Ideas of Edmund Husserl, by Theme

[German, 1859 - 1938, Born at Prossnitz. Pupil of Brentano. Professor at the University of Freiburg.]

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1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 2. Phenomenology
If phenomenology is deprived of the synthetic a priori, it is reduced to literature
     Full Idea: Sternly envisaged by Husserl as a scientific discipline, phenomenology, on being stripped of the synthetic a priori by the logical positivists, ends up in Sartre as a largely literary undertaking.
     From: comment on Edmund Husserl (works [1898]) by José A. Benardete - Metaphysics: the logical approach Ch.18
Phenomenology is the science of essences - necessary universal structures for art, representation etc.
     Full Idea: For Husserl, phenomenology must seek the essential aspects of phenomena - necessary, universal structures, such as the essence of art or the essence of representation. He sought a science of these essences.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Logical Investigations [1900]) by Richard Polt - Heidegger: an introduction 2 'Dilthey'
Bracketing subtracts entailments about external reality from beliefs
     Full Idea: In effect, the device of bracketing subtracts entailments from the ordinary belief locution (the entailments that refer to what is external to the thinker's mind).
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Logical Investigations [1900]) by Hilary Putnam - Reason, Truth and History Ch.2
     A reaction: This seems to leave phenomenology as pure introspection, or as a phenomenalist description of sense-data. It is also a refusal to explain anything. That sounds quite appealing, like Keats's 'negative capability'.
Phenomenology aims to describe experience directly, rather than by its origins or causes
     Full Idea: Phenomenology, in Husserl, is an attempt to describe our experience directly, as it is, separately from its origins and development, independently of the causal explanations that historians, sociologists or psychologists might give.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Logical Investigations [1900]) by Thomas Mautner - Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy p.421
     A reaction: In this simple definition the concept sounds very like the modern popular use of the word 'deconstruction', though that is applied more commonly to cultural artifacts than to actual sense experience.
Phenomenology needs absolute reflection, without presuppositions
     Full Idea: Phenomenology demands the most perfect freedom from presuppositions and, concerning itself, an absolute reflective insight.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.63), quoted by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 3.1
     A reaction: As an outsider, I would have thought that the whole weight of modern continental philosophy is entirely opposed to the aspiration to think without presuppositions.
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 1. Ontology of Logic
Logicians presuppose a world, and ignore logic/world connections, so their logic is impure
     Full Idea: Husserl maintained that because most logicians have not studied the connection between logic and the world, logic did not achieve its status of purity. Even more, their logic implicitly presupposed a world.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Formal and Transcendental Logic [1929]) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 4.5.1
     A reaction: The point here is that the bracketing of phenomenology, to reach an understanding with no presuppositions, is impossible if you don't realise what your are presupposing. I think the logic/world relationship is badly neglected, thanks to Frege.
Phenomenology grounds logic in subjective experience
     Full Idea: The phenomenological logic grounds logical notions in subjective acts of experience.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Formal and Transcendental Logic [1929], p.183) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 4.5.1
     A reaction: I'll approach this with great caution, but this is a line of thought that appeals to me. The core assumptions of logic do not arise ex nihilo.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / l. Zero
0 is not a number, as it answers 'how many?' negatively
     Full Idea: Husserl contends that 0 is not a number, on the grounds that 'nought' is a negative answer to the question 'how many?'.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894], p.144) by Michael Dummett - Frege philosophy of mathematics Ch.8
     A reaction: I seem to be in a tiny minority in thinking that Husserl may have a good point. One apple is different from one orange, but no apples are the same as no oranges. That makes 0 a very peculiar number. See Idea 9838.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / o. Units
Multiplicity in general is just one and one and one, etc.
     Full Idea: Multiplicity in general is no more than something and something and something, etc.; ..or more briefly, one and one and one, etc.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894], p.85), quoted by Gottlob Frege - Review of Husserl's 'Phil of Arithmetic'
     A reaction: Frege goes on to attack this idea fairly convincingly. It seems obvious that it is hard to say that you have seventeen items, if the only numberical concept in your possession is 'one'. How would you distinguish 17 from 16? What makes the ones 'multiple'?
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / p. Counting
Husserl said counting is more basic than Frege's one-one correspondence
     Full Idea: Husserl famously argued that one should not explain number in terms of equinumerosity (or one-one correspondence), but should explain equinumerosity in terms of sameness of number, which should be characterised in terms of counting.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894]) by Richard G. Heck - Cardinality, Counting and Equinumerosity 3
     A reaction: [Heck admits he hasn't read the Husserl] I'm very sympathetic to Husserl, though nearly all modern thinking favours Frege. Counting connects numbers to their roots in the world. Mathematicians seem oblivious of such things.
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 1. Foundations for Mathematics
Pure mathematics is the relations between all possible objects, and is thus formal ontology
     Full Idea: Pure mathematics is the science of the relations between any object whatever (relation of whole to part, relation of equality, property, unity etc.). In this sense, pure mathematics is seen by Husserl as formal ontology.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Formal and Transcendental Logic [1929]) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 4.5.2
     A reaction: I would expect most modern analytic philosophers to agree with this. Modern mathematics (e.g. category theory) seems to have moved beyond this stage, but I still like this idea.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 6. Fundamentals / c. Monads
Husserl sees the ego as a monad, unifying presence, sense and intentional acts
     Full Idea: Husserl's notion of monad expresses a complete inegration of every intentional presence into its sense, and every sense into the intentional acts, ....and finally every intentional act is integrated into the ego.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Cartesian Meditations [1931]) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 4.6.2
     A reaction: No, I don't understand that either, but it makes good sense to employ the concept of a 'monad' into the concept of the ego, if you think it embodies perfect unity. That was a main motivation for Leibniz to employ the word.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 5. Essence as Kind
The sense of anything contingent has a purely apprehensible essence or Eidos
     Full Idea: It belongs to the sense of anything contingent to have an essence and therefore an Eidos which can be apprehended purely.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.02), quoted by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 3.2.2
     A reaction: This is the quirky idea that we can know necessary categorial essences a priori, even if the category is currently empty. Crops us in Lowe. Husserl says grasping the corresponding individuals must be possible. Third Man question.
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 5. The Cogito
The physical given, unlike the mental given, could be non-existing
     Full Idea: Anything physical which is given in person can be non-existing, no mental process which is given in person can be non-existing.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.46), quoted by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 3.3.5
     A reaction: This endorsement of Descartes shows how strong the influence of the Cogito remained in later continental philosophy. Phenomenology is a footnote to Descartes.
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 2. Self-Evidence
Husserl says we have intellectual intuitions (of categories), as well as of the senses
     Full Idea: The novelty of Husserl is to describe that we have intellectual intuitions, intuitions of categories as we have intuitions of sense objects.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Logical Investigations [1900], II.VI.24) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 2.4.4
     A reaction: This is 'intuitions' in Kant's sense, of something like direct apprehensions. This idea is an axiom of phenomenology, because all mental life must be bracketed, and not just the sense experience part.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Intuition
Direct 'seeing' by consciousness is the ultimate rational legitimation
     Full Idea: Immediate 'seeing', not merely sensuous, experiential seeing, but seeing in the universal sense as an originally presenting consciousness of any kind whatsoever, is the ultimate legitimising source of all rational assertions.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.19), quoted by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 3.3.5
     A reaction: Husserl is (I gather from this) a classic rationalist. Just like Descartes' judgement of the molten wax.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 4. Other Minds / c. Knowing other minds
Husserl's monads (egos) communicate, through acts of empathy.
     Full Idea: For Husserl monads have windows because they communicate with each other. The windows of the monads are the acts of empathy.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Cartesian Meditations [1931]) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 4.7.5
     A reaction: Leibniz said his monads (which include minds) have 'no windows'. The mere existence of empathy (or mirror neurons, as we would say) is hardly sufficient to defeat solipsism.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 3. Abstraction by mind
Husserl identifies a positive mental act of unification, and a negative mental act for differences
     Full Idea: Husserl identifies a 'unitary mental act' where several contents are connected or related to one another, and also a difference-relation where two contents are related to one another by a negative judgement.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894], p.73-74) by Gottlob Frege - Review of Husserl's 'Phil of Arithmetic' p.322
     A reaction: Frege is setting this up ready for a fairly vicious attack. Where Hume has a faculty for spotting resemblances, it is not implausible that we should also be hard-wired to spot differences. 'You look different; have you changed your hair style?'
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 4. Presupposition of Self
The psychological ego is worldly, and the pure ego follow transcendental reduction
     Full Idea: Husserl distinguishes two sorts of egos or subjects of experience, the psychological ego and the pure ego. The psychological ego is a reality of the world, and the pure ego is a result of transcendental reduction.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Cartesian Meditations [1931]) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 4.6.1
     A reaction: The sounds like embracing both the Cartesian and the Kantian egos. This is obviously the source of Sartre's interesting early book on the self. 'Transcendental reduction' is his bracketing or epoché.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / b. Analysis of concepts
We clarify concepts (e.g. numbers) by determining their psychological origin
     Full Idea: Husserl said that the clarification of any concept is made by determining its psychological origin. He is concerned with the psychological origins of the operation of calculating cardinal numbers.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894]) by Victor Velarde-Mayol - On Husserl 2.2
     A reaction: This may not be the same as the 'psychologism' that Frege so despised, because Husserl is offering a clarification, rather than the intrinsic nature of number concepts. It is not a theory of the origin of numbers.
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 8. Abstractionism Critique
Psychologism blunders in focusing on concept-formation instead of delineating the concepts
     Full Idea: Husserl substitutes his account of the process of concept-formation for a delineation of the concept. It is above all in making this substitution that psychologism is objectionable (and Frege opposed it so vehemently).
     From: comment on Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894]) by Michael Dummett - Frege philosophy of mathematics Ch.2
     A reaction: While this is a powerful point which is a modern orthodoxy, it hardly excludes a study of concept-formation from being of great interest for other reasons. It may not appeal to logicians, but it is crucial part of the metaphysics of nature.
Husserl wanted to keep a shadowy remnant of abstracted objects, to correlate them
     Full Idea: Husserl saw that abstracted units, though featureless, must in some way retain their distinctness, some shadowy remnant of their objects. So he wanted to correlate like-numbered sets, not just register their identity, but then abstractionism falls.
     From: comment on Edmund Husserl (Philosophy of Arithmetic [1894]) by Michael Dummett - Frege philosophy of mathematics Ch.12
     A reaction: Abstractionism is held to be between the devil and the deep blue sea, of depending on units which are identifiable, when they are defined as devoid of all individuality. We seem forced to say that the only distinction between them is countability.