5 Minutes of Brentano

The phenomena revealed by inner perception are also subject to laws. The laws of coexistence and succession of mental phenomena remain the object of investigation even for those who deny psychology any knowledge of the soul.

According to Franz Brentano, history is a cyclic succession of renewal and decline, that the relation between mental phenomena and an object or intentionality is a psychological act. This immanent objectivity or intentional inexistence of objects describes every mental phenomenon to include an object within itself, where in “love” there is something loved, or in “hate” there is something hated and so love or hate itself are objects that “inexist” or has an immanent objectivity. They are referred to as objects that describe psychological perceptions such as ideation, imagination, judgement etc &c., and thus “loving” or “hating” are expressions of psychological desires and intentions.

Brentano continues to explain that consciousness involves a schism in time, whereby a unity between present mental phenomenon and what later becomes the past explain temporally extended experiences unified into consciousness. When we watch a game of basketball, we experience the present game (the present is the only reality) where players are bouncing the ball and attempting to throw the ball into the basket, but we also understand that winning involves teams achieving the highest score.

This synchronic continuum of time retains this past consciousness and present experience that gives us the ability to reflect, associate, judge and imagine possibilities of a future, forming a triptych between past, present and future with language the tool to unite and explain this understanding of reality. Human progress can thus be explained historically, where evolution is exercised through the regular manifestation of decline and regeneration, of making mistakes and learning from them. Thus, knowledge improves our vocabulary giving us better scope to rationalise our experiences.

With limited language or vocabulary, experience and knowledge, our ability to reflect and understand both present and past is challenged and confuses these temporal modes of judgments. To “love” a person includes both the present reality or experience – two people who kiss, who live together, who have fun together – but also “loving a person” which is psychologically subjective, an individual and personal experience.

Consciousness requires more than just experience and memory, but this temporal synchronicity is glued together through reason and rational thought that enables individuals to calculate and interpret the content of experience. Since we can imagine a future and remember the past, we form three different types of mental phenomenon: presentations (current, real experiences), judgments (past experiences), and emotions (future imagination or moral content) or what he refers to as the beautiful, the true, and the good. Without the scientific (or reason and rational thought) the presentations can possibly be both correct or incorrect, good or evil, ugly or beautiful.

A person judges truly, if and only if, his judgment agrees with the judgment he would make if he were to judge with evidence.

Morality is thus emotional and consists of judgements of “love” and “hate” that either affirm or reject presentations of reality. These feelings are correct only when it is true and we call an object that is true to be something that is good. An object worthy of “love” involves ethics (reason) rather than morality (emotional), because the latter fails to include a branch of knowledge dealing with principles that govern behaviour that requires objective and shared content.

How can we recognise if we are directing the correct interpretation to an experience or object? We can “love” the wrong person, but can characterise it as being correct because we have the power to direct false presentations towards it and imagine lifeless objects and experiences to have value. We have the ability, to put quite simply and forgive the language when I say, to bullshit to ourselves.

The manifestation of regular cycles of decline and regeneration include ethical renewal, that the remedy for moral decline can be improved by acknowledging logic, reason and the science of psychology to increase our vocabulary and understanding. This is the domain of ethics, of diagnosing and modifying incorrect and false interpretations and presentations and rediscovering a new way of understanding reality, greatly shifting our ability to mandate an improve, subjective love.

Please see: Franz Brentano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte), Routledge, 1995.