Intentionality, Qualia, and the Stream of Unconsciousness

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According to Brentano, mentality is essentially intentional in nature. Other philosophers have emphasized the phenomenal-qualitative aspect of conscious experiences as core to the mind. A recent philosophical wave – the ‘phenomenal intentionality programme’ – seeks to unite these conceptions in the idea that mental content is grounded in phenomenal qualities. However, a philosophical and scientific current, which includes Freud and contemporary cognitive science, makes widespread use of the posit of unconscious mentality/mental content. I aim to reconcile these disparate, influential strands of thought concerning mentality’s essence, by defending a conception of the mark of the mental as consisting in content-carrying qualitative character (or mental qualities) – but understood as properties that can exist both in conscious (i.e. phenomenal) form and unconsciously. I describe this conception, deal with major historical objections to the notions of unconscious qualitative character and mentality, and explain the virtues of construing the mark of the mental in this way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-53
JournalPhenomenology and Mind
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Intententionality, Qualia, Mental qualities, Unconscious mental content, Phenomenal intentionality, mental content, Freud, Brentano


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