the intentional fallacy

The intentional fallacy is the false belief that the author’s interpretation of his work (his ‘intention’) has more validity than anyone else’s interpretation of his work. That is, once a work is published, it is ‘out there’, with no one, not even the author, having a preferential relationship to it. (Description of the intentional fallacy was given by W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley in an essay on this topic published in 1954.) Similarly, in parliamentary procedure, a so-called ‘friendly amendment’ is not accorded special status.

The intentional fallacy can be taken in a wider sense to mean that the nominal and actual cannot be automatically conflated. Dramatic use is sometimes made of the fallacy of doing so, as in the movie ‘Witness for the Prosecution’.