Review Of Argument For Actual Intentionalism

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“What message do you think the author was trying to convey in this piece?” It is a question repeated time and time again in literature study classrooms around the world and speaks to our innate curiosity to know and understand anything and everything better. The issue of authorial intention can be hotly debated amongst any philosophers depending on their stance and knowledge of the subject, as well as any student of the arts, from painting to literature. One of the current debates on the subject was sparked by Gary Iseminger’s, “An Intentional Demonstration?” which introduced and discussed his argument for actual intentionalism, credit for which he gives to E.D. Hirsch, later referring to actual intentionalism as Hirschian intentionalism. The argument asserts that at least some interpretive statements about a poem, later applicable to other literary works as well, are and must be “underwritten” by intentional authorial meanings. The argument was furthered by an example involving two conflicting interpretive statements about a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem. Using the two opposing statements, Iseminger develops three basic premises. The first claims that both of the statements about the work were compatible with the text to which they pertained. Second, because the statements were incongruous only one of the statements was true. The third premise, which sparked the debate, claims that if only one of the interpretive statements about the work is true, both of which are compatible with the work’s text, the true statement is the one that applies the meaning, or gist, intended by the work’s creator. This final premise was challenged by Jarrold Levinson, who argued for hypothetical intentionalism claiming that the author’s intention is not what determines the meaning of a work, but the author’s so-called hypothetical intentions. The call by Levinson to replace Iseminger’s

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