Husserl’s notion of Intentionality

Husserl’s notion of Intentionality

In Husserl’s terms the parallelism came to be known as that between the ‘noetic’ (act) and
‘noematic’ (content). (Noesis is abstract noun, and noema is concrete noun). His aim has been a
reconciliation of the objectivity of truth with the subjectivity of the act of knowledge.

The central insight in phenomenological analysis is the theory of intentionality. He owed to
Brentano for this theory. According to Brentano, all psychical phenomena intentionally contain
an object. Husserl objects to this conception of the immanence of the intentional object to
consciousness. For him intentionality means the directedness of the act of consciousness to
some object. This object is not immanent to the consciousness itself, but remains transcendent
to it. Thus for Husserl, intentionality means this: consciousness is directedness to an object, as
expressed in: conscious of…, joyful at…, desirous of….. etc. All ‘cogito’ contains a ‘cogitatum’.
Husserl’s notion of intentionality can be clarified with the help of its four characteristics.

First of all, intentionality objectivates. It presents the given data in such a way that the whole
object is presented to our consciousness. The various acts of consciousness are referred to the
same intentional object. Secondly, intentionality identifies. It allows us to assign a variety of
successive data to the same referent of meaning. Without an identifying function, there would
be nothing but a stream of perceptions, similar but never identical. Intentionality supplies the
synthetic function by which the various aspects, perspectives and stages of an object are all
focused upon and integrated into the identical core. Thirdly, intentionality connects. Each
aspect of the identical object refers to the related aspects, which form its horizon. An object is
apprehended only within the context, or horizon that consists of the possible apprehensions.
The actual intentional experience of an object does not stand in isolation, but links itself to the
other possible intentional experiences. Finally, intentionality constitutes. It constitutes the
intentional object. The intentional object is not conceived as the pre-existent referent to which
the intending act refers as something already given, but as something which originates (is
constituted) in the act.

Husserl, as a phenomenologist, is not interested in the object in itself, but in the intentional
object, constituted in the act consciousness. The intentional object is not immanent to
consciousness (as Brentano held), but transcendent to it.

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