Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Rebekah Johnston

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


The modern origins of intentionality reside in the early work of Franz Brentano—specifically, his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1876) and the notion of the “intentional inexistence” of the object of consciousness presented therein. “Intentional inexistence”, says Brentano, is the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of the objects that occupy our desires, aversions, thoughts, and all of our conscious activities in general. According to Brentano, “Aristotle himself spoke of this mental inexistence. In his book on the soul he says that the sensed object, as such, is in the sensing subject; that the sense contains the sensed object without its matter; that the object which is thought is in the thinking intellect.” This reference to sensation has prompted scholars, almost invariably, to identify Aristotle’s theory of sensation (or aisthesis) as the source of Brentano’s concept and, in doing so, to disregard the reference to Aristotle’s theory of intellect (or nous) that concludes the passage. Contrary to conventional wisdom, that interprets intentionality as a recapitulation of Aristotle’s theory of sensation, I argue that the notion of nous is the only notion in Aristotle’s psychology that is sufficient to respond to what we today call the “problem of intentionality” (or that set of problems encapsulated in the phrase), and that Aristotle seems to have been led to characterize nous the way that he does for many of the same reasons that Brentano is led to postulate, or, rather, reinvigorate, the scholastic notion of intentional inexistence.

Convocation Year


Included in

Philosophy Commons