Intentionality as a Relation
In his discussion of the different classes of relations in Metaphysics Δ.15, Aristotle assigns the connection between psychic activities and their objects to a separate third class, which establishes a relational asymmetry between the correlates: while activities are in themselves related to their objects, these objects are related to those activities because the activities are related to them. In a text from 1911, Brentano claims that in this class of relations, according to Aristotle, only one of the correlates is real, and the other is unreal:One also finds in Brentano the idea that there is in Aristotle’s third class a real relation to an object that has “objective being” (esse obiective). In Vom Ursprung sittlicher Erkenntnis from 1889, Brentano states:Now, in a note accompanying this passage, he declares:In other words, Brentano seems to consider his intentional object, which is an unreal entity, to be the Aristotelian correlate in Metaphysics Δ.15:In a letter to Brentano on 6 October 1904, Oskar Kraus writes: “We were already saying earlier that with regard to the psychic there is a one-sided real relation, and thus something entirely unique.” Thus, in Brentano, and through him in his school, the concepts of intentional relation and intentional object are closely connected with the reception of Metaphysics Δ.15. Now, this text, together with chapter 7 of the Categories, played a fundamental role in antiquity and the Middle Ages when the issue was to clarify the distinctive features of the intentional relation and its correlate. Yet, in Aristotle himself the status of Metaphysics Δ.15 is not clear, since this text could be understood as dealing as much with the referential character of cognitive acts as with their intentional aiming. This oscillation is present throughout the reception of Aristotle, so before we begin our examination of the historical role that this text has played in theorizing about intentionality stricto sensu, it will be helpful to explain its equivocal character.