The Mark of the Mental

In a characteristically brisk manner, Brentano has postulated a single mark defining all things Mind, and has identified that mark as Intentionality, the directedness of the Mind towards Things. Others of a more empiricist bent have disputed this characterization, claiming the mark to be the Mind’s Awareness. This debate is no different than the debate between those who think Water is All or Fire is All, when in fact All is the chaos of atoms spinning senselessly in a void.

Just as both Fire and Water are grounded in the senseless spinning of atoms, and just as sensibility and understanding spring from a common deeper root, both Intentionality and Awareness have their source in the same wellspring. For what is Intentionality, if not the effort of the mind to make contact with the object, that radiant movement Descartes tried to isolate in his feeble arguments? And what is Awareness, if not the effort of the mind to reckon itself? Is Awareness not both the result of effort and fully constituted by effort? Is it not effort itself, distilled? The mark of the mental is neither Intentionality nor Awareness. It is Effort.

If we make mind mere Awareness, we risk making the mind nothing more than an inert ether. If we make it Intentionality, we stand no chance of comprehending what is truly distinctive of Man. For it is effort alone that distinguishes Man from the mindless automatons, stalking the earth with nothing but darkness inside.

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