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Intentionality in conceptual change and constructivism.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2004
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychology
Original languageEnglish


What do you make of this exchange: I mean what I say—ask Saddam Hussein. I told him what I was going to do, and that is exactly what I did. (George Bush, 2003) A large part of the opposition to Bush's war was based on recognition that Iraq is only a special case of the "imperial ambition" that is widely condemned and rightly feared. (Noam Chomsky, 2003) Bush gave an intentional explanation of his action as "regime change" in Iraq. As president, Bush gave the order and so initiated this intentional action. But intentional actions are public, and Chomsky had reckoned that this action Bush's action—was undertaken with a different intention, namely "imperial ambition." Many intentional actions lead to divergent interpretations as to whether an agent°s avowed intention or an intention attributed by an observer is the operative intention behind an action. Elsewhere, intentionality "dropped out." Despite being fundamental for two millennia, its marginalization resulted from the rise of the ABCs of 20th-century psychology: associationism, behaviorism, and "cognitive revolution." There are two versions of what happened. One is that intentionality was excised on the grounds that it was no more necessary than phlogiston in chemistry; compare Skinnerian behaviorism. The other was that intentionality was admissible, provided that an observer°s interpretation had exclusive priority over an agent°s avowals, which were in fact dispensable; compare cognitive psychology.