Les objects sociaux

Philosophique 26 (2):315–347 (2002)
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One reason for the renewed interest in Austrian philosophy, and especially in the work of Brentano and his followers, turns on the fact that analytic philosophers have become once again interested in the traditional problems of metaphysics. It was Brentano, Husserl, and the philosophers and psychologists whom they influenced, who drew attention to the thorny problem of intentionality, the problem of giving an account of the relation between acts and objects or, more generally, between the psychological environments of cognitive subjects and the different sorts of external (physical, geographical, social) environments which they inhabit. The present essay addresses this environmental version of the problem of intentionality. It draws not only on the work of Husserl and Scheler but also on the Gestalt psychological writings of Kurt Koffka and Kurt Lewin. It considers the influential subjective idealist theory of animal environments put forward by J. von Uexküll and contrasts this with a realist theory of organism-environment interaction based on the work of the ecological psychologists J. J. Gibson and Roger Barker. This realist theory is then exploited as a basis for an ontology of social objects of a range of different sorts. (English translation is appended to the French text.)
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