“Intension” vs “Intention”

Back when I was in college I thought the philosopher’s distinction between “intensional” with an “s” and “intentional” with a “t” was a sick joke designed to confuse undergraduates and the typo-prone. So I’m heartened to see that in his paper “Against Darwinism” (via Tyler Cowen), Jerry Fodor has a footnote lambasting this nonsense:

It’s hard to imagine a less fortunate terminology than the philosopher’s ‘intention/intension’ distinction. But I suppose there’s nothing can be done at this late date. In what follows, an intensional context is one in which the substitution of coextensive expressions isn’t valid. Intentional states are just the familiar beliefs, desires, intentions and so forth that populate theories of cognition and of the integration of behavior.


I don’t really think the philosophical community should adopt this fatalistic “there’s nothing can be done” attitude. Surely this is what professional associations are for. This is a very, very confusing terminological choice and it helps nobody.

At any rate, haven’t read the paper beyond this footnote, but I have strong feelings on this issue.