Philosophy



Short Communication

The ‘Mental State’ Theory of Intentions


Richard Scheer a1
a1 Lincoln, Nebraska

Abstract

This theory regards intentions as mental states, e.g., attitudes, which, typically, have causal power. But we do not speak of our intentions as having such powers. Instead, we speak of a person's resolve, determination, or his anxiety, eagerness, and so forth, as the ‘powers’ that move us. Of course, one desires for various reasons to carry out his various intentions but that desire is not a component of the intentions. An intention is, roughly, the course of action that one has adopted, so it has no such components.

There are other characteristics of intentions which the mental state idea of intentions does not share. Intentions do not have the temporal characteristics that mental states have, or share the curious context dependency that intentions have. And since, according to the theory, mental states operate causally, it would not be possible for a person to commit himself to a course of action as we ordinarily do when we make a promise or sign an agreement or contract.