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  • Brentano's Mind by Mark Textor
  • Carlo Ierna
Mark Textor. Brentano's Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. pp. xvi + 302 Cloth, $60.00.

Marx Textor's Brentano's Mind begins with a short, illuminating introduction which clearly sets out the author's main aims. The two questions Textor wants to consider are, "What is the nature of mind?" and, "What is the structure of consciousness?" From the outset, Textor explicitly states that his intent is not to provide a historically plausible exegesis of "Brentano's often dense and difficult texts" (6), but to take his "bold, suggestive, and influential" (1) answers to these questions as an inspiration for new systematic analyses. The book is then divided in two parts, corresponding to the two questions.

The central concept at stake in the first part is intentionality, or rather "Brentano's thesis" that "all and only mental acts and processes are directed on something" (1). This would imply that intentionality is the "mark of the mental," that is, the feature that allows us to sharply distinguish conscious minds from everything else (technically, a mark of the mental, since there are several [27]). Textor argues that even on the most correct interpretation of intentionality, primitivism (54 and chapter 3), Brentano's thesis cannot be true (87). Instead, as the reader will see in chapter 8, "Husserl's Thesis," namely, something is mental if you can be aware of it without adumbrations (193), would be a better mark of the mental than intentionality. Colors, sounds, and their like always appear as a constant through a system of "modes of presentations" (adumbrations, for example, the same color under different lights), while mental acts do not "appear" through different shadings (179–80).

The issue at stake in the second part is the structure of consciousness, which is closely tied to the structure of intentionality. Textor explores the consequences of Brentano's view that one mental act can have several objects, including itself, for contemporary self-representational theories of consciousness. Brentano indeed asserted that every mental act includes its own awareness, without needing a separate introspective act. Textor subsequently addresses the potential objection that this view would lead to an infinite regress. Aristotle provided the original inspiration for Brentano's conception of inner perception as a secondary aspect of every mental act, that is, one that happens, so to speak, alongside any perception. While listening to a piece of music, we are primarily directed to the music, the phenomena of sound, and only secondarily aware of our act of hearing the music. Textor shows in detail how Brentano develops his position by distinguishing between inner perception and inner observation (18).

Textor tries to disentangle the various aspects of consciousness in chapter 4: how can we be aware of an object and at the very same time, in, and with, the same act, also be aware of our awareness itself? Brentano's answer is that we cannot be aware of our hearing without being aware of what we hear (112). Hearing and heard are inextricably correlative. There is no duplication of acts and no duplication of objects, that is, we do not hear the same tone twice. There certainly are two objects of any single act, namely, the tone heard and the hearing of the tone (113), the former as the object of the hearing, the latter as the object [End Page 764] of the intrinsic self-awareness of the act. Textor concludes "awareness of hearing F is the same mental act as hearing F" (114), which leads straight into the next chapter, "One Act, Several Conceptual Parts," which in many ways forms the heart of the book. The significance of chapter 5 is nicely prefigured by the epigraph to the whole book: "In a unitary mental activity … there is always a plurality of relations and a plurality of objects." Chapters 5–7 attempt to clarify and disentangle those pluralities. First of all, a unitary mental act is not an assemblage of sub-acts, but we distinguish its conceptual parts through attention and abstraction (122). Secondly, no regress threatens Brentano's account, since an act "neither presents itself as a self-presentation nor has it...


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