chapter  II
22 Pages

The Terminological and Conceptual Roots of Representation in the Soul in Late Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

ByHenrik Lagerlund

The concept of mental representation lies at the heart of contemporary philosophy of mind. It is often claimed that the problem of intentionality is a problem of mental representation, since mental states have content due to their representational nature.1

Ever since Franz Brentano introduced the concept of intentionality as the mark of the mental it has been known that it was a scholastic concept that he revived. Later research has shown that the scholastic concept ‘intentio’ derives from Arabic philosophy and is a translation of the Arabic words ‘ma’na’ and ‘ma’qul’ as used by Al-farabi and Avicenna. They in turn claim to have translated Aristotle’s Greek word ‘noêma’ as he uses it in the beginning of the De interpretatione. For Al-farabi ‘intentio’ is that which is immediately before the mind, whether the object of the intention is outside the mind (in which case it is a first intention) or itself an intention (in which case it is a second intention). This distinction became absolutely central to scholastic philosophy. Note that for them and later scholastic philosophy it is primarily concepts that have ‘intentio’.2