What Intentionality Is Like
- First Online:
Intentionality is a mark of the mental, as Brentano (1874) noted. Any representation or conception of anything has the feature of intentionality, which informally put, is the feature of being about something that may or may not exist. Visual artworks are about something, whether something literal or abstract. The artwork is a mentalized physical object. Aesthetic experience of the artwork illustrates the nature of intentionality as we focus attention on the phenomenology of the sensory exemplar. This focus of attention on the exemplar in aesthetic experience simultaneously exhibits what the intentional object is like and what our conception of it is like. The exemplar is Janus-faced, looking in one direction outward toward the objects conceived and in the other direction inward toward our conceiving of them. It shows us what intentionality is like and how we know it.