INTENTISM

Intentionalism and the Arts

     Intentist interview with Professor Robert Stecker

 

Professor Robert Stecker is of Philosophy at Central Michigan University.
He has authored, amongst others, Interpretation and Construction.

Thanks so much for your kindness in allowing me to ask a few questions about intentionality. Am I right in thinking you worked in conjunction with Colin Lyas for the book, ' A Companion to Aesthetics.'?
We have an interview with himon Youtube about intentionality:
 
To see interview with Colin Lyas click here


We work in conjunction only in the the following sense: first he worked on two of the entries in the volume and then about 10 years later I worked on those same entries updating them.This happened because I couldn't figure out how to contact Colin to ask him to do it. So I did it myself.
 
I believe you consider yourself a moderate (partial) actual intentionalist.  One point often made by partial intentionalists is that the author's intention is only relevant to a work's meaning if it is realized. Who would decide if a work is realized? If it is the viewer, then surely meaning solely rests there and not with the intender?

 
No one decides if an intention is realized. There are truth conditions or some sort of conditions, which, if met settle the matter. It's controversial what those conditions are. Here are my conditions taken from Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art:
 
An utterance means x if:
 
1. The utterer intends x,
2. The utterer intends that her audience will grasp this in virtue of the conventional        meaning of his words or a contextually supported extension of this meaning permitted by conventions, and
3. The first intention is graspable in virtue of those conventions or permissible extensions of them.
 
If the conditions are met, the intention to convey something with an utterance has been realized. This intention can be realized in other ways (as whatever-works intentionalists understand) but not ways that guarantee the utterance will mean what it manages to convey.
(As I go on to point out, these conditions need to be modified for non-linguistic contexts.)
 
If an intention fails, does all meaning fail to be present or can it now be theoretically open to mean as many things as there are viewers?
 
No, all meaning does not fail for two reasons. First, intention rarely fail totally. But second, even if they do, other consideration - context, convention - can then sometimes be meaning determining.
 
You have said that interpreters can interest themselves legitimately in matters other than what it means (Interpretation and Construction: Art, Speech, and the Law). Do you consider, as Hirsch, these other interpretations as 'significances'?
 
Some of these others are significance seeking, but not all.
An important and somewhat diverse class of them are what I call in the book you refer to "could-mean interpretations." These are possible understandings of something that can with some be plausibility be attributed it. Sometimes we look for what something could mean as a preliminary to finding what it does mean. But for various reason, searching out what something could mean has taken on a life of its own with respect to art.
 
Professor Robert Stecker, on behalf of the Intentists, thank you for your time.