Franz Brentano

Also found in: Wikipedia.

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.)


References in periodicals archive ?
He explores how the German writer's texts were influenced by the descriptive psychology of Franz Brentano and its attendant agendas of logic, Gestalt psychology, and a nascent form of phenomenology.
In particular, he points to Franz Brentano (1838-1917), a contemporary of Menger, as among the most powerful figures in Austrian philosophy.
Indeed Franz Brentano gets as much if not more attention than do the commentators (26).
A 1969 study by Theobald Freudenberger revealed that a young priest at the University of Wurzburg, Franz Brentano (later known as the teacher of Sigmund Freud and Edmund Husserl in Vienna), provided a study used by both Emmanuel von Ketteler, bishop of Mainz, and Dupanloup, bishop of Orleans, to ground their opposition to a definition of papal infallibility.
In the opening of his landmark Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, a young Franz Brentano (1838-1917) predicted that psychology would stimulate moral progress to match modernity's technological achievements.
For Brentano's statement on the matter, see 'On Psychologism' in the appendix to Franz Brentano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, trans.
Some authors have claimed that this idea can be traced back to Franz Brentano, who said in 1889 that the judgement that x is good is the judgement that a positive attitude to x is correct ('richtig').
Willard brings to the task a solid grasp of Husserl's philosophy in all its phases, with special sympathy for the early period when Husserl was still powerfully under the influence of Franz Brentano.
Intentionality has been the hallmark issue of phenomenology for over a century, and it is common knowledge that the name and concept were introduced by Franz Brentano, who said he was reviving a medieval idea that had deeper roots in antiquity.
00--In 1874, with the publication of the first edition of Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt, Franz Brentano made important advances in the philosophy of mind, while at the same time opening the door to many unresolved problems, not the least of which has been the correct interpretation of his own philosophical position.
He begins with an introduction to the thought of Franz Brentano, whose concern for an "exact scientific philosophy, and, specifically, his project for descriptive psychology" provide much intellectual impetus for the founding of phenomenology by Edmund Husserl (p.
Somewhat more serious: the name and career of Franz Brentano are not played up in the same way in which are, for example, those of Gregor Mendel (within his field), although this would have helped considerably in the bringing together of science and philosophy through the figure of a key precursor.