Natural Signs

A Theory of Intentionality

Laird Addis
Book Cover

HC: $29.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-631-4
Publication: Oct 89

199 pages
6 x 9

An argument that the fundamental features of intentionality are "natural" and not "cultural" or "linguistic"


With a unique and original defense, Laird Addis presents a detailed theory of intentionality that holds that to be aware of something is to exemplify a property of a sort called a natural sign—an entity that by its very nature represents something else. Arguing from an analytic standpoint for a view more commonly found in the phenomenological tradition, the author debates opposing theories, especially those that hold: (1) that to be aware of something is merely to be in a certain relation to it; and (2) that whatever is in the mind only conventionally rather than naturally represents the object of awareness.

Addis argues that the only way to account for the phenomenon known as the unity of thought is to suppose that natural signs are simple entities, even when they represent complex objects. And he maintains that this dualistic philosophy of mind with its thesis of the "irreducibility" of intentionality is, contrary to what many on various sides of the issue suppose, fully consistent with the scientific worldview.

The theory of natural signs also leads to the formulation and defense of a new solution to the ancient problem of how it is possible to think of something that does not exist. While Natural Signs is not a historical study, among the philosophers whose views are considered in some detail are Meinong, Husserl, Russell, Sartre, Bergmann, Sellars, Putnam, Rosenberg, Armstrong, Hochberg, and Searle.


"Natural Signs is very clearly written and with admirable style. It combines sound scholarship with innovative philosophical theses. Prof. Addis knows the contemporary literature well, but he does not merely summarize. He advances a rather original theory of the nature of intentionality. He also gives a concise overview of historical themes relevant to his main topic. I know of no pulication which covers the same ground as this book."
Reinhardt Grossmann, Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University

"The book is an extremely sophisticated defense of its thesis and sensitive and attentive to the current alternatives in analytical philosophy of mind (Wittgenstein, Putnam, Searle); the book also contains an original and informative discussion of varieties of behaviorism. Natural Signs will be unique among recent contributions to the analytical philosophy of mind and (perhaps especially) appealing to those out side of that tradition as well."
Richard E. Aquila, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Table of Contents

Part One: Frame of Reference
Consciousness and the Starting Place of Philosophy
Part Two: The Theory of Natural Signs
The Background to Natural Sign Theory • The Arguments for Natural Signs •
Objections to Natural Sign Theory • The Intentional Connection • Mental Acts and the Scientific Worldview
Part Three: Going Beyond
Consciousness and Time • Consciousness and Particularity
Name Index
Subject Index

About the Author(s)

Laird Addis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa and author of The Logic of Society: A Philosophical Study.