The Husserlian Mind
eBook - ePub

The Husserlian Mind

Hanne Jacobs, Hanne Jacobs

  1. 550 páginas
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The Husserlian Mind

Hanne Jacobs, Hanne Jacobs

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Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) is widely regarded as the principal founder of phenomenology, one of the most important movements in twentieth-century philosophy. His work inspired subsequent figures such as Martin Heidegger, his most renowned pupil, as well as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, all of whom engaged with and developed his insights in significant ways. His work on fundamental problems such as intentionality, consciousness, and subjectivity continues to animate philosophical research and argument.

The Husserlian Mind is an outstanding reference source to the full range of Husserl's philosophy. Forty chapters by a team of international contributors are divided into seven clear parts covering the following areas:

  • major works
  • phenomenological method
  • phenomenology of consciousness
  • epistemology
  • ethics and social and political philosophy
  • philosophy of science
  • metaphysics.

Contained in these sections are chapters on many of the key aspects of Husserl's thought, including intentionality, transcendental philosophy, reduction, perception, time, self and subjectivity, personhood, logic, psychology, ontology, and idealism.

Offering an unparalleled guide to the enormous range of his thought, The Husserlian Mind is essential reading for students and scholars of Husserl, phenomenology, and the history of twentieth-century philosophy. It will also be of interest to those in related fields in the humanities, social sciences, and psychology and the cognitive sciences.

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Major works


The first breakthrough

Psychology, theory of knowledge, and phenomenology of meaning in Logical Investigations1

Pierre-Jean Renaudie
When Husserl published the two volumes of Logical Investigations at the turn of the twentieth century (the introductory volume Prolegomena to Pure Logic in 1900, followed in 1901 by a second volume gathering six Logical Investigations), his philosophical purpose was much more ambitious than providing a series of studies on a range of topics regarding logic and theory of knowledge. The publication of Logical Investigations was first and foremost an attempt to propose a new and original approach to philosophical questions based on the description of lived-experiences, which Husserl defined as “phenomenology.” It was a term he did not coin, nor was he the first to employ it in a philosophical context. But Husserl used it in a very specific sense, giving it a technical and completely renewed meaning. At this stage, however, phenomenology was less a well-defined and perfectly unified philosophical methodology (as Husserl would later on claim it to be), than a novel “research program” in a sense close to Lakatos, working on the basis of a few methodological guidelines, a number of main theses, and lots of promised developments to come.
Consequently, the content of Logical Investigations needs to be understood in relation to the wider philosophical project that Husserl had expected them to give birth to, which requires an understanding of the main questions and difficulties Husserl was hoping phenomenology to resolve. Rather than presenting the variety of views defended by Husserl throughout the 1,000 pages that constitute his first philosophical masterpiece, this chapter will mainly focus upon these difficulties in order to account for the field of philosophical problems that phenomenology originated from and its original way of addressing them. In order to avoid projecting onto the initial version of Husserl’s work later and more sophisticated (though possibly also more consistent) conceptions of his phenomenological method, we shall primarily consider, for the sake of faithfulness and accuracy, the first edition of Logical Investigations and pay particular attention to the historical context within which Husserl’s philosophical undertaking came to a first stage of maturation. We will reserve for the final remarks of this chapter the examination of the shortcomings and issues that he tried – rather unsuccessfully – to overcome in his attempt to revise Logical Investigations for its second edition of 1913, which sheds light on the more renowned transformations that Husserl’s phenomenological project was to undergo soon after the publication of his “breakthrough” work.

Husserl’s anti-psychologism

Many years after Logical Investigations were published, Husserl gave some indications about the main difficulties encountered by its first readers, which contributed in jeopardizing the clear understanding of the main philosophical goals of the book and led to various misinterpretations of phenomenology. As he was preparing the draft for a new preface (which he never published) to be included in the second edition of his book, Husserl stressed that the phenomenological analyses of lived-experiences provided by the six investigations of the second volume were understood as mere psychological descriptions falling under the title of descriptive psychology – a label inherited from Husserl’s first mentor in philosophy, Franz Brentano (Husserl 1975, 51). It seemed unclear to most readers how the investigations of the second volume could logically follow from the extensive criticism and firm rejection of psychologism in the Prolegomena, which were meant to constitute an essential and unavoidable piece of Husserl’s phenomenology of knowledge, as Husserl wrote in a letter to Meinong (August 27, 1900; see Husserl 1994, 137). Rather, as Husserl recalls later on in Formal and Transcendental Logic, numerous early readers of the Logical Investigations understood phenomenology as a “relapse into psychologism” and reproached their author for having given up the radicality of his own critique of psychology (Husserl 1969, 152).
Such misunderstanding and confusion about the meaning of phenomenological description and the clarification of the fundamental concepts of pure logic that Husserl expected it to achieve reveal a significant difficulty inherent to his initial undertaking. How can we understand the unity of the philosophical project that rigorously ties together the two volumes of the Logical Investigations?

Anti-psychologism and neo-Kantianism: Windelband and Natorp

Husserl was far from being the first to make arguments against psychologistic theories. Nevertheless, his Prolegomena to Pure Logic presents an in-depth and remarkably synthetic attempt to identify, analyze, and critically discuss the theses, presuppositions, and shortcomings that the label “psychologism” encapsulates. Husserl proposes a series of arguments that contributed a great deal to mapping the variety of positions that the new psychology gave rise to and their correlative (explicit or implicit) philosophical claims. Across the years that followed their publication, Prolegomena was widely read and referred to as the official anti-psychologist manifesto (Kusch 1995).
However, the historical significance of Prolegomena’s role within the psychologism dispute (Psychologismus Streit) contributed somewhat to concealing the subtlety of Husserl’s position in the debate. Husserl’s rejection of psychologism is certainly motivated by the harsh and pitiless critique of his Philosophy of Arithmetic that Frege published in an 1894 review (Frege 1972). Frege pointed out how Husserl’s analysis of the relation between numbers and the acts of collecting and colligating ultimately relies on an interpretation of logical laws that traces them to psychological processes, thereby revealing the psychologistic background of his approach (Mohanty 1977; Føllesdal 1994). This criticism deeply impacted Husserl, whose strong interest in the conception of pure logic, developed in Bolzano’s Wissenschaftslehre (Theory of Science) and championed by Lotze, was already in conflict with his initial Brentanian attempt to provide some psychological foundation to logical and arithmetical concepts. From this moment on, Husserl diagnoses psychologism as the main threat jeopardizing the clarification of concepts upon which a theory of knowledge must rest. Defining psychologism as the recurring attempt to ground the necessity of logical laws upon the contingency of the empirical laws of thinking, Husserl undertakes a detailed critique of the various forms of psychologism widespread in nineteenth-century accounts of logic (such as Mill, Spencer, Sigwart, Erdmann, and Lipps) and their philosophical consequences. This critique accordingly necessitates the preliminary step of establishing the theoretical foundations of pure logic understood as a new a priori and purely demonstrative science of science.
Husserl insists that his position in the debate needs to be understood as a particular kind of anti-psychologism, specifically designed to address logical issues and to clear the way for setting up the tasks of pure logic. In this regard, his critique must be carefully distinguished from the more general and all-encompassing version of anti-psychologism articulated by the neo-Kantians a few decades earlier. In a series of polemical texts aimed at reestablishing the role of critical philosophy against the rise of psychology, Windelband and Natorp, the main figures of the neo-Kantian schools of Heidelberg and Marburg, had engaged in an uncompromising rejection of psychologism, which came to constitute a foundational aspect of neo-Kantianism and played a decisive role in its development (Windelband 1880 and 1884; Natorp 1887 and 1888; see Anderson 2005). Husserl’s critical analysis, on the other hand, follows a much narrower aim that highlights the strictly logical significance of his own anti-psychologism: the only form of psychologism that phenomenology aims at overcoming is “the psychologizing of the irreal significational formations that are the theme of logic” (Husserl 1969, 152).
It is then crucial to see that Husserl’s purpose is not only to propose a criticism of the psychologistic presuppositions undermining most conceptions of knowledge, but also – and just as importantly – to demonstrate the shortcomings of the anti-psychologistic claims articulated by the neo-Kantians. His analysis, indeed, begins by putting aside the main arguments raised by the neo-Kantians, which stress the “normative character [of logic]” and its irreducibility to the empirical contingency of psychological laws (Husserl 2001b, 31; see also 41–44). Husserl insists that such normative objections can easily be dealt with and cleared out by the proponents of psychologism and points out the insufficiencies of the neo-Kantian version of anti-psychologism.
This refutation of normative anti-psychologism plays a significant role in the construction of Husserl’s argument. Instead of stressing the irreducible opposition between the normative procedures that theory of knowledge must account for according to neo-Kantianism and the description of the empirical facts through which knowledge is actually performed, Husserl critically examines the consequences of psychologism. The anti-psychologistic arguments he formulates allow some kind of complementarity between psychology and theory of knowledge, as Husserl refuses to hold them strictly contradictory to each other. Psychology somehow “takes part” or “participates” (mitbeteiligen) in the foundation of logic, even though it does not provide logic’s “essential foundation” (Husserl 2001b, 45).2 Consequently, Husserl’s anti-psychologism does not commit him to endorse the conclusions drawn by the neo-Kantians’ critique. While the neo-Kantian arguments were meant to clear the analysis of knowledge from empirical psychology and establish Kant’s critical method of transcendental deduction as the only possible way to provide the foundations of theory of knowledge, Husserl’s Prolegomena sets the grounds for an analysis of ideal meanings (Bedeutungen) or “significational formations.” The knowledge of logical truths can be achieved on the basis of this logical analysis; consequently, psychology does not need to be eradicated, and psychological descriptions can legitimately be considered useful to the theory of knowledge.

Anti-psychologism and descriptive psychology: Brentano and Stumpf

Husserl’s reformulation of anti-psychologism is then perfectly compatible with a particular kind of psychology that he discovered as he started to follow Brentano’s lectures in Vienna in the 1880s. Brentano’s psychology proposes a treatment of mental or psychic phenomena (psychische Phänomene) that stresses their irreducibility to physical phenomena and emphasizes the need for a scientific method tailored to their specificity (Brentano 1995, 68). His descriptive approach to psychology is therefore explicitly opposed to genetic explanations modeled on the scientific treatment of physical phenomena: whereas genetic psychology studies the development of mental phenomena and their causal relations on the basis of inductive generalizations, descriptive psychology (later called “psychognosy”) analyses the components that constitute the unity of mental phenomena and establishes the exact laws which account for the necessary relations between these phenomena (Brentano 2012, 3). Accordingly, Windelband’s attack against genetic method (Windelband 1884) and his arguments in defense of Kant’s critical method against the rise of psychologism fall short of invalidating the particular kind of psychology developed by Brentano.
Husserl’s understanding of the philosophical stakes of psychology was strongly indebte...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Series Information
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Contents
  7. Notes on Contributors
  8. Introduction
  9. Part 1 Major works
  10. Part 2 Phenomenological method
  11. Part 3 Phenomenology of consciousness
  12. Part 4 Epistemology
  13. Part 5 Ethics and social and political philosophy
  14. Part 6 Philosophy of science
  15. Part 7 Metaphysics
  16. Index