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date: 17 October 2019

Brentano, Twardowski and Stout: From Psychology to Ontology

Abstract and Keywords

This article was commissioned as a supplement to theOxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy, edited by Michael Beaney. It focuses on the psychological origins of analytic philosophy. Analytic psychology influenced the emergence of a new method in philosophy and the crucial changes to the notions of judgement and intentionality at the end of the nineteenth century. In particular, G. F. Stout’s analytic psychology played an important role in the formation of Moore’s and Russell’s early analytic philosophy. Through Stout, the account of judgement and intentionality given by Brentano and Twardowski also had a significant influence on the development of early analytic philosophy.

Keywords: Brentano, Twardowski, G. F. Stout, Moore, Russell, analytic psychology, early analytic philosophy, judgement, intentionality

1. Introduction

If one is willing to classify the early analytic realism of G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, the theories of the Brentano School, and those of the Lvov-Warsaw School as variants of analytic philosophy, one may perceive a pattern in the wider context of these theories. In each case there has been a teacher whose main work was in psychology at the time of his influence.1 James Ward (1843–1925) and G.F. Stout (1860–1944) were the teachers of Moore and Russell. Whereas Ward still defended the traditional idea that psychology is a part of philosophy, the younger Stout understood that psychology can become a science by refraining from metaphysical presuppositions. One should do psychological research prior to any pronouncement on one’s philosophy. Stout’s Analytic Psychology (1896) was written when Stout was the teacher of Moore and Russell, and the book was read by both philosophers.2

According to Franz Brentano (1838–1917), a clear description and classification of the mental is a presupposition of any philosophical investigation.3 His investigations of intentionality and judgement in Psychology from an Empirical Point of View (1874) are empirical in the sense that they are based on experience, resulting, for example, in the law that every judgement is founded on a presentation. The method of empirical psychology is not essentially different from that of the natural sciences. Psychological investigations have important consequences for metaphysics, according to Brentano, and he proposes a reform of logic on the basis of a new explanation of judgement. Empirical psychology is thus understood as foundational to philosophy, and philosophy is thereby empirical, too. The members of the Brentano School were dispersed across Europe. Marty, Meinong, Ehrenfels, and Twardowski became professors in Prague, Lemberg (Lvov), and other places in the Habsburg Empire, while Stumpf and Husserl were appointed to chairs in Germany.

Kasimir Twardowski (1866–1938) was not only a student of Brentano, but also the father of the Lvov-Warsaw School. Leśniewski, Ajdukiewicz, Kotarbiński, Maria Kokoszyńska, Eugenia Ginsberg-Blaustein, and Izydora Dąmbska were among Twardowski’s students and they all got important positions in Lvov and in Poland. At least ten women of the School were appointed at a university. Alfred Tarski, being a pupil of Łukasiewicz and Leśniewski in Warsaw, belonged to the second generation. Although Twardowski is better known for his teaching than for his writings, his work On the Content and Object of Presentations (1894) is a masterpiece of analytic philosophy done from a psychological point of view, having “a psychological investigation” as subtitle. Again, the aim is to give a description of mental phenomena independent of any metaphysical assumptions, where such a description provides a foundation for philosophy.

These three variants of analytic philosophy—early British analytic philosophy, the Brentano School, and the Lvov-Warsaw School—can be characterized by a strong anti-psychologism. One may thus think that the influence of a psychological approach to philosophy must have been primarily negative. It is true that Brentano, Twardowski, and Stout were accused of psychologism by their students, but one can also perceive the relation between teacher and students in another light. These students may have been impressed by their teacher’s method of clear description, exact analysis, sound argumentation, the opposition to speculative metaphysics, and the idea that philosophical questions can be approached in a scientific manner. Teaching consisted in lectures, seminars, and private discussion, which stimulated students to argue with and deviate from their teacher.

It thus seems that nineteenth-century psychology cannot be neglected for a complete understanding of these variants of analytic philosophy. Does a psychological origin of analytic philosophy change our understanding of what analytic philosophy is? Today, questions about consciousness, mental content, and intentionality are no longer neglected in analytic philosophy understood in a wider sense. These psychological origins are not only of interest for philosophy of mind, but also for metaphysical and methodological questions. The mereology that was developed for psychological contents was extended to ontology by members of the Brentano School, and can be of use for today’s analytic metaphysics. The different accounts of tropes, general objects, and Gestalt qualities that are given by Brentano, Twardowski, Stout, and other Brentano students are especially relevant for modern metaphysical discussions.

Understanding these psychological origins of analytic philosophy may also help to improve the method we use. Analytic philosophy has dealt with philosophical problems primarily from a third-person point of view. The analysis of knowledge and judgement, is primarily given in terms of the truth-conditions of sentences such as “John knows that S” and “John believes that S,” thereby neglecting the question of the nature of knowledge or judgement from a first-person point of view. What is it for the agent to perceive that the sky is blue, to understand that red is a color, or to demonstrate a thesis? A first-person methodology is needed to answer such questions, and pre-behavioristic psychology can help us to develop such a method.

Coming back to the historical question: What impact could these psychological theories have had on the different variants of analytic philosophy? In addressing this question I will in general not be able to go into detail with respect to the different schools. Instead, I will show how Brentano, Twardowski, and Stout themselves used their psychological theories and methods to answer philosophical questions, so that the reader will be able to infer how the different variants of analytic philosophy could arise given this background. Because Brentano and several members of the Brentano School, including Twardowski, had an influence on Stout, Moore, and Russell, as will be shown, a more specific question should not be neglected: What is the influence of these psychological theories on the early analytic realism of Moore and Russell? As the theory of judgement, the relation of thought to its object, and a method of analysis play an important role in psychological theories of the late nineteenth century and in Moore and Russell’s development from British idealism to analytic realism, as well, these topics will be central to our chapter.

2. Brentano: psychology and logic

Since Twardowski and Stout can be understood as a student and an acute reader, respectively, of Brentano, we begin with Brentano. In what sense can Brentano’s early theory be understood as psychology? How does Brentano’s psychology relate to philosophical questions related to intentionality and judgement and to analysis as a philosophical method? And does Brentano’s theory imply a form of psychologism?

Brentano was apparently hesitant to publish his thoughts. Apart from the two dissertations on Aristotle, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874) was for a long time the only book one could study.4 In this work, Brentano argues that empirical psychology should abstain from any metaphysical presuppositions and is therefore not to be understood as a science of the soul. Psychology is the science of mental phenomena, such as the sensing of red and the hearing of a tone. Mental phenomena are contrasted with physical phenomena, which form the starting point for the natural sciences. The color one perceives, the warmth that is felt, and the tone that one hears are called physical phenomena, not to be understood as material entities. They are signs of, and thus distinct from, external objects, and do not show any resemblance with them. Phenomena are not to be understood as a counterpart to noumena or things in themselves. Phenomena are appearances, and as such they appear to someone, but they need not be appearances of something.

Brentano’s empirical psychology is to be distinguished from experimental psychology, which studies the development of mental phenomena and their causal relations. In his psychology lectures from the 1880s, the two forms of psychology are categorized as descriptive and genetic. Whereas genetic psychology has to rely on inductive generalizations, descriptive psychology provides exact laws, which do not allow for exceptions. Descriptive psychology offers analyzing descriptions of our mental phenomena.5 For this reason Stout translates “deskriptive Psychologie” as “analytic psychology.” It is prior in the order of explanation to genetic psychology, because the latter makes use of the concepts developed in the descriptive part, and because the exact laws of descriptive psychology show what necessary relations there are between the different phenomena.

Empirical psychology is so-called for its method. It is the method of inner experience that Brentano understands to be empirical in the first place. A mental phenomenon such as a sensing of red is the object of a special act of perception. This act of inner perception is contained in the act of sensation itself; it is a dependent aspect of the sensation. Inner perception is not the product of attention; it comes automatically with every mental phenomenon (Brentano 1874, vol. 1, 41). Each mental phenomenon is thus accompanied by an act of inner perception as part of this phenomenon, and is thereby essentially complex. Today, we call a visual sensation that is not accompanied by a form of consciousness “blind sight”: one does not sense consciously. Brentano, though, does not speak of blind sight. For him, there is simply no act of sensation in those cases we call “blind sight”; there are no unconscious presentations (idem, 85). When we use the method of inner perception to obtain an exact law, such as that every judgement is dependent upon a presentation, a form of ideal intuition (ideale Anschauung, idem, 1) is needed. In order to understand what classes of mental phenomena there are, and how they depend upon each other, we need to think of the variations that might or might not be possible.

For Brentano, inner perception is infallible. If the inner awareness is understood as a way of sensing, as consciously sensing, this needs to be interpreted as sensing judicatively (cf. Thomasson 2000, 203). The inner perception is a judgement, and that judgement is correct, according to Brentano. I cannot go wrong in judging that I now sense, feel, or think. The thesis that inner perception is infallible may be criticized. In an inner perception, such as perceiving that one has a sensation, that one judges, or that one is feeling joy, one has to make use of the concepts of sensing, judging, or feeling joy. As soon as one classifies or describes the mental act, the possibility of error arises, and the judgement is thereby fallible.6 We may use the method of inner perception, though, without presupposing its infallibility. According to Brentano, the empirical method of inner perception is supplied with memory experiences, experiences relating to disorders in sense organs, and the study of animals, and fallibility thus comes in at these levels too.

Psychology needs to answer the question, What is its object, the mental phenomenon? According to Brentano, one has to start with clear examples (Brentano 1874, vol. 1, 111). Hearing a tone, thinking of a triangle, judging that God exists, and loving one’s neighbor are examples of mental phenomena. A first characteristic of these phenomena is that each is either an act of presentation or has such an act as its foundation (idem, 112). There is no judgement or fear without an act of presenting that provides the object for one’s judgement or fear. Second, all and only mental phenomena are the objects of inner perception (idem, 128).

Primarily (idem, 137), though, mental phenomena are characterized by what the Scholastics called “the intentional or mental inexistence of an object” (idem, 124). They are all related to a content—directed to an object, as Brentano explains, not distinguishing here between content and object. The content may be a physical phenomenon, such as the red I see, or the dagger that appears to me; it may be a concept or term, as when I think of the characteristic (Merkmal) of being a man or of being mortal; or it may be a mental phenomenon, as in the case of inner perception. Apart from the mental phenomenon, contents are not real in the sense that they do not enter into relations of cause and effect. On Brentano’s account, the intentionality relation can be understood as a whole-part relation: the mental phenomenon is a complex having the content as a dependent part. One may say that the content, such as the dagger one imagines, exists in the act of presentation, but the dagger that appears has no real existence (wirkliche Existenz); it is but a dagger of the mind. Physical phenomena such as the red I see have intentional, but no real existence (idem, 129); that is, they merely exist as content in the mind. Only the object of inner perception, the mental phenomenon itself, has both intentional and real existence (idem, 137). It thus seems that Brentano acknowledges two forms of existence: intentional or mental existence, and real existence. It is also possible to read Brentano in another light: intentional existence is not existence at all. The term ‘intentional’ modifies the meaning of existence, as Twardowski will put it. Brentano’s idea of intentionality says nothing more than that in every presenting, something is presented; in judging, something is judged; and in loving, something is loved. We can say that these mental acts are characterized by their intentionality, as long as intentionality is not understood as a mysterious relation between the mind and the world, for that would imply a metaphysical claim, and such claims do not have a place in descriptive psychology. It is rather that these psychological analyses have metaphysical consequences, as we will see in the following paragraphs.

Finally, mental phenomena are characterized by the fact that they appear as a unity to the one who perceives them (idem, 137). Brentano speaks here of a multitude of perceived mental phenomena at a certain moment in time, not about the unity of consciousness through time. The way different mental acts and their contents enter into relation with other acts and contents is described by Brentano in terms of different kinds of parts. There is, for example, a distinction between dependent and independent parts. The red one perceives can be distinguished from the act of perceiving only by the mind, and is therefore a dependent part. While Brentano develops a mereology for the mental in order to account for the unity and differences of our consciousness at a certain moment, such a mereology will be applied to objects in general by his students.

For the early Brentano, descriptive or analytic psychology aims at the last mental parts, thus giving a psychological foundation to a characteristica universalis in Descartes’ or Leibniz’s sense (cf. Brentano 1895, 34). Analytic psychology aims at a universal language of thought that is foundational to logic. The elements of Brentano’s universal language differ in an important sense from Frege’s Begriffsschrift, as for Frege such elements are objects and functions (concepts, relations) independent of the mind. Furthermore, in Frege’s early Begriffsschrift the distinction between judgeable and nonjudgeable contents is essential to his logic. There is also an important agreement between Brentano’s logic and Frege’s Begriffsschrift, as both systems acknowledge dependent and independent elements, and a special sign is used showing that a judgement has been made.7 Brentano’s method of analytic psychology does not only consist in a decompositional analysis of psychological wholes into their different kinds of parts; it also involves a reconstruction of the language of thought that lies behind the surface structure of the linguistic sentence.

One of the reasons that Brentano’s account of intentionality has become famous is that Twardowski and Husserl reacted by making a distinction between the content and the object of the act. Brentano had an important reason for restricting his account of intentionality to the immanent object or content of the act. In the descriptive analysis of mental phenomena, it is irrelevant whether the external object exists; in the analysis of the mental act, one cannot determine anything about the existence of the external object. It is true that Brentano himself makes a distinction between content and object in his logic lectures, but the distinction does not play a prominent role in Brentano’s thought as far as the idea of intentionality is concerned. In these lectures, the distinction is made rather for semantical reasons.8 Notwithstanding the fact that the distinction plays no role in his account of intentionality, Brentano is able to account for the fact that presentations with different contents may relate to the same object, as we will see in the following paragraphs.

In considering what intentionality is, and what judgement is, we have reached questions that are of importance to philosophy. By asserting that these questions belong to psychology, Brentano is making a claim about the more theoretical parts of philosophy. As we will see below, the questions What is existence?, What are truth and goodness?, and What is the judgemental content?, also belong to psychology. These conceptual questions belong to descriptive psychology, because these concepts have their origin in a reflection upon our acts of loving and acts of judgement (Brentano 1874, vol. 2, 89; Brentano 1889, 14, 16).

Brentano’s idea of a descriptive psychology is not unlike Hume’s idea of a science of the mind. Both philosophers understand that the act of judgement is a sui generis act. They also agree in neglecting the distinction between the act of judgement, which is, like assertion, an all-or-nothing affair, and the state of belief or conviction, which has degrees. Brentano’s science of the mind is not based, though, upon an atomistic conception of the mind, is thus critical of association psychology, and gives a different account of ideas and judgements. Brentano criticizes the empiricist tradition by explaining ideas in terms of intentionality, and by denying the thesis that judgement is an inseparable association of ideas, or that it is a vivid idea, as Hume claims. Although it is true that logic and ethics have an empirical basis, the acts of judgements and the acts of loving cannot be identified with an instinctive drive (Brentano 1889, 23).

How do metaphysical questions and the more practical disciplines like logic or ethics relate to descriptive psychology? According to Brentano, a metaphysical question such as that of the validity of the ontological argument for the existence of God cannot be answered without understanding what existence is, and what judgement is. Such a question presupposes an analysis of the basic concepts of descriptive psychology. As far as logic is concerned, descriptive psychology gives a foundation to the universal language of logic free from the ambiguities of language. Brentano does not depart from the traditional idea of a term logic; the logical change he proposes is essential, nonetheless, and is directly related to his explanation of judgement.

Judgement is not to be explained in terms of predication, or as a combination of two terms, a subject and predicate. By making a distinction between the act of judgement and its content, Brentano is able to see that the distinguishing mark of judgement is to be found on the act side. The act of judgement is a special way in which we are directed to a content, and is distinct in kind from the act of presentation. The content (or object) of judgement is simply the content of the underlying presentation, and every presented content has the right form to be judged. There is no special judgeable content. So, for Brentano, one can affirm the contents human being, red, or this tree. For Brentano, judging is not acknowledging the truth of a proposition or Gedanke, as Frege would say. Platonic entities, such as Bolzano’s Sätze an sich or Frege’s Gedanke, do not play a role in his logic. Because Brentano does not acknowledge propositions, no account of propositional negation is given. Instead, Brentano has an act of denial besides the act of affirmation.

Judgement, according to Brentano, is either the acknowledgement or the rejection of the existence of a presented content. Affirming red is acknowledging the existence of something red. Existence is not a predicate, and the concept can be obtained only by reflection upon the judgemental act. The word “is” has no meaning on its own (Brentano 1874, 57); it is what the Scholastics called a syncategorematic term. The + sign and the — sign are signs that the content is affirmed or denied, comparable to our assertion sign. (A B) + shows that a judgement has been made, the judgement that an object exists that has both the A and the B mark.

According to Brentano, two different presentations may refer to the same object. In the logic lectures (Brentano 1870, 13.019), Brentano speaks about “the son of Phaenarete” and “the wisest man in Athens” as naming the same object by mediation of a different meaning. The identity judgement could then be analyzed as: (the son of Phaenarete, the wisest man of Athens) +. The judgement affirms that there exists one object that has the marks presented by the contents of the two presentations. Brentano’s theory is thus able to explain that identity judgement can be informative.

The idea that existential judgements cannot be analyzed in terms of subject and predicate can already be found in Hume.9 Brentano refers, though, to Herbart and Trendelenburg, rather than to Hume, perhaps because of his opposition to Hume’s account of judgement as a vivid idea. Herbart acknowledges a special judgemental form for existential judgements, while drawing our attention not only to a judgement of the form “There are people” (“Es gibt Menschen”), but also to judgements like “It rains” and “It lightens” (Herbart 1813, §63). The topic was soon taken up by linguists, resulting in a monograph called Subjectlose Sätze by the Slavist Franz Miklosich. Miklosich asserts that linguistics can learn something from the new developments in logic.10 He claims that not all sentences have a subject (Miklosich 1883, 23), and believes that this thesis is supported by Brentano’s ideas on judgement. Although Brentano’s review of the book is positive, he criticizes the term “subjectless sentence.” “Subject” and “predicate” are correlative terms, and neither should play a role in logic. One should therefore not speak of “subjectless sentences” (Brentano 1883, 190). In contrast to Miklosich, Brentano claims that logic should be separated from linguistics in order to affirm a close relation between logic and descriptive psychology.

Because Brentano does not acknowledge propositions, judgements are for him the proper bearers of truth and falsity. And the notion of truth, just like existence, can be obtained only by reflection upon the act of judgement. By claiming that truth properly belongs to judgements alone, Brentano does not have a timeless bearer of truth. Furthermore, he asserts that the same judgement may change from true to false, if reality changes (Brentano 1889a, § 55). This makes his theory of judgement and truth essentially different from the logical realism of Frege and Bolzano.

In 1889 Brentano endorses a correspondence definition of truth (idem, § 51 ff), but he claims that the definition says no more than that the term existence of the object is a counterpart to the term truth of the affirmative judgement (idem, § 57). The definition cannot be used to explain truth in terms of existence. It shows something about the relation between truth and existence, but gives us no phenomenological account of truth. For that, we need the notion of inner rightness pertaining to the act of judgement. These analyses of truth and existence show us something about the explanatory order of the concepts in Brentano’s philosophy. We cannot understand these notions without understanding the concept of judgemental act.

In The Origin of Right and Wrong (Vom Ursprung sittlicher Erkenntnis, 1889), Brentano speaks of the truth of the content of a judgement and of the rightness of the act. He gives a phenomenological account of truth and goodness by explaining these notions in terms of the rightness of the act. Something is true because our acknowledging it is right. Something is good, because our loving it is right (idem, p. 19). We can see what this inner rightness is by comparing an insightful judgement with a prejudice. The notion of truth is thus explained in phenomenological terms.

Summarizing the elements of Brentano’s descriptive or analytic psychology, one may distinguish seven aspects:

  1. (1) the distinction between act and object, which is central to his explanation of thought and judgement;

  2. (2) decompositional analysis of psychological wholes into dependent and independent parts;

  3. (3) formulating the universal language of thought by means of (2) and a critique of language;

  4. (4) elucidating philosophical concepts such as truth and existence by showing their phenomenological origin;

  5. (5) using an empirical method in which inner perception plays a central role;

  6. (6) determining the exact laws that are of philosophical importance, such as the law that every act has an object, or the law that every act of judgement is dependent upon an act of presentation.

  7. (7) analytic psychology is understood to be philosophically neutral, and to be foundational to philosophy: the basic philosophical concepts are shown to have an empirical, psychological origin; philosophical theses are justified by an empirical method (see 5).

There is an agreement between Brentano and Moore, insofar as, for both, the act/object distinction is fundamental to their account of thought and judgement. Furthermore, both philosophers react to the empiricist tradition and to a form of idealism; both claim that the method of decompositional analysis is central to philosophy; and both claim that the objectivity of logic and ethics can be accounted for. Both Brentano and Moore saw the importance of a new mereology for the method of analysis. Moore’s mereology, though, is a form of atomism—all parts of a whole have an independent being, whereas Brentano acknowledges both dependent and independent parts. It is essential to Moore’s early variant of analytic philosophy that the complex whole of thinking, like any complex in his mereology, consists only of independent parts (cf. Bell 1999). This implies that the object of thought is independent of the act of thinking. Moore thus defends a direct realism that is completely absent from Brentano’s early writings. And there are more striking differences.11 Opposing Bradley’s theory of judgement, Moore defends a form of logical realism. The proper bearer of truth and falsity is the proposition, a complex concept that is independent of the act of judgement; propositions do not change their truth-value. Brentano opposes any form of logical realism. For him, as for Aristotle, judgement is the proper bearer of truth and falsity, and judgements may change their truth-value over time. Where for Moore the objectivity of logic is guaranteed by the objectivity of the proposition and its truth-value, for Brentano, the objectivity of logic is guaranteed by the inner rightness of the act of judgement. There is thus for Brentano a danger of psychologism that is lacking in Moore’s analytic realism. The same point can be made concerning ethics. For Moore, the objectivity of ethics is founded upon a Platonic idea of the good. This form of Platonism is already visible in Moore’s first rejected dissertation on the metaphysical basis of ethics (Moore 1897, 14). Platonism is absent from Brentano’s ethics. For Brentano, the inner rightness of the act of loving accounts for the objectivity of ethics. And Brentano’s claim that descriptive psychology is foundational to logic and philosophy, is not endorsed by Russell or Moore.

One may also say, though, that Brentano‘s philosophy was more analytic than Moore’s and Russell’s philosophy around 1900. For Brentano, the universal language of thought should not take grammar as its guide. Here he comes closer to the position in Russell’s “On Denoting” than the one defended in The Principles of Mathematics (Russell 1903, § 46, p. 42). As we will see in the next section, Twardowski gives a contextual analysis of the term “nothing” that reminds one of the contextual definition for definite descriptions in “On Denoting.” For Brentano, the structure of the declarative sentence does not correspond to the structure of the judgement or that of the judgemental content. We need the method of descriptive or analytic psychology to determine what precisely the elements are of the universal language of thought, judgement, and reasoning.

3. Twardowski: psychology, linguistics, ontology

Kasimir Twardowski, a dedicated teacher, was the youngest of Brentano’s students, and was appointed to a chair in Lvov (Lemberg) in 1895.12 In what sense can Twardowski’s psychological investigations have been of importance for the Lvov-Warsaw School, which is famous for its anti-psychologism? Twardowski understands his work as a form of psychologism, in a sense in which it is opposed to metaphysicism (Twardowski 1897, 57). Philosophy should not start with metaphysical axioms, but rather with psychological investigations of mental phenomena, free from metaphysical presuppositions. Eventually, we will ask metaphysical questions, but these are to be answered “from the bottom up,” starting with experience (idem, 63). Psychology is not only a part of philosophy; it also has a special foundational role for philosophy insofar as it provides philosophy with both its object and its method. Twardowski has mainly Brentano’s analytic psychology in mind, not denying the importance of the results based on experiments in psychological laboratories.13

The difference between early Twardowski and Brentano does not concern the role of psychology, but the way Twardowski combines a psychological approach to philosophical problems with a linguistic turn. Just like Brentano, Twardowski is convinced that language can be misleading as far as logic and psychology are concerned, but, in contrast to Brentano, he often uses linguistic concepts and distinctions to overcome these problems. Partly under the influence of Anton Marty, an older student of Brentano, whose main field is the philosophy of language, Twardowski understands that linguistic distinctions can be used to clarify conceptual distinctions. Although there is not a complete parallel between speech and thought, there is an analogy between the two that makes it possible to clarify the mental by means of language (Twardowski 1894e, 8).

Names, according to Twardowski, are categorematic expressions, that is, they manifest or express a mental act on their own (idem, 11). Names are in this sense different from syncategorematic expressions like “John’s,” “for,” and “notwithstanding,” which express an act only together with other expressions. Names are signs of acts of presentation (idem, 11, note). They are distinguished from declarative sentences used to make an assertion (Aussage), which are signs of judgements, and from sentences used to make requests, questions or orders, which are signs of feelings or decisions of the will (idem, 9). For Twardowski, the distinction between categorematic and syncategorematic terms is of philosophical importance because of the analogy between language and thought.

Twardowski presents his distinction between act, content, and object in On the Content and Object of Presentations as an improvement on Brentano’s distinction between act and object. Although the distinction is primarily a psychological one, Twardowski uses Marty’s semantics to clarify the distinction. A name has three functions: (1) it manifests the corresponding act of presentation in the speaker; (2) it arouses in the listener a certain mental content, which is called the meaning (Bedeutung) of the name; and (3) it names or designates an object. Semantics thus confirms the psychological analysis of presentations into act, content, and object.

Philosophers have often neglected the distinction between content and object of presentations, because one may use the phrase “presented object,” or “something presented,” for both the object and the content of the act. Twardowski disambiguates the phrase by means of the linguistic distinction between attributive and modifying adjectives.14 “A determination is called attributive or determining if it completes, enlarges … the meaning of the expression to which it is attached. A determination is modifying if it completely changes the original meaning of the name to which it is attached” (Twardowski 1894e, 11). As Twardowski follows Brentano’s existential account of judgement, one can give the following analysis of the distinction: If A is an attributive term and B is a noun, the inference from the judgement (A B) + to the judgement (B) + is valid. Given that “German” is an attributive adjective, it is correct to say that a German pistol is a certain kind of pistol. If A is a modifying term, the inference from (A B) + to (B) + is invalid. “[I]f one says ‘dead man,’ one uses a modifying adjective, since a dead man is not a man” (idem, 11).

Some words can be used attributively in one context, and modifying in another, as the word “false” in, respectively, “false judgement” and “false gold.” A false judgement is a kind of judgement, but false gold is not a kind of gold. Adjectives like “presented” and “painted” can be used in both ways, too. One may speak of a “painted landscape” in two senses: one may speak about a landscape near Amsterdam that is painted. Here the word is used attributively. One may also speak of a “painted landscape” when speaking about a painting, that is, “painted” is used as a modifying term. From the judgement (painted landscape) +, one is not allowed to draw the conclusion (landscape) +, when “painted” is used as a modifying term. Similarly, the phrase “presented object” may denote the object of presentation, in which case “presented” is used attributively, or it may be used to refer to the content of presentation. In the latter case, “presented” is used as a modifying term: the presented object is not a kind of object; in fact, it is not an object at all.

The content of the act is that through which the object of the act is presented (idem, 16); it has a mediating function (idem, 28), directing the act to this object rather than to another. The same object may be presented in different ways, even if the object does not exist: “Admittedly, a circle in the strict geometric sense does not exist elsewhere. Yet one can conceive of it in different ways [‘Doch kann man ihn auf die verschiedenste Weise vorstellen,’ Twardowski 1894, 32], be it as a line of constant curvature, be it … as a line whose points are at the same distance from a given point.” (Twardowski 1894e, 29, 30). The content exists, but is not real. The content exists only as part of the act, and cannot be considered as a thing or res, that is, as something that stands in relations of cause and effect. Although there is a passage where it is claimed that the speaker aims to arouse in the hearer the same mental content as he himself has, Twardowski gives no explanation how the two may have a presentation with the same content, given that the content is a dependent moment of the act. Nowhere does Twardowski make a distinction between logical and psychological content, and it is no surprise that Husserl criticized Twardowski on this point. As Twardowski identifies the meaning of the name with the content of the act, there is no way he can prevent a form of psychologism as far as semantics is concerned in 1894.15 Later, Twardowski gives a solution to this problem by making a distinction between act and product.

In “Actions and Products,” (1912) Twardowski claims that psychology studies the judgement as act and its causal relations, whereas logic is concerned with the judgement as product. In modern terms, there is a distinction between the act of assertion and the assertion made, which may still be valid when the act is no longer there. The idea of the product of an act Twardowski elucidates by means of the grammatical distinction between internal and external object of a sentence.16 In “Hans is reading a letter,” “a letter” is the external object of the sentence. In “Hans is writing a letter,” “a letter” is the internal object, for the object denoted by the term is the result of the activity indicated by the verb. It thus becomes clear why the paper’s subtitle is “some remarks from the borderline of psychology, grammar and logic.” Grammar is as important for logical questions as psychology is. According to Twardowski, the judgement product is the meaning of the occurrence of a sentence, the bearer of truth and falsity, and the content of the judgemental act. With the distinction between act and product, Twardowski is moving towards a Bolzanian account of judgement, although he does not want to be committed to Sätze an sich, abstract entities independent of the mind. The judgemental product has no being independent of the act of judgement, according to Twardowski, but he allows for an abstraction. Similar judgement products have a group of common attributes, which can be regarded as the general meaning of a sentence (Twardowski 1912, 127). By abstracting from the differences between similar judgement products, and focusing on the common attributes, we obtain a logical meaning. Twardowski (1912, 128, note) refers here to Husserl’s ideale Bedeutung in the Logical Investigations. For Twardowski, though, the logical meaning is nothing apart from the judgemental products. Twardowski does not endorse a form of logical realism.

Going back to 1894, the first two arguments Twardowski gives for the distinction between content and object are formulated independently of any linguistic distinctions:

  1. (1) the content always exists as a part of the act; the object may not exist. When I think of a golden mountain, the content of my thought exists, but not its object;

  2. (2) the object may have properties that the content does not have. The golden mountain is made of gold, but not so the content of my thought;

  3. (3) presentations with the same object may have a different content; their contents are meanings of different terms.

In the explanation of the third argument, Twardowski makes use of two names for Salzburg, “the city located at the site of the Roman Juvavum” and “the birthplace of Mozart”: “The two names have a different meaning, but they both designate the same thing” (1894e, 29). The presentations expressed by these names are called equivalent presentations (Wechselvorstellungen), a term Twardowski borrows from Bolzano. Because of the analogy between names and presentations, equivalent presentations can now be defined as “presentations in which a different content, but through which the same object, is presented” (idem).

Twardowski is faithful to Brentano’s method of empirical psychology, and also to his thesis that all presentations are directed to an object. As for Twardowski, the acts of presentation are not directed to their content, but to their object; all acts of presentation have both a content and an object. There are no objectless presentations. Every act of presentation has an object; every name designates something. This thesis has important consequences for ontology, as we will see in the following paragraphs.

Twardowski had always been an acute reader of Bernard Bolzano’s Wissenschaftslehre, where it is argued that there are objectless presentations (gegenstandlose Vorstellungen, Bolzano 1837, § 67). Bolzano’s examples are the presentations of nothing, of a round square, and of a golden mountain. For Twardowski, these form no counterexamples to the Brentanian thesis that every presentation has an object. The incompatible properties of being round and being square are attributed to the object; they cannot be attributed to the content, for the content exists, and therefore cannot have any incompatible properties. So there is an object, a round square, although it does not exist. The word “nothing,” Twardowski says, is a syncategorematic term: the word on its own is not a name, and therefore does not express an act of presentation. In standard cases, where “non” precedes a categorematic term, we get a new categorematic term, such as “non-Greek.” This makes sense only if a superordinate concept, for example human being, is divided into the concepts Greek and non-Greek. The latter is thus a categorematic term. If there is no superordinate concept, as is the case with the most general concept something, then we cannot form a new categorematic term by putting “non” in front of “something,” as is the case in “nothing.” “Nothing” has no meaning in isolation: “One can say neither that “Nothing” exists nor that “Nothing” does not exist” (Twardowski 1894e, 32); ‘ “Nothing is eternal” means “There is not something which is eternal.”’ (idem, 20). Assuming that a judgement is made, the logical form is: (eternal) –. The other Cyclopes did not help Polyphemus when he shouted that nobody was trying to kill him. The Cyclops was misled by Odysseus in thinking that his name was “Nobody.” As “nothing” is not a categorematic term, it does not express a presentation, and no objectless presentation is involved.

What are these nonexisting objects like golden mountains and round squares? At first sight, it seems that for Twardowski the object of presentation is nothing but a counterpart to the mental act: “We have called object that entity which is presented through a presentation, judged in a judgment, and desired or detested in an emotion” (idem, 32) The meaning of “object” coincides in this sense with the meaning of the expression “phenomenon” or “appearance” (idem, 33), comparable to what Brentano has called “physical phenomenon.” The object is something different from the Ding an sich, Twardowski adds. He does not want to make any metaphysical assumptions at this stage of the analysis: “whatever [the object] may be, it is … the object of these acts, in contrast to us and our activity of conceiving” (idem, 33). A psychological analysis disregards “the real, possible, or impossible existence of objects and their parts” (idem, 49). The act “relates to an object which is presumed to be independent of thinking” (idem, 7; italics are mine). Twardowski does not claim here that the object is dependent upon the act of presentation; it is rather that he does not want to make any metaphysical claims at this stage of his investigation.

At a certain moment in Content and Object, Twardowski changes this psychological approach to a metaphysical one (idem, 34): “Everything which is, is an object of a possible presentation; everything which is, is something.” Twardowski acknowledges that some objects exist, while others do not. Even what never can exist is an object (idem, 35). What is nonreal, such as a lack of something, is an object, too. Everything that is presented as an object, is presented as a unified whole. Independent of the act of presentation, every object is a unity, and sets itself off against all others (idem, 86). The nonexisting objects have what the Scholastics called an “objective, intentional existence” (idem, 23). This is not to be taken in the sense that these objects exist in a special way, that they subsist, as Russell would say, or that they exist in the mind, as Brentano suggests. The term “intentional” has here its modifying function: intentional existence is not existence at all. For Twardowski, the object’s intentional existence does not mean existence in the mind, for only the content has such a mental existence, while he is speaking here of the object of the act. His explanation of the notion differs from the one given by Brentano.

In 1894 Twardowski thus develops a theory of objects, a Gegenstandstheorie, before Meinong does. Metaphysics is “the science of objects in general,” investigating the laws that objects in general obey (idem, 36). From a metaphysical point of view, the objects are understood as independent of any mental act. For Twardowski, everything that is, is an object of a possible presentation; that is, objects are independent of any actual act of presenting. Twardowski is not a psychologist, insofar as he understands the object to be independent of the mental act. Still, the foundation for this metaphysics is a psychological investigation: “Everything which is in the widest sense ‘something’ is called ‘object,’ first of all in regard to a subject, but then also regardless of this relationship” (idem, 37). Psychology is in this sense a heuristic means for metaphysics, and is thus in a genetic sense prior to the latter. Psychology is also providing the basic concepts for metaphysics, and in this sense a form of psychologism is implied, although an interesting form. A full theory of objects and their parts, a mereology, is developed by Twardowski in the later sections of Content and Object. For example, Twardowski acknowledges, besides the material parts of an object, metaphysical parts, such as the red of a flower, which will be called moments by Husserl in the Logical Investigations. These metaphysical parts are dependent upon the object, and can be distinguished from the object only by means of a psychological act of abstraction. Already in 1894, we see a move from psychology to ontology, without cutting the umbilical cord.

In Content and Object, Twardowski also makes a distinction between the content and object for judgements. If A is the object of judgement, the content is the existence of A or the nonexistence of A. In the winter of 1894–1895 Twardowski gave a course on logic in Vienna, and the next winter he repeated this course in Lemberg. The notes for these courses have survived, and we see there that Twardowski is moving away from Brentano’s theory of judgement. Besides existential judgements, there are relational judgements, whose content is the subsistence or the nonsubsistence of the relation. For example, the relational judgement “A is thinking of b” affirms the subsistence of the relation of thinking. If this judgement is true, the relationship (Verhältnis) subsists, but this does not imply that both terms of the relation exist. In this sense it differs from an existential judgement, in which the existence of a red flower implies the existence of something red (cf. Betti & Schaar 2004).

What is the object of a relational judgement? In an 1897 letter to Meinong, Twardowski calls it a state of affairs, a Sachverhalt, but this is not to be taken in any technical sense. If we make a distinction between a complex and a state of affairs, we may say that a complex exists only if its parts exist, whereas a state of affairs may subsist although its objects, the terms of the relation, do not exist. The judgement that the number four is greater than the number three is true. Therefore, the relationship between the two numbers subsists, but the numbers do not exist, according to Twardowski. It is for precisely this reason that Meinong takes the objects of judgement to be ideal entities (Meinong 1904, 495). For Meinong, the object of judgement, the objective, has characteristics of both propositions and states of affairs. They are the bearers of truth and falsity, and they are factual or nonfactual. Meinong’s position is thus a variant of logical realism, while Twardowski is still too faithful to Brentano to commit himself to ideal entities.

In Lemberg, Twardowski never denied the importance of an exact description of mental phenomena as a starting-point for philosophy, but he became more critical of Brentano’s account of judgement and truth. Although Twardowski does not abandon the thesis that judgements are the proper bearers of truth and falsity, Brentano’s thesis that the truth-value of a judgement may change over time is rejected. In 1900 Twardowski begins his explanation of truth with claiming that “truth” can only mean true judgement. Second, Twardowski aims to understand the notion of relative truth. An absolute truth is a judgement that is true always and everywhere, whereas a relative truth would be a judgement that is true relative to the circumstances, and is therefore not true always and everywhere (Twardowski 1900, 147). According to Twardowski, there are no relative truths; every judgement is true, or false, always and everywhere (cf. Bolzano 1837, § 125). It seems that judgements change their truth-value over time, because people do not make a distinction between judgements and sentences, which are the external expressions of judgements. When one makes an assertion by uttering the sentence “It is raining,” the sentence is an incomplete expression of one’s judgement. It is thus not the same judgement that is expressed at a later date by a new occurrence of the sentence “It is raining.” The ambiguity involved gives no problem in colloquial speech, because the circumstances augment the sentence, so that the judgement can be determined. In science, an exhaustive form is needed to express the judgement. The scientist cannot use terms like “now” or “here”; he has to use a phrase describing the actual date. The truth of a judgement is thus not relative to time. Although Twardowski does not acknowledge objective propositions as bearers of truth and falsity, he does defend the thesis that truth is absolute: it is independent of space and time.

Twardowski’s ideas on true and false judgements as being always and everywhere true, or false, have been influential in the Lvov-Warsaw School, although the timelessness of truth was not taken for granted.17 Twardowski showed the way to a scientific treatment of semantics (cf. Jadacki 2009). And his method to clarify philosophical and logical problems must have stimulated his students to develop that special variant of analytic philosophy known as the Lvov-Warsaw School. It may also explain the fact that the members of the Lvov-Warsaw school have always been less negative towards metaphysics as a general science of objects than the members of the Vienna Circle have been.18

The analytic realism of Moore and Russell is more in agreement with Twardowski’s position than with Brentano’s analytic psychology. On the one hand, Twardowski is a Brentanist in his theory of judgement insofar as for him the judgement is the bearer of truth and falsity, and in the sense that he does not defend a form of logical realism. On the other hand, Twardowski’s theory of objects published in 1894 resembles Russell’s account of terms in the Principles of Mathematics. Twardowski’s notion of relationship from 1894 develops naturally into a notion of state of affairs in 1897. Both the relationship and the state of affairs function primarily as objects of judgement, not unlike Meinong’s objective, or the proposition in Moore and Russell. As far as the influence on Moore and Russell is concerned, Twardowski could be of more interest than Meinong. For Moore had developed his analytic realism already in the second successful dissertation of 1898 (cf. Moore 1898), that is, before Meinong published his theory of objects (Meinong 1899) and the objective (Meinong 1902). There is no sign, though, that Russell or Moore read Twardowski’s book. Could they have become acquainted with his ideas in any other way?

4. G.F. Stout: from psychology to ontology

Stout starts his Analytic Psychology with an explanation of the distinction between analytic and genetic psychology. Referring to Brentano’s idea of descriptive psychology, he understands the aim of analytic psychology to discover the ultimate constituents of consciousness (Stout 1896, I, 36). “To analyse is to assign the component elements of a complex” (idem, 52). Such components may be independent parts, like the wings of a bird, or dependent parts, an aspect, particular quality, or event, like the flying of the bird or its color. Furthermore, every complex has a form of unity, itself a dependent part, which gives structure and unity to the parts of the complex, and makes the complex more than a sum of its parts. Stout introduces the term “form of unity” as a translation of Ehrenfels’ “Gestaltqualität” (idem, 65, note). In contrast to Brentano’s student Christian von Ehrenfels, for Stout, as for Bradley, parts do undergo a change when they are considered separate from their whole, or as part of a new whole, but, unlike Bradley, Stout sees this point not as an argument against analysis as a method, for these changes are predictable. Experimental results concerning the perception of different, but related, types of wholes show that the notion of form of unity is needed for a theory of wholes and parts.

Analytic psychology does not make any metaphysical presuppositions, according to Stout. When we speak of the object of thought, the actual existence or nonexistence is a matter of indifference to the psychologist (idem, 45, 46). This means that the psychological distinction between act and object is valid for all metaphysical systems. Analytic psychology is thus a preliminary inquiry for any metaphysics, and should be philosophically neutral. Psychology is in this sense foundational to philosophy.

Stout credits Brentano for making the distinction between act and object. With this distinction, one is able to see that the distinguishing mark of judgement is to be found on the act side, the mode of consciousness (idem, 40). According to Stout, Brentano’s term “object” stands for the content of thought, which is to be distinguished from the object of thought (idem, 41). Already in 1893, Stout explains that the analysis of cognitive consciousness gives two constituents:

  1. 1. a thought-reference, also called “objective reference,” to an object of thought; and

  2. 2. a “content of consciousness which defines and determines the direction of thought to this or that special object” (Stout 1893, 112).

Again, this psychological distinction is to be free of any metaphysical presuppositions: “the word ‘object’ is used as correlative with thought” (Stout 1896, I, 45). Whereas the content is presented in thought, the object is thought of by means of the content. The content is dependent upon the act, whereas the thinker takes the object to be independent of the act. In 1896, Stout gives the following arguments to distinguish between content and object of thought:

  1. (1) Whereas the content actually exists, the object need not exist. Without the distinction we would never be able to think of what does not actually exist.

  2. (2) When I think of a round square, what is absurd is not the thought itself, the content, but the object of thought (Stout 1896, I, 45). The object may thus have properties that do not pertain to the content.

  3. (3) Content and object may vary independently of each other. For example, when I approach a tree, the visual presentations, that is, the mediating contents change, whereas the real magnitude of the physical object stays the same: different visual magnitudes may stand for the same real magnitude. And conversely, the “same visual magnitude may stand for different real magnitudes” (idem, 44). The same content may thus direct our consciousness to either this tree or that tree, depending on the situation the perceiver is placed in.

Stout’s arguments show an important agreement with those of Twardowski, especially because, for both Stout and Twardowski, every act has both an object and a content. Neither Twardowski nor Stout acknowledges objectless presentations. I have shown elsewhere that the anonymous review of Twardowski’s Content and Object in Mind in 1894 was written by Stout, who was the journal’s editor at the time, but it is also true that Stout had already made the distinction between the content and the object of the act before he read Twardowski (cf. Schaar 1996, and Schaar 2013).

Stout differs from Twardowski in his analysis of thinking of nothing. In A Manual of Psychology, Stout says that even “Nothing is an object to me, whenever I use the word nothing and attach a meaning to it; so is a Centaur when I imagine one” (Stout 1899, 57). Stout takes language at face value, and understands nothing to be an object of thought. Twardowski is more sensitive to the problematic relation between the linguistic level and the conceptual or logical level than Stout is, and is in this sense closer to Brentano.

There is also an important difference between Twardowski and Stout as far as semantics is concerned. If Stout had identified the meaning with the content of thought, as Twardowski does, he would have been a psychologist as far as semantics is concerned, for the content of the act is dependent upon that act, as it is for Twardowski; but he does not identify the two. According to Stout, the meaning of a word is whatever we refer to by means of it. In the sentence “He fell from a tree in the garden,” the tree referred to is a particular tree: “The signification of words varies not only with the [linguistic] context, but also with the circumstances under which they are employed” (Stout 1896, II, 217; cf. Stout 1891, 194). This is called the occasional meaning, which Stout distinguishes from the general meaning of a word. The relevance of the notion of occasional meaning is especially clear in the case of demonstrative terms, which are implicitly or explicitly present in nearly all uses of our terms: “That tree means … the most prominent tree in sight. Here means the place in which the speaker is” (Stout 1891, 195). Just as the object of an act of thought, the object as occasional meaning need not exist, for “its actual existence or non-existence is a matter of indifference,” at least, for the psychologist (idem, I, 46). The general signification of a word “is not in itself one of the significations borne by a word. It is a condition which circumscribes within more or less vague and shifting limits the divergence of occasional meanings” (Stout 1896, II, 217; cf. Stout 1891, 194). In the order of explanation, the occasional meaning comes prior to that of general or usual meaning: “the usual signification is, in a certain sense, a fiction” (Stout 1896, II, 216). It is, according to Stout, not necessary that there should be an identical meaning in all the applications of a certain word. The objectivity of semantics is thus not to be obtained from the general meaning of our terms, but rather from the occasional meaning, the term’s reference. In the case of singular terms, Stout’s occasional meaning is not unlike Frege’s Bedeutung, although Frege does not acknowledge any Bedeutung in cases where the object does not exist.

Stout opens the chapter on judgement in Analytic Psychology with the following explanation:

Judgment is the Yes-No consciousness; under it I include every mode and degree of affirmation and denial—everything in the nature of an acknowledgment explicit or implicit of objective existence.

(Stout 1896, I, 97)

At first sight, it seems that Stout’s notion of judgement is close to that of Brentano.19 There are two kinds of judgemental acts, affirmation and denial. Judgement is a special mode of consciousness, and differs from apprehension not in its object, but in the way consciousness relates to its object. No distinction is made between the act of judgement and the state of belief. And judgement is an acknowledgement of existence. The Brentanian influence seems to be confirmed by other theses Stout is defending. The act of judgement is dependent (“supervenes”) on an act of apprehension (idem, 99). And the judgement is the proper bearer of truth and falsity.

Although Brentano’s account of judgement forms the starting point in Stout’s chapter on judgement, Stout is critical of Brentano’s theory of judgement on some important points. First, although Stout acknowledges that one can make a distinction between belief and disbelief, as far as psychology is concerned, from a logical point of view there is no distinction between the two acts: “to disbelieve a proposition is to believe its contradictory” (idem, 99).

Second, the act of assent is described by Stout as a decision between alternatives (idem, 101 ff), an answer to a question, a formulation that is closer to Herbart’s explanation of judgement than to Brentano’s. For Herbart, judgement is the decision in answering a question, a yes or no (Herbart 1813, § 54).

Third, for Stout, all judgements are characterized by a distinction between subject and predicate.

The subject of the grammarian or logician is the unifying centre of a multiplicity of acts, states, or relations, and the predicate is the act, state, or relation ascribed to the subject in any sentence.

(Stout 1896, II, 212–3)

The predicate is thus not a general, repeatable entity; it is rather a particular, dependent part, a moment, that is ascribed to the subject. The logical subject and predicate are not to be identified with the psychological subject and predicate, which are related as topic and comment.

Logical subject and predicate together form the material constituents of the object of judgement, and these material constituents need to be unified by a form of unity, which is the formal constituent of the object of judgement.

The material constituents of the objects of conceptual thinking consist in special things, activities, qualities, etc., as expressed by specific verbs and substantives. The formal constituents consist in such relations as that of agent and action, object and activity, thing and quality.

(idem, 219–220)

Fourth, when we look at the former point, it already seems that Stout is acknowledging an object of judgement with a propositional structure. Disambiguating the term “judgement,” Stout distinguishes:

  1. (1) the faculty of judgement;

  2. (2) the psychical act of affirming or denying; and,

  3. (3) “the objective state of things which is expressed by an affirmation or denial.” (Stout 1896, I, 98)

Applying what Stout says concerning the distinction between the content and the object of mental acts in general, we may say that the object of my affirmation that the bird flies is an objective state of things, whereas the content of judgement directs my act to this objective state of things. The bird, the logical subject, as well as the flying, the predicate, form part of this objective state of things. And these two parts form a complex whole, by being related as object and activity, which is here the form of unity of the complex (Stout 1896, II, 198, 200). This complex object is the objective state of things, which fulfils the role of object of judgement, rather than being the judgemental content. Broadening Stout’s one-dimensional semantics of terms to a semantics of the declarative sentence, one may say that the objective state of things also fulfils the role of (nongeneral) meaning of the declarative sentence. Stout is thus approaching a propositional account of judgement by acknowledging an objective state of things with a propositional structure, not unlike Meinong’s objective, although definitely before Meinong. In fact, Stout’s notion of an objective state of things has more in common with Twardowski’s notion of state of affairs, which contains its objects as parts, although Twardowski never speaks about a logical subject and predicate. For Stout, the objective state of things is a complex object, whose parts are particular entities. Because psychological analysis excludes questions of existence, it is irrelevant whether the parts of the objective state of things exist. The objective state of things that Pegasus is flying may be there as an object for thought and judgement, while Pegasus does not exist.

One needs only one step to move from this theory of objective states of things to a form of logical realism, and this move is taken by Stout in 1900:

Whatever we can in any way perceive or think has a being and nature of its own independently of the processes by which we cognise it. We do not create it, but only become aware of it in the process of cognition. The number two, the fact that 2+1=3, the validity of a syllogism in Barbara, …, a symphony of Beethoven, the moral law, all these are possible objects of our cognition, and all these, inasmuch as they are objects, possess a being and nature of their own, whether anyone is actually thinking of them or not. But their independent being and nature differs profoundly from that of material things, because it does not consist in independent persistence and change in time and space.

(Stout 1900, 8, 9)

Different variants of logical realism can be distinguished by the different questions to which logical realism aims to provide an answer. If one’s starting point is the question how the objectivity of knowledge is to be guaranteed, objective bearers of truth are acknowledged, but one need not assume that there are objective falsehoods, too. The neo-Kantian W. Windelband acknowledges an objective realm of validity, by which he means the validity of truth, while falsehoods are due to subjective conditions.20 For Frege and Bolzano, the main question that motivates their logical realism is a logical and semantic question: How can we guarantee the objectivity of logic and semantics? This means that Frege and Bolzano have to acknowledge both objective truths and objective falsehoods with an equal ontological status. Philosophers that come from a psychological tradition may have a third kind of question as motivating their logical realism: How can the objectivity of thought and judgement be guaranteed? As we can think of truths and falsehoods alike, these philosophers acknowledge both objective truths and objective falsehoods. The kind of logical realism that Stout defends in 1900 is not so easy to determine. On the one hand, the central question seems to concern the objectivity of thought in general; on the other hand, Stout gives no objective falsehoods as examples. In the passage just quoted, Stout moves from the question of the objectivity of thought to that of the objectivity of cognition. In other papers written around 1900, he gives a psychological account of falsehood and error. It took him some years to understand that the question of the objectivity of thought and judgement demands objective falsehoods besides objective truths. One point is clear, though, in this early passage. For Stout, the answer of how to guarantee the objectivity of thought, judgement, and cognition is to be found in the object of thought, not in its content. Stout’s central concern, how to guarantee the objectivity of thought and judgement, thus takes its point of departure in his analytic psychology. In his early work on analytic psychology, the question whether the object of thought and judgement is independent of the act is considered to be irrelevant, in order to remain philosophically neutral, but the distinction between act, content, and object is already an important step towards his later variant of logical realism. In the quotation from 1900 Stout claims that the object is independent of the act of thought and judgement. The move from psychology to ontology determines two important points in Stout’s logical realism: the fact that the central question concerns the objectivity of thought and judgement, and the fact that the objectivity is to be found in the object, not in the content of the act. The latter point is confirmed by Stout’s early psychological theory of meaning. The meaning of a term can only be determined when we know the context of use, for the meaning of a term is the object the term refers to in that particular context.

Brentano’s method of decompositional analysis and inner perception can also be found in Stout, but the idea of a universal language of thought and a corresponding critique of language is absent from Stout’s writings. Brentano’s theses concerning judgement and intentionality are of importance to understand Stout’s analytic psychology. The act/object distinction and the theses that the act of judgement is sui generis, and that the act of judgement supervenes on an act of apprehension, directly come from Brentano. The act/object distinction is essential to the development of logical realism, although Brentano himself always opposed this development. The Brentanian thesis that the content of the act is dependent upon the act has had an influence on Stout’s psychological semantics and his later variant of logical realism. Because Stout understands the content to be a psychological notion, the objectivity of thought, judgement, and logic and semantics has to be based upon the object rather than the content of the judgemental act.

Essential to Stout’s analytic psychology are the following distinctions, methods, and theses:

  1. (1) the distinction between act, content, and object, where the content is understood as dependent upon the act;

  2. (2) decompositional analysis of psychological wholes into independent and dependent parts, of which the form of unity is a special case;

  3. (3) decompositional analysis is essential to determine the structure of the judgemental object;

  4. (4) the objectivity of thought and judgement is not founded on any phenomenological notion, but on the object of judgement;

  5. (5) an empirical method, in which inner perception and experimental results play an important role;

  6. (6) this empirical method may give exact laws;

  7. (7) analytic psychology makes distinctions that are essential to any philosophy, and is itself philosophically neutral.

Especially points (1) to (4) are relevant for the development of Moore and Russell’s position towards analytic philosophy. When we compare these points with the corresponding points of Brentano’s analytic psychology, we see a general movement from a focus on the act to a focus on the act’s object. It is for this reason that Stout’s analytic psychology is of direct interest for the development of British analytic philosophy.

5. Conclusion

These psychological theories have had an important influence on the variants of analytic philosophy that were introduced at the beginning of this chapter. Let me give one example as conclusion. If we compare the logical realism of Moore and Russell, defended around 1900, with the logical realism defended by Frege or Bolzano, one may discern some striking differences. For Frege and Bolzano, the proposition (the Gedanke or Satz an sich) has the role of being the content of judgement, rather than that of being the judgement’s object, as it is for Moore and Russell. For Russell, and in a certain sense for Moore, too, the proposition is a complex that contains the object it is about. For Frege and Bolzano, if we talk about things in the physical world, these objects can never be part of the proposition, for there is an absolute distinction between the physical world and the world of meanings or senses, which are outside space and time. Whereas Moore, and Russell, too, if we abstract from his account of denoting concepts, defend a one-dimensional semantics, in Frege and Bolzano we find a two-layer semantics, most explicitly in Frege, who distinguishes the signification (Bedeutung) from the sense (Sinn) of a term. For Stout, the objectivity of thought and judgement is based on the objectivity of the object of thought and judgement. As a good Brentanist, Stout takes the content of thought to be dependent upon the act of thinking. The content can therefore not provide a basis for the objectivity of thought and judgement. Moore and Russell equally took the content of thought to be a psychological notion. As for Stout, for Moore and Russell, the objectivity of thought and judgement is founded on the object of judgement.

Moore and Russell’s variant of logical realism is accompanied by a theory of objects, understood as terms or concepts, not unlike Twardowski’s metaphysics of objects presented in 1894 and Stout’s account of possible objects of thought. If the objective state of things or proposition is understood as a complex of objects, a theory of objects will become part of one’s logical realism.

Soon after Meinong published his theory of objects in 1899 and his theory of objectives in 1902, Russell saw the agreement of his and Moore’s theory of propositions and terms with Meinong’s theory. Meinong’s theories are too late, though, to have influenced Moore and Russell in their earliest form of logical realism, as Moore had already defended logical realism in his 1898 dissertation. It is possible to explain the agreement between these theories, insofar as they all developed from similar psychological theories originating in Brentano. Moore and Russell were familiar with Stout’s Analytic Psychology, and had as students stimulating discussions with Stout around 1893 and 1894. One is invited to consider the thesis that Stout’s psychological account of intentionality, semantics, judgement, and objective state of things may have had a forming influence on that typical variant of logical realism that Moore and Russell defended around 1900, and that, through Stout, ideas from Brentano and Twardowski became familiar to Moore and Russell.

How could a psychology that pronounces its independence of any metaphysical presuppositions have led to such rich ontologies, as we see it in Twardowski, Meinong, Moore, Russell, and Stout? Descriptive psychology is not opposed to all forms of metaphysics, but it is opposed to speculative metaphysics. The aim is to pronounce a metaphysics based on experience, a kind of metaphysics that suits analytic philosophy.


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(1) Logical positivism seems to be an exception to this pattern, as Ernst Mach was a physicist. Mach, though, did a lot of psychological research in his early years; cf. The Analysis of Sensations, Mach (1886).

(2) John Passmore (1957, 200) is probably the first to suggest that the psychological theories of G.F. Stout could have played a positive role in the formation of Moore and Russell’s analytic realism.

(3) The idea that Brentano’s method of an exact and empirical philosophy had an important impact on his students is shown in Mulligan (1986). More detailed analyses of the Brentano School can be found in Smith (1994) and Albertazzi & Libardi (1996).

(4) Most of the books available are compilations made by students of Anton Marty, in which early and later parts of the Nachlass are mixed, and earlier texts are often “improved” with the aim to make them coherent with later writings. More reliable than most editions is Deskriptive Psychologie, which gives a good impression of Brentano’s teachings on psychology in the 1880s. As long as no critical editions are available of the posthumous writings, the safest path is to rely on the Psychology of 1874 and Vom Ursrprung sittlicher Erkenntnis, a lecture from 1889, published by Brentano himself the same year. I will also make use of the lecture on truth given in 1889. Kraus’ edition of 1930 does not differ on essential points from Brentano’s manuscript; it is only the notes of the editor that can be misleading. Finally, I will make use of the digital edition of Brentano’s logic course given in Würzburg and Vienna in the 1870s; cf. Brentano (1870). The main manuscript being written in 1870, it is difficult to determine the exact date of the passages, as the editor Robin Rollinger points out.

(5) “Ich verstehe darunter eine analysierende Beschreibung unserer Phänomene,” Brentano (1982, 129).

(6) Husserl criticizes Brentano’s idea of inner perception as being always infallible on different grounds in the “Beilage” to the Logical Investigations, Husserl (1901, 751–775).

(7) As there are for Brentano two types of judgemental acts, there is a sign for affirmation, +, and a sign for denial, –.

(8) The content of a presentation is the meaning (Bedeutung) of a name. The external, existing object of the presentation is named by the name, Brentano (1870, 13.018), cf. Chrudzimski (2001, ch.1) and Rollinger (2009, 7).

(9) “’tis far from being true, that in every judgment, which we form, we unite two different ideas; since in that proposition, God is, or indeed any other, which regards existence, the idea of existence is no distinct idea … we can thus form a proposition, which contains only one idea,” Hume (1739, bk.1, pt. 3, § 7, p. 67, note).

(10) In opposition to H. Steinthal, who asserts the independence of linguistics from logic, and understands linguistics to belong to the psychological sciences, Steinthal (1855, 141, 142).

(11) There are not as many agreements between Brentano and Moore as David Bell (1999, 206) claims.

(12) The importance of Twardowski’s method for the Lvov-Warsaw School is demonstrated in Woleński (1989).

(13) Twardowski spent some time in Wundt’s psychological laboratory in Berlin in 1892, and founded such a laboratory himself in 1907.

(14) A full classification of nonattributive terms is given in Twardowski (1923). Brentano and Bolzano already pointed to the typical logical behaviour of modifying terms.

(15) Jens Cavallin (1997, 88) argues that Twardowski’s contents are objective.

(16) Twardowski refers to Brugmann’s Griechische Grammatik.

(17) Cf. Woleński & Simons 1989, Betti 2006, and Schaar, forthcoming. Instead of the judgement product, the members of the school generally took the sentence to be the bearere of truth and falsehood, thereby opposing logical realism.

(18) Leśniewski uses the term ‘ontology’ for his logic of names, because he thought that “his logic of names formulates ‘general principles of being’ ”.(Woleński 1989, 153). And Tarski wrote: “For some people metaphysics is a general theory of objects (ontology)—a discipline which is to be developed in a purely empirical way, and which differs from other empirical sciences only by its generality … I think that in any case metaphysics in this conception is not objectionable to anybody,” Tarski (1944, 363).

(19) As Stout says: “Brentano … treated this question [of judgement] with admirable care and acuteness” (1896, I, 99).

(20) Die Geltung der Wahrheit, Windelband (1914, 212); on the neo-Kantian and other variants of logical realism, cf. Schaar (2013, 8–13).