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Not Moderate, Or Not Intentionalism: A Criticism on Moderate Intentionalism

  • Journal of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • 2017, 74(3), pp.329-364
  • DOI : 10.17326/jhsnu.74.3.201708.329
  • Publisher : Institute of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : June 28, 2017
  • Accepted : July 26, 2017
  • Published : August 31, 2017

Lee, Haewan 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Intentionalism emphasizes the importance of authorial intention in interpreting an artwork. It has evolved into moderate intentionalism (MI) by means of circumventing the well-known Humpty-Dumpty problem caused by radical intentionalism. This ‘moderation’ is done basically by accommodating the public elements of language into the theory of intentionalism. So MI now claims that not just any and every intention, but only the intentions successfully realized in the work can determine the meaning of the work. In this article, I argue against this type of compromised intentionalism based on my suspicion that this cannot result in a coherent and principled-theory. First, we need to be clear about the essential claims in each position and how they draw the line of conflict. The description that anti-intentionalism (AI) denies the relevance of intention in interpretation while MI does not is somewhat misleading. Instead, I propose that MI should be understood as a position which allows a case where the authorial intention wholly determines the meaning. MI need not claim this be every case. Yet if MI does not allow such cases, that is, if MI admits that all intentions should be constrained by the public elements of language, then there might not be much differences between MI and AI. After establishing the real claim of MI, I examine the actual content of MI as a theory rather than as an intuitively appealing slogan. The situation looks to me dilemmatic. If the public nature of the language and the context of the utterance is emphasized as the constraining factor for determining the meaning, this seriously weakens the character of the theory as a version of intentionalism. In order to maintain the intentionalism, MI can claim, as it actually does, that in the case where the work’s meaning is ambiguous (i.e., where the public elements cannot determine the meaning), the authorial intention can play the role and determine the meaning of the work. However, if the ambiguity is what the public elements of the work report about the work, then it should not be disregarded as long as MI cherishes its original motivation to be moderate. An ambiguous work shows that the authorial intention is not successfully realized. Therefore in MI, a failed realization of authorial intention should not override the ambiguity and should not force us to determine the meaning of the work. If it does, it is no longer MI but radical intentionalism. In addition, I also find that the case of irony, which has been an important supporter of intentionalism, would no longer favor MI due to the motivation of MI to be moderate. I conclude that MI is not a sustainable position.

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