Franz Brentano

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Brentano, Franz


Born Jan. 16, 1838, in Marienburg; died Mar. 17, 1917, in Zürich. German philosopher and direct precursor of the phenomenology of E. Husserl.

Brentano began his career as a Catholic priest; later, he was a professor of philosophy in Würzburg (from 1872) and Vienna (from 1874). In his philosophy, the point of departure is the definition of a sharp boundary between physical and psychic phenomena. According to Brentano, the generic characteristic common to all psychic phenomena is their intentionality: consciousness is always in relation to something real or unreal—I become aware of, I feel, I think something. The physical object as such is not intentional: it is an existence resting in itself. Research on psychic phenomena is the task of psychology, which Brentano classifies as descriptive and genetic. Descriptive psychology describes the last elements from which integral consciousness is constructed and establishes their classification. Genetic psychology establishes the laws to which the phenomena of consciousness are subordinate. Phenomenology was an outgrowth of the idea of descriptive psychology (in essence, a philosophical discipline).

Brentano’s concept of truth is connected with the idealistic interpretation of the theory of the objectivity of consciousness. According to Brentano, the experience of the evident, which is in itself further indefinable, lies at the basis of the concept of truth. Breaking down all judgments into three classes—judgments of outer perception, judgments of memory, and axioms—Brentano asserts that only judgments of inner perception and axioms are directly evident. The problem of truth is the problem of the empirical foundation of knowledge, with inner experience playing the decisive role. Since subjects of inner experience and, consequently, subjects of direct perception are only psychological phenomena in Brentano’s theory, one can speak only of the existence of psychological phenomena; one can speak of the external world only with a certain probability.

Brentano’s views were not given a complete and systematic exposition. His idealism followed the path from subjective to objective. Although he sharply criticized Kant’s apriorism, Brentano himself was not very far from Kant’s position, admitting the existence of a priori apodictic judgments. The most contradictory, vague idea in Brentano’s theory was “evidence, ” which became the main point in a critique of his concept.

Writing at a time when the slogan “back to Kant!” was popular, Brentano turned to pre-Kantian philosophy, especially the Scholastic interpretation of Aristotle, but kept in mind the achievements of German classical idealism. This complex synthesis laid the foundation for changes in the treatment of the subject of philosophy that are characteristic of a number of tendencies in modern bourgeois philosophy, in which the subject and his internal world were made the object of philosophic analysis. K. Stumpf, E. Husserl, A. Meinong, M. Scheler, and M. Heidegger accepted the theory of intentionality. Brentano’s logical doctrine and his work in the field of the criticism of language have been continued in modern empiricism, particularly analytic philosophy. Brentano had a significant influence on the development of psychology.


Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt. Hamburg, 1955.
Vom Ursprung sittlicher Erkenntnis. Hamburg, 1955.
Grundlegung und Aufbau der Ethik. Bern, 1952.


Bakradze, K. S. Ocherki po istorii noveishei i sovremennoi burzhuaznoi filosofii. Tbilisi, 1960.
Kastil, A. Die Philosophic F. Brentanos: Eine Einführung in seine Lehre. Munich, 1951.
Cruz, H. M. Fr. Brentano. Salamanca, 1953.
Bergmann, G. Realism: A Critique of Brentano and Meinong. Madison, Wis., 1967. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Cloth, $60.00--Professor Kriegel provides a thorough discussion of the German philosopher Franz Brentano's descriptive psychology, his "reistic" ontology, and his theory of value, all viewed through the prism of contemporary analytic philosophy of mind.
In his search for an appropriate characterization of the mind, Fodor resorts, on the one hand, to the idea of intentionality espoused by the German philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano (1838-1917), understood as the property by which something has referential content, and, on the other, to the idea of computation, or the formal processing of symbols according to rules, developed by the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954), which was to give rise to the digital world that is now such a part of our environment.
This paper attempts to demonstrate that the shared ethical judgment is defensible for both on the grounds of the same metaethical assumptions--the value theory of Franz Brentano. The paper will be structured in two main parts: I.
He describes the concept and its development since the he introduced it in Towards a Philosophy of Critical Mathematics Education; students' perspectives on math, teaching, and their lives in Brazil; and the concepts of intentionality and life-world from Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl and reinterpretations of them in terms of real-life experiences that are socially structured and restructured through economic, political, cultural, and discursive factors.
This excellent introduction to one Kafka, which conceals none of his sordid and indeed often violent fantasies, turns him into a patient, and this obscures another, important, we could say "future Kafka," the one who diagnosed patients besides himself, the one who worked on the thought, politics, and art of Europe from Homer and Genesis to Franz Brentano. About Kafka and intellectual life in Prague, Friedlander writes "Kafka remained an interested outsider, as he was with most theoretical systems" (125).
Thereafter, among continental philosophers, phenomenology and in general descriptive psychology emerges, all influenced by these earlier critical standpoints with respect to metaphysics and through the efforts of such thinkers as Franz Brentano, Edmund Husserl and Alexius Meinong.
He mounts a vigorous and detailed argument in support of the candidacy of Bettina von Arnim (1795-1859), Antonie Brentano's sister-in-law, a correspondent of both Goethe and Beethoven, and the half-sister of Clemens and Franz Brentano, Antonie's husband.