This is the third (and hopefully almost final) draft of the 300 word abstract for my VENI research project. The goal is to grab the interest of the general humanities committee and to introduce the main topics, authors and questions. Any and all comments and critique are welcome, from philosophers and non-philosophers alike!

Philosophy as Science

What makes science science? What would make philosophy science? These questions dominated 19th century philosophy and determined the structure of academia as we know it today, in particular in conceptualizing the contrast between human and natural sciences. One of the most radical and influential proponents of the idea of philosophy as science was Franz Brentano. My research project aims at a reinterpretation of the ideal of philosophy as science  in the School of Brentano in the context of nineteenth century German philosophy.

On July 14, 1866 Brentano stepped up to the pulpit to defend his thesis that the true method of philosophy is none other than that of the natural sciences. This thesis became the north star of his school. Brentano considered the mind as the main field for philosophy, a descriptive science of consciousness that would be empirical, but not experimental, and subjective, but not introspective.

Brentano’s students Stumpf, Marty, Meinong, Von Ehrenfels, Husserl and Twardowski, put his ideal of philosophy as science in practice in the schools and movements they founded and influenced: Gestalt psychology, Prague linguistics, object-theory, phenomenology and Polish logic. The diversity and success of their individual endeavors eclipsed their unity as a school, leading to distorting interpretations of Brentano as a mere precursor. My research project will investigate and reveal their shared project of elaborating philosophy as science.

Contrary to current mainstream interpretations, which dismiss any psychological foundation of science as “psychologistic”, I will avoid such pigeonholing. In the 19th century, foundational issues were debated in a manner that cut across disciplinary sub-divisions, and that in turn contributed to consolidate these divisions, distorting most retrospective interpretations. I will show how the School of Brentano, as a veritable platypus, successfully combined logical and psychological approaches in founding the ideal of philosophy as science.