I am reading Russell's second installment in the series On Meinong's Theory of Complexes and Assumption. Among many things, presentations are discussed a lot in these articles. What exactly do Russell and Meinong mean by presentation; and how does it differ from representation?

I have read through most of the SEP article on Meinong, but I haven't yet found a clear explication of the two, leaving me in a more confused state. In fact, the author of the SEP article seems to use them interchangeably, while with Russell's article I got a sense that they were different. Something like: a representation is a type of presentation in which the object exists. Of course, this might be wrong; but, in any case, that still doesn't tell me what a presentation is. The article is pretty technical, introducing a lot of distinctions/concepts, and is very summary (as are most SEP entries that survey a philosopher's career). Meinong seems to imbue a lot of common words with a very technical sense, and the author of the SEP article doesn't give their technical definitions. But I'm just wondering about presentations and representations.


1 Answer 1


See Franz Brentano's Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (1874), Preface to the English edition, page xxi:

“Vorstellung” is sometimes translated as “presentation,” and sometimes as “idea,” or “thought.” The corresponding verb “vorstellen,” is translated variously as “to think of,” “to have before the mind,” and as “to have a presentation of.”

And see page 60:

Every idea or presentation [Vorstellung] which we acquire either through sense perception or imagination is an example of a mental phenomenon. By presentation I do not mean that which is presented, but rather the act of presentation. Thus, hearing a sound, seeing a colored object, feeling warmth or cold, as well as similar states of imagination are examples of what I mean by this term. I also mean by it the thinking of a general concept, provided such a thing actually does occur. Furthermore, every judgement, every recollection, every expectation, every inference, every conviction or opinion, every doubt, is a mental phenomenon.

See also Intentionality.

But we have here also an issue regarding translation: Russell use "presentation" for the German Vorstellung that is also transalted as representation (see Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation (German: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung)).

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