A relational theory of the act

Topoi 5 (2):115-130 (1986)
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Abstract

‘What is characteristic of every mental activity’, according to Brentano, is ‘the reference to something as an object. In this respect every mental activity seems to be something relational.’ But what sort of a relation, if any, is our cognitive access to the world? This question – which we shall call Brentano’s question – throws a new light on many of the traditional problems of epistemology. The paper defends a view of perceptual acts as real relations of a subject to an object. To make this view coherent, a theory of different types of relations is developed, resting on ideas on formal ontology put forward by Husserl in his Logical Investigations and on the theory of relations sketched in Smith's "Acta cum fundamentis in re". The theory is applied to the notion of a Cambridge change, which proves to have an unforeseen relevance to our understanding of perception.

Author Profiles

Barry Smith
University at Buffalo
Kevin Mulligan
Università della Svizzera Italiana

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