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Intentional Stance Essay


In this paper, I will explain the Dennett notion of an intentional stance as well as the role it plays in his interpretation of belief. I will begin by describing how the intentional stance works, then, I will contrast it with other stances including the physical and the design stances as discussed by Dennett. In the final part of the essay, I will use Dennett’s Martian Super Scientist example to describe the relationship between intentional stance and physical stance as well as explain why his intentional stance is flawed.

First, I will discuss what an intentional stance is according to Dennett and its roles in his account of belief. According to Dennett, intentional stance refers to the strategy used in interpreting how an entity (including person, artefact, animal among others) behaves. It treats the entity like a rational agent that is capable of governing its choice of action as per its beliefs and desires as well as other mental states that it exhibits intentionality. Thus, it offers the most predictive ability with or without the least possible amount of measurement or computation provided the system is intelligent and rational. The intentional stance is useful in attributing beliefs as well as desires including behavior prediction, and according to Dennett, it works almost every time with people.

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The strategy helps ease the thinking of why individuals would act in a particular manner to grant others reasons for in specific ways that can lead to undesirable circumstances. The strategy also works for understanding what other mammals believe, known and prefer. Moreover, this strategy can work in designing better traps for animals such as fish, birds, insects, spiders, and reptiles. The traps can be improved by reasoning about what these animals know or believe about certain objects, what it prefers and the perceived dangers it would want to avoid. For example, a creature like a clam does not relax its grip on its closed shell when it senses danger; it will only rest when it’s convinced the threat is no longer there. Knowing what it believes in, you could improve traps that would capture it.

Next, I will contrast the intentional stance with two other basic stances that Dennett discusses in his paper, i.e. the physical stance, as well as the design stance. Each one is unique and works differently from the other. While the intentional stance makes predicitons by being aware of the beliefs of the agent and treating it as a rational object, the physical stance, on the other hand, relies on an individual’s understanding of the laws of physics, as well as the material content of the agent in question, to develop a prediction. However, the physical stance can’t be used to predict the future of everything in the universe, despite it having the most modest, usable, and locally available versions. The physical stance can be used by a chemist or a physicist for predicting how exotic materials behaves. Additionally, a cook can equally predict the effect of leaving a pot on the cooker for too long. The design stance, according to Dennettmakes predictions on the assumption that an object has a particular design intended to accomplish a purpose. This purpose, and hence its functioning, can be derived from an object’s design. For example, alarm clocks, computers, and televisions are predictable. For instance, if I set an alarm clock to go off a few hours later, I will believe that it will do so without determining what physical laws will trigger it. The assumption is that it has a unique design that makes it function as ordered. Both the physical and design stances may not be accessible practically, or the objects may occasionally malfunction, thus, making the intentional stance an appropriate one to use.

Now, I will use Dennett’s Martian Super Scientist example to describe the relationship between the intentional and the physical stances and explain why he is incorrect. According to the Martian super scientist example, the relationship between the intentional and the physical stances is that the predictions that the former provides are categorically different from what the latter can ever uncover. According to Dennett, the Martian is unable to see what his human counterpart visualizes and cannot even predict their behavior with ease, but chooses to use calculations and facts about the world to a simple prediction that would be made using the intentional stance. His explanation is right, and what the intentional stance uncovers is direct and more accurate than what the physical stance reveals. Despite the accuracy both the intentional and the physical stances, I wish to object the idea. The mind of a person or an animal will always indeed remain private no matter the beliefs and desires we attribute them. Only the individual will still honestly know their real thoughts. Similarly to designed objects, they work as well as they do, but they are prone to malfunctions.

Prompt 8: The Future is Endowed with Life
In this essay, I will argue for why people assume it is better if bad things are in the past and good ones are in the future. I will start by explaining Caruso’s argument for why individuals prefer if items would take the line of having bad things in the past and good ones in future. I will then provide evidence for the same to prove that people anticipate future occurrences more than those from the past. In the final part of the essay, I will explain why it is rational or otherwise for an individual to have such a preference.

First, I will explain why people usually assume that it is better if bad things are in the past and good things are in the future. Several factors determine how much individuals will value various events in their life. One of them according to studies, is the temporal distance from the present, which implies that the value of past occurrences decreases with their increase in temporal distance from the present. However, the cost of the past event decreases at a faster rate compared to the value of the future event. Thus, future events are highly valued compared to past events. For instance, in a study by Caruso, the participants who imagined supporting their neighbour vacate in future settled on a more expensive wine compared to the wine that the participants who believed assisting their neighbor in the past selected.

Next, I will provide more evidence for why people value future events more than past events. The knowledge of the future is always uncertain compared to the past. People logically feel that the future is brighter than the past and they believe it is more changeable compared to the past. For example, members of a jury may award more money to an accident victim when they think of their future suffering than when they only look at past pains. Moreover, people value the future because such perceptions can change it, while their perceptions of the past cannot affect the past. With regards to the above example, the money awarded by the jurors will make a difference in the victim’s future but not the past. With the funds, he or she will be able to access medical care. The future can be changed or determined, but the past is fixed.

Now, I will explain why it is rational if someone prefers terrible events to be in the past and good events to be in the future. Intensive studies conducted by Caruso, for instance, indicate that the majority of people prefer to look forward to the future. Thus, individuals value future events over the past ones as they believe that the future has more impacts. For example, the study by Caruso featuring Harvard University students reading two stories about a woman who was involved in a severe road accident. In one text, the incident had happened six months earlier, and the woman has fully recovered; in the other one, the misfortune has just occurred. The woman sued the driver’s insurance company, and the learners were told to imagine that they were members of the jury that was to decide the compensatory charges of between $0- $10 million. The resultsshowed that people awarded the woman 42% more money when they imagined her suffering in the future than in the past. This example is proof that most individuals prefer positive events to happen in the future. Thus, it is rational to prefer bad things to remain in the past and the good ones to be in the future. Also, the latter can be adjusted; one can shape it by avoiding the mistakes that were made in the old days. Even if the future is uncertain, it still gives one a chance to desire positive outcomes.

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