Chapter IV: Chapter IV: Phenomenological Quest for the Inter-subjective Dimensions of Transcendental Subjectivity
2.4. Brentano and Husserl
2.4.2. Husserl’s Critical Estimate of Brentano’s Initial Inclination for Psychologism
Husserl basically was so much dissatisfied with Brentano‘s account of intentional object and also for grounding Logic on Psychology. Husserl did not like Brentano‘s division between inner perception as evident and outer perception as erroneous or non-evident. By criticizing the exactness of the inner perception Husserl maintains that when we feel pain in the body we can particularly locate that part which causes the pain (Glendinning, 2007). For example, if someone feels pain in hand but not in the head then that person is capable of indicating his/her pain. So, in this case the total perception (both inner and outer) must essentially present and equally important.
Moreover, by criticising Brentano‘s concept of outer perception as erroneous Husserl explains that when a person perceives a white building s/he directly perceives the building. Here the perception of that person directed toward the building but not what his/her perception presents to that person. Thus, the person would not be able to make any judgement about the building as the building is already there but only about the fact how the building appears to that person as white or red, square or rectangular etc. These all can be regarded as the properties of the building which are physical in nature.
30 Husserl maintains that
It is physical (and not mental) in the sense that it is neither an act nor is it intentional. But since I am not judging about the house as it really is, but only about how it looks to me, I cannot be mistaken, i.e., the perception is evident (Morrison, 1970, p. 36).
Thus, Husserl tried to overcome Brentano‘s distinction between the two separate realms of the mental and the physical and finally he exchanged the term mental phenomena with ―intentional lived-experiences (intentionale Erlebnisse)‖ (As cited in ibid, p.
39). Moreover, Husserl maintains that we perceive something as something not because of our consciousness or sensation of the object as consciousness cannot constitute the object.
The object may look different from different perspectives.
Husserl again criticizes Brentano for the position that mental phenomena are acts. Mental phenomena as referred by Brentano have the attribute of intentional inexistence along with the three other characteristics of presentation, judgment and feeling (ibid). But, Husserl says that all mental phenomena do not possess the quality of intentionality. As some of the feelings like ―A pain (say) can be located in the body, and in this loose sense ―refers‖
to an object (say my tooth), but such a ―referring‖ is not at all act –like in character.‖
(Morrison, 1970, p. 39) Thus, Husserl again gives another example of being pleased. ―To be pleased is to be pleased about something.‖ (ibid) Thus, Husserl concludes that all mental phenomena are not intentional and therefore all mental phenomena are not acts. (ibid)
Moreover, Husserl was very much dissatisfied with Brentano‘s concept of intentional inexistence according to which intentional object is already contained in the act.
As per Husserl, Brentano‘s theory can be regarded as the repetition of the theory like representational theory forwarded by the empiricists like Locke, Berkeley and others. It is worth mentioning that during the period of 1894-96, Husserl writes an article entitled
―Intentional Objects‖, an unpublished review of Kasimiri Twardowski‘s book. In that review Husserl made a clear distinction between the presentation of the object and the meaning of the same object, (Moran, 2000 & Rollinger, 2004) ―between the real or the psychological content and the ideal or the logical content, or meaning of the act, and also between the whole
notion of content and the intentional object of the act‖ (Moran, 2000, p. 73). This can be regarded as a complete deviation of Husserl from Brentano as Husserl here is seen of completely denied the concept of intentional inexistence (Rollinger, 2004). Husserl says;
A perceived physical object (or "phenomenon") is not "in" consciousness or a
"part" of it - it is always transcendent. The immanent contents which belong to the constituents of an intentional lived-experience are not themselves intended by the latter, i.e., they are not the object of the act. I do not see color sensations or color experiences but colored things. The thing is thus not a
"bundle of impressions" or an "idea." We should avoid all talk of immanent objects. Only the acts and contents of consciousness are immanent (Morrison, 1970, p. 40).
According to Brentano, both appearance and phenomena stand for the same but Husserl made the point clear by criticizing Brentano that when somebody perceives something that appears in front of the person as something lived but not as the appearance. Husserl differs by saying that appearance cannot be regarded as something real. Things of the world would exist even if they are not perceived by someone. But, appearance always exists in perception only and hence, they cannot be regarded as independent as they do not appear without the perceiver (Morrison, 1970). This distinction between the appearance of a thing and the thing that appears can be compared with Husserl‘s concept of momentary ‗I‘ and the ‗I‘ which transcends all the empirical boundaries (ibid).
In this regard Brentano made a very serious assertion that, ―descriptive psychology will provide the necessary grounding for genetic or causal psychology and for other sciences, including logic, aesthetics, political economy, sociology and so on‖(As cited in Moran, 2000, p. 39). Brentano stated that
Epistemology is concerned with the cognitive nature of perceiving, believing, judging and knowing. All of these phenomena, however, are psychical phenomena, and it is therefore obvious that it must be up to psychology to investigate and explore their structure. This also holds true for our scientific and logical reasoning, and ultimately logic must therefore be regarded as a part of
psychology and the laws of logic as psycho-logical regularities, whose nature and validity must be empirically investigated (Zahavi, 2003, p. 8).
Brentano, who was a follower of Aristotle, tried to reform the traditional logic and therefore he stated that only Psychology could help us to solve the logical issues or problems. This assertion leads Brentano toward committing the mistake of psychologism. By criticizing Brentanean position Husserl maintains that the truths of logic are not psychological but ideal.
―The Pythagorean Theorem stand as an independent valid truth whether anyone actually thinks it or not‖ (Moran, 2001, cited in p. Xxxi). Truths of logic are beyond empirical, they are not subjective but a priori, which cannot be reduced to Psychology. According to him, Logic is not concerned with any temporal and spatial conditions. Moreover, psychologism also leads to subjectivism, which was really very hard to accept for Husserl. Husserl wanted to ground Logic and Mathematics on epistemology by applying the methods of phenomenological insight. Therefore, Husserl abandoned psychologism led by Brentano and started to explore ‗pure logic‘ and in doing that among the others he basically got influenced by the works of Bernard Bolzano (1781- 1848). As a result he published the ―Prolegomena to a Pure Logic,‖ which is totally about the theory of ideal objects i.e. Logic and eventually he developed his theory of ‗Intentionality‘, which is different from Brentano‘s notion of intentionality. Interestingly enough though Husserl deviated himself from Brentano, still it was Brentano who for the first attempted to find out the intentional character of the psychical act. Although from Brentano‘s teaching it is not possible to establish the independence of an object but still in Brentano there could be seen a slight deviation from his predecessors while he talks about intentionality in his philosophical exploration. ―His greatest contribution was in seeing the formal structure of consciousness as consciousness of and the inadequacy of the traditional conception of consciousness and the mind as "thinking substance" (Cartesian rationalism) and/or a "bundle of ideas" (empiricism)‖ (Morrison, 1970, p. 45). In this regard Husserl writes in his Crisis;
This is the place to recall the extraordinary debt we owe to Brentano for the fact that he began his attempt to reform psychology with an investigation of the peculiar characteristics of the psychic (on contrast to the physical) and showed intentionality to be one of these characteristics; the science of ‗psychic
phenomena,‘ then, has to do everywhere with conscious experiences (Bewusstseinserlebniss). (Husserl, 1970, §68, p. 233-234)
Despite the fact that one can trace the ideas of phenomenology back to Brentano‘s thought but, it was Husserl‘s belief that Brentano failed to grasp the real nature of intentionality the way it should be articulated. Now, it is important to investigate Husserlian exploration of
‗pure logic‘ and his debt to Bolzano in details.