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Husserl's generation had begun to think of philosophers as failed scientists at best and charlatans at worst. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the fields of psychology, logic, and mathematics reached levels of development that were assumed to eclipse any claim by philosophy to universal inquiry. For example, Franz Brentano, Husserl's teacher, debunked the philosophical tradition in his lecture "On the Concept of Truth": I consider Kant's entire philosophy a confusion, and one which gave rise to even greater mistakes, and which, finally, led to complete philosophical chaos.

I do believe that I learned a great deal from Kant; I learned, however, not what he wanted to teach me, bat, above all, how seductive for the philosophical public, and how deceptive, is the fame which the history of philosophy has tied to names. Every man who has made history must have had a powerful personality; but in any particular case the question will remain whether the influence of the personality was beneficial or disastrous, and whether we do well to make him our ideal and our master.

Husserl's later reformatory project for philosophy was predicated on the dismal failure of the philosophical tradition to solve, let alone clearly state, its basic problems. The endless debates and ever shifting vocabularies of both eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philosophy 1 2 Phenomenology struck Husserl as symptomatic of deep confusions and unexamioed assumptions that were eroding what he continued to consider, in spite of his teacher's doubts, an irreplaceable and important discipline.

He saw the perpetuation of this state of confusion as not only weakening philosophy, but encouraging dogmatism in the sciences, a development Husserl feared would ultimately halt scientific progress and foster irrationalism. Husserl sought to conserve the "inextinguishable idea of philosophy" while accepting, in large part, contemporary criticisms of traditional philosophy. To preserve philosophy in this way without repeating traditional failure, Husserl pursued two aims.

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First, he proposed a methodology for philosophical research, which he called alternatively phenomenology, the phenomenological reduction, or transcendental phenomenology, capable of reaching agreement on and resolving long-standing philosophical disputes, In his view, a strict methodology was the key to rescuing philosophy from endless clashes of speculative systems, rhetorical flourishes, and the appeal to unexamined prejudices and assumptions.

Lacking methodological reform, philosophical debate remains sterile and pointless. If there were no agreed upon procedures for settling philosophical disputes, philosophers would continue to follow their mere whims. Second, Husserl held, now clashing with the mood of his contemporaries, that philosophical questions could not be replaced by further scientific inquiry. Specifically, philosophy could not be eliminated by any future science of psychology.

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Husserl thus found it necessary to defend what he considered the essential task of philosophy though not of course as traditionally pursued and in addition, as his thinking matured, philosophical idealism. Though Husserl's dense, jargon-laden prose makes it difficult, it is important to keep the following topics distinct when critically examining his views. First, much of HusserPs writing is preparatory to philosophical inquiry and is explicitly neutral between competing philosophical views.

But the argument that philosophical problems persist in spite of scientific successes, or that naturalism fails to understand its own philosophical underpinnings, does not immediately suggest which philosophical position one ought to defend. Finally, there are those writings in which Husserl defends a version of transcendental idealism, a view he contrasts with past and present philosophies.

Though these arguments are partisan, unlike the preparatory discus- Phenomenology 3 sions, Husserl does not present transcendental idealism as challenging the empirical claims of either common sense or the sciences. If the different intent of these three contexts is not kept in view, especially with regard to the relation between philosophy and science, Husserl's already complex effort becomes hopelessly muddled and confused.

For example, Husserl is not, in any literal sense, a critic of the sciences, an antirationalist, or an idealist in the traditional sense of that term. Husserl is a critic of naturalism because of its implied philosophy of science, not because he believes science is either dangerous or inadequate to the task of comprehending the natural world. Selective or elliptical quotations, however, contribute to such misinterpretations, which are reinforced, unfortunately, by Husserl's tendency toward careless and confusing presentations of his main ideas.

In this chapter I begin with Husserl's general defense of philosophy, a position I think has relevance for current philosophy, even among those unaware of Husserl's work. The second part of this chapter concerns Husserl's method and his excessively technical vocabulary.

In the third part I discuss what he means by transcendental idealism. I characterize Husserl as an epistemological "internalist," a current term for characterizing an approach to the theory of knowledge since Descartes. The philosophical project of pure, internal inquiry is one Husserl embraces and attempts to defend against its critics. The chapter concludes with these criticisms, focusing primarily on Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A discussion of Husserl's critical reaction to cultural and historical relativism, including comments on his late writings, are found in the fourth part.

The Inextinguishable Task Husserl defended a strict distinction between philosophical questions and empirical questions about the natural world. He argued that confusing philosophical with scientific questions generated "naive" the adjective Husserl favored philosophical positions. The failure to understand the autonomy of philosophy and the attempt to seek its elimination by science were symptoms of what Husserl called an intellectual and cultural crisis.

The basic distinction between empirical and philosophical questions has been a leitmotif of twentieth-century philosophy. Echoes of it, with diverse 4 Phenomenology implications, can be heard in such major thinkers of Husserl's generation as Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Catnap, G. This entire network of distinctions has, however, been under sustained attack in much of current philosophy,6 Weakening the distinction between analytic and empirical claims is often credited with weakening confidence in the entire idea of an autonomous philosophical subject matter and thereby supporting some form of naturalism.

Husserl never doubted the clarity of this central distinction and upon it he proclaimed the "dream" of philosophy becoming a "rigorous science. Husserl, using the language of Kant, states the distinction as that between what can be known as a contingent matter of fact about the world—what is synthetic, a posteriori, or experiential'—and that which can be known necessarily, purely as a matter of the concepts involved—what is analytic, a priori, or "pure," the last a. These essential aspects of experience discovered by philosophical reflection constrain any possible empirical inquiries, and therefore, like mathematics, philosophy precedes factual inquiry.

Philosophical topics concern a priori necessities of experience and thus stand apart from disputes about contingent matters of fact. In his earliest major publication, The Philosophy of Arithmetic, he had entertained the possibility of a type of empirical, psychological inquiry into the formal structures of mathematics and arithmetic. Though precisely what Husserl claimed in that early work about psychology is beyond the scope of this discussion, he came to see his early efforts as implicitly collapsing the formal necessity of arithmetic relations into whatever were contingent features of how our minds operate and function.

Hwsserl quickly abandoned this early project, though he did not entirely abandon some results of that work and its overall aim, and concluded that no possible discovery in psychology would result in a situation in which what were previously thought to be problems in arithmetic suddenly revealed themselves as those of experimental psychology. Mathematics does not await breakthroughs in cognitive psychology. In flirting with that possibility, even if he did not exhibit the crude errors of a Millian psychologist on this topic, Husserl had fallen prey to confusions, betraying thereby an early philosophical "naivete.

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The certainty and indubitability of mathematics is due to its truths depending only on what Husserl calls "pure" relations of meaning. Whatever knowledge is gained of psychology or human neurophysiology is, in contrast, contingent and empirical. Even if these discoveries concern regularities, they do not concern whatever must be the case, as in the pure, essential necessities, but whatever as a matter of fact happens to be the case, given the contingent features of the natural world.

The facts of the natural world cannot be converted into the foundation of formal or conceptual necessity. That insight may have been Husserl's most important intellectual breakthrough. To speak of the formal or conceptual necessity as though it were a species of causation, for instance, is a prime example of what he dismisses as an "absurd" confusion.


Husserl will furthermore hold, as discussed below, that these conceptual or meaningful necessities extend to how the world is presented phenomenally in any mental experience whatsoever. Hence, by the phrase "mental experience" Husserl is not restricting himself to neurological and psychological facts about human experience. There is rather a pure form of any possible experience, and with regard to the term "phenomena" he asserts: "To attribute a nature to phenomena, to investigate their component parts, their causal connections—that is pure absurdity, no better than if one wanted to ask about the causal properties, connections, etc.

It is the absurdity of naturalizing something whose essence excludes the kind of being that nature has" PRS Whether philosophy could be subsumed under or replaced by inquiry in the sciences resolves, for Husserl, into the question of whether reason can be naturalized. Husserl uses the term "naturalism" as a characterization of the underlying conceptions of the sciences and the "common sense conception of the world" or perhaps, more accurately, the idea of common sense as shaped by the modern scientific revolution. The natural attitude views the world as a collection of objects and physical processes whose properties, dispositions, and regularities can be captured by scientific laws and thus partly explained, controlled, and predicted.

This physicalist picture extends, in principle, to psychology and sociology, in which psychophysical beings and complex social or institutional objects also exhibit lawlike regularities. In that sense, naturalism is a summary of the results of a long history of empirical inquiry. It is also not itself a philosophical claim about the world.

Husserl, however, also uses the term "naturalism" to refer to the protophilosophical views that emerge within this general picture of the natural world. Such views range from those held implicitly within untutored common sense as in the spontaneous opinions of laypersons or scientists to 6 Phenomenology explicit philosophical positions such as logical positivism which Husserl calls "sensation-monism" and pragmatism.

All these diverse accounts of science and its supremacy over competitors share, in HusserPs opinion, the key philosophical assumption that consciousness, and thus reason itself, can be studied in the same manner as any other natural object and thereby explained as processes falling under ideal scientific laws. These otherwise diverse positions then agree in treating philosophical inquiry as obsolete and converting the above empirical results into some prototype of a scientific study of epistemology and reason. This discussion requires a brief warning or digression before I proceed with Husserl's explicit arguments against the project of naturalizing reason and consciousness. It would be wrong to leap to the conclusion that Husserl, by virtue of his opposition to the above, believes that consciousness, and whatever it is that physically makes it possible for humans to reason, cannot be studied by the natural sciences or that consciousness is not a natural phenomena.

In fact, Husserl makes clear in numerous passages that he considers human beings natural, psychophysical beings whose psychological states are caused by or realized in their neurophysiological states, Human, behavior and its dispositions, like any natural objects, are subsumable under scientific laws in his view, and thus consciousness, in that sense, can be an object of scientific study like any other object, But when Husserl asks whether reason can be naturalized, he is not asking whether psychological studies of reasoning are possible.

Husserl's question is epistemological, not empirical. The possibility of naturalizing reason concerns, then, a philosophical position with regard to reason. He views the persistent effort to dismiss the difference between these two questions as the root of naturalism's illusory escape from philosophical quandaries, In unintentionally reinforcing this illusion, some readers of Husserl have mistaken his discussion of this philosophical problem for a dispute about the scientific status of psychology, as though Husserl were arguing that a science of human behavior was impossible.

But taking a stance on the future of psychology or inventing a new method for psychology is as alien to Husserl's intent as it would be to think he intends to reinvent physics as a result of the same philosophical inadequacies of naturalism. This misreading of Husserl is simply a failure to make the distinctions he laboriously defends. Precisely in the energy with which naturalism seeks to realize the principle of scientific rigor in all the spheres of natural and spirit, in theory and practice, and in the energy with which naturalism seeks to solve the philosophical problems of being and value.

There is, perhaps, in all modern life no more powerfully, more irresistibly progressing idea than that of science, Nothing will hinder its victorious advance [emphasis added] ,. He holds that the success, extension, respect for, and influence of the sciences are proper.

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The problem lies in naturalism's philosophical account of this scientific success and influence, a problem Husserl locates with the notion of "empirical meaning. Husserl challenges what he considers an unexamined or naive view of philosophy, not the results of the scientific method.

Husserl can therefore praise the extension of science into psychology at the same time that he rejects "psychologism" as pseudo-epistemology, What concerns Husserl is not the spread of scientific inquiry from the natural to the sociopsychological worlds, but the accompanying defense of empirical realism, a theory of knowledge masquerading as empirical science.

Research into the nature of psychophysical being, as Husserl calls it, provides information and evidence concerning the natural world, as does all proper science. But it both raises and leaves unresolved, as do all sciences, philosophical problems, problems for which naturalism is either one among many philosophical responses, to be judged strictly on those terms, or a confusion of philosophical and scientific problems.

Husserl claims he has "decisive arguments to prove that physical natural science cannot be philosophy" PRS He admits that science, like philosophy, can be "critical" of experience by questioning evidence, rejecting isolated experiences, and demanding methodical support for knowledge claims. Also science, like philosophy, presupposes the grasp of fundamental concepts of truth, objectivity, and evidence. But the critical stance of science is not sufficiently "radical. Husserl indicates the kind of questions he considers philosophical, genuinely radical, and outside the scope of science.

How can experience as consciousness give or contact an object? How can experiences be mutually legitimated or corrected by means of each other, and not merely replace each other or confirm each other subjectively? How is natural science comprehensible in absolutely every case, to the extent that it pretends at every step to posit and to know a nature that is in itself—in itself in opposition to the subjective flow of consciousness?

It is well known that theory of knowledge is the discipline that wants to answer such questions, and 8 Phenomenology also that up to the present, despite all the thoughtfulness employed by the greatest scholars in regard to these questions, this discipline has not answered in a manner scientifically clear, unanimous, and decisive. These questions are variations upon: How is objective knowledge possible?

Husserl offers three arguments showing that philosophical questions cannot be replaced by scientific inquiry.