The History of Intentionality: Theories of Consciousness from Brentano to Husserl. By Ryan Hickerson
Article first published online: 7 APR 2009
© The author 2009. Journal compilation © Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered 2009
The Heythrop Journal
Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 555–556, May 2009
How to Cite
Madigan, P. (2009), The History of Intentionality: Theories of Consciousness from Brentano to Husserl. By Ryan Hickerson. The Heythrop Journal, 50: 555–556. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00484_39.x
- Issue published online: 7 APR 2009
- Article first published online: 7 APR 2009
Pp. x, 172 , London , Continuum , 2007 , £60.00.
Hickerson first exposes the correct version of Brentano's approach to consciousness (as opposed to the ‘standard view’) and then charts the objections and revisions carried out by two of his students, Kasimir Twardowski and Edmund Husserl (with the latter as far as the first edition of the Logical Investigations). Brentano re-launched the traditional scholastic notion of intentionality (‘aboutness’) into the emerging scientific psychology of his day; while in one sense commonsensical and incontrovertible, it has proved maddeningly elusive and difficult to pin down. Two issues or projects were concealed beneath this seemingly benign term: the problem of reference, or the connection between idea and thing, and the exploration of the ‘structures of consciousness’, ‘bracketing’ the question of the existence of what the idea may refer to. It took time for the two projects to be separated, and you see it happening here. It is surprising how the three thinkers repeat, each in his own preferred vocabulary, the traditional scholastic distinction between the shifting ‘phantasm’, through which an enduring ‘form’ or ‘idea’ is presented; for all the controversy and novelty, this unanimity seems a muffled validation of the scholastic approach. The mountain roared and seemingly has brought forth a mouse. A revelation in this book is the powerful influence William James on Husserl during his break with Brentano and the working out of his own position – as James did forty years later on Wittgenstein when the latter was working out his own ‘Investigations’! The next big development was the ‘linguistic turn’ in psychology as well as in analytic philosophy; that is, the discovery of the determining influence of syntax and semantics on consciousness in general and on perception in particular.