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1 By “the action itself” I mean the action considered according as it proceeds from its agent. This fits with how Thomas Aquinas interprets action. Thus, “action, insofar as it is action, is signified as from an agent” (I Sent., d. 32, q. 1, a. 1 [Scriptum super libros Sententiarum, ed. P. Mandonnet and M. Moos (Paris: Lethielleux, 1929-37)]); “action, according to its own concept, proceeds from an agent” (STh II-II, q. 59, a. 3); “action is considered as issuing from an agent” (STh III, q. 13, a. 1, ad 2). Translations of passages from Thomas in this essay are mine. 103 The Thomist 77 (2013): 103-33 INTENTIONAL BEING, NATURAL BEING, AND THE FIRST-PERSON PERSPECTIVE IN THOMAS AQUINAS STEPHEN L. BROCK Pontifical University of the Holy Cross Rome, Italy A FAMILIAR NOTION in the contemporary philosophy of mind is that of intentionality. There are several versions of it, but generally the idea is that a mental action always has an object—it bears upon something—and that, in a sense, the object is always “contained” in the action itself.1 Normally, of course, the object is distinct from the action, neither identical with it nor even a part of it. But the object is contained in the action in the sense that the action issues from its agent with a fully determinate relation or “reference” to the object built into it. Unlike a nonmental or “physical” action, such as heating something, a mental action does not consist in affecting or influencing its object. It does not, so to speak, pass from the agent into the object. The relation of a physical action to its object, such as that of heating to what is heated, is rendered fully determinate only insofar as the action is received by the object and brought to completion in it. For this reason, the object of a physical action cannot be identified merely by looking at the action as it issues from the agent. One must look outside the agent, to see what it is that is acted upon. But a mental action, immediately upon issuing STEPHEN L. BROCK 104 2 “Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a content, direction toward an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing), or immanent objectivity. Every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself, although they do not all do so in the same way. In presentation, something is presented, in judgement something is affirmed or denied, in love loved, in hate hated, in desire desired and so on” (Franz Brentano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, 2d ed. [London: Routledge, 1995], 88). 3 And not “nonexistence.” See Barry Smith, Austrian Philosophy (LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court, 1994), 40. 4 Among these are Peter Geach, Yves Simon, Robert Pasnau, and John Haldane. For bibliography, see the important article by Robbie Moser, “Thomas Aquinas, Esse Intentionale, and the Cognitive as Such,” Review of Metaphysics 64 (2011): 763-88, esp. 764-765 n. 3. from its agent, is already complete and has the full determination of its object. Hence it is not necessary, nor even quite appropriate, to look outside the agent in order to identify the action’s object. The proper display of a mental action’s object, as such, belongs to the action itself. We might say that, in order to identify the object, we have to take the viewpoint of the action’s own subject, the “perspective of the acting person” (or the acting animal, if indeed beasts also engage in such actions). That is, we have to focus on what belongs to the action just insofar as it proceeds from its agent. The notion of intentionality is usually traced to Franz Brentano. His fullest expression for it is “the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object.”2 By “inexistence,” he means simply “existence in.”3 “Intentional” he treats as somehow equivalent to “mental.” Evidently, for Brentano, only mental actions have objects existing in them in this way. As for “mental,” he uses it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 103-133
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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