Descriptive Psychology

Descriptive Psychology

Descriptive Psychology

Descriptive Psychology


Franz Brentano (1838-1917) is a key figure in the development of Twentieth Century thought. It was his work that set Husserl on to the road of phenomenology and intentionality, that inspired Meinong's theory of the object which influenced Bertrand Russell, and the entire Polish school of philosophy.^Descriptive Psychology presents a series of lectures given by Brentano in 1887; they were the culmination of his work, and the clearest statement of his mature thought. It was this later period which proved to be so important in the work of his student, Husserl.This is the first English translation of his work. Benito Muller has added a concise introduction which places Brentano within the history of philosophy and psychology, and locates his influence in contemporary thought.


It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence, direct or indirect, of Franz Brentano’s thought upon both philosophy and psychology. Among those he taught himself were Husserl, Meinong, Twardowski, C. Stumpf, A. Marty, Th.G. Masaryk and Freud, and through them Brentano’s work influenced Ajdukiewicz, Lukasiewicz, Lesniewski, Kotarbinski, Tarski, Heidegger, Chr.V. Eherenfels, M. Wertheimer, W. Köhler and even Kafka. Yet Brentano’s teachings are by no means merely of historical interest. His doctrines of intentionality and evidence (which did have a strong influence on the moral philosophies of G.F. Stout, Russell and G.E. Moore) remain highly relevant to present-day philosophy of mind, psychology and ethics, and have been taken over and advanced by contemporary thinkers such as R.M. Chisholm.

Brentano and Philosophy

Perhaps the best known fact about Brentano is that he was Husserl’s teacher. Yet to think that this exhausts Brentano’s philosophical significance is to underestimate Brentano’s influence and the importance of his philosophical work in its own right. As concerns, in

Part II of this introduction, which explains and comments on the particular doctrines put forward in Brentano’s text, is taken from the German edition: F. Brentano, Deskriptive Psychologie, R. Chisholm and W. Baumgartner (eds), Hamburg: Meiner 1982.

For a more comprehensive contemporary account of Brentano’s life and work see: W. Baumgartner and F.-P. Burkard, ‘Franz Brentano; Eine Skizze seines Lebens und seiner Werke’, International Bibliography of Austrian Philosophy, Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: Rodopi 1990, pp. 16-53.

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