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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Constructing modality with syntactic intentionality Hughes, C. Kendal R.


Attempts to conceptualize intentionality+ address important aspects about what it is to be human. Intentionality has been called many things: the central concept of psychology and philosophy of mind; the basic criterion for distinguishing the mental from the physical; the engine of consciousness; and more. We accept as common sense that such things as agency, subjectivity and intentionality are real but there is great difficulty in grounding these in anything empirical. The use of formal language^ can provide a kind of observable data or manifest behaviour whereby representations for intentionality can be explored. In the following chapters, a highly constrained notion of intentionality is defined, and if not grounded, it is found to maintain a fixed habitat or locus within the syntactic structure of statements. Various kinds of formal language have been used for centuries but only in the last, have developments such as Frege's work in 1884 made mathematics and some parts of language explicable in terms of logic. And only in the last few decades has a functional syntax for natural language begun to satisfy scientific standards. The functions exercised by inflection (understanding it as deep governors of tense, aspect, person, number and gender within speech behaviour) have received increasing prominence in recent years. Inflection has been shown both to reside at the foundation of language use while at the same time emanating controls which structure the outer shape of our communication. Intentionality and language poesis remain profoundly mysterious, yet before we are two years old, we are able to exercise them quite effortlessly. Attempts to particularize the display of intentionality within language helps to silhouette the interaction of consciousness with the world. FL and natural language theory posit primitive categories which may be treated phenomenologically. These provide candidates for mapping an Husserlian construct for intentionality onto syntactic structures. This central task of this research explores that mapping within two general activities: (1) using an interpretation of early phenomenology, a basic goal is to make use of any FL expressions which might serve as a matrix for looking at a narrow notion of intentionality, and use these to describe a control structure for part of the spectrum of modal or contingent propositions in English; (2) through the mediation of participatory action research used in finding potential resources, for the conduct of enquiries, and for the analysis of responses. Resources are sought within three media (internetworked or electronic enquiry, print resources and interviews). Action research enables a framework for looking at intentionality and modality in FL through the asking of questions, the obtaining of 'answers' and analysis of found text and responses for usable content. The directly relevant body of literature is not enormous, but has proven to be very challenging. Little material was found that addressed the central topic directly (that is, how the mechanics of sentential modality can be examined within a phenomenological method) but grammatical categories are available which track closely with a phenomenological approach. At this time — in the decade of the brain and when explosive growth is occurring in computational theory — attempts to link the functionalism of formal theories with the basic intuitions and feelings we all have (especially the vitality associated with using language to express our desires and experiences) have led to vigorous retrainings of the enduring problems of philosophy. Because this literature is frequently associated with artificial intelligence and devising proper ontological and epistemological categories, source material is often at a level of rigor that is beyond the tenor of the work that follows. Since an aim of this work is to try to treat syntactic operations within FL as useful constructs within a basic scientific education, this research strives to provide simple readable descriptions that do not require a great deal of background knowledge. The global Internet facilitates interactive communication within diverse academic disciplines. Computers as tools allow extensions to the action research cycle, ease the manipulation of large text corpuses, and amplify enquiries by enabling connections to scholars not otherwise readily accessible. A participatory action research methodology provides a framework of flexible methods appropriate both to the central task and to the communication medium of the Internet. Probe questions were constructed to enact elicitation strategies. These query tools were used to reach out into selected academic communities through the medium of electronic discourse, seeking improvement or repudiation of their content. The construct validity of the probe questions' content has undergone examination through research, reflection, and consultation with academics in various faculties. The probes achieve some rigor, but may stimulate responses which require more erudite analysis than can occur here, thus re-enforcing the tentative or formative character of this work. Much of the work aims at finding consensus, coherency, or disconfirmation for the probes, and in seeking formal mechanics which maintain construct validity. A relationship between intentionality and modality in calculus and language is also explored on the belief that some limited progress into a more systematic description may be possible by adopting the perspective suggested by Edmund Husserl's transcendental phenomenology.

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