Edmund Husserl

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Husserl, Edmund

(ĕt`mo͝ont ho͝os`ərl), 1859–1938, German philosopher, founder of the phenomenological movement (see phenomenologyphenomenology,
modern school of philosophy founded by Edmund Husserl. Its influence extended throughout Europe and was particularly important to the early development of existentialism.
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). He was professor at Göttingen and Freiburg and was greatly influenced by Franz Brentano. His philosophy is a descriptive study of consciousness for the purpose of discovering the structure of experience, i.e., the laws by which experiences are had. His method was to "bracket" the data of consciousness by suspending all preconceptions, especially those drawn from the "naturalistic standpoint." Thus, objects of pure imagination are examined with the same seriousness as data taken from the objective world. Husserl concluded that consciousness has no life apart from the objects it considers. This characteristic he calls "intentionality" (object-directedness), following Brentano. In his later work, Husserl moved toward idealism and denied that objects exist outside consciousness. His chief works are Logische Untersuchungen (1900–1901) and Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology (tr. 1952).


See studies by P. Ricoeur (1967), M. Natanson (1973), J. Kockelmans, ed. (1967, repr. 1978), H. L. Dreyfus and H. Hall, ed. (1982), D. Willard (1984), and E. Levinas (1973, repr. 1985).

Husserl, Edmund


Born Apr. 8, 1859, in Prossnitz, Moravia; died Apr. 26, 1938, in Freiburg. German idealist philosopher and founder of the philosophical school of phenomenology. Professor at Halle, Göttingen, and Freiburg.

A student of F. Brentano and C. Stumpf, Husserl was also influenced by B. Bolzano and neo-Kantianism (especially of the Marburg school). Husserl sharply criticized skepticism and relativism in philosophy (Logical Investigations; Russian translation of vol. 1, 1909). He viewed the source of these tendencies in philosophy to be psychologism—the conviction that all cognitive acts are determined in their content by the structure of empirical consciousness, and therefore one cannot speak of any truth independent of the knowing subject. In Husserl’s view the purest expression of psychologism was in the line from J. Locke and D. Hume through J. S. Mill to W. Wundt. Husserl considered the contemporary varieties of psychologism to be naturalism (that is, the attitude of the scientist transformed into a general world view) and histori-cism (as the basic philosophical principle).

In Husserl’s opinion, the sciences of nature and history themselves require a more precise foundation that can only be provided by philosophy understood as a rigorous science, a science of the phenomena of consciousness—that is, phenomenology. Following the path of R. Descartes’s rationalism, Husserl tried to discover the ultimate self-evident logical principles and thus to empty consciousness of empirical content. This emptying of consciousness is accomplished by reduction. Inasmuch as philosophy ought to free itself, according to Husserl, of all dogmatic statements arising from the ordinary “natural attitude” of consciousness in regard to the world, Husserl called for epochē, that is, the act of suspending all statements. As a consequence of reduction, only the ultimate, irreducible unity of consciousness remains—intentionality—that is, the necessary relation of every conscious act to an object, which Husserl regarded as the pure structure of consciousness, beneath individual (psychological, social, racial, etc.) characteristics. With the help of the concept of intentionality, Husserl tried to solve the main theoretical and epistemological problem concerning the connection between the subject and the object; intentionality is invoked to serve, as it were, as a bridge between them—to represent the immanent world of general human consciousness and at the same time the transcendent world of being, the experienced world. Phenomenology, according to Husserl, is the science of pure consciousness as examinations and descriptions of intentional acts. He calls this experience the “seeing of essences” (Wesensschau). Claiming neutrality as regards the solution to the basic problem of philosophy. Husserl proposed to bracket “the assumption of existence” from phenomenology. The acceptance of “essences” brings Husserl’s philosophical position close to that of Platonic idealism; but unlike the “ideas” of Plato, which have an ontological (existential) status, Husserl’s “essences” appear only as “meanings,” having no sphere of existence (although the tendency toward ontologism in Husserl’s thought did gradually grow stronger). Thus, sub-jectivist motifs are found in Husserl side by side with objective idealist motifs.

In his search for solid foundations Husserl was forced to continually modify his philosophy. Ultimately he turned to the idea of a “lived world,” which brought him close to the philosophy of life. In one of his last works, The Crisis of European Science and Transcendental Phenomenology (published, 1954), a transition takes place to the view that absolute experience can be interpreted historically. Moreover, in this work Husserl views the intellectual situation in contemporary Europe as one of crisis, relating it with the domination of scientism and the naturalist-positivist world view in general.

Husserl had an influence on contemporary bourgeois philosophy; among his students were M. Scheler, N. Hartmann, and M. Heidegger. Phenomenology (with its characteristic reorientation from the object to the subject and from the speculative-conceptual methods of philosophical analysis to the “immediate intuition” and “experience of truth”) served as one of the sources for existentialism. Husserl’s philosophy is a reflection of the profound crisis in which bourgeois philosophical thought finds itself.


Philosophie der Arilhmetik, vol. 1. Leipzig. 1891.
Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins. Halle, 1928.
Husserliana, vols. 1–8. The Hague. 1950–59.
Erfahrung und Urteil. Hamburg, 1954.
In Russian translation:
“Filosofiia, kak strogaia nauka.” Logos, 1911. book 1.


Iakovenko, B. V. “Filosofiia E. Gusserlia.” In Novye idei v filosofii, 1913, collection 3.
Shpet, G. G. Iavlenie i smysl. Moscow, 1914.
Kakabadze. Z. M. Problema “ekzistentsial’nogo krizisa” i transtsendental’naia fenomenologiia E. Gusserlia. Tbilisi, 1966.
Gaidenko. P. P. “Problema intentsional’nosti u Gusserlia i ekzistentsialistskaia kategoriia transtsendentsii.” In the collection Sovremennyi ekzistentsializm. Moscow, 1966.
Motroshilova, N. V. Printsipy i protivorechiia fenomenologicheskoi filosofii. Moscow, 1968.
Begiashvili. A. F. Problema nachala poznaniia u B. Rassela i E. Gusserlia. Tbilisi. 1969.
Farber. M. The Foundation of Phenomenology. Cambridge, 1943.
Diemer, A. Ed. Husserl, 2nd ed. Meisenheim am Glan, 1965.
Tugendhat, E. Der Wahrheitsbegriff bei Husserl und Heidegger, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1970.


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