Wednesday, May 25, 2016

3rd Entry in the Biosemiotics Glossary Project: INTENTIONALITY

Dear Friends in Biosemiotics,

In 2014, Morten Tønnessen and the editors of Biosemiotics officially launched the Biosemiotic Glossary Project in the effort to: (1)  “solidify and detail established terminology” being used in the field for the benefit of newcomers (2) to, by involving the entire biosemiotics community, “contribute innovatively in the theoretical development of biosemiotic theory and vocabulary” via the discussions that result (Tønnessen 2015).

Towards those ends, I have assented to collate your contributions to the next entry to be included in the Glossary project, which is the important and deeply debated notion of intentionality.
And to make it as easy as possible for you to share with us your own perspectives on this concept, we have set up a very simple online survey for you to access, and to simply click through our list of pre-given responses OR to add in new responses of your own, to the exact extent that you like.

PART 1 of this survey consists of 5 simple short answer QUESTIONS regarding the notion of intentionality, as it may be conceptualized from a biosemiotic perspective, and may be accessed by clicking here:

PART 2 of the survey asks you to consider how the term intentionality has been conceptualized in a small number of previously published QUOTES and to click on the response that best reflects your opinion of their suitability for use in biosemiotics. This part of the survey can be accessed by clicking here:

Again, you should feel free to reply to either or both parts of the survey, as you like, and even within each part of the survey, you can choose which questions to answer and which to ignore. Any and ALL feedback you can give us will be helpful for our purposes on compiling this Glossary, as discussed in more detail in the attachment below.

For as understood in the everyday sense of the term, intentionality refers to deliberate, purposeful action – “to have in mind as a purpose or goal” (Merriam-Webster) “volition which one is minded to carry out” or, more broadly, “ultimate purpose; the aim of an action; that for which anything is intended” (OED). While in philosophical and phenomenological terms, following Brentano, “Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a contentdirection toward an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing), or immanent objectivity” (1874[1995]:88-89).

More colloquially, this oft-used sense of the word intentionality refers to “The property of a thought or experience that consists in its being consciousness ‘of’ or ‘about’ something” (MacIntyre and Smith 1982: xiii).

Biosemiotics, in its concern with explaining the emergence of, and the relations between, both biological ‘end-directedness’ and semiotic ‘about-ness’ (or what John Deely calls “being towards another” [2001:478]) in nature, would seem a fertile field for re-conceptualizing the notion of intentionality, and thus the online questionnaire seeks to survey and to document the current thinking in the field about this concept.

To encourage maximum response, we have endeavored to keep the online questionnaire short, using multiple choice response buttons in Part 2 and with even the longest of the 5 short answer questions appearing in Part 1 asking for only a one, or at most two, sentence response. You may also choose to respond anonymously, if you wish.

As you can see, we have endeavored this year to make the submission of your Glossary responses as easy as time-efficient possible, so we do hope that as many members of the biosemiotics community will take the few minutes needed to fill out this short online survey and to help us get a sense of how this elusive and important concept should (and perhaps should not) be conceptualized in biosemiotics.

We ask that you kindly do fill out this survey at your earliest convenience and, ideally, well in advance of our annual Gatherings in Biosemiotics conference, which begins on July 4, 2016 in Prague, so we may begin discussing some of the preliminary results of the survey together with one another at that time.

Thank you all once again for your participation in this project. We very much look forward to hearing your thoughts soon!

With all best wishes,

Don Favareau for The Biosemiotic Glossary Project

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