Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Four Phases of Philosophy and Its Present Condition

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Four Phases of Philosophy and Its Present Condition

Article excerpt

Translator's Preface

This lecture on the four phases of philosophy, originally addressed to a literary society rather than to an academic audience, is perhaps the most accessible of Brentano's work. Nevertheless, it can be seen from Brentano's own words that he did not achieve accessibility at the price of watering his thoughts down, and, although the lecture is on the face of it a commentary on a now forgotten book that the society published, Brentano uses the opportunity of the lecture to speak on the entire history of philosophy and to express several of his characteristic views. Among the latter are the views that Kant, speculative metaphysicians (such as German Idealists), and mystics fall into the lowest and most degenerate phase of philosophy, while thinkers such as Aristotle, Aquinas, and the early modems (especially Bacon, Descartes, and Locke), whose thought is grounded in experience, are on the highest level.

It would be too grand a claim-and incorrect anyway-to say that this lecture alone influenced Meinong, Husserl, and the future course of Austrian and world philosophy. But Brentano's influence did reach that far. And this lecture expresses long-held and characteristic views of Brentano in a brief and forceful way.

The following translation is based on the German text of Brentano's lecture, "Die vier Phasen der Philosophie und ihr augenblicklicher Stand," edited, with introduction and notes by Oskar Kraus, published in his one-volume collection of Brentano's lectures and shorter works entitled Die Vier Phasen der Philosophie und ihr Augenblicklicher Stand (Leipzig, 1926). Kraus's was the second publication of the text of the lecture. The text was first published by Brentano himself in Stuttgart in 1895. The translation that follows below is the first English translation.

The endnotes are Brentano's. Footnotes to Brentano's text (marked with asterisks) and bracketed material (mainly in his endnotes) have been added by the translator. These generally provide references or English translations of Brentano's references. (Some of the information in Brentano's notes, e.g., dates of birth and death of individual philosophers, has been superseded by more recent research.)

The translator has benefitted from the assistance of many people and wishes especially to thank Helene Riley for assistance both in matters of translation details and in matters of Austrian culture and history. Additional gratitude is owed to Steven Grosby, Ralf Kruger, Todd May, Judy Melton, Ron Moran, Lucy Rollin, and Dan Wueste for their help. Errors that remain are of course entirely the responsibility of the translator.

The first edition of this work bore the dedication:

Dedicated from the heart to the academic youth of Austria-Hungary in expression of my gratitude for so many manifestations of the warmest concern


What I offer here is a lecture that was delivered to the Literary Society of Vienna on November 28, 1894.

I had been requested to speak at the meeting about a work that the society had edited; and, in fact, anyone who has read Der grundlose Optimismus [Groundless Optimism]' by H. Lorm will find all of its essential points to be critically treated. But those who are unacquainted with this book will find the lecture no less comprehensible on that account. Its content stands on its own.

The principal philosophical interests of the present are addressed in the lecture. Although, its conception of the history of philosophy might strike many as unusual, I have believed in it for years; and, for more than two decades, several scholars and I have taken it as a basis for academic lectures on the history of philosophy. I have not deluded myself into believing that my approach will not meet with prejudices, and that some of these may indeed be too strong to yield on initial impact. Still, I hope that those who thoughtfully follow the facts and considerations that are presented here will not fail to be impressed by them. …

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