Brentano, Franz

views updated Jun 11 2018


BRENTANO, FRANZ (1838–1917), German-Austrian philosopher.

A revolutionary figure in empiricist European philosophy at the turn of the century, Franz Clemens Honoratus Hermann Brentano is most famously associated with his distinction between psychological and physical phenomena on the basis of the "aboutness" or intentionality of thought. Brentano championed an Aristotelian approach to philosophy and psychology. He developed ethics and value theory by means of the concepts of correct pro- and anti-emotions or love and hate attitudes, and he made important contributions to syllogistic logic (unpublished during his lifetime), epistemology or theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. His teaching prepared the way for rigorous approaches to philosophy of science and theory of meaning in the later work of the so-called Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists, as well as on Gestalt and other branches of experimental psychology, the theory of objects (Gegenstandstheorie), and descriptive philosophical psychology or phenomenology. Lecturing first in Würzburg, Germany, and later in Vienna, Austria, Brentano's ideas touched many important thinkers who self-consciously considered themselves as constituting a Brentano School. The philosophers and psychologists of note who were part of the Brentano orbit included such leading lights of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as Alexius Meinong, Ernst Mally, Alois Höfler, Carl Stumpf, Anton Marty, Frans Weber, Kazimierz Twardowski, Christian von Ehrenfels, Edmund Husserl, and Sigmund Freud.

Between 1859 and 1860, Brentano attended the Academy in Münster, reading intensively in the medieval Aristotelians, and receiving in 1862 the doctorate in philosophy in absentia from the University of Tübingen. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1864 and was later involved in a controversy over the doctrine of papal infallibility, eventually leaving the church in 1873. He taught first as Privatdozent in the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Würzburg from 1866 to 1874, and then accepted a professorship at the University of Vienna, which he held until 1880. After the death of his wife in 1893, Brentano left Vienna in 1895 and retired to Italy, spending summers in the Austrian Danube valley, and finally relocating to Zurich, Switzerland, shortly before Italy entered World War I. Here he remained active both in philosophy and psychology, despite his increasing blindness. He continued writing philosophy, and maintained an extensive philosophical-literary correspondence until his death from complications following the relapse of an appendicitis attack.

In Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (1874; Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint), Brentano argues that intentionality is the mark of the mental, that every psychological experience has contained immanently within it an intended object that the thought is about or toward which the thought is directed. To consider just one of Brentano's examples, in desire something is desired. According to the immanent intentionality thesis, this means that the desired object is literally contained within the psychological experience of desire. Brentano holds that this is uniquely true of mental as opposed to physical or nonpsychological phenomena, so that the intentionality of the psychological distinguishes mental from physical states. The immanent intentionality thesis provides a framework in which Brentano identifies three categories of psychological phenomena: presentations (Vorstellungen), judgments (Urteilen), and emotions (Gefühle).

In the period from 1905 through 1911, with the publication in the latter year of Von der Klassifikation der psychischen Phänomene (On the classification of psychical phenomena), Brentano abandoned the immanent intentionality thesis according to which intended objects are contained within the thoughts that intend them in favor of his later philosophy of reism, according to which only individuals exist, excluding putative nonexistent irrealia, such as lacks, absences, and mere possibilities. In the meantime, his students Twardowski, Meinong, and Husserl, reacting negatively to the psychologism and related philosophical problems apparent in the early immanent intentionality thesis, developed alternative nonimmanence approaches to intentionality, leading in the case of Twardowski and Meinong and his students in the Graz school of phenomenological psychology to the construction of a theory of (transcendent existent and nonexistent intended) objects, and to Husserl's transcendental phenomenology. The intentionality of the mental in Brentano's revival of this medieval Aristotelian doctrine is one of his most important contributions to contemporary nonmechanistic theories of mind, meaning, and expression. Brentano's doctrine of immanent intentionality was rejected by philosophers who otherwise agreed with his underlying claim that thought is essentially object-directed, and who used Brentano's thesis as a springboard to further philosophical investigations that have influenced the subsequent history of Continental and intentionalist analytic philosophy. Through his impact on Freud, Brentano additionally exerted a profound effect on psychology, psychoanalytic theory and practice, and consequently on the scientific, literary, and artistic traditions that followed in its wake. Through the more widely read works of Husserl and above all Freud, Brentano indirectly influenced the course of modernist literature, exemplified among many others by the writings of Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, Robert Musil, and John Dos Passos. Brentano continues in this sense to contribute to the uniquely introspective outlook that has shaped all of contemporary culture.

See alsoFreud, Sigmund; Husserl, Edmund; Modernism; Vienna.


Primary Sources

Brentano, Franz. On the Several Senses of Being in Aristotle. Edited and translated by Rolf George. Berkeley, Calif., 1975. Translation of Von der mannifgachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles (1862).

——. Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. Translated by Antos C. Rancurello, D. B. Terrell, and Linda L. McAlister. Introduction by Peter Simons. 2nd ed. London, 1973. Translation of Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (1874); 2nd ed. 1924.

Secondary Sources

Albertazzi, Lilian, Massimo Libardi, and Roberto Poli, eds. The School of Franz Brentano. Dordrecht, Boston, and London, 1996. Essays on Brentano's work and that of his students influenced by his contributions to philosophy and psychology.

Chisholm, Roderick M. Brentano and Meinong Studies. Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1982. Anthology of papers on Brentano's epistemology and value theory and of Brentano's student Alexius Meinong from one of the premier Brentano scholars of the twentieth century.

Jacquette, Dale. "Fin de Sie'cle Austrian Thought and the Rise of Scientific Philosophy." History of European Ideas 27 (2001): 307–315. Exploration of Brentano's role in supplanting neo-post-Kantian transcendentalism by scientific Aristotelian empiricism in turn of the twentieth century Austrian philosophy.

——. "Brentano's Scientific Revolution in Philosophy." Southern Journal of Philosophy, Spindel Conference Supplement, 40 (2002): 193–221. Spindel Conference 2001, Origins: The Common Sources of Analytic and Phenomenological Traditions. Critical evaluation of Brentano's descriptive psychology and the methodological problems encountered by his efforts to ground a new science of phenomenology in first-person inner perception.

Jacquette, Dale, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Brentano. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2004. Historical and philosophical essays on Brentano's philosophy, with special emphasis on his intentionality thesis, descriptive psychology, metaphysics, theory of knowledge, value theory, and philosophical theology.

Johnston, William M. The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848–1938. Berkeley, Calif., 1972. Insightful introduction to the scientific and philosophical background of intellectual traditions associated with the Austrian Habsburg empire.

McAlister, Linda L., ed. The Philosophy of Brentano. London, 1976. Collection of recollections, biographical sketches and critical essays on Brentano's philosophy from his students, contemporaries, and later thinkers.

Poli, Roberto, ed. The Brentano Puzzle. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, Vt., 1998. Conference proceedings on Brentano's philosophy; the "puzzle" refers to Brentano's importance to subsequent philosophy and at the same time his near invisibility when compared with other more frequently discussed philosophers of the period.

Smith, Barry. Austrian Philosophy: The Legacy of Franz Brentano. Chicago, 1994. Detailed discussion of Brentano's intentionality thesis and metaphysics, with separate chapters on principal members of the Brentano school.

Srzednicki, Jan. Franz Brentano's Analysis of Truth. The Hague, 1965. Detailed analysis of Brentano's concept of truth in the context of his empiricist psychology and epistemology.

Dale Jacquette

Brentano, Franz

views updated May 21 2018


German philosophical psychologist influential in the development of phenomenology; b. Marienberg, near Boppard, June 16, 1838; d. Zürich, Switzerland, March 17, 1917. Brentano's parents were devout Catholics; his uncle, Clemens Brentano, was a noted romantic poet; his brother, Lujo, was a political economist and professor at the University of Munich. Franz entered the Dominican Order in his youth but left as a novice. In 1864 he was ordained and in the same year was attached to the University of Würzburg, first as a lecturer in philosophy, later as a full professor (1872). Though he was deep in doubt concerning certain dogmas of the Church, he was asked to prepare a brief on papal infallibility for a meeting of the German bishops before vatican council i. When the dogma of infallibility was proclaimed, Brentano resigned his professorship and abandoned his priesthood. In 1874 the University of Vienna offered him a professorship, which he surrendered in 1880 when he married. He remained in Vienna for 15 years as an unsalaried lecturer, until approaching blindness forced him to retire. He spent his remaining years traveling in Italy and Switzerland.

Thought. Three major influences were operative in Brentano's thinking. First, he became acquainted with the philosophies of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the scholastics during his seminary training. From these Brentano adopted many principles, as well as his orderly, analytic approach to philosophy. Second, he refused to accept the a priori principles of German idealists, being opposed to any form of dogmatism. Third, impressed with the discoveries of the physical sciences, he attributed progress in science to empirical methodology and urged that such methodology be adopted by the philosopher. Under these influences, Brentano set out to construct a "scientific" philosophy that would start with no "categories" or "forms." On the analogy of mathematics' being basic to the physical sciences, he sought to determine a similar science that would be basic to philosophy, and settled upon psychology.

Arguing that psychological phenomena can be objectively studied only in their proper setting, which is experience, Brentano proposed to construct a "psychology from an empirical standpoint." He avoided the subjectivist extreme of studying experience through introspection alone; rather, he proposed that in each man there is an experience of "inner perception," an awareness that is both immediate and infallible. By analyzing this "inner perception," Brentano hoped to describe and categorize the contents of experience.

For Brentano, all psychological phenomena possess an "intentionality," a property not found in physical phenomena. His was not the Thomistic theory of an idea's "intentional inexistence" in the mind (see intentionali ty; species, intentional). Instead, Brentano merely stated that psychological phenomena have a "referenceto-an-object"; ideas, desires, feelings are essentially concerned with things external. By his "inner perception," man is immediately aware that each psychic phenomenon refers to or "intends" an outside object. Thus every such phenomenon must be conscious; unconscious phenomena are self-contradictory.

In Brentano's view, psychic phenomena are of three types: (1) mere representations, (2) judgments, and (3) feelings of love and hate. These phenomena are not static concepts; Brentano saw them all as "activities" that refer differently to objects. An analysis of each type uncovers a basic truth. (1) Representations are the primary phenomena; thus every psychological phenomenon is, at least originally, a representation. (2) Judgments are objectively true or false; yet certain judgments are experienced by all men as self-evident. (3) All acts of love and hate possess the value of good or evil; analogously, certain of these volitional acts are experienced as naturally good or evil. It was on this analogy of self-evident value that Brentano based his ethics.

Influence. Brentano prepared the ground for phenomenology by enlarging the scope of empiricism: man not only viewed the elements of experience; he was aided by a certain intuition. His notion of "intentional reference" is his most important contribution to the philosophy of E. husserl, who called Brentano "my one and only teacher in philosophy." His analogue of self-evidence applied to moral philosophy is at least indirectly reflected in the value-qualified beings of M. scheler. However, his impact on philosophy was as a teacher, not as an author. His major works are Psychologie des Aristotles (1867), Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (Leipzig 1874), and Vom Ursprung sittlicher Erkenntnis (Leipzig 1889).

Bibliography: c. rosso, Enciclopedia filosofica, 4 v. (Venice-Rome 1957) 1:796799. a. scholz, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 2:670. h. spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement (The Hague 1960) v. 1. a. kastil, Die Philosophie Franz Brentanos (Bern 1951). b. smith, Austrian Philosophy: The Legacy of Franz Brentano (Chicago 1994). r. m. chisholm, Brentano and Intrinsic Value (Cambridge 1986).

[c. p. svoboda]

Franz Clemens Brentano

views updated Jun 08 2018

Franz Clemens Brentano

The German philosopher and psychologist Franz Clemens Brentano (1838-1917) is best known for his work in establishing psychology as an independent science.

Franz Brentano was born on Jan. 16, 1838, at Marienberg in the Rhineland into a family of the nobility, whose lineage is traceable to the 13th century and includes many famous members, among them the authors Clemens Brentano and Bettina von Arnim. Franz studied at the gymnasium at Aschaffenburg and then at the universities of Munich, Würzburg, Berlin, and Münster (1856-1860). Raised in an extremely pious and orthodox Catholic household, Brentano early decided to enter the priesthood and was ordained in 1864.

From the first his interests were divided almost equally between theology, philosophy, and mathematics. After a period of increasing doubts about fundamental dogmas of the church, the declaration of papal infallibility in 1870 precipitated his final break with the church 3 years later. Thereafter he turned his attention wholeheartedly to philosophy, which he was determined to pursue in a scientific manner, explicitly rejecting the then dominant trend of German idealism.

After the publication of his best-known work, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874), Brentano accepted a chair at the University of Vienna. In 6 years of teaching he gathered there a brilliant set of students through whom his own thought was further developed and more widely propagated. Brentano's teaching activity was disturbed by pressures from reactionary authorities who invoked a law forbidding marriage to clerics. In order to marry, Brentano had to give up his professorship and move to Leipzig. Thereafter he was allowed to return to his circle of colleagues and students, but only as a privatdozent, or lecturer. For 14 years he continued in this position; numerous efforts to restore him to his professorship were derailed by political intrigues. Finally, in 1890, after the death of his wife, Brentano left Vienna and settled in Florence, where he devoted himself to writing and to correspondence with his wide circle of students.

In addition to his work on psychology, Brentano published important works on Aristotle, on ethics, and on esthetics. Brentano's work offers original insights in all the main branches of philosophy from logic to natural theology. He defended the objectivity of value judgments in ethics and esthetics and labored to construct a philosophical theism and a doctrine of immortality.

The onset of World War I drove him from his Italian haven to Zurich, where, now totally blind, he continued to dictate new manuscripts. He died in Zurich on March 17, 1917, and was survived by his second wife and a son, Johannes.

Further Reading

There are few studies in English on Brentano. Two are important: Gustav Bergmann, Realism: A Critique of Brentano and Meinong (1967), and Jan Srzednicki, Franz Brentano's Analysis of Truth (1965), which contains a reliable bibliography of Brentano's works, some of which are available in English.

Additional Sources

Chisholm, Roderick M., Brentano and intrinsic value, Cambridge Cambridgeshire; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Smith, Barry, Ph. D., Austrian philosophy: the legacy of Franz Brentano, Chicago: Open Court, 1994. □

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