Intentional Systems Theory

Daniel Dennett

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199262618
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Intentional Systems Theory


Intentional systems theory is in the first place an analysis of the meanings of such everyday ‘mentalistic’ terms as ‘believe’, ‘desire’, ‘expect’, ‘decide’, and ‘intend’: the terms of ‘folk psychology’ that we use to interpret, explain, and predict the behaviour of other human beings, animals, some artefacts such as robots and computers, and indeed ourselves. In traditional parlance we seem to be attributing minds to the things we thus interpret, and this raises a host of questions about the conditions under which a thing can be truly said to have a mind, or to have beliefs, desires, and other ‘mental’ states. According to intentional systems theory, these questions can best be answered by analysing the logical presuppositions and methods of our attribution practices, when we adopt the intentional stance toward something.

Keywords: intentional systems theory; folk psychology; mentalistic terms; human behaviour; mental states; intentional stance

Article.  5659 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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