Notes on Edmund Husserl

(1859–1938)

Quote from "Phenomenology," The Encyclopedia Britannica (1927)

So that our last division of the complete phenomenology is thus: eidetic phenomenology, or the universal ontology, for a first philosophy; and second philosophy as the science of the transcendental inter-subjectivity or unversum of fact."

"Thus the antique conception of philosophy as the universal science, philosophy in the Platonic, philosophy in the Cartesian sense, that shall embrace all knowledge, is again justly restored."

"All rational problems, and all those problems, which for one reason or another, have come to be known as ‘philosophical,’ have their place within phenomenology, finding from the ultimate source of transcendental experience or eidetic intuition, their proper function of transcendental human ’living’ form an entire relationship to self."

This quotation treats how consciousness grounds itself in its embodied situation to be known through the faculty of intuition—to the things themselves compose the first philosophy. The second philosophy is the measurable, empirical reality spun off the mind delving into its surroundings and subjecting them to criteria that are universally valid and falsifiable by the scientific method. Husserl wants to create a science of all sciences using a phenomenological psychology, actually a philosophy of life in toto. He posits a transcendental ego that perceives, understands, and explains the world on an a prioi basis, that is, knowable without reflection. Certain truths man knows as constituent of social and physical reality, such as the sensation of the unity of time and space, the permanence of being, the imminence of death, the discretionary attitude humans assume toward all things in the world through intersubjectivity, best expressed in language. Language and consciousness define each other. This ego executes empirical readings of the environs of man. Husserl says truths can be known by using the epoche, a suspension of judgment on preconceived ideas that prejudice our having an open outlook toward the world. In his time, Husserl stated that there was a crisis of the European sciences because subject and object exist at two different levels not connected by a common theme. One is the world of appearances; the other is the world of physical reality that is empirically measurable. The other world spins out of our mind with intentionality toward objects to constitute them socially. This division creates a schism in knowledge, one in high culture and the other in “pure” science.

Science degrades personal experience as meaningless and hence dissolves the humanity of culture and its values of beauty, goodness, truth, justice, because they are deemed not amenable to the scientific method; hence, what is human can be deemed trivial and insignificant. Man becomes only an object of study whose spirituality is demeaned. This strikes at his freedom, which is put into the service of the state as political power.

Schindler’s Interpretation of Husserl

What is at stake is culture then subordinate to political interests. This anticipates Hitler and Stalin, whereby everything is administered with the individual redundant in the thingification of personhood. Individuals devolve into a “herd of beasts” where democracy, personhood, and human values are derogated when not in the service of a totalitarian regime. Even in democracies, the preeminence of science has attached itself with its methods to a negation of the person, through the clinical attitude that deprives individuals of their autonomy. A phenomenological psychology is the answer because it unifies knowledge by dissolving the subject/object division through the Transcendental Ego that is a generalized consciousness of the world and all its constituent elements and moments of realization.

Please note that Husserl was Heidegger’s doctoral supervisor; what irony!