Conclusion: Intentionality and History

  • Hamid Taieb
Part of the Primary Sources in Phenomenology book series (PSIP)


The goal of this work has been to examine Brentano’s distinction between intentionality, causality, and (mental) reference, not just in its own right but also in terms of its connection with the Aristotelian tradition. The point of departure was the following: for Brentano, intentionality is a relation that is distinct both from the relation of reference, which accounts for the “correspondence” (Übereinstimmung) between a cognitive act and its object, and from the causal relation, which explains the generation of cognitive acts. Brentano attributes such a tripartition of psychic relations to Aristotle. At first sight, his interpretation seems to be justified. In Metaphysics Δ.15, Aristotle distinguishes three classes of relation: relations “with respect to number” (κατ᾽ἀριθμόν), or “relations of comparison,” as Brentano calls them; relations “with respect to power” (κατὰ δύναμιν), or causal relations; and, in the rather mysterious third class, relations of the kind that holds between a “measure” and the “measurable” (μέτρον and μετρητόν), a class which includes relations between psychic powers and their objects. If it is accepted that the causal relations mentioned in Metaphysics Δ.15 include the peculiar kind of “being affected” (πάσχειν) that Aristotle uses in De anima 2.15 to explain how acts of cognition come about, then the division in the Metaphysics seems to rule out treating the relations between faculties and their objects as identical to causal relations. If to this it is added that Aristotle elsewhere counts among these psychic correlates activities whose objects do not exist (δόξα–δοξαστόν), and if one wishes to give the third class in Metaphysics Δ.15 the greatest possible extension, then the views expressed in that text on the relations between powers and their objects cannot be understood as having to do with the referential aspect of psychic activities. There is therefore a surplus in the relations to the object in Metaphysics Δ.15, and Brentano calls this surplus the “intentional relation” (intentionale Relation).

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Hamid Taieb
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SalzburgSalzburgAustria

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