In Rens Bod, Jaap Maat & Thijs Weststeijn (eds.), The Making of the Humanities. Volume III: The Making of the Modern Humanities. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 543-554 (2014)

Authors
Carlo Ierna
Radboud University Nijmegen
Abstract
On July 14, 1866 Franz Brentano stepped up to the pulpit to defend his thesis that “the true method of philosophy is none other than that of the natural sciences”. This thesis bound his first students to him and became the north star of his school, against the complex background of the progress and specialization of the natural sciences as well as the growth and professionalization of universities. I will discuss the project of the renewal of philosophy as science in the School of Brentano and how this aimed to provide a scientific foundation for the humanities independently from the natural sciences, while preserving the unity of science. Through his well-known re-introduction of the concept of intentionality as criterion to distinguish internal and external perception, Brentano was able to supply an empirical foundation for the Geisteswissenschaften. While philosophy would use the method of natural science, its domain would not be nature, but consciousness: a full-blooded science of the mind that did not require a reduction to the physical in order to be scientific. Brentano’s science of consciousness was empirical, but not experimental, and relied on subjective methods, but was not introspective. Brentano’s students Carl Stumpf, Anton Marty, Alexius Meinong, Christian von Ehrenfels, Edmund Husserl and others came to occupy important chairs in philosophy throughout Europe. While they were certainly not all orthodox followers, they adapted and spread his theories far and wide in the schools and movements they founded and influenced: Gestalt psychology, Prague linguistics, phenomenology, etc.. Moreover, the 19th century idea of scientific research as a collaborative and collective achievement led to a division of labor in Brentano’s school. Each of his students was meant to work out a part of the greater whole: Stumpf, the philosophy of sound and music; Marty, language; Meinong the history of philosophy; Husserl, mathematics; etc. Yet all of them also contributed to the shared project of the renewal of philosophy as science and discussed the (foundational) relation of philosophy to other sciences in programmatic works. Though often forgotten and overlooked due to contingent historical circumstances, the scientific paradigm of the School of Brentano was very fruitful and highly influential in philosophy and the human sciences in general, throughout the second half of the 19th and into the 20th centuries. Yet it is relevant then as now to preserve the independent scientific dignity of the humanities.
Keywords Franz Brentano  School of Brentano  History of philosophy  History and philosophy of science  History and philosophy of the humanities
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