The School of Franz Brentano

Brentano was a philosopher and psychologist who taught at the Universities of Würzburg and Vienna. He made significant contributions to almost every branch of philosophy, notably psychology and philosophy of mind, ontology, ethics and the philosophy of language. He also published several books on the history of philosophy, especially Aristotle, and contented that philosophy proceeds in cycles of advance and decline. He is best known for reintroducing the scholastic concept of intentionality into philosophy and proclaiming it as the characteristic mark of the mental. His teachings, especially those on what he called descriptive psychology, influenced the phenomenological movement in the twentieth century, but because of his concern for precise statement and his sensitivity to the dangers of the undisciplined use of philosophical language, his work also bears affinities to analytic philosophy."

From: Roderick M. Chisholm and Peter Simons, "Brentano, Franz Clemens" in: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edited by Edward Craig, London: Routledge 1998.


 "Brentano never presented his philosophy in completed form. Most of his doctrines are known to us from writings published after his death, and these do not contain any rounded out statement of his views. Brentano was not among those who in a moment of intuition sketch the architectonics of a system, leaving the relevant details to be fitted into it later. His research, always problem-oriented, began with individual questions, then went on to seek an absolutely certain, or if this could not be obtained, at least a probable, solution for the difficulties encountered along the way. Nor did he hesitate to revise his previous conceptions on the basis of advances in knowledge. The 'will to truth' checked the growth of a 'will to construct', and prevented the congealing of earlier ideas.

Brentano's significance for contemporary philosophy is still singularly underestimated. There is a striking disparity between the very great effect he has had on present-day philosophy and the relatively meager attention paid his teachings in current philosophical instruction and research. For Brentano is a center from which threads extend in the most varied directions. In the first place, the entire philosophy of phenomenology would be inconceivable without him. He was the teacher of Husserl (on whom he had an influence that should not be underestimated) and was thus the spiritual grandfather, so to speak, of Max Scheler and Martin Heidegger. Secondly, his work in ontology and metaphysics, notably his analysis of categories and his penetrating studies of Aristotle, decisively influenced the contemporary philosophies of Being (even if very indirectly in part). Finally, his method - especially in the study of the logic of language, which he considers the starting-point in philosophy bears a remarkable resemblance in many respects to the procedure of present day empiricism, and particularly to that of analytic philosophy in Britain and the U.S.A. It is difficult to say how much the investigations conducted in these countries owe to his stimulating ideas."

From: Wolfgang Stegmüller, Main Currents in Contemporary German, British, and American Philosophy, Dordrecht: Reidel Publishing Co., 1969, p. 24.


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