Motto : Crapula ingenium offuscat. Traduction : "le bec du perroquet qu'il essuie, quoiqu'il soit net" (Pascal).

Ce blog est ouvert pour faire connaître les activités d'un groupe de recherches, le Séminaire de métaphysique d'Aix en Provence (ou SEMa). Créé fin 2004, ce séminaire est un lieu d'échanges et de propositions. Accueilli par l'IHP (EA 3276) à l'Université d'Aix Marseille (AMU), il est animé par Jean-Maurice Monnoyer, bien que ce blog lui-même ait été mis en place par ses étudiants le 4 mai 2013.

Mots-clefs : Métaphysique analytique, Histoire de la philosophie classique, moderne et contemporaine,

Métaphysique de la cognition et de la perception. Méta-esthétique.

Austrian philosophy. Philosophie du réalisme scientifique.

mercredi 1 janvier 2014

  Brentano’s Philosophical Program [1]

 Uriah Kriegel

Franz Brentano was not a systematic writer, but he was very much a systematic thinker. Through his manuscripts, lecture notes, letters, dictations, and occasional published writings, one can discern a systematic, unified approach to the true, the good, and the beautiful. My goal here is to articulate explicitly this approach, and the philosophical program it reflects. The exercise requires going over big stretches of terrain with some efficiency; I will go just deep enough into Brentano’s approaches to the true, the good, and the beautiful to make clear their structural unity.

1.   The True: Judgment and Existence

Many things can be said to be true – notably sentences, utterances, and thoughts. For Brentano, the fundamental bearers of truth are judgments, where a judgment is a truth-apt mental act (Brentano 1973a: 198).
       Brentano’s theory of judgment is highly original. On his view, reports of the form ‘S judges that a is F’ have a misleading surface grammar. This grammar suggests (i) that S’s judgment predicates F of a, and consequently (ii) that what would make them true is the obtaining of a certain state of affairs, namely, a’s being F. In reality, judgments are only in the business of accepting or rejecting the existence of individual objects (see esp. Brentano 1973a: 213-8, 1966b: 84; also Chap. 10). Accordingly, every categorical or hypothetical judgment is reducible to some existential judgment. Thus, we should paraphrase ‘S judges that a is F’ into ‘S judges that there is an F-ish a’ (or even ‘S accepts the existence of an F-ish a’). This paraphrase renders manifest an important point regarding the truthmaker of S’s judgment: that it is not the obtaining of some state of affairs, such as a’s being F, but the existence of an individual thing, such as an F-ish a (relatedly, see Chap. 16).
       When we say that the truthmaker of S’s judgment is the existence of an object, this should not be misunderstood to involve a special kind of state of affairs, the-object’s-existence. Rather, it is the object itself which makes the judgment true. Brentano is explicit on this, writing in a 1906 letter to Marty that “the being of A need not be produced in order for the judgment ‘A is’ to be… correct; all that is needed is A” (1966b: 85). In a slogan: the truthmakers of existentials are not existences but existents. What motivates this is the combination of two dialectical pressures. On the one hand, existential judgments clearly involve mental commitment to the existence of that which they are about. On the other hand, Brentano is persuaded by the traditional idea that existence is not an attribute (1973a: 229). Since existence is not an attribute, (true) existentials cannot be understood as attributing existence to something (if things do not have such an attribute, any judgment which attributed it to them would be erroneous). How, then, can a judgment involve commitment to the existence of that which it is about? The answer is that the judgment’s existence-commitment cannot be an aspect of its content; it must be an aspect of its attitude.[2] We may put this by saying that a judgment accepting the existence of a does not represent a-as-existent, but instead represents-as-existent a. (Meanwhile, a judgment rejecting the existence of a represents-as-nonexistent a.) The judgment’s existential commitment is not part of what it represents, but of how it represents. The content of the judgment is therefore exhausted by a. The commitment to a’s existence comes in only at the level of attitude. Since the judgment’s content is exhausted by a, a constitutes its entire truthmaker.
What exactly are we saying, then, when we say that the Eiffel Tower exists? Only this: that the right or correct (richtig) attitude to take toward the Eiffel Tower is the attitude of affirmative judgment, what Brentano calls ‘acceptance’ (Anerkennung). We are saying that the Eiffel Tower is a fitting or suitable object for acceptance, as opposed to rejection (Verwerfung); that if the Eiffel Tower is to be the intentional object of a mental state, it ought to be the state of acceptance. (Likewise, when we say that Shrek does not exist, what we are saying is that rejection would the right or fitting attitude to take toward Shrek.)
Recall that for Brentano all truths are existential. It is no surprise, then, that this ‘fitting attitude’ approach to existence talk propagates to truth talk: “We call a thing true when the affirmation relating to it is correct” (1969: 18; see also 1966b: 21, 122 and Chap. 21).
       The idea that judgment’s existence-commitment is an aspect of its attitude, rather than content, also has interesting implications for the question of how we form the concept of existence. Since the world does not divide into objects that exhibit existence and objects that do not, we cannot acquire the concept through differential perceptual interaction with objects that have it and objects that do not. Instead, we acquire it through differential introspective interaction with mental acts that exhibit the attitudinal feature of representing-as-existent (affirmative judgments) and ones that do not (negative judgments, desires). Or more accurately, we acquire it by what Brentano calls inner perception, which he distinguishes introspection (see Chap. 13). Brentano writes:

“Some philosophers have held that this concept [existence] cannot be derived from experience… [But] we will find that this concept undoubtedly is derived from experience, but from inner experience, and we acquire it with reference to judgment.” (1973a: 210)

To summarize, Brentano’s approach to the true is based on three main ideas. The first is that all judgments are existential. The second is that the truthmakers of existential judgments are not existences but existents. The third is that a judgment’s commitment to an object’s existence is not an aspect of its content but of its attitude. Together, these paint a picture where the true has only one form, existence, but existence is not something that we grasp by interacting with the external world, but rather through (inner-perceptual) insight into the fittingness of our judgments.

2.   The Good: Pro Attitude and Value

Just as judgments embody commitment to the existence or nonexistence of what they are about, Brentano maintains that there are mental acts which embody commitment to the goodness or badness of what they are about. Brentano uses the terms ‘love’ and ‘hate’ to denote those mental acts, but uses them technically to cover everything from algedonic experiences of pain and pleasure, through emotions such as (dis)like and (dis)approval, to states of the will such as desire and decision (Brentano 1973a: 236-7 and Chap. 11). Essentially, his ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are what we refer to in contemporary philosophy of mind as pro attitudes and con attitudes. Pro attitudes embody commitment to the goodness of their intentional objects, con attitudes commitment to the badness of theirs. Thus, liking ice cream involves mental commitment to the goodness of ice cream, while disliking rain involves mental commitment to the badness of rain.[3]
       As with judgment and existence, however, Brentano rejects the notion that goodness is an attribute which some things exhibit and other do not. In a 1905 fragment, he writes that “it may well happen that a word which has the grammatical form of a noun or adjective actually denotes nothing at all…. For example:… good, evil, true, false and the like.” (Brentano 1966b: 71). Again in a 1909 letter to Kraus:

“What you seek to gain here with your belief in the existence of goodness with which [pro attitudes] are found to correspond is incomprehensible to me” (Brentano 1966a: 207, quoted in Pasquarella 1993: 238; see also Chisholm 1986: 51-2).

       But although Brentano rejects goodness, he accepts goods (just as he accepts existents despite rejecting existence). It is just that goods are not such in virtue of exhibiting the attribute of goodness. Rather, they are such in virtue of being fitting objects of a pro attitude (Chap. 22). For there is still a standard of fittingness or correctness for our pro attitudes: it is correct to approve of peace and incorrect to approve of genocide. The goods are those existents toward which it is correct to have a pro attitude. (Correspondingly, the ‘bads’ are those existents toward which it is correct to have a con attitude.)
       As before, since there is no attribute of goodness, pro attitudes’ commitment to the goodness of their objects cannot be construed as an aspect of their content.[4] This goodness-commitment must therefore be an attitudinal feature of theirs. Liking ice cream embodies mental commitment to the goodness of ice cream, but it does not represent ice cream as good; rather, it represents-as-good the ice cream. The like’s content is exhausted by the ice cream. The element of goodness comes in only at the level of attitude. It is not a modification of what is represented, but a modification of the representing.
       Accordingly, when we say that peace is good, we are not attributing anything to peace. In a sense, we are not (in the first instance) really characterizing peace. What we are characterizing is, in the first instance, the attitude it would be fitting to take toward peace. We are saying that a pro attitude would be the right attitude to take toward peace. In that respect, peace is a suitable or appropriate object of a pro attitude; it is the kind of thing it would be correct to like, desire, or approve of.[5] Conversely, to say that genocide is bad is to say that it is a suitable object for a con attitude. In other words:

… everything that can be thought about belongs in one of two classes – either the class of things for which love [pro attitude] is appropriate, or the class of things for which hate [con attitude] is appropriate. Whatever falls into the first class we call good, and whatever falls into the second we call bad. (Brentano 1966b: 21-2; see also 1969: 18 and even 1973a: 247)

This, at least, is Brentano’s view of intrinsic goodness; instrumental goodness may be understood in terms of its relation to intrinsic goodness (Brentano 1969 §16).
       Since goodness is not an attribute of external items, we cannot acquire the concept of the good by outer-perceptual encounter with items that exhibit or fail to exhibit it. Rather, our competence to engage in goodness talk and thought is ultimately based on inner-perceptual grasp of the correctness/fittingness of our own pro and con attitudes. This fittingness is a primitive and unanalyzable feature of our attitudes, so we cannot use reason to ‘break down’ the notion into more basic elements either. Our only handle on the good is through direct inner-perceptual acquaintance with fitting attitudes (Brentano 1969 §27, 1973b §42).
It is easy to see the symmetry between Brentano’s approaches to the true and the good. The rejection goodness as worldly attribute, the attitudinal take on goodness-commitment, the fitting attitude analysis of value talk, and the inner-perception-based grasp of the good echo parallel in Brentano’s approach to the true. Brentano writes:

In calling an object good we are not giving it a material (sachliches) predicate, as we do when we call something red or round or warm or thinking. In this respect the expressions good and bad are like the expressions existent and nonexistent. In using the latter, we do not intend to add yet another determining characteristic of the thing in question; we wish rather to say that whoever acknowledges [accepts] a certain thing and rejects another makes a true judgment. And when we call certain objects good and others bad we are merely saying that whoever loves the former and hates the latter has taken the right stand. The source of these concepts is inner perception, for it is only in inner perception that we comprehend ourselves as loving or hating something. (1973b: 90; see also Brentano 1969: 73-5, manuscripts Ms 107c 231 and Ms 107c 236, as well as Seron 2008)

Brentano recognizes that the phenomena force certain disanalogies between the two cases. First, the good comes in degrees whereas the true does not. Accordingly, while the theory of the true requires no account of ‘the truer,’ the theory of the good does require an account of the better. Brentano’s account is in terms of fitting preference: to say that a is better than b is to say that it would be correct to prefer a to b (Brentano 1969: 26, 1973b: 92). Secondly, the fittingness of judgments and that of pro/con attitudes is not exactly the same feature. As Brentano writes in his 1907 essay ‘Love and Hate’: “correct loving or hating and an incorrect loving or hating… may seem to be the analog of correct acceptance or affirmation and correct rejection or denial, but it is essentially different” (Brentano 1969: 144). Despite such difference, it is easy to appreciate that Brentano’s fundamental philosophical approach to the true and the good is structurally very similar.

3.   The Beautiful: Delight and Beauty

Brentano’s psychology divides mental states into three fundamental categories (Chap. 9). We have already encountered judgments (affirmative or negative) and attitudes (pro or con). According to Brentano, both of these presuppose a third, more basic type of state consisting merely in the entertaining, or contemplation, or presentation (Vorstellung) of an object – without committing to either its existence/nonexistence or its goodness/badness (Brentano 1973a: 198). This may suggest that just as existence and goodness are tied to judgment and attitude (respectively), so beauty is tied to presentation or contemplation. After all, it is plausible to say that a beautiful thing is worthy of contemplation in more or less the same sense in which a good thing is worthy of approval and a real thing is worthy of acceptance.
       This might suggest the following account of the beautiful: to say that something is beautiful is to say that it would be fitting to contemplate it. This is almost Brentano’s view. What frustrates this ‘clean’ account is the fact that while acceptance and approval carry existence- and goodness-commitment (respectively), contemplation does not by itself carry beauty-commitment: I am not mentally committing to the beauty of a book on my desk merely by contemplating it. So something else must be added to contemplation to capture beauty-commitment. What? Brentano notes a peculiar feature of the experience of encounter with the beautiful: it always entrains a measure of joy or pleasure. If one manages to contemplate El Greco’s Saint Martin and the Beggar joylessly, one cannot be said to experience it as beautiful. “Only when a presentation is in itself good and joyful (erfreulich) we call its primary object beautiful” (Brentano 1959: 123; my translation). Thus the account of the beautiful requires positing a special mental act composed of both contemplation and joy – a kind of joyful contemplation. In some places, Brentano calls this mental act ‘delight’ (Wohlgefallen). Delight, rather than mere contemplation, is the kind of mental state that embodies commitment to the beauty of that which it is about.
       Unsurprisingly, Brentano offers a ‘fitting delight’ account of beauty: “The concept of beauty [has to do with] a delight with the character of correctness (als richtig charakteriesiertes) being elicited in us” (1959: 17; my translation). To say that something is beautiful, then, is to say that it would be fitting to be delighted by it, that is, to joyfully contemplate it (Chap. 24).[6]
The motivation and consequences for such an account are, moreover, broadly the same as those associated with the fitting acceptance and fitting pro attitude accounts of truth and goodness. To start, Brentano rejects the existence of a worldly attribute of beauty, exhibited by some items and not others. In that respect, his treatment of beauty is on a par with that of truth and goodness:

But it may well happen that a word which has the grammatical form of a noun or adjective actually denotes nothing at all…. For example:… ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ as well as ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’ and the like. Strictly speaking, there is no concept of the good, or of the beautiful, or of the true. (Brentano 1966b: 71; my emphasis)

The last sentence in this passage is surely an infelicitous overstatement (of the sort one is liable to find in an unpublished fragment). Brentano does accept, after all, the existence of the concepts of truth and goodness (acquired, as we have seen, through inner perception). His view is rather that there are no such attributes as truth, goodness, and apparently beauty. Presumably, though, just as Brentano embraced existents and goods as worldly things in spite of rejecting existence and goodness as worldly attributes, so he must embrace beauties despite rejecting beauty.
       As before, this leads to a construal of beauty-commitment as an attitudinal feature of delight rather than a content feature. It is an aspect of how delight represents, not of what it represents. To experience aesthetic delight with an orchid is not to represent the orchid-as-beautiful but to represent-as-beautiful the orchid. The content of the delight is simply the orchid. The commitment to that orchid’s beauty comes in at the level of attitude.
Since there is no attribute of beauty that some worldly items exhibit and others do not, presumably we do not acquire the concept of the beautiful through outer-perceptual interaction with external-world beauties. Instead, we grasp the notion of beauty through inner-perceptual interaction with our delights’ fittingness. We have no other handle on the beautiful.
The parallelism with Brentano’s accounts of the true and the good is evident. At the same time, Brentano does not wish to force undue unity on the phenomena. Important disanalogies persist. Crucially, since aesthetic value is a species of value, we would expect delight to be a species of pro attitude. And indeed, delight’s joy component is a pro attitude: it represents-as-good the enjoyable. Accordingly, delight represents-as-good the delightful. Indeed, it represents-as-good its object precisely by representing-as-beautiful that object, since beauty is a species of goodness. This raises the question of what differentiates beauty from generic goodness. Brentano’s (1959: 136) answer is this. Peace is good, and so is having a pro attitude toward peace. However, the mere contemplation of peace is in itself neither good nor bad. For it is compatible both with a pro attitude and a con attitude toward peace. By contrast, the mere contemplation of Saint Martin and the Beggar is in itself good. More generally, when an object is beautiful, contemplating it is good, whereas when the object is just generically good, simply contemplating it is ‘neutral’ or ‘indifferent’ – only the adoption of a pro attitude toward it would be good.

4.   Brentano’s Program

In what is quite possibly the most scholarly English-language overview of Brentano’s philosophy, Liliana Albertazzi writes that “It is the general opinion that Brentano’s theories do not constitute a system” (Albertazzi 2006: 295). As a sociological remark, this may be unobjectionable.[7] But as the foregoing discussion suggests, the Brentano’s philosophical thought is in reality extraordinarily systematic. If the goal of a philosophical ‘grand system’ in the style of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy is to provide a unified, structurally symmetric account of the true, the good, and the beautiful, then Brentano clearly had at least a program for such a system. Indeed, his may well be the last grand system of Western philosophy. One suspects it is primarily the unsystematic character of Brentano’s writings that has encouraged the otherwise implausible notion that there is no systematicity in his thinking. Arguably, however, in his mind Brentano was continuously refining and chiseling away at a unified grand system, a system that harmonized and stabilized the bits and pieces in his messy literary estate.
       The superstructure of Brentano’s program is quite straightforward. We grasp the nature of the true, the good, and the beautiful by grasping (i) three types of mental act – judgment, pro/con attitude, and delight – and (ii) the standard of fittingness or correctness for each. Since, as noted above, the fittingness associated with each of these act types is different, we have here six basic notions: judgment, judgment-fittingness, attitude, attitude-fittingness, delight, and delight-fittingness. These notions do not receive any independent philosophical account in Brentano’s system. They are treated as primitives. As such, we do not grasp their nature by appreciating some philosophical theory. We can only grasp their nature directly – through acquaintance in inner perception. More specifically, we appreciate the nature of the relevant phenomenon through inner perception of certain contrasting instances. Thus, we appreciate the nature of judgment by inner-perceiving mental acts that are judgments alongside ones that are not; we understand what judgment-fittingness is by inner-perceiving judgments which are fitting alongside judgments which are not; and so on. In each case, the contrast between the positive and negative instances (so to speak) brings into sharper inner-perceptual relief the feature whose nature we are trying to appreciate. We grasp that nature simply as that which is present in the one case and absent in the other. There is no fuller, more articulated, more informative account to be had.
       In any case, it is a central feature of Brentano’s program that the ultimate basis for our grasp of the nature of the true, the good, and the beautiful is inner perception of our mental acts and their fittingness. This explains psychology’s pride of place in Brentano’s system:

We see that… the triad of ideals, the beautiful, the true, and the good, can well be defined in terms of the system of mental faculties. Indeed, this is the only way in which it becomes fully intelligible… (Brentano 1973a: 263)

Insofar as the study of the true, the good, and the beautiful is grounded in the study of the mind, philosophy of mind (or Brentano’s ‘descriptive psychology’) assumes the role of first philosophy. The status of philosophy of mind as first philosophy will remain a unifying them of the Brentano School (see Chap. 29).
       Despite this methodological primacy of philosophy of mind, Brentano’s picture of the world is thoroughly realist. Brentano’s world contains just so many individual objects, and nothing more.[8] When we say, of any of the concrete particulars inhabiting Brentano’s world, that it exists, or is good, or is beautiful, we are just saying that it would be fitting to accept it, approve of it, or delight at it (respectively). It is in this way that the notions of the true/real, the good, and the beautiful make their entry into our worldview. This entry does not entrain, however, a transcendental mind that does the accepting, approving, and delighting. Rather, among the individual objects inhabiting this austere world are individual minds, including accepting-minds, approving-minds, and delighted-minds and even some rightly-accepting-minds, correctly-approving-minds, and fittingly-delighted-minds. It is because (and only because) each of us has on occasion been a rightly-accepting-mind, correctly-approving-mind, and fittingly-delighted-mind, and has inner-perceived himself or herself to be such a mind, that each of us is able to experience the world partly in terms of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Conclusion: The Three Legs of the Brentanian Stool

As noted, Brentano’s classification of mental acts divides them into three basic categories: presentation, judgment, and (pro or con) attitude. All three are species of a single more generic phenomenon, namely intentionality:

Nothing distinguishes mental phenomena from physical phenomena more than the fact that something is immanent [that is, intentionally inexistent] as an object in them. For this reason it is easy to understand that the fundamental differences in the way something [in]exists in them as an object constitute the principal class differences among mental phenomena. (1973a: 197)

The three categories correspond to three different modes of intentionality, or three different modifications of the basic intentional relation. These are the modes of representing-as-existent/nonexistent for judgment, representing-as-good/bad for attitudes, and a kind of neutral mere-representing for presentation. These are obviously different, but they are all modifications of the same underlying phenomenon of intentionality. Correspondingly, we might say that although the three kinds of fittingness in Brentano’s system are different, presumably they can be seen as species of a single genus – a certain ‘generic fittingness.’ As noted, the natures of both intentionality and its fittingness are ultimately grasped through inner perception. Together, intentionality, fittingness, and inner perception can be seen as the three legs of the Brentanian stool. It is through their interrelations, modifications, and interrelations of modifications that we obtain philosophical illumination of the true, the good, and the beautiful.[9]

 Albertazzi, L. 2006. Immanent Realism: An Introduction to Brentano. Dordrecht: Springer.
  Brentano, F.C. 1959. Grundzuge der Ästhetik. Bern: Francke Verlag. Brentano, F.C. 1966a. Die Abkehr vom Nichtrealen. Bern: Francke Verlag.
 Brentano, F.C. 1966b. The True and the Evident. Edited by O. Kraus. Translated by R.M. Chisholm, I. Politzer, and K. Fischer. London: Routledge.
  Brentano, F.C. 1969.  The Origin of Our Knowledge of Right and Wrong. Trans. R. Chisholm and E.H. Schneewind. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
 Brentano, F.C. 1973a. Psychology from Empirical Standpoint. Edited by O. Kraus. Translated by A.C. Rancurello, D.B. Terrell, and L.L. McAlister. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Brentano, F.C. 1973b. The Foundation and Construction of Ethics. Trans. E.H. Schneewind. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
 Brentano, F.C. 1981a. The Theory of Categories. Edited by A. Kastil. Translated by R.M. Chisholm and N. Guterman. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
 Brentano, F.C. 1981b. Sensory and Noetic Consciousness. Edited O. Kraus, Trans. M. Schättle and L.L. McAlister. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Brentano, F.C. 1982.  Descriptive Psychology. Edited and translated by B. Müller. London: Routledge, 1995.
Chisholm, R.M. 1986. Brentano and Intrinsic Value. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gabriel, S.K. 2013. ‘Brentano at the Intersection of Psychology, Ontology, and the Good.’ In D. Fisette and G. Fréchette (eds.), Themes from Brentano. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.
Pasquarella, L. 1993. Brentano and Aesthetic Intention.’ Brentano Studien 4: 235-249.
Seron, D. 2008. ‘Sur l’analogie entre théorie et pratique chez Brentano.’ Bulletin d’analyse phénoménologique 4: 23-51.

[1] Forthcoming in U. Kriegel (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Brentano and the Brentano School
[2] In more Brentanian terminology: it is not an aspect of the object of consciousness, but of the mode of consciousness (1973a: 201).
[3] Such commitment need not be all-things-considered commitment; it can be just prima facie commitment. In fact, it appears to be the crucial difference between emotion and will, for Brentano, that the former’s value-commitment is prima facie and the latter’s is all-things-considered (1969: 150). Both, however, qualify as pro/con attitudes.
[4] At least, it cannot be so construed without falling into error theory, or rather incorrectness theory: a pervasive skepticism about the fittingness and unfittingness of any distribution of pro and con attitude. Brentano dismisses skepticism summarily in various places (e.g., Brentano 1973b: 26).
[5] Here I am using interchangeably ‘fitting,’ ‘right,’ ‘correct,’ and ‘suitable.’ Brentano’s favored term is richtig, but at least in one footnote he offers as interchangeable konvenient, passend, and entsprechend.
[6] The corresponding account of ugliness talk is fairly straightforward, though putting it in words requires a good antonym of ‘delight’; perhaps we could say that the ugly is that which it would be fitting to abhor.
[7] There are clearly exceptions to this rule, though (see Gabriel 2013).
[8] Correction: Brentano’s world also contains mereological sums of such individual objects – see Chap. 17.
[9] This work was supported by the French National Research Agency’s grants ANR-11-0001-02 PSL* and ANR-10-LABX-0087. For comments on a previous draft, I am grateful to Johannes Brandl and Guillaume Fréchette. Thanks are also due to Elizabeth Kriegel for help with German translation.



Pièces mécaniques en chocolat - Lucca