Brentano, Franz Clemens (1838–1917)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC009-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2020
Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

5. Descriptive psychology and value

One area in which Brentano hoped to gain new insights by psychological investigations is value theory. Brentano’s OKRW is a model for this approach. Brentano first works through his tripartite account of mental faculties. What distinguishes presentation from judgement and love? Brentano answers that presentations have no contraries in the relation to the object: there is no mental act that stands to presentation of an object as loving x stands to hating x. If I love and hate x at the same time, either my love or my hate is not correct. Brentano argues that by attending to such act pairs, we become aware of the notion of correctness. If we have recognised that there are pairs of mental acts of which only one can be correct,

we have found what we have been looking for. We have arrived at the source of our concepts of the good and the bad, along with that of our concepts of the true and the false.

(OKRW, 11 [19])

Correctness is now used to define goodness, existence, and truth. The good is, for example, what is correctly loved.

Brentano takes himself to have refuted ‘ethical subjectivism’.20 Compare Brentano’s view of the Good to the hedonistic one. Hedonists identify the Good with what gives us underived pleasure. Now I take pleasure in eating crisps, you don’t. So crisps are a good for me and not a good for you. Brentano balks at this result and avoids it because only one of us has the correct attitude to eating crisps. Moore (1903: 117) praises Brentano giving an objective account of goodness and truth, but presses on to ask deep questions about correctness. I encourage the reader to read Moore’s understudied essay.

Citing this article:
Textor, Mark. Descriptive psychology and value. Brentano, Franz Clemens (1838–1917), 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC009-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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