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Sebastian Luft

Sounds very interesting, Carlo. I would be interested in what you think about the relation to the Marburg project of a psychology 'according to critical method' (see Natorp's Einleitung in die Psychologie of 1888 and the Allgemeine Psychologie of 1912). Natorp soundly ignores Brentano in both works, which is a bit unfair, surely.

Carlo Ierna

Hi Sebastian, thanks for your comment! The Neo-Kantian approach is different from the get go in how they articulate the basic elements of psychology. Instead of looking at the intentionality of the act, i.e. how an act is directed at the world, Natorp immediately looks at the "I", the subjective character of the experience, in the sense that the content has a relation to an ego. At the same time, this ego is not accessible in the same way that other contents are, i.e. it cannot be objectified. For Brentano, there is a methodological unity (broadly conceived, between the natural and the mental sciences in that they both employ experience and perception (sure, internal and external, but perception nonetheless). That enables all kinds of interdisciplinarity, which the neokantians would have a lot of problems with. I'll go into the limits of Brentano's internal perception and how it can be complemented by external perception in my next post. By the way, given that Natorp was influenced by Cohen and Laas, which were students of Trendelenburg, it would be interesting to compare the reception of Aristotle in the Marburg neokantians and the School of Brentano.

Sebastian Luft

In MR, Plato was the big guy, while Aristotle was for the most part ignored (or seen as a Platonist). But this is a real gap in scholarship.

I'm not sure the Marburgers would have had problems with interdisciplinarity, if anything, Cassirer is a methodological pluralist.

Carlo Ierna

Interesting. Yet, Natorp opens his 1888 with a discussion of Aristotle. For Brentano it is precisely methodological unity that allows interdisciplinary collaboration, so there is a significant difference in their approach right there.

"Philosophy is a science like other sciences and therefore, in order to practice it correctly, it must also have a method that is in essence identical to the method of the other sciences. The natural scientific method [...], this much is clear nowadays, is also the only true one for philosophy. And only in this way she can then establish and maintain a connection with other sciences; because nowhere are the domains of knowledge that we distinguished sharply delimited, rather they all reach out into one another in a certain way" (Meine letzen Wünsche für Österreich)

Of course you can criticize the vaunted universality of the "empirical method" that he advocates, but it certainly seems the fulcrum of his philosophy of science. He would not object to a plurality in techniques (experimental, observational, historical, etc.) as long as they are all based on experience. The odd one out here is of course mathematics ...

Sebastian Luft

Right, the (Neo-)Kantians would never agree to this, it would be a thoroughgoing naturalism, to them.

This is Marburg:

All sciences have to be conducted "logically," i.e., according to critical method (= the transcendental method). The odd one out is psychology, because in order to access this sphere, I have to objectify it = kill subjectivity. This is supposedly solved by the method of "reconstruction," which is the inverse of construction, but as critics have pointed out (Husserl but also Heidegger), this adds nothing and doesn't solve the problem, so Natorp's project is doomed--as he himself acknowledged (tacitly) in his late years.

All of this is detailed in my forthcoming book...

Marcus Arvan

Hi Carlo: Interesting stuff!

I definitely like Brentano's overall methodological ideal: that philosophy should be based on careful empirical investigation, rather than mere speculation.

However, I can't help but wonder, from the rest of your exposition, how well he hewed to the ideal himself. He seems to impute a great deal of certainty to introspection (viz. “there is no psychical phenomenon which is not consciousness of an object"). Yet, there's a lot of empirical evidence that introspection is highly fallible, and often illusory (see e.g. http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzAbs/Naive.htm ).

How do you think these concerns apply to Brenanto's philosophy of science? Perhaps you intend to address this in a future post, but I couldn't help but ask! :)

Carlo Ierna

Hi Marcus, thanks for your comment! Brentano dedicates various paragraphs of his 1874 Psychology to the distinction between introspection and inner perception. Inner perception is the immediate awareness of every mental act given in and with that act itself, while introspection or inner observation would be a separate, secondary act. "If someone is in a state in which he wants to observe his own anger ranging within him, the anger must already be somewhat diminished, and so his original object of observation would have disappeared. The same impossibility is also present in all other cases. It is a universally valid psychological law that we can never focus our attention upon the object of inner perception.’’ (Brentano 1874, 36). On the next page Brentano points out that introspection doesn't lead to anything but a headache ... However, he likewise criticises the opponents of introspectionism that think we should also reject inner perception, because they confise the two (39). As I will point out in my next post, Brentano recognizes the limits of inner perception and broadens the sources of knowledge in psychology considerably.

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