Anscombe on Intentionality of Sensation: Summary

The term `intentional object’ is introduced to refer to objects of thought which may or may not exist beyond thought in the actual world. There is a third type of reference to intentional objects beyond reference to the actually existent and the actually non-existent. This third type is to refer to an actual object with the reference to a property that the object does not have. For example, in `X worshipped the moon’, X does indeed worship something that exists, because the moon exists. However, X does not have the property – of divinity – that X venerates.

There is a distinction between two understandings of the direct object of a sentence. In `A gave B a book’, the direct object could be the term `a book’ – in modern usage – meaning a linguistic item. It could also mean – in older usage – the actual book itself. Anscombe wishes to retain the older usage for the purpose of analysis. One thing is clear: an actual book is not a piece of language. The term `intentional object’ can refer to either the actual book or a piece of language but this fact of co-reference does not suffice to make the actual book identical to a piece of language. Anscombe argues that we must avoid the ambiguity by denying that the intentional object is the book and denying that it is a piece of language; an intentional object is a description under which.

The distinction between descriptions recalls Austin’s distinction between by mistake and by accident
when one has shot a donkey. If I intend to shoot my donkey but realise too late that the donkey I
aimed at was in fact your donkey, I have shot your donkey by mistake. If I intend to shoot my donkey but yours gets in the way at the last moment, I have shot your donkey by accident. The difference is the description under which I shot your donkey. The parallel with shooting is apt since Anscombe herself recalls the archery-related etymology of intention.

In the second part of the paper, Anscombe aims to apply this apparatus to sensation. The process she uses is to supply a number of examples which parallel the three reference types given above. An object of sensation, like an intentional object, may exist, may not exist, or be referred to under a description which it may or may not satisfy, if it does exist. (One assumes here pace Meinong that non-existent objects have no properties.)

Q: can parallels in usage establish the degree of similarity Anscombe requires? After all, she was earlier denying that parallels in usage could establish the identity of the book and the piece of language.

Author: Tim Short

I went to Imperial College in 1988 for a BSc(hons) in Physics. I then went back to my hometown, Bristol, for a PhD in Particle Physics. This was written in 1992 on the ZEUS experiment which was located at the HERA accelerator in Hamburg ( I spent the next four years as a post-doc in Hamburg. I learned German and developed a fondness for the language and people. I spent a couple of years doing technical sales for a US computer company in Ireland. In 1997, I returned to London to become an investment banker, joining the legendary Principal Finance Group at Nomura. After a spell at Paribas, I moved to Credit Suisse First Boston. I specialized in securitization, leading over €9bn of transactions. My interest in philosophy began in 2006, when I read David Chalmers's "The Conscious Mind." My reaction, apart from fascination, was "he has to be wrong, but I can't see why"! I then became an undergraduate in Philosophy at UCL in 2007. In 2010, I was admitted to graduate school, also at UCL. I wrote my Master's on the topic of "Nietzsche on Memory" ( Also during this time, I published a popular article on Sherlock Holmes ( I then began work on the Simulation Theory account of Theory of Mind. This led to my second PhD on philosophical aspects of that topic; this was awarded by UCL in March 2016 ( -- currently embargoed for copyright reasons). The psychological version of this work formed my book "Simulation Theory". My second book, "The Psychology Of Successful Trading: Behavioural Strategies For Profitability" is in production at Taylor and Francis and will be published in December 2017. It will discuss how cognitive biases affect investment decisions and how knowing this can make us better traders by understanding ourselves and other market participants more fully. I am currently drafting my third book, wherein I will return to more purely academic philosophical psychology, on "Theory of Mind in Abnormal Psychology." Education: I have five degrees, two in physics and three in philosophy. Areas of Research / Professional Expertise: Particle physics, Monte Carlo simulation, Nietzsche (especially psychological topics), phenomenology, Theory of Mind, Simulation Theory Personal Interests: I am a bit of an opera fanatic and I often attend wine tastings. I follow current affairs, especially in their economic aspect. I started as a beginner at the London Piano Institute in August 2015 and passed Grade Two in November 2017!

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