Relational Intentionality: Brentano and the Aristotelian Tradition
This book sheds new light on the history of the philosophically crucial notion of intentionality, which accounts for one of the most distinctive aspects of our mental life: the fact that our thoughts are about objects. Intentionality is often described as a certain kind of relation. Focusing on Franz Brentano, who introduced the notion into contemporary philosophy, and on the Aristotelian tradition, which was Brentano’s main source of inspiration, the book reveals a rich history of debate on precisely the relational nature of intentionality. It shows that Brentano and the Aristotelian authors from which he drew not only addressed the question whether intentionality is a relation, but also devoted extensive discussions to what kind of relation it is, if any.
The book aims to show that Brentano distinguishes the intentional relation from two other relations with which it might be confused, namely, causality and reference, which also hold between thoughts and their objects. Intentionality accounts for the aboutness of a thought; causality, by contrast, explains how the thought is generated, and reference, understood as a sort of similarity, occurs when the object towards which the thought is directed exists. Brentano claims to find some anticipation of his views in Aristotle. This book argues that, whether or not Brentano’s interpretation of Aristotle is correct, his claim is true of the Aristotelian tradition as a whole, since followers of Aristotle more or less explicitly made some or all of Brentano’s distinctions. This is demonstrated through examination of some major figures of the Aristotelian tradition (broadly understood), including Alexander of Aphrodisias, the Neoplatonic commentators, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Francisco Suárez.This book combines a longue durée approach – focusing on the long-term evolution of philosophical concepts rather than restricting itself to a specific author or period – with systematic analysis in the history of philosophy. By studying Brentano and the Aristotelian authors with theoretical sensitivity, it also aims to contribute to our understanding of intentionality and cognate features of the mind.