The school of Brentano

“The standards of rigour and descriptive adequacy of Scholasticism were re-established above all by Franz Brentano and his school. Brentano, a pupil of Adolf Trendelenburg, one of the few Aristotelians in the 19th century in Germany, created a philosophical system which was a synthesis of Aristotelianism, Cartesianism, and the empiricism of The British School. This system was modified in different and often highly original ways by his pupils, the most important of whom were Kazimierz Twardowski, Edmund Husserl, Carl Stumpf, Christian von Ehrenfels, Anton Marty, and Alexius Meinong.

In contradistinction to Hegel and his fellow idealists, the Brentano School was very successful in associating its philosophical work in fruitful ways with modern developments in the sciences, above all in psychology and linguistics. Brentano’s pupils were responsible for founding not only new philosophical movements such as phenomenology, but also new programmes of scientific research such as the Gestalt theories of the Graz and Berlin Schools. Brentano’s pupils contributed in important ways to modern logic, above all through Twardowski and his students in Poland. And they contributed also to ontology, for example through Meinong and the members of The Graz School, who established the so-called theory of objects. Husserl, following in some respects in Meinong’s footsteps, founded in turn the discipline of formal ontology and was the first to analyse in formal manner the ontological concepts of dependence, part and whole. Husserl’s work in this field was then continued in philosophy above all by Adolf Reinach and Roman Ingarden, and in its application to linguistic parts and wholes by Stanislaw Lesniewski and others in Poland. Husserl’s philosophical ideas on formal and material ontology gave rise further to a new understanding of synthetic or material a priori truths. From the perspective of Husserl, Reinach, and Ingarden such truths are not, as for Kant, the products of a forming or shaping activity on the side of the subject. Rather, as for Aristotle, they represent intelligible strictures on the side of the objects of experience, structures which are not invented but discovered, and which serve, again, as a pre-empirical basis for science and philosophy.”

From: Introduction to: Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology, Edited by Barry Smith Barry and Hans Burkhardt, Munich: Philosophia Verlag 1991, pp. XXI-XXII.


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