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(2009) Plural action, Dordrecht, Springer.

Martin Heidegger and the "cartesian brainwash'

Hans Bernhard Schmid

pp. 155-180

Intentionality is usually taken to be a kind of solitary object-representation in the mind of individuals. That might explain why intentionalist approaches are so often criticized for being anti-social. To choose intentionality as a starting point of philosophical analysis necessarily seems to lead to a rather under-socialized picture of our cognition and agency. It is a widely held opinion in current philosophy that it takes a radical shift of paradigm to correct this picture, a shift from intentionality to communication (cf. e.g. Habermas 1987), from representation to discursive practices (Brandom 1994), from the analysis how mental phenomena refer to the world to the analysis of the normative social practices and institutions that make utterances count as expressions of intentional states such as beliefs or plans for action. Some German philosophers — among these Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel — call this shift of paradigm the intersubjectivist turn.This correction of the under-socialized intentionalist picture of the mind, however, comes at a price — or so I shall argue. By reducing the ontological question of what there is to the question of the normative practices and institutions within which something counts as something, intersubjectivism loses sight of the objective aspects of intentionality. If it is true that our mind is not to be understood without taking notice of the social customs, norms, and institutions within which we think and act, it seems no less important to be aware of the fact that we measure our cognitive or practical intentional states not only by social propriety, but also by objective truth or instrumental success. And there is no "prestabilized harmony' between the two: there is no guarantee that in a given instance the communal practices and institutions within which we think and act help us to see the world as it is. Whereas the former is a question of social normativity, the latter is not. Simply put, social normativity cannot account for all of our cognitive and conative competence. So it seems that we are caught in a dilemma between an under-socialized (intentionalist) and an over-socialized (intersubjectivist) concept of mind. Against this background, I find those recent attempts particularly appealing which try to accommodate sociality in a revised and widened theory of intentionality instead of discarding intentionality as a starting point of philosophical analysis. My conjecture is the following. If most received accounts of intentionality take intentionality to be a kind of solitary objectrepresentation in the mind of individuals, this is the effect of what Annette Baier calls the "Cartesian Brainwash', and not of some conceptual limitation of intentionality as such. The problem is not intentionality, but rather our standard view thereof.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-2437-4_9

Full citation [Harvard style]:

Schmid, H.B. (2009)., Martin Heidegger and the "cartesian brainwash', in H. B. Schmid, Plural action, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 155-180.

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