What do our assumptions about authorship matter for our experience of meaning? This book examines the debates in the humanities and social sciences over whether authorial intentions can, or should, constrain our interpretation of language and art. Scholars assume that understanding of linguistic and artistic meaning should not be constrained by beliefs about authors and their possible intentions in creating a human artifact. It is argued here that people are strongly disposed to infer intentionality when understanding oral speech, written texts, artworks, and many other human actions. Although ordinary people, and scholars, may infer meanings that diverge from, or extend beyond, what authors intend, our experience of human artifacts as meaningful is fundamentally tied to our assumptions of intentionality. This challenges the traditional ideas of intentions as existing solely in the minds of individuals, and formulates a new conceptual framework for examining if and when intentions influence the interpretation of meaning.

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