Benno Kerry

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Benno Kerry
Born Benno Kohn[1]
11 December 1858
Died 20 May 1889 (1889-05-21) (aged 30)
Alma mater University of Strassburg
University of Vienna.
Era 19th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School School of Brentano
Logical objectivism
Main interests
Notable ideas
Distinction between two types of modes in which the human mind manifests itself: intuition (Anschauung) and psychical labor (psychische Arbeit) or psychical processing (psychische Verarbeitung)[2]
Kerry's paradox

Benno Kerry (11 December 1858 – 20 May 1889) was an Austrian philosopher.


Kerry was born as Benno Kohn[1] in Vienna. He studied under Ernst Laas and Otto Liebmann at the University of Strassburg and from 1877/78 under Franz Brentano at the University of Vienna. In 1881 he obtained his doctorate with the dissertation Untersuchungen über das Causalproblem auf dem Boden einer Kritik der einschlägigen Lehren J. St. Mills ("Investigations concerning the problem of causality on the basis of a critique of the relevant doctrines of John Stuart Mill"). In Vienna, as part of the School of Brentano he befriended Alois Höfler (de).[4]

In 1885 he obtained his habilitation as Privatdozent in Strasburg with Grundzüge einer Theorie der mathematischen und nicht-mathematischen Grenzbegriffe. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntnistheorie ("Foundations of a theory of mathematical and non-mathematical limit concepts. A contribution to epistemology") and became the assistant of the Neo-Kantian Wilhelm Windelband.

Kerry was influenced by Bernard Bolzano[3] and became an important conduit of his work. He was among the first students of Brentano (with Meinong and Höfler) to distinguish clearly between concept and object.

Thought and influence[edit]

Kerry exercised an influence not just within the circle of Brentano, especially on Alois Höfler (for the concept "psychical labor"), Edmund Husserl (in the Philosophy of Arithmetic),[4] and Kazimierz Twardowski,[5] but also on Gottlob Frege.[6] In fact, Frege conceived his paper "Concept and Object" as a reply to Kerry's criticisms. Furthermore he was in close contact with Georg Cantor and it is thanks to his review of the Mannigfaltigkeitslehre that Bertrand Russell came to know of the work of Cantor.

Kerry and Frege[edit]

Kerry (in particular in his fourth article) criticized Frege for having confused concept and object in his Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik and in Begriffsschrift.[7] Frege responded to a number of aspects of this critique in 1892 with the paper "Begriff und Gegenstand" ("Concept and Object"). The controversy became known as the "concept horse problem"[8] or "Kerry's paradox."[6]


Kerry died on 20 May 1889[9] as a result of an ear infection.[10]


  • Untersuchungen über das Causalproblem auf dem Boden einer Kritik der einschlägigen Lehren J. St. Mills 1881.
  • Grundzüge einer Theorie der mathematischen und nicht-mathematischen Grenzbegriffe. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntnistheorie (unpublished Habilitationsschrift)
  • Review of "Paul du Bois-Reymond Allgemeine Functionentheorie. Erster Theil Tübingen 1882" in Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 9, 1885, pp. 245–255.
  • "Ueber G. Cantor's Mannigfaltigkeitsuntersuchungen" in Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 9 (1885), 191–232.
  • "Ueber Anschauung und ihre psychische Verarbeitung" in Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 9 (1885), 433–493; 10 (1886), 419–467; 11 (1887), 53–116, 249–307; 13 (1889), 71–124, 392–419; 14 (1890), 317–353; 15 (1891), 127–167. (Series of eight articles)
  • (ed.) Ernst Laas' Literarischer Nachlaß: I. Idealistische und positivistische Ethik. II. Oekonomische Mängel unseres nationalen Bildungswesens. III. Gymnasium und Realschule Verlag der "Deutschen Worte": Wien: 1887
  • (posthumous publication) System einer Theorie der Grenzbegriffe. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntnisstheorie. Erster Theil, ed. Gustav Kohn and Franz Deuticke: Leipzig-Wien, 1890.


  1. ^ a b Rollinger 1999, p. 125.
  2. ^ Rollinger 1999, p. 129.
  3. ^ a b Rollinger 1999, p. 127.
  4. ^ a b c d Rollinger 1999, p. 126.
  5. ^ a b Maria van der Schaar 2015, p. 53.
  6. ^ a b c Tom Ricketts, Michael Potter 2010, p. 179.
  7. ^ Cavallin 1997, p. 24.
  8. ^ Ian Proops, "What is Frege's "Concept Horse" problem?".
  9. ^ Peckhaus 1994, pp. 2–3. Peckhaus cites "Archives du Bas-Rhin, Strasbourg, Akten der Kaiser-Wilhelms-Universität Straßburg, Personalakte Kerry, Sign. AL 103 no 480"
  10. ^ Gustav Kohn and Franz Deuticke 1890, p. iv


  • Arianna Betti ,The Strange Case of Savonarola and the Painted Fish. On the Bolzanization of Polish Thought in Arkadiusz Chrudzimski & Dariusz Łukasiewicz (eds.), Actions, Products, And Things: Brentano and Polish Philosophy, Ontos: Frankfurt a. M., 2006, pp. 55–81.
  • Jens Cavallin Content and Object: Husserl, Twardowski and Psychologism. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1997.
  • Volcker Peckhaus, "Benno Kerry. Beiträge zu seiner Biographie" in History and Philosophy of Logic, 15 (1994), pp. 1–8.
  • Eva Picardi, "Kerry und Frege über Begriff und Gegenstand" in History and Philosophy of Logic, 15 (1994), pp. 9–32.
  • Carlo Proietti, "Natural numbers and infinitesimals: a discussion between Benno Kerry and Georg Cantor." Hist. Philos. Logic 29, no. 4, 2008, 343–359.
  • Tom Ricketts, Michael Potter, The Cambridge Companion to Frege, Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Robin D. Rollinger, Husserl’s Position in the School of Brentano, Phaenomenologica 150, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1999, Chap. 4: "Husserl and Kerry", pp. 125–138.
  • Maria van der Schaar, Kazimierz Twardowski: A Grammar for Philosophy, Brill, 2015.