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Intentionality, phenomenological perspectives

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD3590-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2015
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Intentionality – the directedness of mental experiences to an object – is one of the main themes of phenomenology. Franz Brentano revived the medieval doctrine of intentionality, but it was Edmund Husserl who pioneered the phenomenological approach to intentionality and provided a detailed account of its structure. Husserl employed a phenomenological methodology that is descriptive, that aims at revealing the essential structures of intentional experience and that considers without presuppositions drawn from other quarters both the experience and its object just as they are experienced. Phenomenological investigations of intentionality explore, in other words, both the experience’s directedness to its object and the object’s being given in a particular manner or under a particular conception. In part to distinguish his view from psychological views, Husserl adopts a technical vocabulary in his discussions. He refers to the complex of mental performances and syntheses that account for the experience’s directedness as the ‘noesis’, and he refers to the object just as experienced as the ‘noema’. Thus, for Husserl, the study of intentionality is the analysis of the noesis-noema correlation.

This formula should not mislead: the intentional correlation is not a simple, one-noesis-to-one-noema correlation. Reflection reveals immediately that the experience of an object is temporally extended and that a single object is experienced in a multiplicity of appearances, from many perspectives and under many different aspects or conceptions. This requires that phenomenology examine the temporal structure of both the experience and the experienced object. Moreover, phenomenology must examine the role of the body in generating multiple appearances of an object from different spatial perspectives as well as how differences in embodiment affect our understanding of objects. Finally, since something is an object only to the extent that it is experienced by a multiplicity of persons, phenomenology must also examine intersubjectivity to determine how it is that an object is the same for all of us and how history – our shared temporality – contributes to the understanding of our shared world. All these issues flow from the reflection on the intentionality of experience and were considered by Husserl and his successors.

Citing this article:
Drummond, John. Intentionality, phenomenological perspectives, 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD3590-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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