Language, Levels of Consciousness, and the Development of Intentional Action

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


In this chapter, the author argues instead that the genesis of action actually does consist in language, because labeling an experience is a precondition for the control of behavior by a conscious representation. He argues that in addition to the initial, constitutive function, language plays an executive function in the development of action control. In terms of the levels of consciousness model, the new level of action control is explained by the acquisition of a higher level of consciousness, referred to as reflective consciousness. Language has long been believed to play an important role in consciousness. Recursion allows the contents of minimal consciousness to be related to a semantic description and interpreted in terms of the description. This description can then be decoupled from the perception described, and maintained in working memory. Intentionality is thus a ground-level characteristic of consciousness, which aims beyond itself at an object, much in the same way that intentional actions aim at something.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDeveloping Theories of Intention
Subtitle of host publicationSocial Understanding and Self-Control
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781000940138
ISBN (Print)9780805831412
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1999 Taylor & Francis.


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