Franz Clemens Brentano: Act Psychology

Franz Clemens Brentano (1838–1917) was the grandson of an Italian merchant who had immi- grated to Marienburg, the town in Germany where Brentano was born. Like Wundt, Brentano had many prominent relatives: some of his aunts and uncles wrote in the German romantic tradition, and his brother won a Nobel Prize for his work on intellectual history. When Brentano was 17, he began studying for the priesthood, but before being ordained he obtained his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Tubingen in 1862. His dis- sertation was titled “On the Manifold Meaning of Being According to Aristotle.” Two years later, he was ordained a priest and in 1866 became a teacher at the University of Würzburg. Brentano eventually left the church because of his disagreement with the doctrine of the pope’s infallibility, his favorable attitude toward Comte’s positivism, his criticisms whereas little from Titchener’s system survives. The question is what caused the virtual extinction of structuralism?

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In many ways, the decline of the school of struc- turalism was inevitable. Structuralism was essentially an attempt to study scientifically what had been the philosophical concerns of the past. How does sensory information give rise to simple sensations, and how are these sensations then combined into more complex mental events? The major tool of the structuralists was introspection. This, too, had been inherited from the past. Although it was now used scientifically (that is, in a controlled situation), introspection was still yielding different results depending on who was using it and what they were seeking. Also, there was lack of agreement among highly trained introspectionists concerning the cor- rect description of a given stimulus display. And, another argument against Titchener’s introspection is that one could not introspect on something with- out changing it—that is, that observation changed what was being observed.

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