Cyril Mcdonnell

Understanding and Assessing ?Brentano?s Thesis? in light of his Modification of the Scholastic Concept of Intentionality

It is principally through the writings of Franz Brentano and his student, Edmund Husserl, that the Scholastic terminology of ‘intentional act’ and ‘intentional object’ re-gained widespread recognition in philosophical circles from the later half of the nineteenth century and into the early decades of the twentieth century. It was of course Brentano who first re-introduced ‘what the Scholastic of the middle ages called the intentional or mental in-existence of an object’ in his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874) and he developed further his thoughts on both the ‘intentional object’ and the ‘intentional relation’ of consciousness to its objectivities in his lectures on Descriptive Psychology in the 1880s and 1890s, and thus is properly credited by Husserl, for example, as ‘the discover of the intentionality of consciousness’ and with this revaluation of the scholastic concept. Yet despite this recognition Brentano’s modification of the scholastic concept has not received much attention, or at least, as much attention as it should in any understanding or assessment of ‘Brentano’s thesis’. After all, before Husserl encountered Brentano’s doctrine on the intentionality of consciousness or before any later adherents or detractors of ‘Brentano’s thesis’ advanced their thoughts on this matter, the Scholastic concept has undergone major alterations in Brentano’s philosophy. Not only, then, did Brentano re-introduce but he significantly modified the original meaning of the Scholastic concept of intentionality in his endeavour to find a distinguishing feature of human consciousness and its objectivities in the elaboration of his novel idea of descriptive psychology.

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