Abstract Intentionality, the property of the mind of being directed toward objects, is often taken for granted, at least for some of the ways through which we are directed toward objects. If I want a glass of water, the object of my desire is the glass of water, and the intentionality involved is the act of desiring. For the Austrian philosopher Franz Brentano (1838-1917), who reintroduced the concept of intentionality into modern philosophy, intentionality was the mark of the mental, involved in every aspect of our mental lives. In 20th-century philosophy of mind, Brentano’s rediscovery of intentionality, and the different contributions to this discovery by the members of his school, have been applied almost exclusively to the analysis of propositional attitudes (mental acts whose contents are expressible through a proposition), thereby leading to the widely accepted view that a correct analysis of the mind would have to start with the analysis of the intentional and propositional (often also called ‘representational’) content of our mental states.
Such an application of intentionality to the analysis of the mind soon led to the view that other features of the mind, such as the consciousness we have of our perceptions, should be understood on the same representational basis. The main objective of this research project was first to show how this application of intentionality diverged from the insights on the intentionality of the mental developed by Brentano and his school, but also to investigate whether the recent developments in contemporary philosophy of mind, especially those in connection with so-called ‘phenomenal intentionality’ – the specific intentionality of our conscious experiences – should be considered as further developments of Brentano’s insights. The project included investigations on the nature of sensory intentionality according to Brentano and in contrast with contemporary philosophy of mind; on the different accounts of self-consciousness proposed by Brentano and his heirs; on the application of the intentionality thesis to the theory of objects and the Gestalt theory, and on the nature of Brentano’s descriptive-psychological method of investigation in relation with phenomenology.