Bourdieu explains this concept (which is a GREAT dial to watch) in his conferences about Manet.
To make is short, he says that when an artist “makes” something (a movie, a painting, etc), audience and critics talks about his/her INTENTIONS.
As if artists knew exactly what they do and the impact their work will have!
Kundera said that sometimes he receives a thesis written by a student about his books, and explains that he had no idea all these ideas were in them !
Bourdieu opposes Intentions to Dispositions. Manet’s work is not “a crystal clear intention to have this impact”, but it’s more like a bouquet of tendencies, an aggregate of his childhood, his education, training, his time, his friends, his changing or searching personality, his work too, the building of it, etc.
I think we can watch this pattern, widening it to human relations in general. There, it plugs to the second agreement. People don’t do thing with big “intentions” towards you, but they deal with their own dreams and values, linked to you or not.
It’s linked with the idea of Umberto Eco & the Open Work, and Intertextuality (“the meaning of a text does not reside in the text”). In short : the audience reacts, but they probably don’t get the “intention” of the author (if there’s one). The audience builds its own system of reactions, according if necessary to the imagined, supposed “intentions” of the author.
Same in life, right?
Disposition is the “tendency of”, the trend. A human being will is a complex system, a changing aggregate. You watch, then, the… Propensity. The natural tendency to move this way, to act that way.
You have no idea how a scandal it’s been for Manet’s work : Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, and Olympia. Bourdieu smiles : maybe someone asked the painter, one evening in spring, on a terrace in Paris with a beer “What do you do this day?”. “I paint”.
We’re not islands, but we are, in a way.
Intentions do exist, yes, but for ourselves. I love this example (from Kundera again) : the intention of knowing.
Watch someone act (crazy or not). Understand it with dispositions (the whole system this person is in, education, wounds, life, milieu, changes, desires), not with intentions.
Have a great day!