Phenomenal Intentionality:
Bridging the Gap between Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind

Manidipa Sen
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Philosophy of mind, as part of contemporary analytic philosophy has been regarded as distinct, in both methodology and subject matter, from phenomenology. Philosophy of mind seems to depend heavily on scientific study of mind, and thus seems to completely ignore the first-personal dimension of conscious experience. Phenomenology, on the other hand, seems to ignore scientific study of mind, and concentrate on the lived experience of the conscious subject from her special point of view.  Since these two influential movements in 20th Century Philosophy have such distinct trajectories, there doesn’t seem to be any meeting ground or any common concerns  for  philosophers belonging to these two modes of enquiry. However, in the past two/three decades we find philosophers of mind as well phenomenologists coming together to understand what consciousness actually consists in. (One may mention here the edited volume Phenomenology and Philosphy of Mind by David Woodruff Smith and Amie L. Thomasson, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2005, as one such anthology trying to break out of this divide.)

David Chalmers in his article entitled, “Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness” (http://consc.net/papers/facing.html), in distinguishing between the hard and the easy problem of consciousness, very clearly states that “The easy problems of consciousness are those that seem directly susceptible to the standard methods of cognitive science, whereby a phenomenon is explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms”.  Whereas, the real or, what he calls, “the hard problem of consciousness” concerns primarily the experiential dimension of consciousness, a dimension characterized by subjectivity. 

This paper will be an attempt to see how we can bridge the gap between phenomenology and analytic philosophy of mind by considering the possibility of phenomenal intentionality.  Experiences, such as, bodily sensations will be taken up as a case study to show that they are not merely experiential in nature but have a representational character to them. However, this form representationality, the paper will try to argue, cannot be understood in purely computational or functional terms.  A particular account of phenomenal intentionality that the paper would try to argue for, will further show: 1. We cannot really talk about either a purely subjective domain or a purely objective domain consciousness, and 2. The nature of consciousness is such that it is embodied and environmentally embedded, not in any trivial sense, but in significant way, many of our conscious experience gain their content by being directed upon the body and the environment in which body is located, such that it helps in individuating that particular consciousness.