Peter at Conscious Entities has a nice discussion of the above distinction I hadn’t thought of before (h/t Brandon): p-zombies that lack qualia and those that lack intentionality, and whether we think the latter is why there are no former. We know we have intentionality, so we think that to be a qualia-zombie must imply a counterfactual – that we lack intentions. [Note to non-philosophers: “intentionality” in philosophy refers to the “aboutness” of thoughts. sentences and propositions. It is that relation that puzzles philosophers – what makes my thought about my cat about my cat and not some Platonic form of Cat? and so on. Since we all (or mostly) agree that we have intentions, how do we? This problem is like the problem of Ought-Is, and other apparently irreducible mental facts.]
He discussions the resemblance between qualia and intentionality and proposes four alternatives accounts of our philosophical incredulity about them:
- The resemblance is superficial: just because your mind boggles at two different things, it doesn’t mean the two things are identical.
- The incredulity is the same because it’s not specifically attached to qualia or intentionality, it’s just characteristic of mental phenomena of all kinds.
- The incredulity arises from intentionality, and qualia have it because they are intentional in nature.
- The incredulity arises from qualia, and intentionality has it because it arises out of qualia.
I suspect that we can explain intentionality in teleosemantic terms without requiring that there be a unique class of subjective experience attached to it (each intentional agent is intentional because they do things that were previously selected for it, but you are intentional in your way, and I in mine, and these may or may not overlap substantially). Peter, on the other hand, thinks there is “no scientific explanation” for intentionality.
Rejecting as I do the independent existence or nature of qualia, I am not thereby committed to denying intentionality ,and I think there is a scientific explanation. Ruth Garrett Millikan started it off in her Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories back in 1987, and although I don’t adopt every conclusion she gave there, I think teleosemantics is as good an explanation of intentionality as natural selection is of adaptedness – they both form the schema of an explanation in each individual case.
So, I think we can have intentions and not need qualia. Neither is ontologically distinct.