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PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL THEORY

What was philosophically significant about nineteenth-century psychology and social theory?

In the nineteenth century, the foundations were laid for psychology and sociology to develop as distinct fields separate from philosophy. The reasons for their separation are differences in subject matter as well as methodology. Concerning the latter, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) put the case of his age best in claiming that human sciences such as history, psychology, philology, and philosophy were characterized by a need to understand, whereas the physical sciences sought causes.

However, in the twentieth century, quantitative methodology and experiments in search of causes were to characterize important parts of both psychology and sociology. Quantification and causal explanation were also to characterize economics, which did not become distinctly independent from political philosophy, sociology, and philosophy until the twentieth century. But in the nineteenth century, the establishment of psychology and sociology as separate from epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy, as well as revolutionary critique, was a major achievement.

Franz Brentano

Who was Franz Brentano?

Franz Brentano (1837-1917) taught in Wurzburg and at the University of Vienna, influencing Austrian philosopher Alexius Meinong (1853-1920); Edmund Husserl

What was Franz Brentano's psychological theory of right and wrong?

Brentano thought that judgments can be correct or incorrect and that the same held for loving and hating. If a thing is good, then it is impossible to love it incorrectly. Correctness in loving and hating is objective, as is incorrectness. Brentano was an intuitionist concerning such correctness. He thought that we could be immediately and directly aware of the "fit" between the emotion and the object.

(1859-1938), the founder of phenomenology, and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the father of psychoanalysis. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1864, but renounced his vows after engaging in a dispute about papal infallibility. He resigned his professorship at the University of Vienna, so that he could marry, and was not able to regain that position. Later years left him blind, but he continued to write in virtually every subfield of philosophy until he died. Brentano's principal writings are Psychology from an Empirical Point of View (1874) and Our Knowledge of the Origin of Right and Wrong (1889).

What was Franz Brentano's main contribution to empirical psychology?

Brentano's lasting importance lies in his emphasis on the intentionality of conscious states and attitudes. He pointed out that thoughts, beliefs, hopes, desires, and the like—which Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was to term "propositional attitudes"—are directed toward some object. For instance, if you are thinking about an apple then your intentional object is the apple you are thinking about; if you want a new car, it is the car you intend as an object of that desire.

Because physical states are not intentional in this way, intentionality is a basis on which what is mental can be distinguished from what is physical. Brentano identified three different kinds of intending: ideas, judgments, and the phenomena of love and hate. The last, also known as emotions and volitions, are directly related to morality.

Although an earlier version of Brentano's doctrine—called "immanent intention-ality"—suggested that the object intended was in some way literally in the mind, he later explained that although there is always a mental object for consciousness the object need not literally exist. The point is that one can think of a thing that does not exist. Objects of thought that do exist have "strict relations" with other objects that exist, whereas those that do not exist lack them.

 
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