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Franz Brentano (1838 – 1917)  was a German philosopher and psychologist of Intentionality, Time-consciousness, and Judgment. A person judges truly, if and only if, his judgment agrees with the judgment he would make if he were to judge with evidence.

Franz Brentano German philosopher

Franz Brentano


Quotations from Franz Brentano

We emphasized as a distinguishing characteristic the fact that the mental phenomena which we perceive, in spite of all their multiplicity, always appear to us as a unity, while physical phenomena, which we perceive at the same time, do not all appear in the same way as parts of one single phenomenon. (Psychology from An Empirical Standpoint, p. 102, Mental Phenomena in general)

An unconscious consciousness is no more a contradiction in terms than an unseen case of seeing. Most laymen in psychology, however, will immediately reject the assumption of an unconscious consciousness, even without being influenced by false analogies associated with this expression. … Naturally philosophers were well familiar with the fact that we can possess a store of acquired knowledge without thinking about it. But they rightly conceived of this knowledge as a disposition toward certain acts of thinking, just as they conceived of acquired character as a disposition toward certain emotions and volitions, but not as cognition and consciousness. (Psychology from An Empirical Standpoint, p. 108, Mental Phenomena in general)

We can say that the sound is the primary object of the act of hearing, and that the act of hearing itself is the secondary object.

The true method of philosophy is the only method of science.

Descriptive psychology’s goal is to list “fully the basic components out of which everything internally perceived by humans is composed, and … [to enumerate] the ways in which these components can be connected.” (Descriptive Psychology , 4)

All mental phenomena have in common, “that they are only perceived in inner consciousness, while in the case of physical phenomena only external perception is possible.” (Psychology, 91)

An emotion is correct, “when one’s feelings are adequate to their object — adequate in the sense of being appropriate, suitable, or fitting” (Brentano, Origins, 70)

A person judges truly, if and only if, his judgment agrees with the judgment he would make if he were to judge with evidence.


Sources for Franz Brentano quotes; SearchQuotes, Stanford.edu,


COMMENTS on Franz Brentano

An unconscious consciousness is no more a contradiction in terms than an unseen case of seeing. This strange thought was written 130 years ago, and thus long before the modern observations into the brain in action, and when people were barely aware that most of the brain’s “thoughts” are invisible to the individual’s moment of consciousness; but it is the intentionality of an idea associated with physical phenomena that distinguished it from purely mental psychical happenings. Many philosophers say that one of Brentano’s gifts was his ability to grow in the subtlety of his philosophy, and over many rethinkings of an idea come to entirely new ways of exploring old problems. He was an early advocate of a scientific method of experimentation in his approach to philosophy and psychology and of an avoidance of religious infallibility and literary rhetoric as answers to questions of complex phenomena.

Descriptive psychology’s goal is to list “fully the basic components out of which everything internally perceived by humans is composed, and … [to enumerate] the ways in which these components can be connected.” With these ideas he moved philosophy and psychology into intentionality and a self-directedness of thought and consciousness. It seems hard to believe that before this advent of scientific psychology there was a minimal awareness of self-direction, and it smacks of Julian Jaynes’s “Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” which was a popular idea in the 1990s, but Jaynes put the awakening of intentionality back into Homer’s axial time period. Brentano begins to promote scientific experiments in psychology, but his student Sigmund Freud carries his personal projection into other people’s thoughts to the extreme and even beyond pre-Homeric god-driven fantasy. See, for example, Freud’s book “Moses and Monotheism.”

A person judges truly, if and only if, his judgment agrees with the judgment he would make if he were to judge with evidence. The individual in question’s world must be related to and responded to with less than perfectly known information, because there are always subtle aspects that are knowable, but unknowable to him. Thus a group of independent observers might, after the individual’s judgment was made, assert it was a good judgment if it corresponded with their judgment where they had the time and observational capability to judge the input information with better accuracy. Even these objective observers would be limited, but in theory they could be making near perfect judgments, whereas the individual with limited time and observational ability must make do with what is available in the moment.

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