Intentionality and the Aristotelian-Thomistic view of concepts

Thomas L. Spalding, James Stedman, Curtis Hancock, Christina L. Gagné

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In this paper we describe the problem of intentionality for modern theories of concepts and propose that taking an Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) approach to concepts helps to alleviate this problem. We begin by describing some recent problems within the psychological literature on concepts that might lead one to adopt an A-T approach to concepts (see Spalding and Gagné, 2013). We then discuss Quine's dilemma of intentionality and show how that dilemma plays out across a number of possible approaches to philosophy and psychology including psycho-functionalism, the current default philosophy of psychology. We then describe how the A-T approach to concepts deals with the problem of intentionality and suggest that it may provide a better way of thinking about intentionality than other modern approaches. We end by discussing some possible objections to the approach. We show that the A-T approach is, perhaps, surprisingly compatible with other recent work in psychology and that taking this approach to concepts and intentionality does not introduce Cartesian problems of dualism into modern psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-262
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Mind and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014


  • Intentionality
  • Psycho-functionalism
  • Thomas aquinas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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