Intentionality, reflection and conceptual isomorphism of representations...

Intentionality, reflection and conceptual isomorphism of representations of psychology

In the modern philosophy of psychology, much attention is paid to the phenomenon of intentionality (from Latin intentio - aspiration). Intention is understood as the property, first of all, of mental formations to be, firstly, aimed at some object, and secondly to represent it in that specific form that is characteristic of psychology. Physical objects are known to interact with each other. There are no physical objects that would be turned off from the process of their interaction with other objects. Intentionality is often understood only as a focus on something. This kind of orientation is characteristic already for physical objects, but it is completely inadequate in the case of the characterization of mental phenomena. Then the direction is supplemented by the property of representation in one form or another by the mental formation of the phenomenon to which it is directed.

Many researchers determine the specificity of the mental precisely in connection with intentionality. Among the foundations of psychological knowledge, this concept was introduced by Franz Brentano, who argued that "every psychic phenomenon is characterized by what the Middle Ages called the intentional (and also mental) existence of some object, and which we do not without certain ambiguity express as an attitude to some content, focus on a certain object (by which some reality is not understood here) or call it immanent objectivity. Every psychic phenomenon contains something as an object, although not in the same way. In the presentation, something is represented, in judgment it is recognized or denied, in love it is adored, hatred is hated, desire is desired, etc. This intentional existence of psychic phenomena is extremely peculiar. There are no physical objects that would have possessed it. " Brentano himself did not use the term "intentiality", but he conveyed his meaning explicitly with the intention of finding a path to an impeccable interpretation of the nature of the psychic.

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Brentano's conceptual move attracted the attention of researchers in a wide variety of ways. With enthusiasm, he was first adopted by the phenomenologist E. Husserl, and then by numerous representatives of analytical philosophy. Husserl interpreted the intentional object as a noem - a special conceptual formation, which is the result of a multi-stage process of synthesis of experiences.

Representatives of analytical philosophy and, accordingly, psychologists, who are oriented toward it, are interested in the intentionality of a fundamentally different property. They, as a rule, turn to it in an attempt to present psychology as a verified science, i.e. avoiding any speculative constructions connected, in particular, with references to the subjective, above all on value. This project is usually called the program of naturalization of intentionality, i.e. giving it a natural status within the framework of science. Three main approaches within the program of naturalization of intentionality are the concepts of information, tele-semantic and cognitive-semantic content, respectively (Table 4.3).

Table 4.3. Three explanations of the origin of intentionality


Content of the approach


Intentionality is the result of a causal relationship between mental states and the objects that brought them to life.

As a result, mental states carry information about objects


Intentionality is the biological function of mental states. They arose in the process of biological evolution


Intentionality is a means of saving people's cognitive efforts

All three approaches face significant challenges. First, they are hardly valid explanations for the emergence of the most fundamental feature of psychological phenomena, which is recognized as intentionality. The information approach is clearly overloaded with physicalist moments connected with the interpretation of the causal relationship. The teleo-semantic approach clearly suffers from another one-sidedness - biologisms. Responsibility for intentionality is assigned to the process of biological evolution. But his consistent description refers to biology. The cognitive-semantic approach has not far gone from biology. Mention of thinking does not change the essence of the matter. Another feature of the three mentioned approaches is indicative: their semantic character. In fact, psychology is placed in the category of descriptive, natural sciences. But, as was repeatedly noted earlier, psychology is an axiological discipline.

Failures of the naturalization program of intentionality raise doubts about the very legitimacy of its nomination. Different opinions are also expressed on this score. On the one hand, it is noted that so far it has not been implemented due to, perhaps, limited human capabilities. On the other hand, it is assumed that intentionality can not in principle be justified. It simply needs to be taken as something given.

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Thus, the topic of intentionality is full of numerous problematic aspects. Thus, researchers often point out that it does little to explain the many subtle aspects of psychology. If intentionality is elevated to the rank of a principle, then it is legitimate to ascribe to it a considerable deductive force. But it is not yet discovered. This is alarming a significant part of American psychologists. But it is indicative that, as a rule, they do not refuse the topic of intentionality, and therefore they do not see it as an essential alternative. But is it there? In connection with this issue, it is reasonable to turn to domestic psychology.

In Soviet times, it was widely used in it, and with frequent citations of VI Lenin's book "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism", the concept of reflection. Intentionality was perceived as a kind of fad, a kind of caprice of Western philosophers and psychologists. In fact, reflection was precisely the alternative to intentionality. According to the authoritative philosopher V. A. Lectorsky, reflection was understood in two ways: as an immediate given to the consciousness of cognizable phenomena and as the correspondence of the "ideal object (image) to the real original." In the second case, the "reflection was interpreted as an isomorphic or homomorphic correspondence of the image to the object."

According to V. A. Lectorsky, prominent Soviet philosophers and psychologists, in particular, S. L. Rubinshtein, AN Leontiev, E. V. Ilyenkov, V. P. Zinchenko, V. S. Tyukhtin, AM Korshunov and himself, in words developing the Leninist concept of reflection, in fact deviated significantly from it. Nevertheless, the original assumptions of the theory of reflection are contradictory and allow for a different understanding. " For example, from the positions of this theory it is not clear how to evaluate the ideas about non-existent and future phenomena. What do they reflect or even display? It is also incomprehensible to combine the theory of reflection with the dependence of the ideals of cognition on the cultural and historical context. In our opinion, the critical remarks made by V. A. Lectorsky to the theory of reflection are completely reasonable. But, unfortunately, he did not specify any alternative to the concept of reflection. Is the theory of reflection correctable?

Concepts of intentionality and reflection, the relationship of which is beyond doubt, were introduced into psychology by no means accidental. They were approached by researchers who sought to explain the specifics of psychology. In what exactly is it expressed? The fact that the growth of scientific knowledge of basic sciences, both formal and natural, and axiological, is maximized by means of psychological concepts expressing the characteristics of individuals or groups of people. Both a mathematician, a physicist, and an economist have such features that are not taken into account, respectively, in mathematics, physics and economics, and only psychology is subject to them. In this regard, it immediately becomes clear that the purely semantic and realistic attitudes that are characteristic of the concepts of intentionality and reflection, if they are consistent, are only for the natural sciences. Applied to axiological sciences of one semantics is clearly not enough - here one can not do without pragmatics.

The second weakness of the concepts of intentionality and reflection is that they deal with all mental processes, not just those that relate to the subject of psychology. It is not taken into account that psychology is a science only about some mental processes.

Besides, in both considered concepts, the mental side of psychology is absolutized to the detriment of its linguistic and object components.

Our position is that the specificity of psychology as a science is determined by the value content of all its concepts. Values ​​by definition express the views of a person in relation to objects, and also in relation to oneself. As for the values ​​of psychology, they can not be reduced to the concepts of any other science, in particular physics, biology, computer science or to semantics that excludes pragmatism.

Psychology, like any other science, begins with principles that receive their comprehensive justification through the previously considered conceptual transitions, in particular conceptual transduction. There is no need to replace the principles of the psychological theory with intentionality or reflection.

The comprehension of science shows the validity of the following conclusions: 1) a person is born as a conceptual being; 2) as such, he is able to invent new sciences that are not reducible to other sciences (just as psychology was once formed); 3) the conceptual isomorphism of their scientific representations, in particular the mental and the objective, gets its expression already within the boundaries of the sciences; 4) isomorphism is an alternative to intentionality and reflection; 5) conceptual isomorphism is in the depths of one or another science, in particular psychology; 6) it is wrong to consider it a prerequisite for the emergence of psychology.


1. The concept of intentionality was actualized in psychology as its initial principle.

2. Domestic psychologists in this connection used the concept of reflection.

3. An alternative to the concepts of intentionality and reflection is the concept of conceptual isomorphism of mental, objective and linguistic representations.

4. This isomorphism is not a principle of psychology.

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