As we have seen, Crane’s impure intentionalism differs from what I dubbed the standard intentionalist view. According to the standard view, generally construed, the phenomenal character of an experience – or what it is like to be in a particular state – is determined by its representational content. Crane’s impure intentionalism, by contrast, specifies that ‘three dimensions’ are needed to describe the possible variations that occur in mental states: the mode, content, and object. We also saw that the complexity of this theory over against the standard view is in a way justified through the fact that ‘the task we are engaged in here is a phenomenological one’ (Crane 2009, 488). Impure intentionalism, in other words, does not reduce the phenomenological complexity of mental states to a single function for the sake of developing a unified theory that conceivably translates into natural language. Whatever benefits a reduction of modes to content might have, impure intentionalism claims sufficient grounds to resist it.
Given that impure intentionalism is thus justified by appeal to phenomenology, the question may now be raised what it adds to the classic phenomenological theories of intentionality such as Husserl’s. Crane believes all variations of mental states are understandable in terms of the three dimensions of object, mode, and content. These distinctions, however, are not new; they can be found already in Logical Investigations.Footnote 11 Moreover, it is debatable whether this tripartite distinction alone suffices as a phenomenological description of mental states.
For instance, Crane’s distinctions do not seem to clearly accommodate what Husserl specified as degrees of clarity of object intending. Degrees of clarity can be taken here to refer to seeing with watery eyes as much as to thinking with a foggy mind. It seems likely that, since degrees of clarity are no intentional modes (seeing and thinking are variations in mode, seeing watery or thinking foggily must be different variations),Footnote 12 impure intentionalism would fit them under intentional content instead. Yet phenomenologically speaking degrees of clarity differ from changing perspectival intentions or non-conceptual fineness of grain, both of which also (presumably) belong to the intentional content on this construal. Importantly, degrees of clarity are not experienced on the side of what is intended in the way fineness of grain of represented color properties is (I do not see the object as being watery). In other words, they do not fit under intentional content either. I see no easy way for Crane’s theory to offer a solution to this problem.
Furthermore, Husserl’s theory of intentionality accounts for degrees of ego-attention involved in the intentional act, as well as for the doxic modalities of the object’s presentation, meaning roughly the object’s claim to being real or not.Footnote 13 Also, Husserl accommodates the crucial workings of background understanding – which, although not represented in any ordinary sense, are essential to any act – in terms of so-called horizonal awareness. Phenomenological description seems to further compel us to account for the temporal structure of the unfolding of mental states, for the indispensable role of habits (habitus)Footnote 14 in intentionality, and for the entwinement of intentional representation with the potentiality for bodily action.Footnote 15 Last but not least, it seems necessary to address the important role sensation contents play as components of many types of mental states.
I touched upon some of these themes in my comparison of Husserl’s theory of intentionality in Ideas I to the standard intentionalist view in an earlier paper. In this paper, however, I only want to focus on the problem of sensation contents or sensory awareness. This means I ignore the other potential shortcomings of impure intentionalism relative to Husserl’s theory that were just mentioned, in order to focus exclusively on the problem of sensation contents. The rest of this section first offers a general discussion of the development of Husserl’s views on this topic, after which I flesh out a more concrete theory of sensory awareness in the final part.
Husserl’s Logical Investigations contains the first presentation of his theory of intentionality. As stated at the opening of the fifth book, meaning and objectivity, central to all scientific activity, are essentially brought about in or through intentional acts of consciousness. Indeed, the fifth and sixth book together serve to develop a phenomenological theory of knowledge. This is no minute detail. Intentionality is central to Logical Investigations because it captures that part of consciousness relevant to a theory of knowledge, not because it covers the whole sphere of consciousness (as it does for Crane). Husserl, then, does not suggest intentionality exhausts the life of consciousness. Instead, he notes that intentional experiences form an ‘important class within the sphere of psychic experiences’ (Husserl 1984, 353).Footnote 16 Indeed, he deems it quite evident that ‘no one would think of referring to the sensations themselves as [intentional] experiences’ (Husserl 1983, 406).
The details of Husserl’s account of intentionality in the fifth book and of the interplay of signitive and meaning acts in the sixth cannot be discussed here.Footnote 17 Nevertheless, it is worth following the general outline of the fifth book briefly to see how it matches the impure intentionalist model. Here, Husserl identifies consciousness with all that is ‘really’ (reell)Footnote 18 inherent in consciousness. That is to say, the intentional acts and their various essential components are taken to belong to the domain of consciousness and phenomenological inquiry. The act-structure contains, among others, the appearance of the object (Husserl 1984, 360–361). However, just as with the impure intentionalist view, the intentional object is considered to transcend consciousness (Husserl 1984, 358, 427).Footnote 19 Whereas consciousness contains acts which are inherently outwardly directed, the object of directedness is not an inherent part of consciousness.
Second, Husserl continues to specify the different types of acts – as in judging, seeing, remembering, etc. – as the act’s so-called ‘quality’. Similar to Crane’s concept of mode, the act-quality can be characterized generally as the way of intending something. So in perceiving or wishing for a cup of coffee on one’s desk, different act-qualities establish the same object-relation in different ways.
Third, from the 16th section of the fifth book onwards, Husserl introduces a counterpart to the act-quality: the so-called matter. The matter and quality combined constitute the intentional essence: that which any intentional act necessarily has. As with Crane’s concept of content, the matter on Husserl’s account makes it possible to intend the same object with the same mode in different ways. For instance, the judgments ‘Michael Jackson died age 50’ and ‘the King of Pop died age 50’ have the same object-reference, yet they differ in a way not accounted for by the act’s quality. Different matters thus allow phenomenological differences in acts which share both object-relation and quality (Husserl 1984, 429–430, 497) – much indeed like the Fregean notion of sense.
This tripartite division roughly matches Crane’s. Husserl, however, goes on to specify a fourth element, namely the sensation contents. Sensations are, Husserl maintains, ‘totally different’ (Husserl 1984, 396) from the object intended as well as the act’s intentional directedness. First, sensations differ from the object insofar as the former are ‘really inherent’ in consciousness, whereas any intended object transcends the mental state. For instance, in hearing a song being played, I am intentionally directed at that song which transcends the intentional act. By contrast, I am not directed at the sound sensations out of which this experience of hearing a song is, so to say, partially constructed.Footnote 20 The sensation contents, then, are not transcendent to consciousness, but really inherent or immanent to the state. (This distinction coincides roughly with the one recently made by Byrne between sensory and sensible qualities, see (Byrne 2009, 272).)
Second, the sensations are also said to be totally different from the intentional acts proper. This is because the acts are essentially directed at something. The sensations, however, are not. At least potentially, sensations are ‘building blocks of [intentional] acts’. Yet, as I quoted already, Husserl believes ‘no one would think of referring to the sensations themselves as [intentional] experiences’ (Husserl 1984, 406 italics added).
So far, Husserl’s account distinguished the really inherent sensation contents, the also really inherent intentional acts (consisting of quality and matter), and the objects at which acts are directed, which are not really inherent parts of acts. We further saw that whereas the intentional acts are always directed at objects, the sensations are not, although they may function as building blocks for intentional acts.
This exposition already indicates two important differences with impure intentionalism. The first concerns the different explananda both theories address. Husserl’s theory in Logical Investigations aims at providing some fundamental outlines of a phenomenological theory of knowledge. This is a very different task from a full investigation of conscious states in their own right. This, on Husserl’s view, would necessitate many more distinctions than just quality, matter, object, and sensations – some of which I listed earlier on. This complete phenomenological survey of consciousness is the theme of much of Husserl’s mature transcendental work, where consciousness is repeatedly characterized as an endless field of possible a priori cognitions. The basic distinctions of Logical Investigations, however, do not lay claim to providing an exhaustive account of conscious states (as it does for Crane). There is in fact no good evidence that Husserl at any point considered that a viable suggestion.
The second difference was that Logical Investigations refers to sensation contents as non-intentional. To be sure, this should not withstand that sensations are, insofar as we are interested in ‘consciousness in the pregnant sense’ (Husserl 1983, 199), generally taken up into intentional acts. Sensations frequently figure as ‘building blocks’; they constitute the basic ‘stuff-stratum’ which intentional acts animate in order to construe intentional contents. For themselves, however, sensations are not intentionally directed at anything. This point resurfaces in Ideas I, where Husserl remarks that ‘we cannot say of each experience that it has intentionality’ (Husserl 1983, 199), and that sensation (now called hyle) for itself has ‘nothing pertaining to intentionality’ (Husserl 1983, 203).
This raises the question how to characterize sensation contents, if not by reference to intentionality. In most of his earlier works up until Ideas I, Husserl refrained from providing concrete details about this difficult issue. This has led to the widespread view, popularized among others by R. Sokolowski (1964), that the early Husserl operated exclusively with a model of intentionality, where sensations function as unstructured data that await the ‘animation’ of intentional acts. On Sokolowski’s suggestion, Husserl came to adjust this view only later, now claiming that sensations already stand under their own structuring laws even before they are intentionally animated.
There is, however, textual evidence indicating to the contrary that Husserl from early on rejected both the view that sensations are intentional and the view that they would be completely unstructured data of consciousness. I already pointed to important fragments from Logical Investigations and Ideas I which support rejection of the first thesis. Regarding the second, Husserl notes already in Thing and Space (1907) that sensations ‘are not dispersed and without connection; they have a rigorous unity and a rigorous form’ (Husserl 1997b, 57). Some years later in Ideas I, Husserl appears unwilling to characterize sensations either as outright intentional or as entirely unstructured, and deliberately leaves the question open.Footnote 21 In short, then, there is some evidence that Husserl maintained throughout his career that sensations have to be accounted for in a different, non-intentional way.
To be clear, the suggestion that the phenomenological structure of sensations cannot be adequately accounted for in terms of an intentional mode-content-object structure does not rule out that sensations can be taken up into larger intentional structures. To say that sensory awareness is non-intentional is only to say that, taken for itself, it has its own phenomenological structure that is not analyzable in terms of modes, contents, and objects.Footnote 22 Likewise, to say that sensations are non-intentional does not suggest that they are, for that reason, entirely unstructured – whether as mythical givens such as Sellars (1963) and McDowell (1996) criticized or as mysterious qualia criticized by Dennett (1988), Harman (1990), and others. (I return to qualia theory briefly at the end of this paper.)
In any case, Sokolowski got it right that Husserl’s non-intentional account of states of sensory awareness was developed mostly in the 1920s and 1930s. In the next section, I turn to that later account for an alternative to the impure intentionalist reading. I focus specifically on one major non-intentional law Husserl identifies there, called immanent association. In doing so, I aim to provide an alternative to impure intentionalism about sensory awareness generally construed, thus abstracting from various types of sensory experiences. I further argue that while the intentional model is of no use in understanding sensory awareness and its distinctive affective quality or phenomenal content, we can instead take the latter to co-vary with the organizing processes of association.