The Phenomenology of Husserl
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The Phenomenology of Husserl

Selected Critical Readings

R. O. Elveton, R. O. Elveton

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eBook - ePub

The Phenomenology of Husserl

Selected Critical Readings

R. O. Elveton, R. O. Elveton

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These essays present appraisals of Edmund Husserl's phenomenological philosophy, ranging from its earliest reception to the first comprehensive efforts to assess the full scope of Husserl's writings.

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Husserl's Departure from Cartesianism

Ludwig Landgrebe

1. The Significance of the Lectures on "First Philosophy"

The second part of Husserl's lectures on First Philosophy,' given in 1923-24 and published as the eighth volume of Husserliana, has a character quite different from his previously published works. While the texts which have been made public to date were either published by Husserl himself or aimed at and brought to the point of being ready for publication, this does not hold true of the text of the First Philosophy, particularly with respect to its systematic second part. To be sure, Husserl had given these lectures in the winter semester of 1923-24 with the aim of preparing them for publication, but this project, which occupied him until 1930, was dropped for reasons we shall discuss below. In spite of this, however, the first and historical part of these lectures, together with its supplementary appendices, presents a self-contained whole containing everything Husserl achieved through his lectures and exercises in the history of philosophy since his GSttingen period in coming to terms with the historical tradition and in preparing a historical foundation for the necessity of phenomenology, so that this project of the lectures is based upon long and extensive preparatory work and therefore achieves a great measure of internal resolution. It is quite different with the second part of the lectures which we are to discuss here. This part not only presents long-cherished thoughts which are brought together for didactic purposes, but also has the character of a first draft which is worked out from hour to hour and conveyed in lectures. It is the path of an experimenting adventurer in thought whose successes are constantly thrown into question in the reflections which accompany the lectures2 and whose goal is not fixed from the start so that it actually leads elsewhere than initially foreseen. It was of course Husserl's purpose in these lectures to present a way to phenomenology which would take into account all the advances made by his thought since the appearance of the Ideas (1913), advances in terms of which phenomenology would be established once and for all with respect to its historical and systematic necessity. But it is the paradoxical result of this attempt (the full significance of which was only gradually seen by Husserl himself) that this way and this foundation is in general not workable, with the result that in the later work of the Crisis3 an entirely different way will finally be taken. Hence this work has a significance for understanding the historical development of Husserl's thought comparable to that possessed by Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind for the development of Hegel's system, and the history of this work's origin, which is the history of an ever further pursued improvisation, is also comparable to the origin of the Hegelian phenomenology. Of course Hegel had authorized his Phenomenology by publishing it himself, whereas Husserl, after intensive efforts in the years following these lectures, had finally left this project behind as incomplete and as incapable of ever being finished. Thus the history of the origin of the text before us is the history of a shipwreck. If it was simply a question of the shipwreck of a new attempt to introduce phenomenology, however, one must view the undertaking of publishing such a text as highly questionable. But this shipwreck—and this could be clear to neither Husserl himself nor to those who heard the lectures at that time—is more than an author's accidental misfortune. It is not the sign of a failing systematic creativity; it is rather the case that in no other of his writings is Husserl's radicalism concerning the continually new "presuppositionless" beginning and the questioning of all that had so far been achieved so visibly confirmed. In no other work has Husserl exposed himself to the "force of the absolute" (Hegel) to such an extent, so that this basic feature of his thought is manifested here to a unique degree, a thought which does not aim at a will to mastery through system, but one which advances toward the "affair" (Sache) with restless abandon. A retrospective glance from the historical distance we have now achieved permits us to understand that there occurs within this text a departure from those traditions which are determinative for modern thought and a breaking into a new basis for reflection. It is a reluctant departure insofar as Husserl had wished to complete and fulfill this tradition without knowing to what extent his attempt served to break up this tradition. It is therefore a moving document of an unprecedented struggle to express a content within the terminology of the traditions of modern thought that already forsakes this tradition and its alternatives and perspectives.
The risk of publishing this problematic text is thereby splendidly justified. Not only because it is the key for understanding the development of Husserl's phenomenology; for the problems that emerge here first make it possible to situate correctly Husserl's later work within the course of this development and to relate it properly to his earlier work, so that withm this context it is comprehensible why in the later Crisis Husserl found himself forced to strike out on a new path (whose novelty is once again partially obscured by the self-interpretation he gave it); but because, in addition to its significance for the interpretation of phenomenology itself here, before the eyes of the reader, occurs the shipwreck of transcendental subjectivism, as both a nonhistorical apriorism and as the consummation of modern rationalism. Today, primarily as a result of Heidegger's work, the "end of metaphysics" is spoken of as if with a certain obviousness. We shall first properly understand the sense of such language if we follow closely how, in this work, metaphysics takes its departure behind Husserl's back. One can state quite frankly that this work is the end of metaphysics in the sense that after it any further advance along the concepts and paths of thought from which metaphysics seeks forcefully to extract the most extreme possibilities is no longer possible. To be sure, neither Husserl nor those who were his students at that time were explicitly aware of this, and it will still require a long and intensive struggle of interpretation and continuing thoughtful deliberation until we have experienced everything that here comes to an end. From this, new light will also be cast upon Heidegger's relation to phenomenology. Heidegger knew the thoughts affecting Husserl at this time from his first stay at Freiburg and from his many conversations with Husserl, and had therefore also experienced the shipwreck of this attempt through his own observations and had drawn the proper consequences in attempting, from that point on, to take his leave of the language of metaphysics which Husserl himself still employed.
The effort required to penetrate this work's almost inextricable train of thought, which, continually interrupted by excursions and the reinterpretations of themes already executed, laboriously draws itself forward with constantly new beginnings, will therefore be richly rewarded. To be sure, its study places severe demands upon the reader, who has no clear and surveyable train of thought to follow as a clue and who can only penetrate the sense of what takes place by drawing upon the appendices (which compose three-fifths of this large volume) added to the main text, by looking ahead to Husserl's later work, and by glancing back to his earlier work.
The editor of this volume has already indicated its unique character in his very important and instructive introduction and this character justifies his editorial procedure in every way. It is proper that the main text of the lectures is reproduced without any attempted gloss (the temptation to proceed in this way could well have been suggested by Husserl's own later critical comments on the text) and that all of Husserl's self-critical reflections appear only in the notes and appendices. These are so aptly chosen from the vast abundance of manuscripts belonging to the domain of the text's problem that one cannot exclude any of them from his attention if he desires to obtain a just picture of the entire problematic. The same exemplary care predominates in the critical textual apparatus as in the previous volumes of the collected works, although here the editor saw difficulties before him greater than in previous volumes and the manner in which he overcame them deserves the highest praise.
From these introductory remarks it follows that the evaluation of this work within the framework we have presented here must limit itself to emphasizing basic thoughts and their relationship for the purpose of attaching critical-interpretative considerations to them, considerations which, at least at some points and in a quite provisional fashion, shall serve to fix what has already been generally indicated concerning the work's significance. For the more detailed analysis of the train of thought, its turnings, breaks, and later corrections, one must refer once and for all to the editor's introduction. To add to it would require a critical commentary accompanying the entire text. One must also refer to this introduction with respect to the occurrence of the title, First Philosophy, and the meaning its employment has in the development of Husserl's thought. Here we need only remark that after the completion of these lectures this title recedes more and more into the background and appears only in passing in the Cartesian Meditations,4 and only once again in quotation marks in the Crisis. When the editor remarks that it is replaced by the more general expression "transcendental philosophy," this could be made more precise by remarking that it is not simply a modification of a term designating one and the same subject matter. Husserl saw that he was compelled to abandon the subject matter itself, and that means that the guiding thought of the basic discipline of phenomenology designated by the title First Philosophy is to be abandoned as incapable of realization.

2. The Guiding Thought of the "First Philosophy" and Its Problematic

We must first seek the guiding thought of the work designated by the title. In a somewhat earlier essay5 Husserl speaks of First Philosophy as the "science of method in general, of knowledge in general and of possible goals of knowledge in general, i.e., of possible knowledge in general in which all a priori sciences that have disconnected all types of the contingent (and also the contingent and material a priori) show themselves to be branches which have developed from one and the same science. A math-esis universalis stands above all sciences ... as a mathematics of knowledge-achievements. . ., This highest logic, illuminated by absolute intelligibility . . . moves within exceptional forms of pure subjectivity and requires the study of pure subjectivity in its entirety. . . This, therefore, is nothing other than the idea of the phenomenological transcendental philosophy, which was required in the Ideas as the "first of all philosophies"6 in the form of a basic science of transcendental subjectivity and its constitutive achievements. In opposition to all constituted being it is a "region" of absolute being, since everything which we can in general speak of as "being" (Seiendem) is being (Sein) for consciousness and must permit the justification for its being posited as "being" to be exhibited in consciousness.
By contrast, according to the lectures of 1923-24, First Philosophy not only has the task of systematically presenting this idea, but also includes within itself as equally belonging to its systematic content those meditations and preparatory meditations upon the way which leads to this idea and its absolute beginning.7 With reference to an absolute beginning, First Philosophy is itself a universal science which establishes an absolute ground. It is that science "which 'in itself,' that is, in terms of inner and essential grounds, is first."* "The name 'First Philosophy' would then indicate a scientific discipline of beginnings." "The beginning of First Philosophy would itself therefore be the beginning of all philosophy in general."9 As such, it is a philosophy which is absolutely self-justifying in every step of its thought. In this way Husserl continually points to the exempl...

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Citation styles for The Phenomenology of Husserl
APA 6 Citation
[author missing]. (2020). The Phenomenology of Husserl (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2020)
Chicago Citation
[author missing]. (2020) 2020. The Phenomenology of Husserl. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
[author missing] (2020) The Phenomenology of Husserl. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
[author missing]. The Phenomenology of Husserl. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.