David Zapero

Does Brentano´s Intentionality Thesis Necessarily Lead to Internalism?

In his criticism of internalism, Putnam takes himself to be attacking Brentano’s heritage. But this conception of his own criticism is closely tied to a certain historical context: it is tied to a certain appropriation of Brentano by analytic philosophy; an appropriation that took the intentionality thesis to be a thesis about the intensional nature of – at least certain – mental states and their capacity to refer. In an historical context in which such an appropriation of the intentionality thesis was widespread, Putnam’s criticism of internalism could be considered a criticism of Brentano’s intentionality thesis as such.In my paper, I want to revisit Putnam’s criticism so as to ask whether it is as opposed to Brentano’s intentionality thesis as is commonly supposed. I would like to show that Brentano’s thesis need not lead to the internalism that Putnam attacks and that there is indeed a side to Brentano’s thesis that is far from hostile to Putnam’s criticism. This side, I will argue, is the anti-psychologistic side of Brentano’s thesis. Brentano’s claim that mental phenomena are intentional contains crucial elements for a criticism of a wide-spread conception of mental entities – in particular, it contains a potential criticism of psychologistic theories of meaning that recur to such mental entities. This aspect of Brentano’s thesis was neglected in its appropriation by analytic philosophy but it was at the center of the debates led during Brentano’s lifetime by his own students.I will begin my argument by presenting Putnam’s criticism of internalism and showing how it is framed as an attack on Brentano’s heritage. I will then present the aspect of Brentano’s intentionality thesis that is clearly hostile to the internalist interpretation that became predominant in analytic philosophy. To do so, I will not only refer to Brentano’s own argumentation, but I will also show how the intentionality thesis’s hostility to psychologistic theories of meaning was emphasized by two of his students, Twardowski and Husserl. In the light of this re-evaluation of Brentano’s thesis, I will then return to Putnam’s criticism so as to show that they both in fact have more in common than one may think and that the basis of this convergence is a certain criticism of psychologism.