Brentano on Presenting Something as an Intentional Object

In Fosca Mariani-Zini (ed.), The Meaning of Something: Rethinking the Logic and the Unity of Metaphysics. Springer. pp. 1-30 (2022)
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This paper is about the question: what is it for a mental state to mean (or present) something as an intentional object? This issue is addressed from a broad perspective, against the background of Brentano’s philosophical programme in Psychology from an empirical standpoint, and the controversy between the proponents of a non-canonical interpretation of Brentano’s theory of intentionality, and the so-called orthodox interpretation advocated namely by R. Chisholm. My investigation is divided into six parts. In the first section, I explain the meaning and function of the notion of phenomenon in light of Brentano’s philosophical programme, and I briefly elucidate the notion of physical phenomenon which, in Brentano’s Psychology, constitutes the primary object of consciousness. In the next two sections, I look at two aspects of Brentano’s criticism of the identity thesis that he attributes to British empiricism, namely the psychological aspect, which concerns the identification of the two classes of phenomena, and the metaphysical aspect relating to the relationship between physical phenomena and the reality of an extramental world. Once this double distinction will be established, I will turn to the relation of intentional objects to presentations and put forward the hypothesis that intentional objects are conceptually dependent upon presentations and that this dependence rests, in turn, upon the content of the mental phenomena. The next step concerns Brentano’s theory of primary and secondary objects, and one of the main non-orthodox arguments against the canonical interpretation, namely that the latter conflates primary and secondary objects. In this context, I examine a second hypothesis: that the secondary object, or intentional correlate of an act, is an intentional content, which is distinct both from the intentional object and from the reality to which it relates, and I maintain that the intentional content has the function of mediating the mental acts’ relation to their objects. Finally, I shall examine some objections against the hypothesis of intentional content in Brentano’s Psychology, and I will conclude with a brief commentary on the bearing of this investigation with regard to the interpretation of the genesis of Brentano’s theory of intentionality, before and after the reistic turn of his philosophy.



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Denis Fisette
Université du Québec à Montréal

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Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte.Franz Brentano - 1874 - Duncker Und Humblot. Edited by Arkadiusz Chrudzimski & Thomas Binder.
Descriptive Psychology.Franz Brentano - 1982/1995 - Routledge.

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