Last Friday I was in Prague to give a talk on “The Quest for the Analytic a priori Foundation of Mathematics in the School of Brentano” in the monthly discussion seminar of the Deparment of Continental Philosophy there. I discussed Brentano’s criticism of Kant’s conception of mathematics and geometry as exemplars of synthetic a priori knowledge. Given the strategic importance of providing a scientific alternative for the excesses of German Idealism, the philosophy of mathematics became a central concern in the School of Brentano. In various works and lectures, Brentano and his students tried to show that mathematics and geometry were analytic a priori. In my presentation I also addressed the roots of Husserl’s philosophy in the Brentanist philosophy of mathematics and why and how he ultimately went beyond it. I argued that we can find a very specific reason why Husserl was dissatisfied with the foundation of mathematics on symbolic presentations in his 1895 logic lectures.
I also joined the project of Robin Rollinger and Hynek Janoušek “From Logical Objectivism to Reism: Bolzano and the School of Brentano” as a member of the research team during 2017. The project is concerned with the early reception of Bolzano among Brentano’s students (Kerry, Twardowski, and early Husserl), Husserl’s approach to logical objectivism, truth, existence, assertion, in contrast with Bolzano’s, and Brentano’s reism. I look forward to collaborating again with Robin, who was on my MA Thesis exam committee 15 years ago, standing in for the gravely ill Karl Schuhmann. We briefly became colleagues when I started my PhD project at the Husserl-Archives Leuven and more recently co-authored the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Ehrenfels.
Besides giving the talk and settling administrative matters, I fortunately also had time for a little sight-seeing. Together with Hynek, my gracious host and translator, I went to visit Prague’s Olšany Cemetery, specifically, Bolzano’s and Marty’s graves. Both graves are on the list of culturally important graves. While Bolzano’s grave is relatively well-preserved, Marty’s is in a sad and derelict state. However, Hynek has taken the initiative to set up a crowd-funding action among Marty and Brentano scholars, and we are well underway to reach the required amount for a basic cleanup and restoration. Here are the details if you want to contribute to the project:
Czech Account Number:2201078743 / 2010
The suggested amount for a donation is € 40,– which is what Hynek, Robin, and I gave, but any contribution is welcome.
Bolzano is buried together with his student Franz Schneider. Bolzano’s inscription reads “Fortschreiten soll ich!” (“I shall make progress!”) and Schneider’s “Immer besser, weiser, lebensfroher werden” (“to always become better, wiser, and happier”). Marty has no epitaph, but simply has “Prof. Dr. Ant Marty” in faded letters. Originally there was a metal plaque with his profile, which was regrettably stolen, but can hopefull be remade based on an old photograph.