And, as a matter of method, we must begin with the phenomenology of the situation. Suppose I write a two-sentence novel:Let me start at the end. I too do not wish to engage in a discussion, no doubt at an exceedingly abstract level, on the role of phenomenological appeals. Nevertheless, we can usefully discuss aspects of the language in which the phenomenology is expressed. There is an immediate problem here. My phenomenological experience is not out in the open so that others can correct the language I use to describe it. This problem is so acute that it's hard to understand how we can possibly have a common phenomenological terminology. Yet there does seem to be basic language that we all can use. We talk of 'thinking about something' or of one's 'idea of something'. But this doesn't go very deep. Is it possible to say any more about what thinking about Shakey Jake is like or what my idea of Shakey consists of? I find I cannot get beyond regarding my thinking about Shakey as merely rehearsing sentences about him. Likewise my idea of him consists of a set of predicates I take to be true of him. Bill, however, says that understanding his story amounts to 'having before one's mind an intentional object'. This is not the sort of thing an ordinary person would say. Where does the terminology come from? Well, it seems to come to us from Brentano, Husserl, and their successors. But the problems it gives rise to are daunting. Jungly, even. If the 'intentional object' was a scientific hypothesis it would have been abandoned long ago as unworkable. But what to me seems a theoretical construct of dubious value has been so internalised by Bill that it has become the natural way of expressing his experience. For Bill it is 'evident' and 'given'. This needs explanation.
It was a dark and rainy night. Shakey Jake, life-long insomniac, deciding he needed a nightcap, grabbed his flashlight and his raincoat and headed for the Glass Crutch bar and grill, a local watering hole a half a mile from his house.Now I couldn't have written that, and you can't understand it, without thinking about various intentional objects that do not exist. Am I saying that there exist objects that do not exist? No, that would be a contradiction. Nor am I committed to saying that there are objects that have mind-independent being but not existence. Furthermore, I am not committed to Meinong's doctrine of Aussersein.
All I am doing is holding fast to a phenomenological datum: when I create a fictional character as I just did when I created Shakey Jake the insomniac, I bring before my mind an intentional object. (The act-object schema strikes me as having pretty good phenomenological credentials, unlike the adverbial schema.) What can we say about this merely intentional object? First, it is no part of the acts through which I think it. My acts of thinking exist in reality, but Shakey Jake does not exist in reality. (This point goes back to Twardowski.) When I think about Hamlet or Don Quixote or Shakey Jake, I am not thinking about my own mind or any state of my mind. I am not thinking about anything real. But it doesn't follow that I am not thinking of anything.
If Ed denies that there are merely intentional objects, then he is denying what is phenomenologically evident. I take my stand on the terra firma of phenomenological givenness. So for now, and to get on with it, I simply dismiss Ed's objection. To pursue it further would involve us a in a metaphilosophical discussion of the role of phenomenological appeals in philosophical inquiry.
The phenomenology of phenomenology
Here is another quote from Bill's More on Ficta and Impossibilia on which I have commented before.