Allen, C. (forthcoming) Intentionality: natural and artificial. In Comparative Approaches to Cognitive Science, J.A. Meyer and H.L. Roitblat (eds.) MIT Press
Abstract: What role should philosophical theories of intentionality play in cognitive science? Philosophers argue on conceptual grounds about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of attributing intentional states to animals, to computers, and even to humans. I argue that a comparative approach to cognitive science (CACS) allows cognitive scientists to sidestep these disputes by treating philosophical theories as starting points for empirical investigation. For this purpose, philosophical theories of intentionality are most useful when they are naturalistic and not anthropocentric, and when they provide a framework for empirical research that does not place a priori constraints on what kinds of things can possess intentionality. I apply these criteria critically to recent philosophical views of intentionality and I show how particular attention to the comparative part of CACS should influence attempts to develop a theoretically useful conception of intentionality. In particular, this perspective shows that insistence on defining intentionality prior to experimental work is misguided; rather, an empirical, comparative approach to refining the notion of intentionality should be attempted. Finally, I discuss the consequences of different conceptions of intentionality for empirical work in ethology and artificial intelligence.