Brain and Behavioral Functions Supporting the Intentionality of Mental States

João de F. Teixeira, Alfredo Pereira Jr.

Abstract



This paper relates intentionality, a central feature of human consciousness,
with brain functions controlling adaptive action. Mental intentionality,
understood as the “aboutness” of mental states, includes two modalities:
semantic intentionality, the attribution of meaning to mental states, and
projective intentionality, the projection of conscious content into the
world. We claim that both modalities are the evolutionary product of
self-organized action, and discuss examples of animal behavior that
illustrate some stages of this evolution. The adaptive advantages of
self-organized action impacted on brain organization, leading to the
formation of mammalian brain circuits that incorporate semantic
intentionality in their modus operandi. Following the same line of
reasoning, we suggest that projective intentionality could be explained as a
result of habituation processes referenced to the dynamical interface of the
body with the environment.

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