The Breakthrough to Phenomenology: Three Theories of Mental Content in the Brentano School

Dissertation, University of California, San Diego (2003)

Brentano and his students were the first to wrestle an Aristotelian perceptual concept, intentionality, into the modern metaphysics of mind. This dissertation recovers theories of Franz Brentano , Kazimierz Twardowski , and Edmund Husserl by appreciating each as an unique attempt to make a modern home for the ancient doctrine of "aboutness." The dissertation corrects a broad range of contemporary misunderstandings and criticisms of Brentano School philosophy, in particular one advanced by Martin Heidegger . ;Brentano's Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint is marked by deep tensions between the doctrine of intentional inexistence and its Comtean positivism; Brentano treated mental contents as Comtean phenomena. Understanding physical phenomena as facts presented by sensations, and as syntactic building-blocks for higher-order mental phenomena, I reject misinterpretations of Brentano as either anti-reductionist or Immanentist. The unstable Brentanian account of intentionality was inherited by his student Twardowski. On the Content and Object of Presentations hoped to shore up Brentano's position with a crisp distinction of mental contents from worldly objects; Twardowski was among the first to attempt to integrate intentionality with a modern representationalism. The result was subjective mental content through which objects in the extra-conscious world are represented, a watershed in the history of representationalisms. Twardowski treated the representational relation as resemblance and mental contents as " quasi pictures," but Twardowski was among the first distinctly 20th Century representationalists, those who treat mental content as extra-conscious. Husserl's solution to Brentano's problem rejected the positivistic phenomena of his teacher and criticized the quasi-pictures of his classmate. The heart of the Logical Investigations account of consciousness is a distinction between two kinds of mental content. The intentional objects of the world at large are our mental contents , the very things that remain fixed while our mental contents fluctuate. Understanding this dynamic relation between two kinds of mental content, I reject readings of the Investigations which treat ideal content as either Fregean or Aristotelian. The recovery of Husserl's notion of ideality, one strategy amongst several in attempts to integrate intentionality with modern metaphysics, abets a defense of early Husserlian phenomenology from one of its most powerful critics.
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