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Kant is famous for subordinating reality in one aspect (the phenomenal) to consciousness via his Copernican Revolution of subordinating objects to the ground of intuition. Husserl, in his theory of Phenomenology, is famous for pointing out that a marker for consciousness is Intentionality; this in fact was reintroduced into philosophy by his mentor, Bretano:

Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a content, direction towards an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing), or immanent objectivity...We could, therefore, define mental phenomena by saying that they are those phenomena which contain an object intentionally within themselves.

Bretano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint

Can one, by putting these two pictures together, return teleology to the world?

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Let me see if I understand you:

You mean to suggest that (a) conscious thoughts are phenomena that contain content, directedness, or intentionality, and (b) that conscious thoughts give rather than receive from the world its real attributes, so (c) we by intuiting reality and making judgments give intentional content to the world.

If this is right, two responses:

  1. Kant thought there is no telos in the world (or we could never know if there is) but that our presumption of teleology was a "regulative idea" we can't help but assuming. That doesn't mean it's a true assumption it just means it regulates our thinking, like the assumption that the soul is immortal.

  2. Bretano's definition of intentional objects includes "reference to a content, direction twoards an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing" -- so the fact that A refers to B does not entail that B exists (I can think about Sherlock Holmes).

So, no, I don't think combining Bretano and Kant (to say nothing of Husserl) can put intentionality into the world.

3.You assume that teleology has been removed from the world. Why? Why is it gone such that it can be "returned"?

  • First off, welcome to philosophy.se. I think you might be mixing vocabularies around a bit in your answer. For Kant, "world" is also an idea rather than a reference to reality proper. Thus, for Kant (and for Hegel), teleology does apply to objects in the world but not to things. But I'm not sure how adding Brentano or Husserl will bring teleology back into the world (with world here being taken to be not merely an idea of mind). I do hope you'll stick around though, so +1. – virmaior Jun 4 '14 at 8:09

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