How to Psychoanalyze a Robot: Unconscious Cognition and the Evolution of Intentionality1
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According to a common philosophical distinction, the `original' intentionality, or `aboutness' possessed by our thoughts, beliefs and desires, is categorically different from the `derived' intentionality manifested in some of our artifacts –- our words, books and pictures, for example. Those making the distinction claim that the intentionality of our artifacts is `parasitic' on the `genuine' intentionality to be found in members of the former class of things. In Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness, Daniel Dennett criticizes that claim and the distinction it rests on, and seeks to show that ``metaphysically original intentionality'' is illusory by working out the implications he sees in the practical possibility of a certain type of robot, i.e., one that generates `utterances' which are `inscrutable to the robot's designers' so that we, and they, must consult the robot to discover the meaning of its utterances. I argue that the implications Dennett finds are erroneous, regardless of whether such a robot is possible, and therefore that the real existence of metaphysically original intentionality has not been undermined by the possibility of the robot Dennett describes.
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