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 studies different types of correlation between consciousness and its objects
     Full Idea: Husserl's phenomenology is the science of the intentional correlation of acts of consciousness with their objects and it studies the ways in which different kinds of objects involve different kinds of correlation with different kinds of acts.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Rudolf Bernet - Husserl p.198
     A reaction: I notice he uncritically accepts Husserl's description of it as a 'science'. My naive question is how you would distinguish one kind of 'correlation' from another.
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], III.1.063), 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.
There can only be a science of fluctuating consciousness if it focuses on stable essences
     Full Idea: How can there be a science of a Heraclitean flux of acts of consciousness? Husserl answers that this is possible only if these acts are described in respect of their invariant or essential structure. This is an 'eidetic' scence of 'pure' psychology.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Rudolf Bernet - Husserl p.199
     A reaction: This is his phenomenology in 1913, which Bernet describes as 'static'. Husserl later introduced time with his 'genetic' version of phenomenology, looking at the sources of experience (and then at history). Essentialism seems to be intuitive.
Phenomenology aims to validate objects, on the basis of intentional intuitive experience
     Full Idea: Husserl's goal is to account for the validity, the 'being-true', of objects on the basis of the way in which they are given or constituted. ...Experiences more suitable for guaranteeing objects are those which both intend and intuitively apprehend them.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Rudolf Bernet - Husserl p.199
     A reaction: [compressed] In the light of previous scepticism and idealism, the project sounds a bit optimistic. If there is a gulf between mind and world it can only be bridged by 'reaching out' from both sides. This is a mind-sided attempt.
Husserl saw transcendental phenomenology as idealist, in its construction of objects
     Full Idea: Phenomeonology is 'transcendental' in describing the correlation between phenomena and intentional objects, to show how their meaning and validity are constructed. Husserl gave this process an idealist interpretation (which Heidegger criticised).
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Rudolf Bernet - Husserl p.200
     A reaction: [compressed] If the actions which produce our concepts of objects all take place 'behind' phenomenal consciousness, then it is hard to avoid sliding into some sort of idealism. It encourages direct realism about perception.
Start philosophising with no preconceptions, from the intuitively non-theoretical self-given
     Full Idea: Where other philosophers ...start from unclarified, ungrounded preconceptions, we start out from that which antedates all standpoints: from the totality of the intuitively self-given which is prior to any theorising reflexion.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.2.020)
     A reaction: This is the great aim of Phenomenology, which is obviously inspired by Hegel's similar desire to start from nothing. Hegel starts from a concept ('nothing'), but Husserl starts from raw experience. I suspect both approaches are idle dreams.
Epoché or 'bracketing' is refraining from judgement, even when some truths are certain
     Full Idea: In relation to every thesis we can use this peculiar epoché (the phenomenon of 'bracketing' or 'disconnecting'), a certain refraining from judgment which is compatible with the unshaken and unshakable because self-evidencing conviction of Truth.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.1.031)
     A reaction: This is the crucial first step of Phenomenology. It seems to me that it is best described as 'methodological scepticism'. People actually practise it all the time, while they focus on some experience, while trying to forget preconceptions.
'Bracketing' means no judgements at all about spatio-temporal existence
     Full Idea: I use the 'phenomenological' epoché, which completely bars me from using any judgment that concerns spatio-temporal existence.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.1.032)
     A reaction: This makes bracketing (or epoché) into a sort of voluntary idealism. Put like that, it is hard to see what benefits it could bring. I am, you will notice, a pretty thorough sceptic about the project of phenomenology. What has it taught us?
After everything is bracketed, consciousness still has a unique being of its own
     Full Idea: We fix our eyes steadily upon the sphere of Consciousness and study what it is that we find immanent in it. ...Consciousness in itself has a being of its own which in its absolute uniqueness of nature remains unaffected by disconnection.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.2.033)
     A reaction: 'Disconnection' is his 'bracketing'. He makes it sound obvious, but Schopenhauer entirely disagrees with him, and I have no idea how to arbitrate. I struggle to grasp consciousness once nature has been bracketed, but have little luck. Is it Da-sein?
Phenomenology describes consciousness, in the light of pure experiences
     Full Idea: Phenomenology is a pure descriptive discipline which studies the whole field of pure transcendental consciousness in the light of pure intuition.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.4.059)
     A reaction: When he uses the word 'pure' three times in a sentence, each applied to a different thing, you begin to wonder precisely what it means. Strictly speaking, I would probably only apply 'pure' to abstracta, and never to experiences or reality.115
2. Reason / D. Definition / 13. Against Definition
The use of mathematical-style definitions in philosophy is fruitless and harmful
     Full Idea: Definition cannot take the same form in philosophy as it does in mathematics; the imitation of mathematical procedure is invariably in this respect not only unfruitful, but perverse and most harmful in its consequences.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], Intro)
     A reaction: A hundred years of analytic philosophy has entirely ignored this warning. My heart has always sunk when I read '=def...' in a philosophy article (which is usually American). The illusion of rigour.
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. Nature of 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 / 4. Using Numbers / a. 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 / 4. Using Numbers / e. Counting by correlation
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 / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / a. Nature of Being
Our goal is to reveal a new hidden region of Being
     Full Idea: We could refer to our goal as the winning of a new region of Being, the distinctive character of which has not yet been defined.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.2.033)
     A reaction: The obvious fruit of this idea, I would think, is Heidegger's concept of Da-sein, which claims to be a distinctively human region of Being. I'm not sure I can cope with the claim that Being itself (a very broad-brush term) has hidden regions.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / h. Dasein (being human)
As a thing and its perception are separated, two modes of Being emerge
     Full Idea: We are left with the transcendence of the thing over against the perception of it, ...and thus a basic and essential difference arises between Being as Experience and Being as Thing.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.2.042)
     A reaction: I'm thinking that this is not just the germ of Heidegger's concept of Da-sein, but it actually IS his concept, without the label. Husserl had said that he hoped to reveal a new region of Being.
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.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 3. Reality
The World is all experiencable objects
     Full Idea: The World is the totality of objects that can be known through experience.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.1.001)
     A reaction: I think this is the 'Nature' which has to be 'bracketed', when pursuing Phenomenology. It sounds like anti-realist empiricism, which has no place for unobservables.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 4. Anti-realism
Absolute reality is an absurdity
     Full Idea: An absolute reality is just as valid as a round square.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.3.055)
     A reaction: Husserl distances himself from 'Berkeleyian' idealism, but his discussion keeps flirting with, perhaps in some sort of have-your-cake-and-eat-it Hegelian way. Perhaps it is close to Dummett's Anti-Realism.
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.1.002), 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.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Imagine an object's properties varying; the ones that won't vary are the essential ones
     Full Idea: Husserl's 'eidetic variation' implies that we can judge the essential properties of an object by varying the properties of the object in imagination, and seeing which vary and which do not.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Anand Vaidya - Understanding and Essence 'Knowledge'
     A reaction: The problem with this is that there are trivial or highly general necessary properties which are obviously not essential to the thing. Vaidya says [822] you can't perform the experiment without prior knowledge of the essence.
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 4. 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], II.2.046), 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.
Feelings of self-evidence (and necessity) are just the inventions of theory
     Full Idea: So-called feelings of self-evidence, of intellectual necessity, and however they may otherwise be called, are just theoretically invented feelings.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.2.021)
     A reaction: This seems to be a dismissal of the a priori necessary on the grounds that it is 'theory-laden' - which is why it has to be bracketed in order to do phenomenology.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 2. 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.2.019), 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.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 4. Memory
The phenomena of memory are given in the present, but as being past
     Full Idea: In Husserl's phenomenology, the intentional object of a memory is the object of a past experience, which is intuitively given to me in the present, not, however, as being present but as being past.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Rudolf Bernet - Husserl p.203
     A reaction: I certainly don't have to assess my mental events, and judge which are past, which are now, and which are future imaginings. I suppose Fodor would say they are memories because we find them in the memory-box. How else could it work?
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 6. Scepticism Critique
Natural science has become great by just ignoring ancient scepticism
     Full Idea: Natural science has grown to greatness by pushing ruthlessly aside the rank growth of ancient skepticism and renouncing the attempt to conquer it.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.2.026)
     A reaction: This may be because scepticism is boring, or it may be because science 'brackets' scepticism, leaving philosophers to worry about it.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 4. Other Minds / c. Knowing other minds
We know another's mind via bodily expression, while also knowing it is inaccessible
     Full Idea: Another person's consciousness is given to me through the expressive stratum of her body, which gives me access to her experience while making me realise that it is inaccessible to me. Empathy is a presentation of what is absent.
     From: report of Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913]) by Rudolf Bernet - Husserl p.203
     A reaction: This is the phenomenological approach to the problem of other minds, by examining the raw experience of encountering another person. It is true that we seem to both know and not know another person's mind when we encounter them.
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 / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / b. Essence of consciousness
Pure consciousness is a sealed off system of actual Being
     Full Idea: Consciousness, considered in its 'purity', must be reckoned as a self-contained system of Being, a system of actual Being, into which nothing can penetrate, and from which nothing can escape.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.3.049)
     A reaction: Recorded without comment, to show that among phenomenologists there is a way of thinking about consciousness which is a long way from analytic discussions of the topic.
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 follows 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.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 2. Knowing the Self
We never meet the Ego, as part of experience, or as left over from experience
     Full Idea: We never stumble across the pure Ego as an experience within the flux of manifold experiences which survives as transcendental residuum; nor do we meet it as a constitutive bit of experience appearing with the experience of which it is an integral part.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], II.4.057)
     A reaction: It seems that he agrees with David Hume. Sartre's 'Transcendence of the Ego' follows up this idea. However, Husserl goes on to assert the 'necessity' of the permanent Ego, which sounds like Kant's view.
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 fails.
     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.
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 1. Nature of Value / b. Fact and value
Only facts follow from facts
     Full Idea: From facts follow always nothing but facts.
     From: Edmund Husserl (Ideas: intro to pure phenomenology [1913], I.1.008)
     A reaction: I presume objective possibilities follow from facts, so this doesn't sound strictly correct. I sounds like a nice slogan for those desiring to keep facts separate from values. [on p.53 he comments on fact/value]