From Objects to Sachverhalte

The concept of object, for the Brentanists, arises when one moves from the psychology of presentation to the investigation of its objectual correlate. The concept of a state of affairs arises, similarly, when one moves from the psychology of judgment to the investigation of the ontological correlates of judging acts. Given Brentano’s existential theory of judgment, it turns out that such ontological correlates are initially seen by his followers as of the forms: the existence of A and the non-existence of A, but other types of judgment-correlate were also recognised: the subsistence of A, the possibility of A, the necessity of A, the probability of A, the being B of A, and so on.

As Stumpf himself later recorded, the term ‘Sachverhalt‘ was introduced by him in 1888 to stand for a ‘specific content of a judgment’,  

which is to be distinguished from the content of a presentation (the matter) and is expressed linguistically in ‘that-clauses’ or in substantivised infinitives.(20)

A copy of Stumpf’s notes to his logic lectures of 1888 has survived in the Husserl Archive in Louvain, where we read:

From the matter of the judgment we distinguish its content, the Sachverhalt that is expressed in the judgment. For example ‘God is’ has for its matter God, for its content: the existence of God. ‘There is no God’ has the same matter but its content is: non-existence of God. (MS Q 13, p. 4)

Together with concepts and sets or aggregates, the Sachverhalt is assigned by Stumpf to the category of what he calls ‘formations’ (Gebilde). These are to be distinguished first of all from what Stumpf calls ‘functions’, i.e. from our mental acts themselves. But they are to be distinguished also from ‘appearances’, i.e. from sense data as classically conceived, and Stumpf is in fact here still operating within the broadly empiricist framework within which it is sense data which serve as the typical examples of objects of presentation. The latter, as Stumpf conceives them, are given to us as independent of the activities of mind. As organised or collected, however – for example as they occur in the context of an aggregate or set – they are taken up into consciousness in such a way that they are given to us as existing only as immanent to the relevant (in this case aggregating) act. A Stumpfian state of affairs, similarly, can exist only as the ‘immanent content’ of an actually occurring judgment. Hence it cannot ‘be given directly and thus be real of itself alone, independently of any function.’ Sachverhalte, like other Stumpfian formations, ‘are factual only as contents of functions.’(21) They

are not to be found anywhere separated off … in some ‘supersensible realm’ as entities existing in and of themselves. They do not exist as dead preparations or petrifactions, but only in the context of the living being of the mind.(22)

Barry Smith, Logic and the Sachverhalt


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