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Surplus, authorial intentions, and hypothetical intentionalism.


I begin in the first section of this essay by restating and defending an old objection against actual intentionalism, the view that the historical author or artist's actual intentions, when embodied or realized successfully in the artwork, determine or fix the work's meaning, which in turn is known through tracking those intentions. The objection I defend shows that authorial intentions are surplus or otiose. In the second section of the essay, I state one moderate version of an alternate view about interpretation known as hypothetical intentionalism, which has been advanced in different versions for almost forty years now by writers as varied as Michael Baxandall, Wayne Booth, Gregory Currie, Jerrold Levinson, Alexander Nehamas, and William Tolhurst, amongst others. I conclude by defending hypothetical intentionalism from some recent criticisms raised by Noel Carroll, Stephen Davies, and Robert Stecker.


One of the most discussed issues in philosophical aesthetics concerns authorial or artistic intentions and their role in interpretation. While a lot of the debate has focused on literature, all or nearly all positions and claims within the debate can easily be generalized to cut across all the arts; indeed, the philosophers of art and literature I discuss below generalize their claims thus.

In the first section of this essay, I restate and defend an old objection against actual intentionalism, the view that the historical author or artist's actual intentions, when embodied or realized successfully in the artwork, determine or fix the work's meaning, which is thus known through tracking those intentions. The objection I defend shows that authorial intentions are surplus or otiose. In the second section, I advance one version of moderate hypothetical intentionalism as a positive alternative. I conclude by defending hypothetical intentionalism from some recent criticisms.


The objection against actual intentionalism that I wish to defend centers around the real possibility that authors or artists may fail to realize or embody in their artworks their intentions about work-meaning; for example, my intention that some lines in my poem are poignant could fail. Accordingly, many cautious actual intentionalists claim that actual intentionalism applies only to cases where the artist's intentions have been realized in the work (Wollheim 1987; Carroll 1992, 2000; Stecker 1997; Iseminger 1996); in other cases, to seek work-meaning, we should ignore artistic intentions and look closely at the work itself, its broader art-historical context of production, and applicable public conventions such as, in the case of literary works, the dictionary meanings of words. (1)

It is here that actual intentionalism faces a problem, which is this. (2) How do we know if the artist's intentions have been successfully realized in the work or not, and whether we should look at them or ignore them in seeking work-meaning? It seems there is only one way to do so: we must compare artistic intentions with work-meaning ascertained independently of artistic intentions, and see if there is a fit or correspondence between these. If there is a fit, then artistic intentions have been realized in the work and we should, as actual intentionalists claim, appeal to these in determining work-meaning; if there is no fit, then artistic intentions have not been successfully realized, and we should ignore intentions in determining work-meaning. But now, on the one hand, if we can know work-meaning independently of artistic intentions, then, contra actual intentionalism, those intentions are surplus or otiose and are not needed in order to know work-meaning. On the other hand, if we cannot know work-meaning independently of artistic intentions, then we cannot compare artistic intentions with work-meaning to see if there is a fit between them which would indicate that those intentions are realized in the work. Given, then, this indeterminacy whereby we cannot know if artistic intentions are successfully realized in the work, those intentions become surplus or otiose once again and we may as well leave them aside and instead look at the work itself, its context of production, and the public conventions that apply to it in trying to determine work-meaning. Either way, then, artistic intentions seem surplus and unnecessary.

Before proceeding further, it is worth noting in passing some parallels between the problem just stated above and an important lesson from the history of philosophy concerning the representationalism about knowledge and perception associated with the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). Locke tells us that we do not know physical objects and the world directly but only know them indirectly via knowledge of our ideas, which mediate between the mind and the world, and some of these ideas represent the world faithfully in corresponding to it. But the problem that arises for Locke is this: how do we know that our ideas (or some of them, at least) correspond to the world, and which of them do, if we have direct access only to these ideas but not to the world? To make these claims justifiably, we should be able to access directly both our ideas and the world independently of each other, and then when we compare them, we can say that some ideas correspond to the world, and identify which ones do. But of course, Locke rules out direct, independent access to the world. The problem for actual intentionalism stated above is structurally similar to the one that Locke faces insofar as the only way to know if artistic intentions have been successfully realized is to compare artistic intentions with work-meaning ascertained independently of artistic intentions, and see if there is a fit or correspondence between these. While on Locke's view it would seem we are shut up in our ideas, unable to access the world directly, on the view of actual intentionalism it would seem we have no way of knowing if intentions have succeeded--which would render them surplus--unless we can compare them with independently obtained work-meaning--which too makes intentions surplus.

It is also important to note in passing--as has in fact been noted before (Trivedi 2001, 197) in the vast literature on interpretation--that the problem raised above about authorial intentions being surplus is very different from (even if not completely unrelated to) an objection about circularity pressed by Jerrold Levinson against actual intentionalism (Levinson 1996, 180-82). On that objection, there is no non-circular way to explain what it means for the artist to have realized her intentions successfully in her artwork without reference to some independent notion of work-meaning. As such, that is a constitutive challenge to actual intentionalism. In contrast, the problem raised above in this essay is an epistemic concern about knowledge of artistic intentions, and how we know if these have been successfully realized in the work. While I note that actual intentionalists have tried to rebut the charge of circularity (Stecker 1997, 181-82), I leave that problem and discussion of it to one side, as it does not bear directly on my argument here.

I now discuss two actual intentionalist responses to the "surplus" problem stated above, beginning with Sheila Lintott (2002) who suggests that we are entitled to assume that artistic intentions about work-meaning are at least partly successful, i.e. at least partly realized in the work. Lintott writes, "the [actual intentionalist] recommendation is ... that we approach the artwork with the idea in mind that the artist has been at least partially successful in realizing her ... intentions in the work" (67). She also maintains that:

The claim that an artist either succeeds or fails to realize her ... intentions in her work, upon which [the problem] rests, presents us with a false dichotomy. Absolute success and absolute failure are not the only alternatives here ... rather than simply succeed or fail, an artist can succeed, fail, or hit a mark somewhere in between. Given the complex nature of artistic intentions ... the possibility of partial success seems by far the most likely. (Lintott 2002, 69)

Here, to begin with, I submit that there is no false dichotomy whatsoever, as partial success is one kind of success, and so we are not operating with absolute success and absolute failure as the only options. I suggest that we subsume partial success under the category of success as a subcategory of success, and so we should say that artistic intentions can either fail or succeed, and they can succeed either totally or partially. Secondly, and more importantly, on what grounds can we simply assume in a given case that the artist's intentions are even partly successful? How do we know, for a given (set of) intention(s), that it (or they) has (or have) been at least partly successfully realized as a matter of fact, even if this is what seems most likely? Thus, the problem stands and, what is crucial, applies even to this main strand in Lintott's reply. Once more, the only way we can know if a given (set of) artistic intention(s) is (or are) even partly successful is by comparing intentions with independently determined work-meaning. If there is even a partial fit between artistic intentions and work-meaning, then these intentions are at least partially successful or realized in the work; and if there is not even a partial fit, then these intentions have not been realized, even in part. But now, once again, if we can ascertain work-meaning independently of artistic intentions, then these intentions are surplus or otiose and not needed to know work-meaning. On the other hand, if we cannot know work-meaning independently of artistic intentions, then we have no way of comparing the two and knowing if there is even a partial fit between the two, which would amount to artistic intentions being partly realized in the work. Given this indeterminacy about whether artistic intentions are even partly successful, once again we may as well ignore artistic intentions, and instead focus on the work itself, its broad art-historical context of production, and the public conventions that apply to it in our bid to know work-meaning.

Now someone might want to defend Lintott and claim on her behalf that when we look at a portrait by Rembrandt, for example, we can and do know that he intended to paint a portrait of a human subject. We do not need access to independent evidence of his intentions: the painting itself supplies us with sufficient evidence of his intention to paint a portrait. In response, I want to appeal to a distinction employed by hypothetical intentionalism, the view about interpretation I will state and defend later. We should distinguish between categorial intentions, which are intentions about what category an artwork belongs to, and semantic intentions, which are intentions about work-meaning. Hypothetical intentionalists grant that while the author or artist's categorial intentions--which are a kind of larger intentions that frame work-meaning but do not purport to pertain to it directly the way semantic intentions do--may matter to interpretation, in contrast her semantic intentions are suspect. Now in the Rembrandt example above, it is clear that Rembrandt's intention to draw a portrait as opposed to a landscape or a still life, say, is a categorial (not semantic) intention, determining the category of art his painting belongs to. As such, hypothetical intentionalists such as myself can admit this intention and the example poses no great problem, more so as the concern I raised above about authorial intentions being surplus is a concern about semantic not categorial intentions. Note, though, that the distinction between categorial and semantic intentions is not always very rigid and may be fluid insofar as some intentions, such as the intention to satirize, may be both categorial and semantic; this is a point that has in fact been made before in the vast literature on this topic (Trivedi 2001, 201; Livingston 2005, 158-64), and I will return to it below.

I turn next to Robert Stecker's more thoughtful response (2006, 431-32; 2010, 154-56). Stecker claims that the actual intentionalist can find out whether both intentions and work-meaning have been successful through a mutual adjustment of hypotheses. Targeting the latter parts of the problem stated above, Stecker writes, "suppose work-meaning cannot be identified independently of identifying the successful intentions. Then we could never find out whether intentions are successful, and work meaning would forever be unavailable ... the chief problem [here] ... is the second [part], the claim that if work meaning cannot be identified independently of properly realized intentions, we will never be able to determine either. We can determine both ... through a ... mutual adjustment of hypotheses" (2010, 154-55).

Stecker gives two examples of the mutual adjustment of hypotheses, one conversational and the other from art. In the first example, someone says "This bag is heavy" at an airport check-in. The literal meaning here is clear, regardless of intentions. But the point of the utterance--why it is uttered--is, Stecker claims, only figured out by hypothesizing about the utterer's intentions in that context. If the utterer is struggling with the bag, for example, the point of the utterance is to seek help moving the bag (rather than to express the fear that the utterer will pay an overweight charge, and any hypothesis to this effect is to be rejected). Stecker's second example features James Joyce's story, "The Dead". Claiming that we are always forming hypotheses about the point or function of various bits in the overall economy of a work, Stecker brings up the case of Joyce's protagonist, Gabriel, wondering with regard to his wife, Greta, about the symbolic meaning of a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music. While the literal meaning here is clear, the point of this passage--"why it is put there" (Stecker 2010, 155)--is, Stecker suggests, to reveal that Gabriel is asking the wrong question, revealing his alienation from Greta. This, Stecker continues, is a hypothesis about Joyce's point or intention, without reference to which no such interpretive question arises in this case, whether one appeals to intentions or to context and conventions. Concluding his response, Stecker claims that these conclusions are not reached by matching two independent statements (one about Joyce's intention, the other about work-meaning) but instead by forming hypotheses and trying to find out whether they are true and if they should be characterized as being about intentions or something else.

I have two qualms about this. First, even though officially Stecker does not identify the work's point and the author's intention, nevertheless one must wonder here if Stecker is in danger of conflating the point or function of a bit or a passage in a work's overall economy with the artist's point or intention, even taking Joyce's greatness as an artist fully into account. Unless one is firmly wedded to actual intentionalism, it should be clear that these need not be the same or otherwise coincide, even if it may often happen in practice that they happily do so. For, in principle, the point or intention of the artist could be unrealized in the work and its relevant bits; and, conversely, the point or function of various bits in the work could be unintended by the artist. Secondly, and relatedly, one must also doubt, contra Stecker, if the point or function--why it is put there, to use Stecker's phrase--of various bits of the work is always part of work-meaning, or whether it is sometimes instead only part of the artist's meaning. To take an example from a different art form, music: the Viennese composer Alban Berg (1885-1935) believed the number twenty-three was closely linked to his fate (e.g. his first asthma attack occurred on 23 July), and accordingly used the number and its multiples, for example, to mark tempi and in the rhythmic formations of such works as his Violin Concerto (see Poole 1991). If we ask about the point--why it is put there--of a particular bit of these works, the answer may be that Berg intended to express or convey something about his personal life, but it is not clear that this is thereby part of work-meaning. It is debatable if someone who has analyzed and grasped these works thoroughly, but does not know that a certain movement or passage is to be played at the relatively unusual tempo of 69 quarter notes per minute rather than, say, the less uncommon tempo of 70 quarter notes per minute only because Berg believed 23 was his number of personal destiny (and 69 is three times 23), has thereby missed something about work-meaning--as opposed to merely missing something of at best psychological or biographical or historical interest about Berg's life and its quirks.

To conclude this opening section, then, I submit that despite Lintott's and Stecker's responses, the problem stated above for actual intentionalism still stands, showing that authorial or artistic intentions are surplus. It might appear, however, that one kind of actual intentionalism, Paisley Livingston's "partial intentionalism" (2005) (3) bypasses the problem, and so a brief word is in order here indicating why this is not so. Very briefly and roughly, on Livingston's view, an artist realizes her intentions if an informed reader who knows her intentions (as expressed, say, in diaries) takes the intended reading as making the best sense of the work and all data. Two reservations about this view come to mind. First, it is not clear that rather than being an actual intentionalist view, as professed, Livingston's view is not instead some kind of value-maximizing view (of the sort associated with Stephen Davies that I will briefly discuss in the second and especially the third section). What raises this suspicion is Livingston's axiological appeal to the reading that makes the best sense of the work. It might be objected against me here that Livingston's appeal to the reading that makes "the best sense of the work" should be seen not as value-maximizing but as simply an epistemic notion (that deals with knowledge in some way), so to rebut this concern let us get things straight from the horse's mouth. Here is Livingston describing his view in his own words in the preface to his book: "I distinguish between different lines of argumentation that can be given in support of a partial, actualist [sic] intentionalism, opting for an axiological approach that refers to the kind of artistic value involved in the skilful realization of intentions" (2005, xiii; emphasis added). It seems, then, that Livingston's stress is on artistic and other values rather than on epistemology or knowledge. Note also that the quote from Livingston given just above shows only that in this case value attaches to the artist though not necessarily to her artwork, for while the fact that the artist has been successful and skillful in realizing her intentions in her work is good for her it is not clear that the work must thereby be better or more valuable. My second and more important reservation about Livingston's view is this. As has often rightly been noted against actual intentionalism, readers, viewers, listeners etc. very often (though not always) do not know the artist's intentions, as many artists are long dead, leaving behind no diaries, letters etc.; alternatively, the artist could be lying about her intentions; or be self-deceived about them; or she may have forgotten her intentions, especially if the work was created a long time back; and so on. In such cases, we do however have the work, and so one might as well leave intentions aside and look at the work in its context of creation and with the public conventions that apply to it. Sure, Livingston might claim that informed readers appeal to interpretive resources or means intended by the artist, but again there arise here concerns often raised before for actual intentionalism, to wit, that like all intentions, even such higher-order intentions can fail or have limited applicability. At this point, it might be objected against me that my suggestion that we leave intentions aside and look at work, context, and conventions is not an optimal approach. For, the objector might continue, the artist's statement might lead us to an understanding of the work that we would never arrive at through public conventions alone, but that nonetheless makes excellent sense of the work, considered in light of the statement of intentions. In response, I have two things to say; and note that, as will emerge in the next section, I grant that the artist's statement of intentions may help in the case of irony, satire, and allusion. First, the objector needs to show that whatever the artist's stated intent illuminates cannot be revealed anyway by paying close attention to the work, its larger art-historical and socio-political context of creation, and applicable public conventions without appeal to intent. And second, all the problems with stated authorial or artistic intent raised so often before, and indeed mentioned above, come back into play here: to wit, stated intent can fail or be limited; or the artist might be lying or self-deceived or forgetful; or the artist might not be alive or otherwise available to state intent; or the artist might not have left behind any diaries, letters etc. for us to have access to stated intent; and so on.

So far in this essay, my focus has been on a particular problem for actual intentionalism--the "surplus" problem--and on rebutting actual intentionalists such as Lintott and Stecker, who try to meet the problem head-on, and also on rebutting other actual intentionalists such as Livingston, who might be said to bypass the problem. But it might be objected that I have not recapitulated Livingston's position accurately, for Livingston explicitly argues for a species of interpretation that aims at accurate identification of utterance meaning by claiming that this sort of interpretation ought to track artistic merits and demerits and so needs to identify intentions insofar as they are relevant to value; although note my concern here as before that artistic intentions and their success may be relevant only to judging if the artist is good or successful, not necessarily the artwork and its value. And so I devote the rest of this opening section of my essay to discussing Livingston's view. Readers who do not wish to go into all the details of Livingston's view can safely skip to the next section of this essay at this point, for the following discussion of Livingston is not central to my argument.

Lest I be accused of not even giving a moderately competent paraphrase of Livingston's reasoning, let me quote a couple of passages from Livingston that capture his view well. Here is the first, rather long passage:

Actualist [sic] intentionalism, of the partial or moderate variety recommended here, is motivated by:

(I1) recognition of the various functions intentions have in the lives of temporally situated agents;

(I2) the explanatory and descriptive value of intention-based pragmatics and semantics in the theory of linguistic and non-linguistic expression and communication;

(I3) the goal of interpreting and evaluating (i.e. appreciating) works as works of art in a non-anachronistic, historically contextualized manner, with an eye to discovering a range of specifically artistic values and "disvalues";

(I4) recognition of the important role of intentions in the creation of works of art, and in artistic careers more generally;

(I5) a rejection of the idea that a work of art is just a structure or object, as opposed to something that has been made or accomplished in a context;

(I6) recognition of the importance of distinctions between various forms of collective art-making, including some to which joint intentions are crucial;

(I7) recognition of the artistic and aesthetic pertinence of distinctions between intended and unintended relations between works within an oeuvre;

(I8) the contention that the anti-intentionalist dilemma argument fails because it overlooks artistic implicature or "implicit, intended work meaning," in relation to which the actual artist's intention is a necessary condition;

(I9) the idea that partial intentionalism is compatible with recognition of unintended meanings, as well as with a pluralist position with regard to the diversity of interpretative projects. (Livingston 2005, 173-74)

And here now is the second passage from Livingston:

Semantic intentions do not, indeed, succeed by fiat, but neither do categorial ones, and the reasons are the same in both sorts of case. Recognition of the artist's constitutive role is constrained by facts about what the writer has managed to do in producing a text. A partial or constrained variety of intentionalism can make use of the same insight, holding that intentions of any kind are decisive only if they are textually or structurally compatible, that is, if they are consistent and mesh with the features of the work's text or artistic structure. Successful realization of intention is, in both cases, at the very least a matter of intentionally producing something compatible with the content of the intention. (Livingston 2005, 163)

I have two comments and one concern about the first passage, and one worry about the second passage. Regarding the first passage, note that Livingston's I3 seems to reconfirm that his approach is axiological or value-centered, rather than focused on knowledge or epistemology. With reference to Livingston's I8 above, I grant (as has been said briefly before and will emerge in the next section of this essay) that artistic intentions may matter for irony, satire, and allusion. My concern about the first passage from Livingston pertains to his I4 above, and it is this. Artistic intentions may matter in the creation of artworks, and here I would urge that we also recognize a third kind of intention, art-making intention--the intention to make a work of art (as opposed to a tool, say) in the first place--which is prior to and more basic than both categorial and semantic intentions. But while both art-making and categorial intentions matter in the creation of artworks, it is not clear--contra actual intentionalists such as Livingston--that artistic intentions necessarily play a role when it comes to work-meaning, and this applies to semantic intentions. Put differently, while it is true that the artist makes the artwork, nevertheless she is fallible when it comes to its meaning, which critics and others may know better. As for the second passage from Livingston quoted above, when Livingston talks of artistic intentions "meshing with" the features of the work, he seems to have in mind the idea of artistic intentions being successfully realized in the artwork. But this is precisely where the surplus problem I have been so focused on above--about how we know if intentions have been successful--comes into play (as does the other, constitutive challenge about there not being any non-circular way to explain the notion of success or what Livingston might call "meshing"). It is not clear that Livingston addresses the problem, as Lintott and Stecker try to do; whether one calls what Livingston is doing "bypassing" or not, and absent good grounds for not addressing the problem, one must wonder if "evading" is more appropriate here than "bypassing."


As the example from Berg in the preceding section shows, in attempting to escape one problem for actual intentionalism, Stecker runs into another worry for actual intentionalism. This concern, often raised before, is simply that actual intentionalism puts too much stress on the artist's mind and gives too much attention to the artist, a point I will return to later. At the other extreme, anti-intentionalism--a view which focuses only on artworks and the public conventions that apply to them and is associated most famously with W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley (1995) amongst others (4)--does not acknowledge adequately that artworks and literary works are products of artistic and authorial agency in broad art-historical and literary contexts, which it construes too narrowly, giving too little to--if not "killing"--the artist, a point I will return to later. Put differently and painting with very broad brushstrokes, while actual intentionalism in general understands work-meaning as utterer's meaning, anti-intentionalism in general sees work-meaning merely as word-sequence or textual meaning. In contrast, as should emerge from this section, hypothetical intentionalism construes work-meaning as utterance meaning, seeing artworks and literary works as utterances of artists in broad art-historical and literary contexts, thus giving just enough to the artist and charting a middle path between the two extremes of actual intentionalism and anti-intentionalism (Levinson 1996, 176ff.).

I now briefly discuss two (of the many different) versions of hypothetical intentionalism and note some problems with them before stating my version of moderate hypothetical intentionalism, as distinguished from these. (5) Unlike the hypothetical intentionalism of the Princeton philosopher Alexander Nehamas (1981, 1986), I side with the hypothetical intentionalisms of William Tolhurst and Jerrold Levinson in stressing the actual, historical artist, and not a postulated, fictional, or hypothetical artist. Nehamas claims that ideal interpretations of texts are guided by the author, not the historical writer of the text or the fictional narrator in it but a postulated agent, a construct, whose actions account for the text and its features. On Nehamas's view, the postulated author is a hypothesis accepted provisionally which guides interpretation, being modified in turn in the light of interpretation. As I see it, Nehamas's view faces at least two problems. First, it seems ontologically unnecessary and indeed surplus to postulate a fictional author or artist to account for work-meaning when a view that appeals instead to the actual, historical artist can do at least as well without such a posit. Second, if we are to see art as a form of communication or conversation between the artist and the audience, as Noel Carroll (1992) and others have stressed before, then we must see artworks as being created in context by real human agents, actual artists who have communicative intentions, rather than fictional or hypothetical artists. Note that while I talk of actual artists here, nevertheless my view differs from actual intentionalism in deemphasizing the actual, semantic intentions (i.e. intentions pertaining to the artwork's meaning) of actual artists.

My version of moderate hypothetical intentionalism also differs in at least three ways from the similar view of Jerrold Levinson (1996; 2006), showing that my view is situated in the logical space between the moderate actual intentionalisms of Carroll, Stecker, etc. and the more robust hypothetical intentionalism of Levinson. Levinson's view is that artworks should be seen, first and foremost, as utterances produced in art-historical and cultural contexts by artists, and that work-meaning is thus to be seen as utterance meaning rather than as utterer's meaning or word-sequence (textual) meaning. On Levinson's hypothetical intentionalism, it is the ideal audience's best hypothesis about artistic intent, not actual artistic intent itself, which determines work-meaning. Here, now, are the three differences between Levinson's view and mine. First, unlike Levinson's appeal to an ideal audience, a notion like David Hume's (1985) ideal critic that I doubt has any real referent even if it is heuristically useful, I appeal to a competent or appropriately backgrounded though fallible audience. Thus, unlike Levinson, I can allow that there can be a gap between a competent but fallible audience's in principle best hypotheses about work-meaning and work-meaning itself, a difference, respectively, between warranted assertibility and truth. On my view, then, even competent or appropriately backgrounded audiences can be mistaken, as can artists and art critics, for realistically we are all only human and thus fallible; in contrast, it is not clear that actual intentionalists appreciate sufficiently that artists and their intentions can fail. If it turns out that our best evidence suggests that the work means not-p--which is then taken to be what the artist should have intended--but the work in fact means p, then my competent audience should admit that our best evidence so far is not good enough, and that we should revise our hypotheses about work-meaning and what the artist should thus have intended, just as scientific hypotheses often need revision. Second, while Levinson's ideal audience forms hypotheses about artistic intent, my competent but fallible audience forms hypotheses first about work-meaning--which after all is what we seek primarily in interpretation rather than the artist's state of mind--which hypotheses are then ascribed to the artist as what she should have intended. Third, unlike Levinson, I grant the importance of the historical artist's actual, semantic intentions (which pertain to work-meaning) to be ironic or satirize or allude when it comes to irony, satire, and allusion. While Levinson thinks that the artist's categorial intentions (which pertain to what category an artwork belongs to) matter in interpretation but her semantic intentions do not, it is not clear that the distinction is so clear-cut and rigid; an intention to satirize, for example, could I suspect be both a categorial and a semantic intention, showing that the distinction may be fluid and the two kinds of intentions need not be mutually exclusive. Note that while this last point has been made before in the literature (Trivedi 2001, 201; Livingston 2005, 160), Livingston seems not to get it absolutely right when he suggests that the distinction cannot be applied in some cases when the point is rather that the distinction may be fluid.

The moderate hypothetical intentionalism I favor, then, sets aside the actual, semantic intentions of historical artists, whether successfully realized in their artworks or not, instead seeking correct work-meaning primarily. As competent or appropriately backgrounded, though fallible and not ideal, audience-members, we should first figure out work-meaning as best as we can from careful attention to the work itself, its broad art-historical and socio-political context of production, and the public conventions that apply to it. Assuming then that the artist intended to communicate with her audience via the artwork, as many (even if not all) artists do in order to commune with their audiences and thus maximize the values of aesthetic experience, we should next attribute correct work-meaning--as best hypothesized from work, context, and conventions--to the actual, historical artist as something she should have intended to communicate to her audience, as opposed to what she did intend. If it turns out that the artist's actual semantic intentions are successfully realized in the work, then correct work-meaning (hypothetically attributed to the artist as something she should have intended) will happily coincide what she in fact did intend; i.e., correct work-meaning and artist's meaning coincide. Note I am not saying that whatever the artist should have meant is correct work-meaning; but rather that correct work-meaning, as best figured out from work, context, and conventions by a competent though fallible audience should be hypothetically attributed to the artist as what she should have intended. What the artist should have intended may be much broader than correct work-meaning; so instead of identifying or equating the two, I am suggesting that the latter be considered a part or subset of the former. Note also that I am not appealing to what the artist could have intended, a concept which strikes me as too broad; some recent remarks made by Levinson reinforce this suspicion: "the view I defend does not target what the author merely could have intended a work to mean, a much too open-ended notion" (2010, 141).

The suggestion made above that correct work-meaning as figured out by a competent but fallible audience is to be attributed to the artist as what she should have meant or intended (not just could have meant) is a normative claim, an aesthetic "ought." Manifestly, it is a stronger claim than merely attributing correct work-meaning to the artist as part of what she could have intended. Note this is not a view (of the sort we will come across in my discussion of Stephen Davies in the next section) that aims to maximize the value of the work by seeking that interpretation which makes the work the best. Rather, a large part of my concern is with maximizing artist-audience communication and its humanistic and other values. Correct work-meaning as best figured out by a competent but fallible audience from work, context, and conventions is attributed to the artist as what she should have intended for at least two reasons. First, and most importantly, because our best evidence suggests that is (apparently) the correct work-meaning and thus what should have been intended by the artist. And, second, so that the artist and audience end up on the same wavelength and thereby achieve via art the kind of fellowship and communion that Noel Carroll (1992) and others have stressed before, and that Tolstoy (1990) too may have been after (see Trivedi 2001; 2004).

It might be objected at this point that it is not clear what it would mean to follow these strictures in a specific case. Consider an example. What is the meaning that Henry James "should have intended to communicate" in The Turn of the Screw? Assume for the sake of convenience (though of course it is a very large assumption!) that the text, context, and relevant literary and other conventions only support a kind of ambiguity reading. Then that is the one the interpreter should favor and that is the one the author should have intended to communicate even if that was not actually his intention. So that is the utterance or work-meaning too, given the proposal here. What if, for the sake of argument, we stipulate that James only meant to write a ghost story? So then we know that he failed to realize his intention in the work. The author's failed intention and our knowledge of it is a useless "surplus" when it comes to the interpretation of the work. Here now is my response to this concern. In this sort of hypothetical scenario, we should not say that James's intentions failed but rather that his actual intentions are only partly realized for there is more to the work than what he intended. Given the scenario as sketched above, what he should have intended is ambiguity and not just the ghost story. Note that this is perfectly consistent with the rightful concession made by many cautious actual intentionalists such as Stecker (1997) that actual intentions may only be partly determinative of work-meaning, which may in fact go beyond intentions. Think, for example, of full-blown Freudian psychoanalytic Oedipal interpretations of Hamlet, which go beyond whatever Shakespeare (who lived about 300 years before Freud) intended; or think of someone who draws the ambiguous Wittgensteinian duck-rabbit figure (which can be seen both as a duck and a rabbit, depending on one's perspective) but only intends it be seen as a duck.

Is hypothetical intentionalism, in any version, just a variety of anti-intentionalism? Not so, for at least two reasons. First, anti-intentionalism is narrowly--too narrowly, in fact--focused on texts and artworks and the public linguistic and other conventions and word-meanings that apply to these. For example, Wimsatt and Beardsley in the locus classicus of anti-intentionalism talk about texts and "internal evidence" and write: "There is a difference between internal and external evidence for the meaning of a poem ... what is internal ... is only public: it is discovered through the semantics and syntax of a poem, through our habitual knowledge of the language, through grammars, dictionaries, and all the literature which is the source of dictionaries, in general through all that makes a language and culture" (1995, 380). It is not clear that Wimsatt and Beardsley take "internal evidence" to mean anything beyond the work and the public, linguistic conventions and meanings that apply to it; in any case, they do not explicitly appeal to such things as literary and art history, the larger cultural and social-political context of creation of the work, the oeuvre of the artist, the work of her contemporaries, the style, genre, category, and period the artist was working in, and so on. In sharp contrast, hypothetical intentionalism is a much broader view which takes anti-intentionalist claims about work and conventions on board, to be sure, but then goes beyond anti-intentionalism in also explicitly stressing the broader art-historical, literary, socio-political and other contexts of creation of literary and other artworks, and in also emphasizing such things as: the oeuvre of the artist and how her other artworks relate to the work we have before us; the artist's relation to the work of her contemporaries, especially how this influenced her work; the category, genre, and style of the artist and her work; the larger culture of which she is a part, with its history, religions, etc.; the artist's public persona; and so on (see Levinson 1996; 2006; 2010). Second, anti-intentionalism sets the author or artist (whether actual or hypothetical) and her intentions (whether actual or hypothesized) totally aside, making talk of "the death of the author," following Roland Barthes, not entirely inappropriate here. In contrast, hypothetical intentionalism, which comes in many versions, need not "kill" the author or artist. For example, in Nehamas's version of hypothetical intentionalism discussed briefly above, work-meaning is attributed to a hypothetical author's intentions; in Levinson's version of hypothetical intentionalism, the actual, historical artist or author matters even if not her actual intentions; and in my version of hypothetical intentionalism, what the actual, historical author or artist should have intended comes into play. It is also worth noting that some recent versions of moderate anti-intentionalism (Nathan 2006) come so close to hypothetical intentionalism that one might wonder if we have a position that is almost hypothetical intentionalist if not hypothetical intentionalist itself.

At this point, it might be objected that we have been told nothing about the method we should use to ascertain work-meaning in light of these data, or what we should do in cases where more than one meaning possibility arises or where interpreters disagree about work-meaning (which will certainly occur when interpretation is undertaken by fallible audience members). In reply, the objection seems to miss the point, for that is precisely how we ascertain work-meaning on my hypothetical intentionalist view, by looking carefully at work, context, and conventions. As for multiple possible meanings, in such cases we seek that meaning possibility which is best supported or evidenced by work, context, and conventions, and that is the one that the artist should have intended; and if it turns out that two (or more) possible meanings are equally plausible given work, context, and conventions, then ambiguity or multiple meanings are what should have been intended. And as regards disagreement between competent but fallible interpreters, it is possible that one (or more) of the fallible interpreters might be wrong and the other(s) right, given the evidence from work, context, and conventions; alternatively, we may sometimes face hard cases where there is genuine undecidability and seemingly no fact of the matter to settle the issue (analogous to the case, to use an example I heard the philosopher Malcolm Budd once mention, where one person says Tolstoy is a greater novelist than Dostoevsky and another claims the exact opposite, and it is not clear that any one of them is wrong).

A different concern for my view might be this. Suppose that Nawal is an author, and she intends meaning X. But her work instead conveys meaning Y, that is, Y is the correct work-meaning. While my view suggests that Nawal should have intended Y, the objection claims it makes more sense to say that she should have made a work with different features in order to successfully convey X. Y might be the opposite of what she intended (especially if, say, her work is a failed satire). It seems quite odd to suggest that she "should have intended" to convey the opposite of what she did in fact intend, especially if that would require abandoning her deeply held convictions. In reply, I think we should say both of these things: first, that given the current features and state of the work, its broader context of creation, and applicable public conventions, Nawal should have intended Y as that is the correct work-meaning after all; and second, that to convey X successfully (so that, say, the intended satire does not fail), Nawal should have made a work with different features. But, the objector might continue, little defense or explanation has been given of the notion of an "aesthetic norm" invoked here. Is it that the work would have been better if Nawal had intended Y rather than X, or what? In response, it is not that the work would have been better had Nawal intended Y rather than X. Instead, on my view, we would have real artist-audience communication, with all its attendant humanistic values, if Nawal had intended Y, which is the meaning that our competent audience also gets correctly out of the work.

Some might object that my view also makes intentions superfluous, as it gives neither actual nor hypothesized intentions any role in determining work-meaning. And, the objector might continue, my view certainly does not maximize artist-audience communication, given that the artist's actual communicative intentions play no role in the theory at all (except insofar as the artist is condemned when her actual intentions fail to match the intentions she should have had). In response, it is true that actual intentions are left aside on my view, except in the case of irony, satire, and allusion. But hypothesized intentions still have a role to play in my view insofar as competent audience members form two hypotheses, first about correct work-meaning (M) given to the work, context, and conventions; and second, the hypothesis that this meaning M is what the actual, historical artist should have intended. The second hypothesis in particular shows that unlike anti-intentionalism, my view does not "kill" the author or artist and is in fact hypothesizing about what her intentions should have been (as opposed to her actual intentions) as she tried to communicate with her audience via her artwork. In these respects, my view is a lot like Levinson's hypothetical intentionalism with the three important differences noted above, which I would like to believe are improvements. And as indicated earlier, my moderate hypothetical intentionalist view also tries to mediate between Levinson's more robust hypothetical intentionalism and the moderate actual intentionalisms of Carroll, Stecker, and the like, for I see both camps as holding views that are flawed in different ways. Now, as regards the charge that my view does not maximize artist-audience communication, here is my response. Work-meaning M is what the artist should have intended to communicate. Now if what the artist did in fact intend to communicate coincides happily with what she should have intended, then we have real communication, fellowship, communion, etc. between artist and audience insofar as both are on the same wavelength. But if not, then we at least have a kind of hypothesized or potential communication insofar as work-meaning M is what the audience correctly gets out of the work and what the artist should have intended (but sadly did not). Of course, real communication is better than this (or any) kind of hypothesized or potential communication, but either way we preserve the powerful idea of art involving communication--whether real or hypothesized, actual or potential--between artist and audience which Carroll, Tolstoy, and others have urged upon us, as noted above.

It might seem that my view is the same as David Davies's (2007), so let me differentiate our positions briefly. On Davies's "interpretationalism," utterance meaning is the meaning that appropriately informed receivers correctly applying interpretive norms ascribe to a vehicle that is taken to be used intentionally to make an utterance. In thus identifying the utterance meanings of literary works with the contextualized conventional meaning ascribed by properly informed receivers, Davies rehabilitates anti-intentionalism to a large degree, albeit with two significant differences: first, Davies grants that actual or hypothetical intentions can be crucial when dealing with irony, allusion, and sarcasm; and second, while Davies broadly endorses anti-intentionalism about interpretation, he thinks intentions matter when it comes to evaluating works. Here now are two differences between Davies's view and mine. First, unlike Davies, I ascribe utterance meaning to the artist as what she should have intended to communicate to the audience; for like Carroll and Tolstoy, I am very concerned with seeing art and literature as involving artist-audience communication--if not actual communication then at least hypothetical communication. In contrast, Davies does not stress the author or artist as much, and one might even wonder if the artist drops out on his view. Second, unlike Davies, I do not endorse anti-intentionalism, about which I have already raised some concerns above. And while I grant that success or failure of artistic intentions may matter in evaluating the artist and her achievement, it is not clear contra Davies that they must matter (or matter in the same way and to the same degree) in evaluating artworks.


In this final section, I first respond to some recent criticisms of hypothetical intentionalism offered by Robert Stecker and Stephen Davies (2010) and then to some concerns raised by Noel Carroll (2011). Though Stecker and Davies's worries target Levinson's view specifically, they might also be thought to apply by extension to hypothetical intentionalism in general.

To begin with, Stecker and Davies state that hypothetical intentionalism "is the position that the interpreter hypothesizes an author" (2010, 307). Contra Stecker and Davies, it should be clear from the previous section that not every hypothetical intentionalist "hypothesizes an author." Stecker and Davies seem not to appreciate sufficiently that like just about every philosophical position, hypothetical intentionalism comes in many different stripes; in contrast, Carroll, who is also an actual intentionalist, recognizes that "there are different forms of hypothetical intentionalism, and they should not be painted with the same brush" (2011, 129). Indeed, Stecker and Davies go on to claim, "We do not think that talk of hypothetical authors is out of place in this context ... this is more plausible ... given that [hypothetical intentionalism] rejects as irrelevant the actual author's intentions" (2010, 308). Here again, it should be clear from my discussion above that to reject actual semantic intentions is not to reject thereby the actual, historical author or artist. In particular, my moderate hypothetical intentionalism, which seeks to preserve the idea of art involving artist-audience communication, is concerned to attribute work-meaning as figured out by a competent but fallible audience to the actual, historical artist--not a hypothetical artist or a construct but instead a real human being--as what she should have intended to communicate.

In several places, Stecker and Davies suggest that hypothetical intentionalism is essentially a value-maximizing view, a position held by Davies that seeks the interpretation that makes the work the best, so long as this interpretation is maximally consistent with the work and its contextual and other constitutive features. In this vein, they suggest, "consideration of the work's merits enters foundationally into judgments about what the hypothesized author most likely intended" (2010, 308); and they also write, "it seems to us that [hypothetical intentionalism] has to be committed to some degree of idealization of the author and the task he sets himself' (309). As Levinson also has protested, Stecker and Davies have hypothetical intentionalism wrong here, for the view is really concerned primarily with evidence, and only secondarily with the maximizing of value. When Levinson's hypothetical intentionalist ideal audience seeks the best hypothesis about what the artist intended, the focus is on the best evidence--based on the work, its context and conventions--that makes the hypothesis epistemically the best, even if value-maximizing may play some role in making the hypothesis artistically, aesthetically, ethically, cognitively, etc. the best. Likewise, when my competent but fallible audience tries to figure out correct work-meaning, the focus is first on getting things right--again, based on the best evidence drawn from the work, its context, and conventions--and then attributing correct work-meaning to the actual artist as what she should have intended to communicate to the audience, thus maximizing the humanistic and other values of the experience of artworks. Thus even if hypothetical intentionalism must be "committed to some degree of idealization of' the author or artist, the degree of idealization is not as great as it might be for the value-maximizing view (or for actual intentionalism). One might in fact suspect that unlike hypothetical intentionalism (as well as actual intentionalism and anti-intentionalism), the value-maximizing view is not concerned with correct work-meaning (if there is one) and the evidence for it (compare Carroll 2011, 133), being focused instead only on what makes the work the best, given its contextual and constitutive features.

A different, and indeed central, strand in Stecker and Davies's critique comes from a proposed counterexample to hypothetical intentionalism. They write:
   The counterexample is any case where a work W means p, but p is not
   intended and the audience of W is justified in believing that p is
   not intended.... If an audience is justified in believing that p is
   not intended by the author of W, then it will not hypothesize that
   the author had that intention, and hence, on [hypothetical
   intentionalism], W won't mean p. But, ex hypothesi, W does mean p.
   Hence [hypothetical intentionalism] gives the wrong result in such
   cases. (2010, 309)

This case does not pose a problem at least for my moderate hypothetical intentionalism. For on my view, a competent but fallible audience's best hypothesis is first not about artistic intentions (as is the case with Levinson's view) but instead about work-meaning (given careful attention to the work itself, its context, and conventions), and that hypothesis is then attributed to the actual author or artist as what she should have intended. Even knowing that the artist did not intend p, my competent but fallible audience hypothesizes that the artist ought to have intended p, which our best evidence suggests is the correct work-meaning given the work, its broad art-historical context of production, and the public conventions that apply to it. All this rebuts Stecker and Davies's counter-example. In passing, however, let me also say something very briefly about three examples (2010, 309-11) they use against Levinson as instances, arguably, of their proposed counterexample. The first example concerns the Sherlock Holmes stories, which ascribe two incompatible locations to Dr. Watson's war wound. Levinson suggests we should consider the text as being in error here, but Stecker and Davies (309-10) charge that Levinson's solution involves an aesthetically best reading, i.e. value-maximization. I leave it to Levinson to defend himself in greater detail, but must point out that Levinson's point concerns a principle of charity: logical and interpretive charity to Conan Doyle suggest that he could not really have intended such an inconsistency, which is probably due to oversight, and so a principle of value-maximization is not really in play here (Levinson 2010, 143-44). Had the discrepancy been pointed out to Conan Doyle, he likely would have corrected it, realizing that the meaning of these realistic nineteenth-century detective stories cannot, given their artistic genre, involve the wound being in two incompatible places. So we should be charitable to him, following similar principles of charity in the philosophy of language, not because we want to maximize the work's value, as Davies wants, but because charity is called for here. The second example Stecker and Davies give comes from the film Gattaca, where in one scene Jerome rips his jacket but soon after it is shown intact, and in another scene swimmers are shown as naked and not naked. Here I believe Levinson's easy reply would be that unlike Conan Doyle's work, which is in the genre of realistic nineteenth-century detective fiction, Gattaca is a science fiction film, a genre where inconsistencies cannot "be automatically assumed to be an error" (Levinson 2010, 144). The third example Stecker and Davies discuss concerns Levinson's use of the film Swimming Pool. Levinson suggests that even supposing the film's director intended its main sequence to be merely imagined by its protagonist, nevertheless the intention could be unsuccessful and the sequence could really be ambiguous (2010, 147-50); but Stecker and Davies claim that Levinson only arrives at this conclusion due to value-maximization (2010, 310-11). At least my hypothetical intentionalism can take care of this case, for an informed, competent but fallible audience would be justified--based on work, context, and conventions--in attributing ambiguity as what should have been intended; Levinson could, I think, claim similarly that we should view the work as ambiguous because the work and its context support ambiguity (as what should have been intended), leaving value-maximization aside and focusing primarily on evidence.

Finally, here is a larger concern about Stecker's moderate actual intentionalism. Stecker and Davies sum up Stecker's view as follows:

An utterance means X if (a) the utterer intends X, (b) the utterer intends that her audience will grasp this in virtue of the conventional meaning of her words or ... contextually supported extensions of this meaning permitted by conventions, and (c) the first intention is graspable in virtue of those conventions or permitted extensions of them. Notice that although this definition's uptake condition refers to a meaning, it is a different kind of meaning than utterance or work meaning (namely, conventional meaning). (Stecker and Davies 2010, 311)

My suspicion is that Stecker's "actual intentionalism" may turn out to be a hypothetical intentionalist view in thin disguise. First, Stecker's appeal here in (b) and (c) to conventions and context ultimately to ground his view seems to be a tacit admission that his view does not leave actual semantic intentions in the driver's seat. Second, regarding Stecker's claim that his uptake condition refers to conventional meaning, not work or utterance meaning, here again, insofar as conventional meaning is ultimately determined by conventions or context, we seem rather close to hypothetical intentionalism, not actual intentionalism with its claim that successfully realized intentions determine work-meaning (compare David Davies 2004, 291-92; 2007, 80-82).

I turn at last to Carroll's criticisms. Carroll's principal concern is that while actual intentionalists accept private expressions of artistic intentions, hypothetical intentionalists need to justify why they claim these should not be consulted and appeal instead only to public evidence (2011, 129-30, 132). In reply, artworks are in principle public and shareable, as indeed entailed by the idea that Carroll (1992) and others have advocated earlier of art involving a kind of conversation or communication between artist and audience. As such, we should look at their in principle public features and evidence rather than private thoughts in the artist's mind, appeals to which lead to too much emphasis on the artist's mind, a point already made in the first two sections above against Stecker. Indeed, even the names "modest actual mentalism" or "the psychological approach to interpretation" used now by Carroll (2011, 135) to describe his position suggest that actual intentionalism is guilty of a kind of psychologism, to borrow a term from the German philosopher Gottlob Frege (or commits the "psychologistic fallacy", if one must trade in fallacies). In the Fregean sense, psychologism refers amongst other things to a tendency to believe private ideas are the correct starting point in the theory of knowledge (see Dummett 1993). Similarly, in philosophical aesthetics, psychologism would encompass amongst other things Carroll's claim that artistic interpretations must be grounded in the artist's psychology.

Carroll also employs two examples against hypothetical intentionalism. The first example concerns an utterer who says mistakenly "The fish are on the bank," meaning they are on the steps of the financial institution, but it turns out they are actually behind him on the riverbank (Carroll 2011, 130-31). Here while hypothetical intentionalists claim that the utterance means that the fish are on the riverbank, Carroll objects that neither the physical environment nor someone else such as an ideal interpreter can fix or determine the meaning of what the utterer has said, so the hypothetical intentionalist's appeal to utterance meaning does not work. In such a case, Carroll claims that the meaning is textual meaning, and if the hypothetical intentionalist objects that such a move leads to an indeterminacy of meaning, then Carroll contends that this must also be a problem in this case--and in more cases in general--for hypothetical intentionalism. In reply, sure, the utterer means the fish are at the financial institution, but utterer's meaning fails in this case and the utterance in context means the fish are on the river bank. This is what the utterer should have meant or intended to communicate, taking the context and all relevant circumstances into account fully. Moreover, given the two meanings of "bank," the textual meaning here is indeed ambiguous, but hypothetical intentionalists can end the indeterminacy by appealing to context. Note in passing that utterance meaning is a broader concept than utterer's meaning, for it appeals to context and also to public linguistic conventions such as word and sentence meanings, the meaning of an utterance in context being governed by such conventions.

The second example Carroll uses (2011, 131) is the painting Instruction Patemelle (The Paternal Admonition) by Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681). (6) Goethe and others have interpreted the painting as showing a father gently admonishing his ashamed daughter in the mother's presence, while ter Borch intended to depict a young prostitute haggling with her client while her procuress looks on. Carroll suggests it is bizarre that others, including ideal others, determine what ter Borch meant. But contra Carroll, while ter Borch may have intended the prostitute interpretation, is it clear that he succeeded in realizing his intentions if even ideal or competent critics such as Goethe cannot see that interpretation or sufficient evidence for it in the painting? In terms of public clues in the painting that support the prostitute interpretation, even the alleged coin in the male subject's hand is not clearly visible. Why does mere artistic intention make the prostitute interpretation true? Note also that while Carroll is offering a thought-experiment rather than a historical analysis of the painting, supposing that we only know ter Borch's intentions through an unpublished diary, things such as unpublished diaries are in principle shareable and public; they can be accessible even in their unpublished form to others in libraries and archives, for example, and so the hypothetical intentionalist need not always disallow them. Finally, one might also wonder contra Carroll if, regardless of artistic intentions, the painting should be seen as ambiguous rather than as one with conflicting interpretations.

So far in my discussion of the ter Borch example above, I have followed Carroll's presentation of it. But someone might object that there is in fact more to this case since ter Borch did not assign the title The Paternal Admonition, which probably postdates the work by centuries and so that title is not relevant as evidence of work-meaning or the artist's intention. And the objector might continue that a blog at the Rijksmuseum (which holds the work) suggests that in fact the prostitute interpretation is most likely, based on the available evidence (Levendig 2010). Here is what the blog says:

This magnificent work ... was, until recently, titled 'Paternal Admonition.' The idea was that the daughter, the girl in the delicately painted satin dress we are looking at from behind, received a moral comment from her father, the man in soldier costume.... In fact, there is no real basis for that interpretation ... the man is way too young to be her father. Therefore, the theory was replaced by another one: ter Borch depicted a brothel scene in which the woman seen [from] the back is a prostitute, the other woman the procuress, and the soldier a customer who's holding up a coin to pay for her services. This proposal seems more likely, also because the whole atmosphere and decor of the scene (mirror, dog, prominently large bed) remind us of similar genre pieces with the same subject. Nevertheless, interpretation problems remain, not in the last place because the soldier's coin is not (clearly) visible. Even in his own days Gerard ter Borch was already known for the ambiguous meaning of his paintings, and he would probably have been amused to see twenty-first century art historians still quarrelling about their meaning. (Levendig 2010)

In response, it would seem that contra Carroll, ambiguity as opposed to either the paternal admonition or the prostitute interpretation might be the least problematic and best reading here--even one perhaps intended by ter Borch, although that I contend is besides the point.


Thanks to John Brown, Noel Carroll, Peter Lamarque, and especially Jerrold Levinson for helpful feedback, and thanks also to the Editor of College Literature, Graham MacPhee, and the two anonymous referees.

(1) Many cautious actual intentionalists take this possibility of failure of artistic intentions very seriously; Wollheim, for instance, thought about this problem for many years. For older versions of actual intentionalism, see, for example, Hirsch 1967; Juhl 1980.

(2) This problem is stated here less formally than the version in Trivedi 2001.

(3) For other criticisms of Livingston, see Davies 2007: 82-84.

(4) For a more recent version of anti-intentionalism, see, for example, Nathan 1982; 2006.

(5) For different versions of hypothetical intentionalism, see, for example, Booth 1983; Baxandall 1987; Tolhurst 1979; Nehamas 1981, 1986; Levinson 1996, 2006, 2010; Currie 2005a, 2005b.

(6) The picture can be viewed at: TeuUG439j61/AAAAAAAAAbo/YFU34jk02B4/s1600/Borch+Gerard+ter+ Borch+Gallant+Conversation.jpg.


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SAAM TRIVEDI is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He has published articles on various topics in philosophical aesthetics in such journals as Metaphilosophy, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, British Journal of Aesthetics, Journal of Aesthetic Education, as well as chapters in edited collections.
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