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1




LOVE AND DEATH


Joseph Rouse, Wesleyan University


Conference on “Mind, Meaning and Understanding”, May 2010

DRAFT: Do not cite or quote without written permission



John Haugeland’s philosophical work has been justly celebrated for

many
accomplishments. These include his astute analysis and assessment of “good old
-
fashioned artificial intelligence” (GOFAI) as doomed because computers just don’t
give a damn, his ground
-
breaking work on weak supervenience, representational
gen
e
r
a
, th
e ontological intertwining of patterns and pattern
-
recognition,
constitutive rules, and much more. My talk today will not further celebrate these
or any other of John’s widely
-
recognized accomplishments. I instead take up two
of his most controversial cl
aims. Both claims are central to his philosophical work
and express the moral, existential and ontological seriousness of his primary
concerns. Neither has yet entered the common wisdom of the profession. Both
claims are phenomenological, although not i
n the methodologically specific senses
of Husserl or his successors. They are phenomenological in seeking to identify
and clarify the phenomena to which some influential philosophical discussions are
(or should be) accountable.


The first case considers

what philosophers are and should be talking about
when we speak of “intentionality.” John starts with exemplary cases of intentional
comportments: playing chess, doing empirical science, walking a batter
2



intentionally, or speaking a natural language. H
e then argues that many prominent
and influential theories of intentionality not only to fail to account for these
paradigmatic cases. Their apparent plausibility arises from describing some other
phenomenon that mimics but falls short of genuine intentio
nal directedness.
Philosophical reflection has thereby missed the distinctiveness of human
intentional comportments, even in these familiar examples. In constructive
response to these failures, he offers the striking but puzzling slogan that “love is
the

mark of the mental.”


The second case initially seems to involve textual interpretation, rather than
phenomenology. Heidegger devoted chapter 1 of Division II of
Being and Time

to
existential death, or “being
-
towards
-
death.” On anyone’s reading, existe
ntial death
must be distinct from both the cessation of biological functioning (perishing), and
the loss of recognition and abdication of commitments that is a person’s social
demise. Almost all commentators nevertheless conclude that perishing, demise,
a
nd existential death, while distinct and separable, are closely related. Each
concerns different aspects of or orientations toward the end of an individual human
life. John will have none of this. He instead locates existential death in the
neighborhood

of Kuhn’s account of the persistent vulnerability of normal science
to crisis and revolution, Popper’s insistence upon the empirical falsifiability of any
legitimate scientific theory, or the “death” of a natural language when no one
3



speaks or learns it a
nymore. Existential death is then the utter collapse of the
intelligibility made possible by what Heidegger called an “understanding of
being.” Such a collapse of intelligibility in our own comportments inevitably
seems literally impossible, and when conf
ronted with the apparently impossible,
we seek to explain it away. Rightly so. Yet John takes the responsibility to own up
to the genuine possibility of the impossibility of
any

intelligible intentional
directedness to be Heidegger’s understanding of Dase
in’s existence as being
-
towards
-
death.



These two sites of controversy, intentionality in the philosophy of mind, and
death in existential phenomenology, may seem far apart. Yet John understands
love as the mark of the mental and being
-
towards
-
death as

the same issue viewed
from two directions. Perhaps only that well
-
known former NYU philosophy
student, Woody Allen, has previously proposed a philosophical convergence of
love and death, and then only facetiously. I nevertheless think John is onto
some
thing importantly right about both issues. I will indicate why I think so,
without arguing for either claim in detail. I will instead show what I think John is
claiming in each case, and why these two discussions are reciprocal. In the last
part, I brie
fly indicate some directions in which John’s treatment of intentionality
as love and death should lead us. This final consideration is especially important.
I do not just want to look back and celebrate John’s philosophical
4



accomplishments, as if settled

and done. I instead emphasize how his work should
be taken up and carried on. In pressing into the possibilities John has opened, I
will note points where John and I differ. I raise them less as objections, however,
than as strategies for building upo
n what he has done.


I


Intentionality and Love


John presents two widespread phenomena as importantly misleading
simulacra of genuine intentionality: “ersatz intentionality” and what I shall call
“lapsed intentionality.” In some respects, each mimics g
enuine intentional
directedness. Yet each nevertheless lacks a crucial dimension of the genuine
phenomenon, even in its most ordinary instances. Since John thinks many
prominent accounts of intentionality actually account for these simulacra instead,
his

descriptions have both critical and constructive import: they call attention to
aspects of intentionality that John takes these philosophical theories to obscure.


To grasp these connections, however, we need to consider briefly John’s
broader critical ch
allenges to other philosophical theories. His arguments, in
Having Thought

and elsewhere, typically address whole families of philosophical
theories rather than their specific instances. We must therefore understand the
relevant forms of philosophical ki
nship. I think his recent arguments implicitly
map the field via two distinctions. The first distinguishes descriptive from
normative approaches to understanding intentionality. A descriptive approach
5



would identify features of intentional comportments
that produce their directedness
toward objects. Salient examples include Fodor on representations that function in
cognition, Husserl on correlated noetic acts and noematic senses, Searle on
intentionality as a complex biological property, Millikan’s teleo
-
semantics,
Dreyfus on practical coping, or Dretske on primary information
-
bearing features of
cognitive states.


A normative approach, by contrast, identifies intentional comportments with
performances and capacities that can be held accountable in the r
ight way.
Intentional performances or states can be held accountable to relevant standards,
and are intentional in virtue of how they would stand up to such accounting. For
example, intentional systems might be those interpretable as mostly rational in
c
ontext. On normative accounts, not all intentional states or performances actually
deploy the constitutive forms of accountability (e.g., reflection, or interpretation by
others). Thus, for example, chess grandmasters playing blitz chess need not have
c
hess concepts “in mind” when responding to a position with a rapid move, so long
as their moves are appropriately accountable to the regulative, constitutive and
strategic norms of chess play. Normative approaches include Brandom on the
game of giving and

asking for reasons, Davidson on radical interpretability,
McDowell on conceptual understanding, Heidegger on care and
Eigentlichkeit
, or
Haugeland himself on existential commitment.

6




A second dividing line draws upon Husserl’s distinction between empty a
nd
fulfilling intentional comportments. An empty intending is directed toward an
object in its absence, whether as non
-
existent or as failing to satisfy its aspectual
presentation. By contrast, a fulfilling intending presents the object itself as directl
y
manifest. This sense of fulfillment need not be infallible, however. Some
intentional states or performances can present objects in ways first
-
personally
indistinguishable from perception, and yet not be a fulfilling intending.


Husserl’s distinction

then highlights two opposing ways to understand
intentionality. A common philosophical approach starts with the content of
intentional comportments, and then asks what it is for such content to be fulfilled.
The need to understand non
-
referring and errone
ous presentations seemed to dictate
beginning with their
sense

before asking how objects can fulfill a sense.
Alternatively, one starts with a system’s actual relations to entities, and asks what it
would be for those relations to be intentional. The chal
lenge has been to show how
actual interaction with one’s surroundings can open a space of articulated,
normative engagement. The most common motivation for this second strategy has
been “baldly” naturalistic, in McDowell’s phrase. Intentionality is attrib
uted to
some entities, states or performances that are causally or functionally interactive
with their surroundings. One then asks how such causal interactions can be
intentionally directed, under an aspect, such that what the system does could be in
7



error
. It must, after all, be possible for an intentional system to “mean” something
other than what it actually interacts with. Dretske’s appeals to information
-
bearing
states or Millikan’s teleosemantic functional norms are familiar examples. Yet
Heidegger

also begins with intentional fulfillment (an understanding of being
exhibited in an ability
-
to
-
be) without construing fulfillment in causal or other baldly
naturalistic ways. Dreyfus on practical/perceptual coping, and McDowell’s “direct
realist” account

of perception as rational second nature, also start with a fulfilling
intentional comportment, without espousing a “bald naturalism.”


We can combine these two distinctions in a 2 x 2 array, shown on your
handout, that sorts approaches to understanding in
tentionality by their location on
that grid. John primarily argues against the B1 and A2 strategies (having relegated
the A1 strategies to the “outfield” of intentionality). Broadly speaking, the problem
with the A2 conceptions is a failure of meaning.
Although they characterize
comportments that actually and effectively respond to their surroundings, John

concluded that “there is nothing that the response can “mean” other than what
actually

elicits it in [its] normal [functioning] in normal conditions
” (HT 310). The
B1 approaches fail in the opposite direction, by not accounting for truth and error.
Their systematically interconnected comportments seem to constitute a meaningful


conception, but cannot actually be conceptions
of

anything, because they

are only
accountable to their own further comportments. On the B1 accounts, actions,
thoughts and utterances could at best exhibit “mere coherence” among their own
performances, without accountability to objects.


The B1 and A2 groups are each associated

with distinctive simulacra. The
best A2 approaches account for what John calls “ersatz intentionality.” Non
-
human
animals, at least those with relatively flexible, non
-
sphexish behavioral repertoires,
are the paradigm case. Yet John also thinks some pro
ducts of AI research exhibit a
similar engagement with their surroundings. It is telling that AI systems cannot
achieve even ersatz intentionality without a body enabling them to move and act.
Thus, AI robots, not AI programs, exhibit ersatz intentionali
ty. Both animals and
sophisticated robots display behaviors that resemble genuine intentional
comportments, needing careful analysis to tell the most interesting cases apart.


The best B1 approaches (John takes Brandom and Davidson as exemplary)
also char
acterize a real phenomenon. “Lapsed” intentionality falls short of the real
thing in a different way. Unlike ersatz intentionality, it presupposes the
achievement of genuine intentional directedness. Yet it also systematically avoids
or conceals a cruci
al dimension of its own presupposed achievement, namely its


accountability beyond its own interconnected performances. What lapsed
intentionality seeks to avoid in practice, with only partial success, the B1 theories
erase in principle. These theories t
hus ironically idealize a problematic tendency
within genuine intentional engagement. This tendency has been variously described
and evaluated. Heidegger presented one version, “falling,” articulated as idle talk,
curiosity and ambiguity, as an inescapab
le tension within Dasein’s disclosedness.
Harry Frankfurt (2005) characterized a similar phenomenon, “bullshitting,” as only
a lamentable and preventable lapse. Ian Hacking (1992) has instead celebrated a
related tendency within science practice as the
“self
-
vindication” of experimental
practice.


Both descriptive terms, “ersatz” and “lapsed,” are fighting words that would
be rejected by the theorists they target. If various human activities are paradigm
cases of genuine intentionality, then no surpris
e that what non
-
human animals and
sophisticated robots do resemble those capacities. We, after all, are animals. AI
robots, in turn, reflect sustained, sophisticated attempts to match some of our
intentional capacities. The challenge for John’s view is
to show in what sense
animal and robotic behaviors nevertheless only simulate genuine intentional


comportments. He likewise must show what is obscured by inadvertently
identifying genuine intentionality with something like idle talk.


Consider animals.
They exhibit a sustained and often highly flexible
purposiveness toward their surroundings. They constitute themselves as entities by
coordinated

processes that differentiate them in a non
-
arbitrary way from other
things. Moreover, they are not merely di
fferentiated from other entities. As
organisms, they also engage an environment, in a sense distinct from a collection of
entities in their vicinity. An organism’s environment is the interconnected aspects
of its surroundings that matter to its ongoing w
ay of life. It responds to things by
eating them, avoiding them, mating with them, concealing other things beneath
them, and so forth. Organisms’ behavior responds to the features of their
surroundings that they
need

to take into account as the kind of o
rganism they are.
Moreover, animals respond in a systematically self
-
directed way, by movements
that track and respond to what matters to them. Some animals, in turn, devise
flexible strategies united by their common end, and adjust their behavior in
res
ponse to failures to attain it. Robots achieve similar selectivity via functional
design and a focused interface between their capacities for detection and response.


No surprise that goal
-
directed teleology and adaptation figure prominently in many
A2 th
eories.


So in what sense are these sophisticated, flexible, purposive, self
-
corrective
responsive repertoires merely “ersatz?” Several interconnected features ground
John’s insistence upon sharply differentiating non
-
human animal behavior from
genuine in
tentionality. First, non
-
human organisms respond to their surroundings
“narcissistically,” in Kathleen Akins’s (1996) telling term. Perceptual/practical
systems (our own included) do not discern or register objective features of things,
but only respond t
o how those things matter to their own functioning. Thus, bodily
thermo
-
receptor systems don’t register or respond to the ambient temperature, but
only to a more gerrymandered set of features defined by their effect upon the
organism’s way of life. Inter
estingly, such narcissism may also characterize
successful AI systems: my Wesleyan computer science colleague Eric Aaron
achieves some robust successes in dynamic navigation programming by also
directing robotic agents toward such narcissistically
-
specifie
d features.


Second, non
-
human animal behavior remains closely tied to its actual
circumstances, with no space for symbolic displacement. A vervet monkey’s
distinctive warning cries in response to different predators, for example, directs


attention tow
ard an actual location, and prompts a characteristic response. Absent
such circumstantial ties, the warning cries would be pointless. Such comportments
are thus high
-
level, complex patterns of differential responsiveness to
actual

configurations of the w
orld. One can assess individual organisms’ abnormal
responses with respect to what is normal, but that leaves no standard for assessing
the overall pattern of normal responsiveness.


Third, organisms’ purposive directedness outward is circumscribed by i
ts
own way of life as a relatively fixed “end.” Here I must be careful, because many
organisms do have significant abilities to alter their behavior in response to things.
As Mark Okrent reminds me, cats must
learn

to discriminate the indigestible ferret
s
from the comestible mice among “small, furry rodent
-
y things.” Yet these patterns
still only exhibit what John calls “first
-
order self
-
criticism” (2002). Cats can revise
and repair their own behavior with respect to their normal functioning as the kind
of
organism they are. They cannot, however, revise those norms in response to how
things show themselves. Those first
-
order skills for learning are thus assimilable
within their normal functioning. Normal cats do learn not to eat ferrets after a small
number of trials, but that is no basis to assess that adaptation as a failure in
comparison to a
possible

pattern in which ferret avoidance is completely genetically


assimilated. It could only become a “failure” in a limited sense, if it could not
reprod
uce itself successfully in a different environment that
actually

incorporated
other cats with such an altered pattern of development.


But why isn’t first
-
order self
-
criticism good enough? In several crucial
respects, it is better than good enough. Non
-
h
uman organisms do not
lack

genuine
intentionality, just as fish notoriously do not lack bicycles. Nor does proper moral
regard for animals require their philosophical assimilation to our own self
-
understanding. Yet I do agree with John that familiar non
-
human organisms do not
comport themselves intentionally toward other entities (or themselves). Remember
that the goal
-
directedness of an organism is holistic. We think that organisms take
some things in their environment as food, because of the relativel
y good match
between what they eat and what is “edible.” But there are many edible things they
do not eat, even when hungry. Sometimes individual organisms make mistakes
relative to their normal pattern. But some cases may not fall in their normal patte
rn
of recognition
-
and
-
response, perhaps because the discriminative capacity would be
too energetically or cognitively costly. In that case, they don’t respond to what
they do eat “as food,” but “as energetically
-
and
-
cognitively
-
accessible food.” But
of
course, that category also has exceptions, which must in turn be added in a more


complex description. There is no principled stopping point to that process of
qualifications to the supposed as
-
structure of the organism’s behavior, short of its
entire norm
al behavioral pattern in response to its normal environmental range.


Analysts of an organism’s behavior can of course
explain

its reproductive
success in that environment, by discriminating components of its functioning that
differentially contribute to e
volutionary success. But these classifications
invariably treat some aspects of the organism’s normal behavior as “noise” or
ceteris paribus

violations, which are only “exceptions” with respect to the
analyst’s

categories and norms. For organisms, the ex
ceptions equally belong to what they
normally do. Moreover, the problem is worse, because even if actual behavior
perfectly mapped onto the analyst’s classifications in the actual environment, it
would almost surely diverge under counterfactual conditions

not part of their
evolutionary history. Such counter
-
factual accountability is nevertheless crucial for
intentionality. That was why Bert Dreyfus’s (1979) objection that Roger Schank’s
restaurant scripts could not handle questions that were “off
-
script”

was so telling
against that iteration of AI. John similarly asked how dogs would respond to
“impossible” permutations in the facial features of its human family. Genuine
intentional directedness must be modal, to express a “non
-
accidental” directedness


and accountability. Circumstantial coincidence, even evolutionary coincidence is
not enough. Of course, genuinely intentional systems also diverge from what is
appropriate for them, often rather more so than well
-
adapted organisms. What
nevertheless let
s a genuinely intentional system be toward an aspect of an
object
,
rather than a “narcissistic” projection of the system’s environmental dependence, is
its
own

capacity for second
-

and third
-
order criticism. Animal intentionality is
then a form of “deriv
ative” intentionality, dependent upon our capacities and norms
for theoretical explanation.


That is why Dennett’s intentional stance must be ambiguously placed on my
chart. If his account refers to the gerrymandered properties that allow a system to
be s
ensibly interpreted from the intentional stance, then it describes a form of
“ersatz intentionality,” and belongs in B1. If instead he means the pattern of
rationality
-
in
-
context ascribed to those systems by an interpreter, then we need to
know more. Dep
ending upon how those explanatory ascriptions are themselves
accountable to norms, the theory may belong in A2 or B2, but it then takes our
biological understanding rather than non
-
human animal behavior as exemplary.


I will treat lapsed intentionality mor
e briefly. This phenomenon is the
articulation and development of intentional comportments so as to render them


accountable only to other intentional comportments, and never to their objects. Such
performances are only possible for systems whose overall b
ehavior is genuinely
intentional. Yet the very efforts to improve and refine intentional directedness in
systematically consistent ways can cut them off from their objects. John has
emphasized how
talk

about things can become hermetically closed off from
a
ccountability to anything other than more talk. Sophisticated scientific theories,
for example, risk rendering further theoretical articulation accountable only to other
theoretical models. John, John McDowell, and I have each argued that some
theories o
f intentionality that highlight linguistically articulated beliefs and desires
mistakenly take such hermetic self
-
enclosure to be constitutive of the intentional
domain.


It matters that intentionality on such accounts is all
-
encompassingly holistic.
To

be an intentional comportment is to belong to this overall structure, whether
understood as the conversation of mankind, the game of giving and asking for
reasons, or a token
-
reflexive practice of truth
-
theoretical interpretation. Beliefs are
then only a
ccountable to other beliefs, and their purported objects can only have a
causal impact. Their normative significance is confined to how they should be
taken

to affect our beliefs, and what one takes as reliable differential responsiveness


to them. One of

John’s most important constructive contributions, as counterpoint
to the B1 strategies, has been to insist that skillful perception and action must be
normatively

integrated

all the way down within a theory of intentionality.
Intentional states are not j
ust essentially “interrelated” with their objects, but
“intimately” embedded in the world, through mundane and constitutive skills and
meaningful equipment. Perception and action cannot be external causal
impingement upon a “belief” system, token identity

between mind and body, or a
merely instrumentally successful interpretive scheme.


Despite the prominence of linguistic theories in B1, however, the
phenomenon of a hermetically self
-
enclosed “lapsed intentionality” is not confined
to idle
talk
. Experime
ntal practices in the sciences are also intentional systems, and
by refining and stabilizing their implementation, and making them the proximal
target of scientific theory, a discipline can be severed from accountability to
anything beyond its own concepts

and procedures. Ian Hacking saw this
phenomenon as source of the stability of much of scientific knowledge:

[An instrumentarium] evolves hand in hand with theories that interpret the
data that they produce. As a matter of brute contingent fact, instrume
ntaria
and systematic theories mature, and data uninterpretable by theories are not


generated. There is no drive for revision of the theory because it has
acquired a stable data domain. What we later see as limitations of a theory
are not data for the th
eory. (1992, 55)

The problem then is that, in supposedly securing the correctness of theories within
their co
-
adapted domains, Hacking renders them empty. His own account makes
unintelligible his presumption that such self
-
vindicating constructions are
ne
vertheless theories
of

some empirical domain. It is one thing to say that a theory
only accurately describes some phenomena in its domain, and thus has limited
range or accuracy. It is another thing altogether to confine its domain to those
phenomena for
which it seems to work. Such constructions are only theories
of

anything through accountability to a broader domain that leaves them open to
empirical challenge.


We can now better understand, at least indirectly, why John characterizes
genuine intentiona
lity as a mode of love. Ersatz intentionality is directed beyond
itself in a fundamentally narcissistic way. It encounters and responds not to other
entities, but only to its own needy dependence beyond itself. It is then a derivative
mode of directedn
ess: only the “narcissist’s” analyst can recognize the
independence and autonomy of its purported object, and thereby constitute any


objective purport. Lapsed intentionality instead invokes an all
-
too
-
creative, self
-
enclosed, imaginative imposition. Yet

any reader of Jane Austen’s
Emma

can
recognize such directedness toward self
-
fulfilling projections as a pathological
simulacrum of love. Genuine intentionality according to John involves letting
oneself be open to entities in their own range of possibil
ities, rather than merely
those we project upon them or need from them. Genuine love, like genuine
intentionality, is integrally connected to the freedom to let the beloved change
oneself and one’s sense of possibilities. It also involves a mode of “exis
tential”
involvement that outruns merely functional neediness or social obligations and
responsibilities.


II


Existential Death


John’s account of existential death is closely bound up with his interpretation
of “Dasein.” The standard view is cogently e
xpressed by Taylor Carman : “The
analytic of Dasein is an account of the existential structure of concrete human
particulars, that is, individual persons” (2003, 42). John instead regards Dasein as a
way of living that embodies an understanding of being.

That way of living can only
be lived by individual persons, and thus only occurs so long as persons live it.
Moreover, their individuation within that overall way of life is constitutive of


Dasein, which is “in each case mine.” Nevertheless, Dasein is t
he way of living
that its cases take up together, and not the individuals.


Not surprisingly, on the standard reading of Dasein, existential ‘death’
concerns the possible non
-
being of individual persons. For John, by contrast, death
concerns the possible
collapse of an understanding of being, by uncovering entities
so as to show its own and their impossibility, i.e., unintelligibility. Of course,
everyone agrees that existential death is not an actual event, but a comportment
toward the ever
-
impending pos
sibility of Dasein’s own impossibility. Moreover,
Dasein’s
ontological

character is centrally connected to this ownmost possibility.
Its own being is at issue for it because in
understanding

itself as an entity that might
not be, it thereby does not
have

to be what it “is.” Dasein’s ordinary response is to
flee from its own responsibility for that and how it is, and for the disclosedness of
entities made possible by its being
-
in
-
the
-
world. All of these claims are differently
inflected, of course, dependi
ng upon which construal one gives to Dasein and its
possible “non
-
being.”


I will not unravel these competing textual interpretations, at least not directly.
I do note that the standard reading has seemed not only correct, but obvious to most
readers look
ing at Div II ch. 1 and related texts. John’s reading depends almost


entirely upon its place within his careful, systematic attentiveness to key features of
the overall argument in
Being and Time
: the referential
-
individuative apparatus by
which Dasein is

“the entity that we ourselves are,” the methodological role of
“formal indication,” how the discussion of death develops the immediately
preceding discussion of truth, and sets the problem of understanding Dasein “as a
whole.” Perhaps above all it turns

on how death matters not just to the existential
analytic of Dasein, but as preparatory to the unwritten Division III.


John’s account may nevertheless permit a partial reconciliation, on his own
turf, by treating more traditional conceptions of existenti
al death as a special case.
Everyday Dasein has its own predominant understanding of being, as publicness.
This mode of understanding is an
existentiale
, an essential structural dimension of
Dasein’s way of being as constituted by existence and mineness.

Understanding
“what one does” as that for the sake of which one comports oneself is incompatible
with acknowledging the ever
-
present possibility of one’s own non
-
being. The
possibility of the impossibility of continuing to press into possibilities disc
onnects
one’s own case from
das Man
, whose understanding of being as publicness is
unaffected. For
das Man
, dying is an event that happens to others, and to oneself at
some future time that one needn’t take into account now, except as one does, by


writing

a will, buying insurance, crossing the street carefully, exercising regularly,
and so forth. Each of us cannot avoid dealing with this ever
-
present possibility, if
only by thus fleeing from it. John could therefore recognize that the possibility of
the
impossibility of each of us, in her own case, pressing into possibilities is the
most proximate manifestation of a possibly impossible understanding of being.
And yet the more general issue, of which individual mortality is then only a special
case, may b
e what matters for posing the general question of the meaning of being.


A different consideration is relevant to John’s reasons for reading Heidegger
as he does, and more germane to my talk. For John, Heidegger’s account of owned
being
-
towards
-
death as
a resolutely finite commitment to an understanding of being
is a telling description of a third level of self
-
criticism. Resolute being
-
towards
-
death takes us beyond the revision and repair of one’s own comportments that many
animals do, and the 2
nd
-
level

critical re
-
assessment of the very norms with respect to
which such revision and repair is undertaken. John argues that adequately
understanding even the most ordinary human intentional directedness depends upon
attributing to us the (existentiell) possi
bility of this 3
rd

level of self
-
criticism, as
authentic, “loving” intentionality. “Authentic” intentionality is a stereoscopic
involvement in the world. It must sustain a dogged, resilient effort to overcome any


obstacles to the intelligibility of its co
nstitutive engagement with the world,
alongside a resolute determination not to cover over its failures, and even to give it
up in the face of unsurpassable failure. Nor can this reading be seen as an
extraneous imposition upon Heidegger’s text: anyone f
amiliar with Kierkegaard’s
influence upon Division II will recognize his deep kinship with John’s reading of
Heidegger. John’s account highlights the centrality of Kierkegaard’s concern with
the possibility of having to give up on love as an existentiall
y
-
constitutive
commitment, in faithful responsiveness to its impossibility. In short, for John, the
principle of charity requires reading Heidegger on existential death and owned
resoluteness as coincident with an adequate understanding of genuine intenti
onality,
as a form of existentially committed love.


I nevertheless want to focus upon a consequence of John’s reading that as far
as I know, he has never addressed. If we take John’s overall reading of
Being and
Time

seriously, as I do, then the book bec
omes first and foremost a philosophical
engagement with Hegel. John recognizes Hegel’s conception of Spirit as a
precursor to Heidegger’s account of Dasein, but only alongside especially Kant’s
Transcendental Unity of Apperception, along with Husserl’s tr
anscendental ego,
Christian souls, Diltheyan historical communities, and other philosophical accounts


of the human. Yet John’s account heightens both the parallels and the telling
divergences between Hegel and Heidegger. Hegel, too, understands human bei
ng
as an historically situated opening onto the world as a whole, which allows entities
to show themselves. Human being is Spirit’s self
-
recognition in otherness rather
than Dasein’s disclosedness of entities as entities. Hegel and Heidegger each
rejects

the traditional individuation of human lives for a complex intertwining of an
individuated collectivity: Spirit as “the I that is We and the We that is I,” Dasein as

the

entity that
we

ourselves in each case are.”


But on John’s reading of Heidegger, the

most distinctive parallel is in the two
books’ subject matter and its manifestation. Both are centrally concerned with the
truthful disclosure of the intelligibility of what
-
is (as in and for itself, or as the
meaning of being). Moreover, this issue come
s to the fore in each book through
encounters with the impossibility of an entire mode of disclosure. The
Phenomenology of Spirit

reconstructs world history as a logical succession of
“formations of consciousness,” each taking itself as a truthful uncove
ring of its
characteristic object. The experience of each successive formation is a discovery of
its object as recalcitrant to its understanding of and comportment toward it: the
object in itself turns out to be radically opposed to its being for consciou
sness.




Hegel also set a precedent for John’s Heidegger to talk of the collapse of an
entire understanding of the intelligibility of entities in terms of death. This motif is
omnipresent in the
Phenomenology
. Consider this version in the Preface:

The li
fe of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself
untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains
itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself.

Perhaps the book’s two mo
st pivotal junctures involve literal confrontations with
death. Spirit recognizes itself in a radically new way, first in Lordship and Bondage
through the “absolute fear” of death in which consciousness “trembles in every
fibre of its being,” and thereby d
iscovers “the absolute melting
-
away of everything
stable [as] the simple, essential nature of self
-
consciousness.” (1977. 117). This
absolute fear is then collectively recapitulated in Absolute Freedom and Terror,
whereby the previous determinations of al
ienated social life “vanished in the loss
suffered by the self in absolute freedom,” whose “sole work and deed is death, ...
the coldest and meanest of deaths with no more significance than cutting off a head
of cabbage” (1977, 362, 360)


The book culminat
es in the striking image of the Golgotha of Spirit, the
comprehension of Spirit’s unfolding in time and history as the path to its


crucifixion. Yet this self
-
understanding as “being
-
towards
-
death” in a rather
different sense also achieves Absolute Knowing
, the comprehension and
recapitulation of all prior formations as its own partial appearances. From this
standpoint, the collapse of each prior formation manifests its finitude, a self
-
undermining dependence upon what eludes its own understanding. The mo
dern
world, by contrast, permits recollection and recapitulation of that path as a self
-
completing, infinite whole. Each book culminates in a reflection upon the
temporality and historicity of being, and at that point, Heidegger for the first time
explici
tly engages and criticizes Hegel. Yet if John’s reading is right, I think this
passage is the culmination of what the book has been about all along.


Read in this way, however, John’s account forces us to confront anew the
political significance of
Being
and Time
, and
that

is deeply troubling. For Hegel,
prior formations of consciousness are merely finite modes of understanding. Each
overcomes
its
recurrent external dependence by giving way to a new formation,
until, in Hegel’s concluding adaptation of Sch
iller, “from the chalice of this realm
of spirits foams forth for [Spirit] its own infinitude” (1977, 493). John’s Heidegger
then responds to Hegel with a call for an owned, resolute openness to the
ineliminable
finitude

of any understanding of being. A
s a challenge to Hegel, that


commitment would specifically require us to face up to the possibility of the
impossibility of modern, rational
Sittlichkeit
.


The formidable abstractions of Hegel’s
Phenomenology

were conceived as a
necessarily philosophical

response to the French Revolution. For Hegel, the
Revolution and its failure made possible a new, and adequately non
-
finite
comprehension of the modern world. This new understanding is the culmination of
Spirit’s “externalizing self
-
sacrifice that displ
ays the process of its becoming Spirit
in the form of
free contingent happening
” (1977, 492).
Being and Time

then looks
to be a comparably formidable, and necessarily ontological response to subsequent
events. The senseless slaughter of the First World W
ar and what seemed to
Heidegger to be the humiliation and political collapse of modern Germany put
Hegel’s understanding of modernity in serious question. We know all too well
what path Heidegger followed from there.


Yet the disastrous and repugnant outc
ome of Heidegger’s own existentiell
interpretation of what was called for by his historical situation should not deter us
from taking seriously his ontological
-
existential reading of what was at stake. I
think Heidegger was right about the finitude of our

own understanding of being,
and John has taken us a long way toward understanding what that means.




III


Philosophical Life After Existential Death


In this final section, I will too briefly indicate some issues to take up in the
wake of John’s phenomeno
logical reconstitutions of intentionality as love, and of
existential death as the possibility of the impossibility of any intelligibility. I limit
myself to four themes, all of which I address more extensively elsewhere.


I begin with something problemat
ic about John’s designation of the
environmental responsiveness of non
-
human organisms as “ersatz” intentionality.
This term serves a polemical point for John’s criticism of how seriously other
philosophical theories have missed our common target. Yet th
is formulation also
mistakenly suggests genuine intentionality is a norm with respect to which the ways
of life of other animals are somehow deficient. John’s account should force us to
repudiate such conceptions of our relation to other animals. Non
-
hum
an animals
are crucially not like us in this important respect, yet more importantly, they
nevertheless do not thereby “fail” to be like us. We need to acknowledge, respect,
and even love them in their own characteristic and astonishing ways of engaging
a
nd responding to the environments constituted by their ways of life.


My second theme is reciprocal. While non
-
human animal lives are not
“genuinely” intentional, we are nevertheless animals, and must understand


ourselves as such. Here,
John himself has

in his own terms been
uncharacteristically irresolute: “[in saying these norms of understanding must be
understood in a spirit of naturalism, appropriately construed, I mean that] people
are, though still distinctive, still naturally evolved creatures (s
omehow implemented
in whatever physics tells us about)” (1998, 317, 358n15). Yet that conclusion
cannot just be taken on
the
faith

expressed by the “somehow”
! If John’s account of
intentional normativity were irreducibly anti
-
naturalist in this broad sen
se, then a
resolute response would give it up as impossible. Moreover, his account makes
naturalism about our own intentionality not only harder to achieve, but harder to
conceive as even possible. Redeeming John’s merely promissory footnote requires
a d
ogged, resilient effort to revise and repair our understanding of science, nature,
intentionality, and philosophical naturalism. In any case, that’s what I have been
trying to do for 15 years, both in
How Scientific Practices Matter
, and my current
book p
roject,
Articulating the World
. Moreover, I think a more adequate naturalism
adds a powerful argument for John’s differentiation of genuine from “ersatz”
intentionality. The best work on the evolution of language and conceptual
understanding, as a form of

niche construction and co
-
evolution, actually reinforces
this discontinuity. The evolution of the capacity for an articulated “as
-
structure”


required a partial break from other animals’ highly attuned and flexible
responsiveness to situated environmental

cues.


A third theme emerges in asking what genuine intentionality directs us
toward, and makes us accountable to. Intentionality and understanding require
accountability to something beyond our own patterns of comportment, and that is
why they cannot be
assimilated to their ersatz or lapsed simulacra. John makes
common cause with the philosophical tradition in regarding intentionality as a
directedness toward
objects
, and “objectivity” as the governing normative issue.
This focus on objectivity is John’s

Kantian rather than Heideggerian moment. He
construes objective directedness as a kind of existential receptivity, a “letting
-
be” of
an object, or at least an entity, standing over against us. Yet John’s view also has a
voluntarist moment, of committing
myself not to impose my will upon the object,
and thus letting it stand forth and be what it is. I think that formulation, while
attractive in many ways, does not do full justice to our involvement in the world.
Far from standing over against us, the wor
ld has us in its normative grip. Taking
objectivity to express our accountability to something beyond ourselves is a kind of
existential Myth of the Given, something non
-
normative at which existential
normativity supposedly comes to a full stop.




The sc
iences, John’s own premier example of authentic intentionality, bring
out the importance of this issue especially clearly. Science does not simply seek
truths about natural objects, or even laws about objective domains. Most truths
about nature are not s
cientific truths, and even natural laws only constitute domains
governed by normative concerns. Marc Lange, who more than anyone else has
advanced our understanding of scientific laws, still indexes their normativity to
disciplinary “interests.” Yet that

term obscures that what a scientific discipline is
“interested in” is itself normatively accountable. Intentional comportments get their
normative significance and content as part of a larger pattern of practice, and such
practices thereby constitute som
ething at stake in their ongoing performance. What
is at stake in a practice is nevertheless usually at issue within the practice itself.
What the practice is about and how it matters is contested, and open to further
transformation in the practice’s ong
oing differential reproduction. There is much
more to say here, but suffice it to say that my talk of what is “at issue” and “at
stake” in our practices and performances is what Bob Brandom (1994) would call
an extension of logical vocabulary. These anap
horic concepts allow us to talk about
the further accountability of any genuinely intentional entanglement in the world as
normative “all the way down.”




This consideration directly points toward my final theme, already raised by
juxtaposing Hegel and John
’s Heidegger (aka Heidegger). Heidegger was horribly
wrong about what was at stake in the cataclysm of the First World War and the
political and economic turmoil in its wake. Yet we should nevertheless take
seriously Heidegger’s recognition of the fragil
ity and possible unintelligibility of
the practices and self
-
understanding of our modern way of life. One partial
response would be the commitment to work out a viable philosophical naturalism,
one that neither over
-
simplifies the task nor settles for opt
imistic hand
-
waving. A
blithe assumption of the inevitable triumph of a reasoned, secular way of life is
irresponsible. Yet the possible impossibility of our shared ability
-
to
-
be has other
loci. The sciences give all
-
too
-
clear indications of how our way

of living may
irrevocably undermine the climatic, energetic and other conditions of its own
biological possibility. The postcolonial and post
-
Cold War conditions of a global
political economy may also seem to render a just society inconceivable. Moreove
r,
justice and biological sustainability may be utterly unthinkable together. Can we
respond to these and other challenges to the very intelligibility of our possibilities,
neither fearfully nor complacently, but resolutely? Can we, that is, doggedly rev
ise
and repair our understanding of what is at issue and at stake in who we are and how


we live, while also remaining open to the possible need to give it up as impossible?
A call for a resilient, resolute responsiveness to these and other possible
imposs
ibilities is the final challenge I take from John Haugeland’s placement of
intentionality at the philosophical juncture of love and existential death.















FOR THE HANDOUT:


Accounts of

Intentionality

1: Primacy of empty intending/
linguistic mea
ning

2: Primacy of fulfillment: causality,
perception, being
-
in
-
the
-
world, etc.

A:
Descriptive

account

Husserl: essential structures of consc.

Carnap: logical structure of language

Jackson: a priori partitions

Searle: intentionality as biological

M
insky et al.: GOFAI

Dretske: information
-
bearing states

Millikan: teleo
-
semantics

Fodor: cognitive representations

Dreyfus: practical/perceptual coping

Dennett: what “satisfies” the
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