Cham: Springer (2018)

Hamid Taieb
Humboldt-University, Berlin
This book sheds new light on the history of the philosophically crucial notion of intentionality, which accounts for one of the most distinctive aspects of our mental life: the fact that our thoughts are about objects. Intentionality is often described as a certain kind of relation. Focusing on Franz Brentano, who introduced the notion into contemporary philosophy, and on the Aristotelian tradition, which was Brentano’s main source of inspiration, the book reveals a rich history of debate on precisely the relational nature of intentionality. It shows that Brentano and the Aristotelian authors from which he drew not only addressed the question whether intentionality is a relation, but also devoted extensive discussions to what kind of relation it is, if any. The book aims to show that Brentano distinguishes the intentional relation from two other relations with which it might be confused, namely, causality and reference, which also hold between thoughts and their objects. Intentionality accounts for the aboutness of a thought; causality, by contrast, explains how the thought is generated, and reference, understood as a sort of similarity, occurs when the object towards which the thought is directed exists. Brentano claims to find some anticipation of his views in Aristotle. This book argues that, whether or not Brentano’s interpretation of Aristotle is correct, his claim is true of the Aristotelian tradition as a whole, since followers of Aristotle more or less explicitly made some or all of Brentano’s distinctions. This is demonstrated through examination of some major figures of the Aristotelian tradition (broadly understood), including Alexander of Aphrodisias, the Neoplatonic commentators, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Francisco Suárez. This book combines a longue durée approach – focusing on the long-term evolution of philosophical concepts rather than restricting itself to a specific author or period – with systematic analysis in the history of philosophy. By studying Brentano and the Aristotelian authors with theoretical sensitivity, it also aims to contribute to our understanding of intentionality and cognate features of the mind.
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Reprint years 2019
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ISBN(s) 978-3-319-98886-3   978-3-319-98887-0   3319988867   9783319988863
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Chapters BETA
Conclusion: Intentionality and History

The goal of this work has been to examine Brentano’s distinction between intentionality, causality, and reference, not just in its own right but also in terms of its connection with the Aristotelian tradition. The point of departure was the following: for Brentano, intentionality is a relation that ... see more


One might well be tempted to follow Myles Burnyeat, and see the young Brentano as treating the psychic causality in the De anima as identical to intentionality. As shown above, however, Brentano in his later writings does not maintain this interpretation, but finds in Aristotle a distinction between... see more

Intentionality as a Relation

In his discussion of the different classes of relations in Metaphysics Δ.15, Aristotle assigns the connection between psychic activities and their objects to a separate third class, which establishes a relational asymmetry between the correlates: while activities are in themselves related to their o... see more

Psychic Causality

Franz Brentano is one of the major figures of what is known as the “Austro-German” tradition. A distinctive feature of this tradition is its concern with clarity and argument, as opposed to the speculative and “jargon-laden” philosophy of the nineteenth century, which is to say—according to the Aust... see more

Introduction: Is Intentionality a Relation?

During the twentieth century, both phenomenology and analytic philosophy of mind devoted themselves to the study of what they called “Intentionalität” or “intentionality”. In §84 of Ideen I, Husserl describes intentionality asSimilarly, John Searle begins the first chapter of his book on intentional... see more

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Intentionality in Ancient Philosophy.Victor Caston - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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