A Systematic Reconstruction of Brentano’s Theory of Consciousness

Topoi 41 (1):123-132 (2022)
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In recent years, Brentano’s theory of consciousness has been systematically reassessed. The reconstruction that has received the most attention is the so-called identity reconstruction. It says that secondary consciousness and the mental phenomenon it is about are one and the same. Crucially, it has been claimed that this thesis is the only one which can make Brentano’s theory immune to what he considers the main threat to it, namely, the duplication of the primary object. In this paper, I argue that the identity reconstruction is untenable, and I defend an alternative, which I name the unity reconstruction. According to the unity reconstruction, secondary consciousness is a real part of the mental phenomenon it is about, and hence is distinct from it. I contend that this thesis does not in itself lead to the duplication of the primary object, and that what should be blamed is rather a controversial thesis about the intentional structure of secondary consciousness—a thesis which Brentano ultimately abandoned.

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