Intentional causality, neurobiology, and development

Derek Bolton and Jonathan Hill

in Mind, Meaning and Mental Disorder

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780198515609
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754296 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Intentional causality, neurobiology, and development

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In this chapter we have reviewed the operation of intentional causal processes in an ascent from the perceptual apparatus of primitive organisms to the complex interpersonal life of the developing child. Such processes are, we have argued pervasive and unifying in biology. Equally there are marked differences between the operation of non-human organisms and that of the human mind. These can be seen to be based on an extraordinary, explosive, and rich elaboration of intentionality, characterized by the capacity for the acquisition of multiple sets of rules of perception, thought, emotion, and action.

This implies immense scope for creativity and change, but also the need for the capacity for second-order and higher-order intentionality, to represent representations, to monitor them, and to link them to action, including social interaction. These functions are among those served by consciousness and language. As the extent of the sophistication of this evolutionary ‘play’ on intentional causality becomes evident, so will the scope for its malfunction.

Chapter.  16530 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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