2021-08-18Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1007/s11245-021-09757-y
Brentano and the Medieval Distinction Between First and Second Intentions
Brentano’s account of intentionality has often been traced back to its scholastic sources. This is justified by his claim that objects of thought have a specific mode of being—namely, “intentional inexistence” (intentionale Inexistenz)—and that mental acts have an “intentional relation” (intentionale Beziehung) to these objects. These technical terms in Brentano do indeed recall the medieval notions of esse intentionale, which is a mode of being, and of intentio, which is a “tending towards” (tendere in) of mental acts. However, within the lexical family of intentio there is another distinction that plays an important role in medieval philosophy—namely, the distinction between first and second intentions (intentio prima and intentio secunda), which are, roughly speaking, concepts of things and concepts of concepts respectively. What is less well-known is that Brentano explicitly borrowed this distinction as well, and used it in his account of intentionality. This paper explores this little-known chapter in the scholastic-Austrian history of intentionality by evaluating both the historical accuracy and the philosophical significance of Brentano’s borrowing of the scholastic distinction between first and second intentions.
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