature version of intentional, or ideal, content." (MS 119: cf. 135) The "noesis ... is a temporal phase of an experience" (143) in which the noema (Sinn) is "entertained," somehow guaranteeing a strict parallelism (not specified in detail) between noetic and noematic phases of the act. (125) Of the precise nature of this relation of entertainment and its foundation in its terms, the (reelle) noesis and the corresponding (ideal) noema, we are told very little, and certainly nothing that would justify Husserl's great concern about it. We are told only that the noesis entertains exactly one noema, while the same noema may be entertained by many noeses, and that entertainment is not intentionalistic (the noema is not the object of the act (121, 146)).

To seek a presumably "neutral" term (MS 143) to designate that relation, rather than attempting a description of it, further indicates, I believe, the essentially constructionist — therefore non-phenomenological — intent of this interpretation. I must add that "entertains" seems to me very far from a neutral term, since it has a considerable philosophical history, having served Russell and others in the earlier part of this century as a name for one of the "propositional attitudes," in addition to carrying a rich array of common sense associations — most of which are strongly intentionalistic and run flatly contrary to the authors' repeated insistence that the noema is "in no sense an object." (122)

In any case, after stating the foregoing view of the noesis and its relation to the noema in several passages in the first chapters of the book, the authors indicate that they have "already said much of what Husserl tells us about these entities," noesis and noema, and add: "In fact, we have nothing further to add on noesis." (143) The Index lists no entry under "noesis" after pp. 142-146, where the basic doctrine of noesis/noema, as they understand Husserl, is set down in sequence of eleven numbered propositions. The remainder of the book deals with the interpretation and extension of Husserl's doctrine of "the inner structure of noematic Sinne," providing "some further analysis of the relation between Sinne and the objects they prescribe." (143) The "vast domain of eidetic inquiry" into the noesis and its interrelations with the noema (BG 360) disappears from the horizon of research.

We shall shortly look more closely at the account of the "prescribing" relation posited by the authors between the noema, or its Sinn, and the corresponding object. But first a further comment relevant to the "entertaining" relation between the act, or noesis, and its noema. The authors rightly insist that the noema is not the object of the act in which it functions as noema. This insistence is, I believe, a fundamental part of their realist interpretation of Husserl's views (MS 40-41, 89-90), rejecting object theories of intentionality generally, and the phenomenalistic or idealistic interpretation of Husserl by Aron Gurwitsch in particular. I believe that the realist interpretation of Husserl is the correct one, and the only one which captures the basic motivation of his life's work from beginning to end. Of course there are various understandings of realism, and not all fit within Husserl's views. But he did believe that how the world is and what it is known to be do not depend upon any knowing mind — even God's — and that in the usual case <196> the object of the conscious act lies wholly outside of the act itself.

But to secure this point it is not required that the noema, "the object as cognized," be "not in any sense an object that is intended in the act, an object of which the subject is conscious in the act." (MS 87) The authors try to force, in relation to noemata, the alternative: "Either not conscious of them, or only in a special kind of reflexion. " (122) But merely to be conscious of an object in an act is not by any means the same thing, on Husserl's views, as the object in question being the object of the act. What is missing in the account of Husserl under consideration are his doctrines of apperception and of the founding relations between the parts, including sub-acts, within most of our ordinary acts of consciousness, with the resultant massive internal complexity of those acts. The usual act of consciousness is not simply one intentional beam, so to speak, or even several unidirectional beams (noematic Sinne with the same ‘X’). Rather, it is a tissue of interlocking intentionalities upon which there emerges an intentionality that is the intentionality of the act as a whole upon its own objectivity. It is a consistent theme throughout Husserl's career that — in varying degrees and manners — subordinate, marginal, non-thetic and non-focal awarenesses of elements ("contents" in one or more senses) immanent to our experience are a condition (eidetic or synthetic a priori, no less) of the emergence of an intention upon the object of that one unified experience. This is most obviously true of all acts of "higher order." But then most acts of any scientific or cultural significance are of higher order, including every "logical" act in Husserl's special sense, associated with "expressions." (Ideas 1, subsection 124) But it also applies to hyletic data and noemata, neither of which are, of course, acts, but only "found" acts. We are aware of them, however, not unconscious of them, when they function in the usual way; somewhat as we are not unconscious of the marks on the page when we read, though in reading we are not looking at marks; or as we are not unconscious of sounds at the symphony, though in hearing the symphony we are not listening to sounds. It is, I believe, Husserl's view that this "marginal" type of subordinate awareness alone makes possible the functioning of hyla and noemata in the act and, simultaneously, their universal availability to reflexion in a cogito proper to them. They lie in one essential dimension of the horizon of the act in which they serve.

One might suppose that the very language in which Husserl describes noemata would forever settle it that they are present to the mind in those acts where they function as "senses," for they are described as "the perceived (remembered, judged, willed, preferred) as such" (BG 258, 287, etc.), the "intentional object" (261, 263, 287, etc.), the "object simpliciter". (266) But if, beyond this, more is required — and certainly it is in response to the authors — we have his explicit assertion that the conscious act in which the noema functions as "intentional object" is, whatever else, "consciousness of it." (287) And we have his further explicit assertion that "in the continuous or synthetic process of consciousness we are persistently aware of the intentional object [das intentionale Objekt ... immerfort bewusst ist]," as

in this experience the object is ever 'presenting itself differently'; it may be 'the same', only given with other predicates, with another determining content; 'it' may display itself only in different aspects whereby the predicates left indeterminate have become more closely determined; or 'the' object may have remained unchanged throughout this stretch of givenness, but now 'it', the selfsame, changes, and through this change becomes more beautiful or forfeits some of its utility value.

(BG 365)

We must keep in mind that this use of quotation marks indicates the noema <197> and that "intentional object" usually refers in Ideas I to the noema (recall 287). The "identity of the actual and intentional object," so dear to the realist heart, is an important point to make, and Macintyre and Smith make it well. But it has to be handled carefully in interpreting Ideas I, or it will inexorably lead back to the idealistic interpretation once again.

We cannot here enlarge at length upon this point. But it is just this essential correlation (BG 366) between the various types of objects and the consciously grasped appearances through which they are intended — and even, in further development, shown to be reality or illusion (BG 253) — that is said to be "the ultimate source for the only conceivable solution of the deepest problems of knowledge affecting the essential nature and the possibility of objectively valid knowledge of the transcendent." (284; cf. 377, 399, etc.) The present point of emphasis is simply upon the fact that the functioning of the whole structure of consciousness depends upon, among other things, an awareness of the appearances of those (usually transcendent) objects which are, indeed, the objects of our conscious acts. This is, I believe, Husserl's explicitly stated view.

Now the authors acknowledge that the language of "the perceived as such," and so forth, "poses a problem for our interpretation." (MS 157) They respond to this problem with one of those numerous excellent passages of exposition and critique which make their book so valuable: this time demonstrating the radical error in the Gurwitschian identification of the object of the act with its noema or noematic structure. (157-165) But it does not follow from the errors of Gurwitsch's interpretation that we are not in some essential way conscious of the appropriate noema when we, through its mediation, grasp an object all the while quite distinct from it. So far as I can tell the authors reason as follows: The noema is an ideal content with "an intrinsically pointing character" (107, 143), an "intension" in the contemporary semantical sense. The Sinn (contra Gurwitsch) is not the object of the act. "Thus, since Husserl calls the Sinn'the intended as such', we also take this expression and its kin to denote the ideal content of an act and so not to have the more or less intuitive, descriptive meaning that Gurwitsch's interpretation assumes." (160) "... The noematic Sinn is an immanent, ideal meaning-content. Accordingly, Husserl's identification of the Sinn with the intended as such is not the key to discovering what the Sinn is; in fact, the identification is less informative about the Sinn than about Husserl's use of the expression 'the intended as such': 'the intended as such' denotes the noema and, hence, the ideal content of an act." (163)

It is intriguing to observe here how a common assumption may lead to such different positions. The common assumption is that if the noema is an object in a relevant act of consciousness, it must be the object of that act. Gurwitsch, to speak loosely, concludes that the object of the act is noematic. McIntyre and Smith conclude that the noema cannot be an object at all. Our previous discussions of the intentional and other complexities within the act, on Husserl's view, make it clear that our course must be to reject the common assumption. The noema is an object. We are aware of it within the act. But it is not therefore (indeed, is therefore not!) the object of the act. And the fact, if it is a fact, that the noema is what the authors say it is — namely, "an immanent, ideal meaning-content" with an "intrinsically pointing character"— makes no difference one way or the other in this regard.

Now at this point one might just be prepared to turn one's back on Husserl, with a "who cares anyway" about his views on the relation of the noesis to the noema and its Sinn. After all, the book under consideration is an essay on intentionality, and if no sense can be made of Husserl, so much the worse for <198> Husserl. But then we have to think about alternatives; and, it seems to me, semantical theories and theories of intentionality of a, roughly, Fregian inspiration do not have very much to offer us concerning the relationship of meaning intensions to mind. I am not sure that we can even say that Frege, for all his elaborate theory in other respects, really has a theory either of how senses relate to words or how they relate to experiences (his Vorstellungen?). It seems to me he does not. His preoccupation with how Sinne relate words or experiences to objects makes him ignore the question of how they themselves relate to words and experiences. But in what sense, then, can he be said to have a semantic theory or theory of intentionality at all? He certainly has much to say about how Sinne relate among themselves and how they relate to objects. But that is about all there is to his theory, and the account of intentionality by Macintyre and Smith appears to be a true heir of Frege in this regard. They are aware of the problem, but their resolution for it is to posit a relation of "entertaining," providing only the meager information indicated above concerning its nature. Husserl, by contrast, at least does have a full blown theory about how Sinne are related to words and to acts, and he defends a methodology of direct inspection of the (very complex) essential connections through which words and mental acts come into intentional nexus with their objects — one which is, needless to say, utterly out of fashion now, and extremely hard to make attractive.


<311> If we are right, then, analyses of intentionality along Fregian lines characteristically do not cast much light upon the relation of intentional quality or intensions to mental acts, as opposed to their objects. The "entertaining" relation introduced, though not really analyzed, by McIntyre and Smith seems to fit this pattern.

But let us suppose that we now have the act and the mind (and of course language) satisfactorily tied to the Sinn, and turn our attention to the "prescribing" dimension of the intentional nexus between act and object. How does a Sinn pick out precisely the object it does pick out? The answer to this question is located mainly in subsection '3 of chapter IV. (MS 194-222) The task here, according to the authors, is "to understand more fully just how an act's entertaining a Sinn is what makes the act intentional" (195) — that is, makes it about a specific object as having certain determinations. Not surprisingly, the answer is sought in terms of what the two parts of the Sinn do: the part, the ‘X’, which picks out, or 'prescribes', the object, and the part which picks out, or 'prescribes', the relevant determinations of that object. It is only "as the composition of these two components of sense [that] the whole Sinn is a sense that prescribes a specific object and prescribes it as being propertied, or 'determined', in a certain way." (196-197) Conversely, once we know how the parts do their job, there is to be no further question of how the whole Sinn of the act does its job. So what is left to explain is how the two parts of the whole Sinn prescribe or pick out their objects.

Even this, however, is not quite right, for no question is raised about how the conceptual or predicational side of the Sinn picks out the corresponding properties or determinations of the object. One really wonders why this is so — that is, why the same questions about how the ‘X’ picks out its exact object do not arise about how the 'as being P' part of the Sinn picks out P (as well as the exemplification relation between X and P?). Apparently, with reference to 'P' the authors are content to accept the unilluminating adverbial theory of aboutness previously mentioned, and to leave unexamined the existence-independence, conception-dependence, transcendence and definiteness/indefiniteness of the aboutness of 'P’. It is somehow assumed that the selection relation between 'P' and P is just obvious, and so much so that the only serious question about ‘X’ itself is how it can pick out X without going through the relation of 'P' to P. Indeed, this latter is the only really significant question pursued by the authors in their discussion of how the Sinn gives the act its object.

Now there can be little doubt that, for Husserl, "the X is a fundamental and unique kind of sense that presents an object directly." (MS 201 and elsewhere) <312> That is, the subject component of the Sinn, the ‘X’, is "of" the objective entity that has the properties picked out by the other parts of the Sinn, without also being "of" or "about" any of those properties. This is consistent with its being able to do that only when accompanied by some predicate Sinne— even certain specific ones — and would seem to allow Husserl to accommodate the cases which Donnellan, Kripke and others have brought up in recent years to the embarrassment of "description" theories of reference. (203-211) But it leaves open the question of how if not through property Sinne, the ‘X’Sinn selects its definite object from among all others.

The effort to answer this question produces the all-important section 3.4 of chapter IV, with its discussion of "The Sinn of Perception as 'Demonstrative'." (213) The idea here is that perception, on Husserl's view, directly intends its object, and thus has the same kind of Sinn as the linguistic demonstrative "this." We shall, then, "seek in demonstrative reference a model or analogue for perceptual intention." (216) Our basic question is once again transformed, to read: "If perceptual intention is analogous to demonstrative reference, how does demonstrative reference work?" (216) This would seem to bring the inquiry on to well-worked ground of contemporary semantics and pragmatics.

The current dominant view of demonstrative reference is that "the referent of 'this' on an occasion of utterance is determined by the context of utterance, by the speaker's de facto physical relations to the referent." (216) Such a manner of determination is then extended to perception: "which object is perceived would be determined by the context of the perception." (217) But the authors quickly point out that this violates fundamental principles of intentionality on Husserl's view, by allowing something external to the act to determine the intentional relation. "Intentionality would no longer be . . . a purely phenomenological property of consciousness." (217) Husserl's theory of intentionality is said to break down entirely at this point:

He consistently maintains that a perception is directed toward its object solely in virtue of its Sinn, indeed, we presumed, in virtue of its X.... But how would the occasional nature of perceptual intention be accounted for, then? How does the 'demonstrative' content, the X, in a perception prescribe the particular object before the perceiver on the occasion of perception? Husserl says nothing that suggests an adequate answer... If two perceptions with two different Xs are directed toward what is in fact the same object, what is it about the Xs in virtue of which the perceptions reach the same object? Or do perceptions apprehending what is in fact the same object all share the same X? That is, is there in the noematic realm a unique X corresponding to each object in the transcendent world? Surely that is implausible. Husserl simply does not tell us how, via its X, a perception intends the right object. For Husserl, it seems, the mystery and mystique of intuition reside in that special type of sense, an X. We are forced to conclude that although Husserl sharply indicated the occasional nature of perception, he did not offer an account of perception that adequately explains or even properly addresses that important feature of perception.


The criticism of Husserl advanced here is radical and devastating, if it is sound. We must be careful to emphasize the exact nature of the problem as Macintyre and Smith see it. They read Husserl's position that the intentionality of an act must wholly rest upon its immanent contents to mean that it rests "merely on its abstract and eternal noematic content." (219) To account for the "occasional" nature of perception in "strictly phenomenological terms" can then mean only to account for it through a discussion of the "abstract and eternal noematic content" alone. How then can the eternal include the "occasional"? Obviously the physical circumstances of the perception do not fall within its "eternal content." But even if Husserl did indeed conceive of the "phenomenological content of the <313> act" to be just its abstract and eternal noematic content, I think it still might be possible to save his general thesis that the intentionality of an act is determined wholly by its phenomenological content and to show that the problem for which he, allegedly, has no account, just does not arise for him.

It seems to me that the difficulty raised here is caused by attempting to assimilate perceptual intentionality to demonstrative reference in language, and perhaps also by seeing in mere perceptual ofness too much of Evidenz, in Husserl’s special sense of that term, or too much of something like Russell's acquaintance, as associated with his "logically proper names"— names which inherently guarantee the uniqueness of that to which they refer. (but cf. MS 357f) Demonstrative reference as a communicative act does indeed presuppose a shared, real physical world, such as cannot survive the reductions and remain available for use in the description of intentional acts. Only the actual relations between the particular utterance of the demonstrative term and its physical context permits the hearer to assign it its referent, or the speaker to intend something as its referent. But this simply has no bearing upon the "direction" of nonlinguistic intentionalities, such as the perception of this desk upon which I now write, nor upon that of the relevant Sinne. There is no similar cause for dependence of aboutness of Sinn components in a perception or memory, for example, upon an existing, particular physical context; and independently of the suggested analogy with demonstrative utterances, there is no reason given by the authors to suppose that there is. (Though more on this latter, relevant to MS 364-365.) The appearance of a reason may come from the assumption that the mere intention of the noematic X in perception is a true laying hold of X itself — as with Evidenz or with the "logically proper name"— and that consequently apparent sameness of object across a range of ‘X’s’ guarantees an actual sameness. Thus a tie between mere meaning and individuated existence would be established. But there is nothing in Husserl's presentation of the aboutness of the mere noematic ‘X’ in the usual sort of perception which guarantees the existence or reveals the identity of that to which it refers, or which secures the actual sameness of things referred to in various ‘X’s’ as the same. The existence and actual identity of the X (not just of the ‘X’ of course) are important matters for Husserl, and are dealt with at great length, but they cannot be read off of the noematic Sinne as can simple aboutness and sameness (or difference) of aboutness in different Sinne.

[It is rather important to realize, I think, that the ‘X’ (or the Fregian individual Sinn also) is not something over against reference to, or direction upon, a certain correlative object, about which we could then speculate or inquire concerning the foundation of its intentionality. There is here a very great disanalogy with demonstratives. "I,""here," and "this" are, as words, entities over against their aboutness and reference. But nothing comparable is true of noematic Sinne. They are not tiny images or tiny words or tiny anything elses to which reference or aboutness may (or may not) attach. To overlook this pins us into a regress of the wellknown Bradleyan type, or else to an arbitrary termination of mediators mediating mediators.]

The issue for Husserl is: What are the phenomenological conditions under which things do and do not present themselves as the same? This is to be settled by examination of experiences (including their noemata) in which things do present themselves as the same, and, so far as possible, by subsequent insight into the essences of those experiences, utilizing comparison and eidetic variation to search out limits within which "appearing objects as such" would no longer be appearings of the same things, thus requiring the ‘X’ to have a new intentional direction. It is of course true that things appear to be different when they are not and appear to be <314> the same when they are different. In the former case the ‘X’s’ in the appearance really are of different things, a different Aristotelian tode ti (BG 74) is referred to in each case (BG 74-75), which is why they are "mistaken" and the "appearances are misleading", while in the latter case they really are of the same thing, which is why they are mistaken. We find out whether the appearances of sameness or difference present in the form of noematic Sinne are correct or incorrect, should we wish to do so, by carrying through with the relevant synthesizing activities, the specified developments, of consciousness — those indicated precisely by the noematic ‘X’ in question, along with its accompanying predicate Sinne. But what the ‘X’s’ are of or about (not to be confused with the question of whether it is indeed as it is "prescribed" as being) is strictly a matter of direct description of the noematic Sinn, including the ‘X’, within the limits to which such description is possible. (BG 376-377)

Yet examination of the phenomena in question does enable us to say something about why — though, strictly speaking, not about how — appearances, or noematic ‘X’s’, are of the same or of a different thing in given cases. The pattern or predicative Sinne involved are not irrelevant. I glance at the oleander bush outside my window. (I take the liberty of changing the case, for the noemata corresponding to the tree in Husserl's garden are now badly worn and hardly recognizable.) The ‘X’ in my noema as I enduringly watch the bush not only remains constant, presenting the same thing all the while as the wind moves its branches about; but it also stands in a synthesis of identity with the noemata of numerous experiences over the past twenty years. The bush appears to be the same as the one seen on these many other occasions. Why does it so appear? Obviously because of its apparent association with a vast number of other entities, including my body and its "physical context" — in short, with the world — which in appearance, Husserl insists, remains after the reductions exactly what it was before. "The whole world, with its psychic individuals and its psychic experiences . . . falls in modified bracketed form within phenomenology." (BG 213; cf. 110, 112, 212 and elsewhere) Nothing is lost for the legitimate purposes of essence analysis through the reductions. The appearance of spatial, temporal, causal and generic continuities involving the bush are all that need or can be cited in explanation of why the ‘X’ of a sustained experience remains of the same thing, or why the ‘X’s’ of widely intermittent experiences — indeed, even those of different persons (BG 375-376) — are of the same things (whether rightly or wrongly so). The 'world' context which, in a manner of speaking, "guides" the ‘X’s’ toward the same or toward different objects, is, if you like, a vast predicative Sinn, which plays an essential role in determining the ofness of the given ‘X’ — or better, in determining which ‘X’ will be integrated into the given act — but neither in the manner of the description nor that of the cluster theory of names. Which ‘X’, which determinate reference, comes into place is not arbitrary, but the exact nature of the interdependence between the ‘X’ and other phenomenological factors is to be determined only in descriptive analysis.

We should add that what is meant by sameness and how sameness is to be known (or refuted) in given types of cases where it is presented through relevant Sinne are questions that are by no means settled, for Husserl, by the above comments. He deals with those questions at great lengths in various places, but the above comments about the fundamental nature of Sinne are prior to these further questions in the order of phenomenological inquiry. There is no settling of how things are without recourse to how they seem, and that, I believe, is the entire point of Husserl's introduction of the noema.

<315> If I am correct, then, the authors' dissatisfaction with Husserl's ‘X’ Sinn component derives from an over-assimilation of the noematic Sinn of perceptual acts to the reference of demonstratives and to imposing as a condition of the aboutness ofthe noematic ‘X’ that it refer, not just to the object to which it refers, but to the "right" object. But perhaps there also re-emerges in their critique the earlier noted resistance to a brute, adverbial aboutness in the X. It is "mystery and mystique." That there should be in the noematic realm a unique ‘X’ corresponding to each object in the transcendent world — or any world — is passed off as "implausible" — the quintessential non-phenomenological remark, for whatever that is worth. We are given no account of why it is implausible, on phenomenological or on non-phenomenological grounds. Is it the sheer quantity that is objectionable? If this ‘X’ is an ideal unity present in the corresponding irrelle moment in every act directed upon the relevant object, say this cup, surely there is nothing more implausible about that than there is to the view that to every number there corresponds a concept, namely, the one present in every real and possible thought or experience of that number. Being is not a crowded room or an overpopulated planet. The ‘X’s' will not smother us, no matter how many there may be. From the phenomenological point of view it is plausible — indeed necessary — to accept an ‘X’ for each object if noemata essentially involved with our experiences present us with an identity in which such 'X’s' consist. Exactly what recourse do we have but: "Zu dem Sachen selbst!"


The remainder of the book is written on the assumption of Husserl's failure to account satisfactorily for the aboutness of the ‘X’ in the noematic Sinn. (MS 278) Aid for Husserl is sought through the development of a "possible worlds" theory of meaning, originating from Rudolph Carnap. Once again we are asked to assume that a theory of the meaning of terms, words, is all the same, for present philosophical purposes, as a theory of the meaning of acts and Sinne or "appearing objects as such." Since Frege's type of intension does not suffice for a theory of intentionality, we turn to other types of entities, sets and "possible worlds," in the hope that they will. (267) That this move would not be wholly uncongenial to Husserl's thought is conjectured from his well-known insistence that "horizon analysis" is an essential part of the analysis of the intentionality of any act. (267, cf. 296-305) The act not only refers to its object, but also to a determinate range of possible future experiences which could develop from it.

"Horizon," as Husserl uses the term, refers to the range of possibilities any act has of passing over into other acts with the same or different objects. It refers to "the potentialities of conscious life at any time." (MS 247, quoted from Subsection '19 of Cartesian Meditations.) It should be noted that this description, as well as others to be drawn from Husserl's texts, does not restrict the horizon of any act to other possible acts compatibly directed upon the same object. That is the sense of "horizon" used by the authors (231 and elsewhere), but they recognize that Husserl does not in general conform to their usage. (236-237)

I do not want to make a great deal of this difference, but it is not irrelevant to the major issues of interpretation in this book that Husserl clearly takes the horizon of any act to include the other acts in the Erlebnisstrom to which it belongs, including also those nascent or "uncompleted" (unvollzogenen) acts, a multitude of which are simultaneous with the focal act, the cogito, at any moment. (BG 234-244; cf. 323-324) These other acts endow the given act with a "fringe" (Horizont) of experiences individuative of it "and as such constitute the one <316> primordial fringe (Originaritätshorizonat) of the pure Ego, its total primordial now-consciousness." (238-239) It is precisely in this dimension of phenomenological description, and especially as dealing with the manner in which acts are founded upon others, that "the relations of a particular act to its ego and to other of the ego's experiences or intentions ... [which] we have called pragmatic features of the act" (MS 275) are dealt with by Husserl. Here there comes under eidetic analysis those general and concrete background beliefs, as well as individuating contextual factors -including the hyletic element — which, as the authors insist, contribute to the essence and the intentional direction of the act. No one would agree more heartily than Husserl that "the analysis of such features in horizon-analysis goes beyond analysis of the acts noematic Sinn per se." (275) But that does not mean that they fall outside of the act's phenomenological content. The acts and other Erlebnis aspects upon which an act is founded — and certainly those founding acts along with hylectic data, not noemata alone, do essentially contribute to the determination of the intentional direction of the act — do not, for Husserl, disappear from consciousness. They are "still consciously apprehended, but no longer held in thematic grasp." (BG 344)

The authors indicate repeatedly that non-phenomenological (i.e., for them, non-noematic?) factors determine the intentional direction of acts of consciousness. But after studying their book I remain unclear about exactly what, for them, it means to say that something is or is not a "part" of a given Sinn (or act), and about exactly how extra-Sinn factors (such as the context of an act or associated background beliefs, theoretical or concrete) enter, on their view, into combination with the Sinn (or with the act as a whole) to determine intentional direction. As I understand Husserl, his response to these issues lies in his elaborate general theory of part and whole, abstract and concrete, appropriately specified to the ontic region of the mental act, with its Erlebnis moments and their generic types and interconnections.

But how do the authors use their restricted concept of horizon, according to which the act horizon of an act is "the totality of ... possible acts associated with an act — those co-directed and compatible with it, but more determinate in what their Sinne prescribe of the object . . ."? (MS 240, cf. 262) First they correspondingly "define the horizon of the object of the act as the set of possibilities possible states of affairs, ultimately worlds — that are compatible with what the act's explicit Sinn, together with the background Sinne, prescribe." (262, cf. 269) Thus we may say quite generally (and, I believe, in no departure from or extension of Husserl's views) that to every act there essentially corresponds a set of "worlds" determined by the various possible determinations of the object of the act. But now our question concerns how this correspondence is to be made useful for "The Explication of Meaning." (Chapter VI)

Certainly it is reasonable to assume that the meaning of a name or term extends to the objects it would denote in conditions never actualized. (MS 279-280) "Nixon" would still denote that person who is in fact the only American president forced to resign from office even if he had been able to ride out the Watergate scandal. Accordingly, C.I. Lewis defined the comprehension of a term or predicate as the set of 'consistently thinkable' individuals falling under it — i.e. the possible as well as actual individuals to which it applies. " (280) But "we cannot take terms and predicates to apply ... to individuals simpliciter; they apply only relative to worlds in which those individuals reside." For "whether the criterion for applying the expression is satisfied ... depends ... on what is true of the individual in the world in which it occurs." This relativization of extension to <317> "world" requires us to say that "the extension of a singular term in a world is that individual (if any) denoted by the term in that world, the extension of a predicate in a world is the set of individuals (or n-tuples) that satisfy it in that world, and the extension of a sentence in a world is its truth-value in that world." (280)

Now Carnap's proposal, as reported by the authors, was just that the intension of an expression be identified as "the function that assigns to each possible world the extension of the expression in that world." (281) There must be something which makes this assignment, so he proposes this function as a theoretical posit required by semantical theory. He further accepts the "standard set-theoretic definition of functions" (282) according to which a function is "the set of ordered pairs of which the first member is an argument of the function and the second is the value of the function of that argument. " This means that the intension of a term is, for the purposes of theoretical semantics, just "a set of ordered pairs, where the first member of each pair is a world and the second is the extension assigned that world." (282)

One immediately begins to wonder how such meaning functions — which the authors clearly recognize to be something transcendent to consciousness (304) could possibly be used to explain the nature of Sinn or meaning, which is immanent to consciousness. Especially since they themselves point out other strong reasons why a "meaning function" thus defined in extension cannot be identical with an intension of meaning. This is so, in the first place, because there can be two intensions which have identical extensions. (282) Further, "Intensions must be entities that our finite human minds can grasp, for otherwise meanings could not play their appointed roles in human language. But we cannot completely grasp. . . infinite sets of ordered pairs." (283; cf. 287-288) And finally, the meanings, the intensions, of Husserl and Frege "are the objective contents of consciousness by virtue of which acts of consciousness are directed toward their objects." (284; cf. 291-292) The meaning functions of pure semantic theory are not equipped to fulfill this role. They are not contents of consciousness at all. For these reasons no identification of meaning functions, as described, with intensions can be made. I think we should add that a meaning function as a set of ordered pairs of worlds and extensions cannot be identified with the corresponding intension because it is the intension, or its objective correlate (e.g. a property), that determines that certain objects and not others are picked or "prescribed" for the various extensions in question, whereas the set of ordered pairs, so far from doing this, presupposes that it is done.

Nevertheless the authors continue to hold that by "correlating" (without identifying) intensions with meaning functions in extension it is possible to "explicate" meaning in some helpful way that is equivalent to Husserl's horizon analysis. This is said to be because "one of the most effective means of explicating meaning, of getting a grip on a particular meaning, is to consider the extensions it determines in a number of different possible situations or worlds ... Accordingly various kinds of meanings may be explicated, even if not defined, by turning to meaning functions of appropriate kinds." (284-285)

But what does such "explication" really amount to? For Husserl, we recall, meanings were to be clarified by bringing them into reflective, intuitive juxtaposition with the essential properties in members of the relevant extensions. This he occasionally refers to as "ideational abstraction," or also as Aufklärung. It seems quite certain, however, that McIntyre and Smith do not have recourse to intuition as a way of meaning "explication" either with regard to particular meanings or meaning in general. But if not that, exactly what do they offer, other <318> than the brute fact, familiar to anyone practiced in any field of knowledge, that consideration of cases does, somehow, actually give us a better "grip" on what we mean or are thinking?

The answer to this question comes only when we understand what it is to understand Sinne for the authors: namely, that to understand a Sinn is to understand what it does. Their view is, I believe, that that is all there is to understand, or perhaps only that that is all we possibly can understand, about Sinn. The Sinn picks out certain objects under certain actual or possible conditions, creating an array of actual or possible extensions: those which make up the "object horizon." Now, meaning functions do exactly the same sort of thing, but in a much neater way, as the contemporary outlook might find it. Thus, the right kinds of extension patterns in various possible worlds — that is, the right kind of "meaning function" — can be used to "demarcate" (304) or "represent" (293 and elsewhere) the relevant Sinn through assimilation of the Sinn’s "object horizon" to that meaning function. (361-362)

With these conjectures about the assumed epistemology of Sinn knowledge in mind, let us look at a sample "explication" of a noematic Sinn in terms of a meaning function. (292f) "I see this as Ф" is used by the authors as the phenomenological description of a perception of an individual thing. Somehow we know that the Sinn of such an act is of an individual, not a state of affairs, and is definite or "rigid," determining the same individual, if any, in every possible world. Also, the predicate sense in the Sinn of this act requires that the object prescribed by the Sinn in any given world be Ф in that world. This completes specification of what the Sinn must do; and what, then, we want is a meaning function, of the sort described above, which does the same thing. "Thus, we might represent the complete Sinn — ‘X as Ф.' — of such a perception by the meaning function that assigns to every possible world the same individual — viz., the one that is actually before the perceiver — provided that it is Ф in that world," a world also compatible with whatever background beliefs are at work in the perception. (293) Similar analyses can be given of propositional acts (293f) and, with appropriate developments, of propositional attitudes, including de re or "definite" belief. (Chapter VII) With one exception (to follow), I shall not take up the details of these various analyses here. But it is necessary to look more closely at this general strategy of Sinn explication, which I shall try to do mainly from what I take to be Husserl's viewpoint.

McIntyre and Smith maintain that "to explicate the Sinn of any act in terms of the act's horizon is effectively equivalent to representing that Sinn by a meaning function that assigns to each possible world the object (with appropriate properties) prescribed by the Sinn in that world." (303) In what sense is this true? How could a meaning function (as explained above) "represent" or "demarcate" a Sinn of the Husserlian variety?

It is, first of all, true only if we understand Sinn explication to be carried out in terms of what the authors call the "object horizon." That is, only if we have already replaced the Sinn itself with its extensions in the relevant possible worlds, and have said to ourselves: "We will know the Sinn only as whatever it is that projects this set of worlds with this determinate distribution of extensions." But of course the object horizon is not the same thing as the "act horizon" which defines it, in the sense specified in this book, and neither horizon is the same as the ideal structures literally present in the particular act whose intentionality is the primary goal of analysis and is ultimately determinative of whatever possibilia (acts or objects) correspond to it. The authors seem to concede all of this: "Whatever <319> work is done by possible entities in Husserl's theory of intentionality can ultimately be done by actual, albeit intentional, entities." (305) It must not be overlooked that the point here concerns "work done," not the "intrinsic nature" of the entities involved. The authors nevertheless insist that the introduction of possibilia is justified because it permits "explication" (clarification?) of the nature of meaning (in the form of noemata and their Sinne) through a structural parallel of "object horizons" with meaning functions taken in extension. (300) That is: by paralleling what the Sinn has done- its "result," as it were — in determining or projecting an object horizon with what the meaning function does for extensions in possible worlds. We are expected to extrapolate back to the two corresponding doings which result in what is done, as well as, yet further back, to the entities which do them — the Sinn itself, on the one hand, and the whatever founds the meaning function in extension on the other. As the authors further concede, we cannot even grasp the whole set of possible worlds corresponding to the act Sinn or constituting the meaning function. (283) Indeed, the epistemology of sets and possible worlds is of such a shaky condition that one could wonder how our knowledge of them could possibly serve in the explication of much of anything without provoking the accusation of trying to explain something by the less clear. But Macintyre and Smith seem to believe that we can at least grasp the idea or rule or general form of a structural parallel between "object horizons" and meaning functions in extension, and that this provides us with what knowledge is possible of the intensional entities that mediate the intentionalities of mental acts.

For Husserl, in any case, it is clear that to explicate Sinn is something very different from all this. It is, for him to describe the intrinsic nature of the Sinne, which alone grounds their "doings." The authors themselves say: "The act's noematic Sinn determines the intentionality of the act by picking out, in each possible world, the object in that world that complies with what the Sinn prescribes ... An act's intentionality consists in a pattern of directedness that reaches into various different possible worlds under the noematic guidance of the act's Sinn. " (311; cf. 314) It is this very "picking out," this "reaching into," this "guiding," that is intentionality. While some degree of understanding of it no doubt is realized by considering the extensions which result under actual and counterfactual conditions, that remains very far from insight into what intentionality itself is, the goal of a Husserlian — and, I think, a Fregian — theory of intentionality. The concentration upon intrinsic natures, with a willingness, even an insistence, to let them be what they are for acts in which "they themselves" are present to consciousness, is what characterizes Husserl's approach, just as avoidance of them through explanatory posits characterizes the inquiry in this book, and no doubt that in contemporary semantics and philosophy of mind generally. Analysis of Sinne, or of whole acts, through eidetic study of horizons was for Husserl a matter of drawing their essences into full intuition, then faithfully describing those essences and how they through their interconnections ("Ideal Law" connections) among themselves and with other essences determine the possible developments of experiences (and correlated Sinne) from the given act. In all of this he stays within the epoché, whereas the analysis in terms of meaning functions and extensions in possible worlds clearly deals in entities transcendent to consciousness: entities, by the way, which Husserl explicitly excludes — under the heading of Mannigfaltigkeitslehre, and along with all of Mathesis Universalis and even pure logic — from use in phenomenological work. (BG 176) Horizon analysis according to Husserl therefore has different ontological commitments than that proposed by the authors, and a completely different epistemological strategy. The "effective <320> equivalence" which the authors find between explication of the act's Sinn in terms of its horizon and representing that Sinn by a meaning function has its own philosophical interest, but it is hard to find any very significant equivalence between Husserl's own "explication" of Sinn and that proposed by the authors.

We conclude with discussion of one final attempt by the authors to come to terms with that mysterious and mystical ‘X’, and specifically with its capacity to be definite or "rigid."


Certain acts and intentions are about their objects in a characteristic manner that lets us know it is the object itself, and not just an object as qualified in a certain way, which is dealt with. These are called "definite" or de re intentions by the authors and others. (354f) Definiteness is a very important "quality of aboutness," and the question arises as to how it comes about. The very point of definiteness is, of course, that it goes beyond predicates which can be shared — and indeed, Husserl and others would say, beyond properties at all. This causes the dread spectre of "bare particulars" to loom on the horizon. Suppose there were a non-predicational component to every individual, and an ideal, individuative meaning matched to each one, with a specific and intrinsic "aboutness" tying that meaning (and therefore the mental acts that involve it) to just that non-predicational component. In that case de re intentionality would be a matter of course, and what would be puzzling would be de dicto intentionality: that is, reference to an object which did not seize upon the object itself.

As we have already noted, the authors reject this bare particular/intrinsic reference model of the noematic ‘X’, though acknowledging that, for Husserl, "The X is an intensional token for the intended object itself, 'in abstraction from all predicates' and indeed from its mode of intention in the act." (361) The question is, given rejection of the "intrinsic reference" model of the noematic ‘X’, how can definiteness be attained? What instrumentality, what "mediator," enables the ‘X’ to seize upon the object itself, if it does not intrinsically do so? Chapter VIII attempts to answer this question, surely the most fundamental of the entire book. It is here that the final span in the bridge from the act to the object must be successfully laid. The Chapter discusses two main kinds of definiteness (354): the perceptual (363ff) and the individuative. (369ff) The discussion of individuation is, in its own right, a beautiful piece of exposition, carefully laying out and interrelating major issues of this difficult topic. However, I want to subject one special point in the discussion of perceptual definiteness to criticism, one which seems to me also to apply to the account given of individuative definiteness.

We have indicated the authors' agreement that "for Husserl, perceptual acquaintance (which of course is definite) is apparently achieved by the X in a perception's Sinn." (363) However, they hold Husserl's analysis to be phenomenologically accurate, but "importantly incomplete," for "to say an object is 'itself' given in perception is not to say fully how it is given, to articulate the phenomenological structure that achieves perceptual acquaintance." (363f) They revive in this context an old theme: "An X is quite mysterious if it appears all by itself. There must be other items of Sinn that embody the way that object is ultimately presented and so are responsible for the presence of the X. What are they?"

Now one should agree — Husserl would — that ‘XSinne do not "appear by themselves," any more than objects exist or appear without properties. But does this mean that in my perception of this as an oleander bush the noematic Sinn, the <321> appearance, must contain special predicative components which enable the ‘X’ to show up, or enable it to be of this bush when it shows up? The authors insist that it means just that. They maintain that "in perception the object one sees is visually presented as an individual at a certain location before one and appropriately affecting one's optic system . . . Perceptual acquaintance consists in just this presentation of an individual as sensuously before one. Thus, in the Sinn of every act of seeing an individual there must be a component of sense that prescribes an object as sensuously before the perceiver at a certain location." (364) That component is called an "acquainting sense," because "it mediates perceptual acquaintance." It "must be distinct from the X in the Sinn, since the X merely presents the object 'itself' that is prescribed by the acquainting sense ... The acquainting sense 'introduces' the X ... It is not the X but the acquainting sense that is most properly and fundamentally a 'demonstrative sense'." (364) Yet it is not a descriptive sense, for the obvious reason that if it were it would not be rigid or demonstrative. (365) The authors conclude their attempt to characterize this "acquainting sense" with some sentences which, alas, have an air of mystery and mysticism about them: "The proper internal structure of a perceptually acquainting sense is that of an object singled out in a perceptual field. Nothing could be more familiar. Yet we cannot here say more exactly what that 'logical' or phenomenological structure is, except to note that it is not a descriptive structure." (365)

The "must be's" which show up in the statements just quoted suggest that a hypothesis of some sort is governing the discussion. I believe it to be the hypothesis that, as the act requires a mediator (noematic Sinn) of its intentional nexus, so the ‘X’ in the act mediator itself cannot give us its object without going through some very special predicational Sinn — about which, for some unstated reason, the question of how it relates to its object does not arise.

But what, really, are we to make of the suggested mediators between the noematic ‘X’ and its object? Three points stand out. First, the solution seems to contain the problem it was to solve. How does the acquainting sense pick the "right" object to introduce to the ‘X’? Why does it not in turn require something to introduce the object to it? (Are we at this point perhaps to speak of the "intrinsic nature" of the "acquainting sense"?) The "acquainting sense" proposed for perception is, in general, ". . . as in spatial relation R to my body and causally impinging on my eyes." This putatively acquainting sense is one of a complex predicational structure, and is itself as much in need of an ‘X’ to join it to the X in question as is ". . . an oleander bush." If it can meet the X itself without an introduction there is no reason why ". . . as an oleander bush" cannot also. Conversely, if the latter predicational Sinn cannot establish a de re intentionality for its ‘X’, neither can the former. Both are general, not particular. If a significant difference is to be made, one would have to show that only one thing could have the relational (spatial, causal) properties in question, and that is at least of some difficulty. And the bridge would still have to be built from the Sinn to those properties. The authors' claim that the relational Sinn corresponding to the properties does not function descriptively seems to be based only on the insight that if it did it could not "do the job" required of it.

But the authors make a further claim, namely, that "an object is selected in virtue of its location in the (visual) field." (364-365) There also seems to be a serious problem here. The object's location in the field cannot help us pick out the object, for use of its location presupposes that it has already been picked out. Likewise, for its historic properties or its "individual essence."

And finally, it just seems phenomenologically false to say that what I mean <322> when I say that this is an oleander bush, or what I intend when I see it as an oleander bush, is that the thing which has such and such a spatial relation to my body, and impinges in this certain manner upon my eyes, etc., is an oleander bush. Those spatial and causal predicational factors are not necessary aspects of "the appearing object as such," the noema, though I have no doubt that appearance of this oleander bush to me would be impossible except within a visual field the general outlines and spatial organization of which is present to my more inclusive consciousness. A similar point holds for properties offered to establish individuative definiteness.

I certainly do not deny, and I am sure Husserl would insist, that spatial, causal, historic, and generic properties, as given in consciousness, play a role in the constitution of objects for de re intentionalities. However, in order to do this, they do not have to be a part of the Sinn directed upon those objects, for there are other ways they can enter into what I have referred to as the "massive complexity" of the cognitive act on Husserl's theory of intentionality.


Many excellent discussions in this book have been left untouched. I have selected the topics which seemed to me most fundamental for the overall argument in it and closest to the central points of Husserl's thought. Not surprisingly, in the light of the overall tendencies of modern and contemporary thought, they have to do with "intrinsic natures," our knowledge of intrinsic natures, and attempts to substitute for intrinsic natures some "further connections" — all as they bear upon our understanding of the intentional nexus. While the ultimate mediators of intentionality offered herein do not seem to me quite satisfactory, this book is a valuable contribution to the contemporary discussion of the central philosophical topics involved in intentionality.

University of Southern California

* Husserl and Intentionality: A Study of Mind, Meaning and Language, by Ronald McIntyre and David Woodruff Smith. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, 1982, pp. xxiv + 423, $49.50 US, 135 DFL.



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