Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl (1859-1938), German philosopher, was born in Austrian Moravia (now part of Czechoslovakia), the son of a prosperous Jewish merchant. Husserl was a competent but not distinguished student, apparently introspective and slow to mature, and interested almost exclusively in mathematics and astronomy.
Following his secondary education in Vienna, he studied mathematics and science from 1876 to 1878 at the University of Leipzig, where he attended lectures by Wilhelm Wundt. He then went to Berlin to study mathematics and there developed his first scholarly interest in the philosophy of mathematics and in philosophy more generally. Returning to Vienna, he took his doctorate in 1882, with a dissertation entitled “Beiträge zur Variations-rechnung” (“Contributions to the Theory of the Calculus of Variations”).
He served for a short time as assistant to the mathematician Weierstrass at Berlin, and then he returned again to Vienna, where he came under the most important influence of his career, that of the philosopher-psychologist-priest Franz Brentano. Husserl’s phenomenology is descended from Brentano’s “psychognosy,” which is based on the concept of intentionality and on the classification of “psychical phenomena.” In 1887 Husserl went as Privatdozent to the University of Halle—he had studied there earlier under the psychologist Carl Stumpf—and stayed there until 1901. He then became a professor at the University of Gottingen, and finally, from 1916 until his retirement in 1929, he taught at the University of Freiburg. He continued to live in Freiburg, teaching informally and writing, until his death. Although as a young man he had been converted to Protestantism, the Nazi regime defined him as a Jew; he was deprived of most honors and recognition in his final years, and only the heroic efforts of the Franciscan monk Hermann van Breda made it possible to save many thousands of manuscript pages written by Husserl in a private shorthand. These writings have since become the property of the Husserl Archives at the University of Louvain in Belgium.
Husserl’s turn from mathematics to philosophy came as a result of the combined influences of Brentano and the logician Bernard Bolzano. His first work, Philosophie der Arithmetik (1891), which he dedicated to Brentano, contains his independent discovery of the concept of form-quality (Gestalt-qualität), commonly associated with gestalt theory, but, more important for Husserl’s development, it represents his first attempt at probing the foundations of his discipline. However, as the mathematician Gottlob Frege showed, Husserl’s argument was mere “psychologism,” and as a consequence of this critique Husserl undertook the first of the fundamental re-examinations that were to characterize his subsequent intellectual career.
In 1900 and 1901 he published the two volumes of his Logische Untersuchungen, which contain a brilliant extension of two concepts he owed to Brentano: the idea of intentionality—that it is characteristic of psychic activity to be directed toward an object—and the idea of the self-evident and therefore infallible character of psychic data. Husserl asserted that both poles of the intentional act, its intending as well as its object, must be conceived as aspects of consciousness. He put aside the question of an object’s reality as not of legitimate concern—a philosophical tactic to which he gave the name “reduction.” Thus in one fundamental move he eliminated the question of whether the object of the act of consciousness is “real” and revealed consciousness itself as a source of objectively valid data on which universal philosophical principles can be based. This Husserl proceeded to demonstrate in the field of logic.
The transcendental reduction
Having stated the major theses of his program for developing a pure phenomenology as the science of all sciences, Husserl took the further step, in his 1904-1905 lectures, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-consciousness (1928), of attempting a formal account of the fundamental structures of consciousness. [SeeTime, article onpsychological aspects.] The first phenomenological reduction had involved a suspension of the “natural attitude” toward the object of consciousness. In addition, Husserl now proposed a transcendental reduction that would “suspend” or “bracket” (einklammern) psychological experiences themselves. In this way he hoped to discover elemental structures that would resemble the abstract entities of mathematics, but with a transcendental rather than an empirical ego as nuclear principle. In another series of five lectures, delivered in 1907, Die Idee der Phänomenologie (see Husserliana, vol. 2), Husserl further systematized his method for achieving apodictic knowledge by claiming that intuition permits the immediate grasp of general essences. The latter, as objects of consciousness, are constituted in and by the transcendental ego, which thus becomes the source and agent of meanings in one’s world. Thus sense data construct appearances, appearances construct things, and perception and imagination construct identities.
Program for phenomenology
In a manifesto and program, issued in 1911 as an essay entitled “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” Husserl argued that the merely contingent and factual data of the empirical sciences have to be replaced by essential structures which are revealed by the phenomenological reduction. Only by building from below in this manner can the sciences be provided with an absolute and objective basis. In the same year, on the urging of his students, Husserl began to plan a phenomenological journal, and when the inaugural volume of the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung appeared in 1913, it contained what was to become the first volume of his Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie (see Husserliana, vols. 3-5). This was the closest to a systematic exposition of his thought that he ever produced, but of the three volumes only the first appeared in his lifetime. Its translation, Ideas (see  1952), was for many years the only rendering of his work in English, with the exception of a brief article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (14th ed., 1929). In Ideas there is presented a full statement of the phenomenological reduction, here called by the Skeptics’ term epoché, as well as extended analyses of reality, idealism, essences, and the structure of consciousness.
Husserl published no further large-scale work until 1929, when, under the title Formale und transzendentale Logik, he put together a full exposition of intentional, or structural, analysis, finally identifying his own metaphysical position as idealism. The problem inherent in this position—which he attempted, with unsatisfactory results, to resolve in his Cartesian Meditations (1931), based on lectures delivered at the Sorbonne—was to account, within idealist suppositions, for other, independent egos. By another name, this is the problem of inter-subjectivity, to which Husserl may have been drawn through the influence of his leading pupil and chosen successor, Martin Heidegger; or it may have been the events of a strident age that impelled Husserl to accommodate his thought to humanly significant issues.
The crisis of modern knowledge
Although he insisted that whatever is revealed of the “formations” of the world must be governed by necessities founded on essential structures of consciousness—as opposed to requirements dictated by empirical and contingent facts—he did during these years begin to develop an existentialist theme that was finally expressed in Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzenden-tale Phänomenologie (see Husserliana, vol. 6), essays that were published posthumously. The “crisis” of the title refers to the tragically widening gulf between modern science, which grows ever more abstract and technical, and the Lebenswelt, or lived-world, that realm which stands as the all-encompassing horizon of our collective and individual life-worlds and in which science itself must be founded. Husserl thus appears to have come full circle in his thinking, from an initial absolutism and formalism, in which the absolutely given has its source in pure subjectivity, that “wonder of all wonders,” to a plea for founding the concerns of philosophy in man’s experience of his fellows. No resolution of the tension between these positions is to be found in Husserl’s writings, and so the concept of the Lebenswelt remains ambiguous, leaning on both transcendentalist and existentialist theses. Various solutions have since been offered by students of Husserl, notably by Heidegger in his conception of Dasein as ontologically conceived human existence, by Jean-Paul Sartre in his definition of consciousness as nothing else but the very acts of a human individual, and by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his notion of consciousness as totally “engaged” through the meaning-bestowing acts of a “body-subject.”
Impact on philosophy
Husserl was not able to keep followers, and in the field of philosophy his legacy is an influence rather than a school. Heidegger, who succeeded Husserl at Freiburg (and then became rector of the university and consorted for a time with the Nazis), has moved steadily toward original ontological investigations and independent fame. In Heidegger’s work, as in that of some of the other major intellectual descendants of Husserl, one finds Husserl’s thought essentially transformed. Thus, Heidegger has become the fountainhead of a new therapeutic orientation known as existential analysis, largely through the interpretation of his work by the Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger; Sartre has adapted the phenomenological method to his own purposes, as in his works on imagination, emotion, and “existential psychoanalysis” and Merleau-Ponty, who was explicitly and empirically a psychologist of behavior, of language, of perception, of child development, and of the lived body as epicenter of meaning, viewed phenomenology as an approach and a style rather than as an apodictic science.
At Göttingen in 1907, Husserl strongly influenced the Munich circle, but their taste was primarily for what he called “picture book phenomenology.” Of this group, Adolf Reinach, who was killed in World War I, made brilliant contributions toward showing the extent to which civil law is founded on natural law. Max Scheler, the most remarkable of the Munich circle and a friend rather than a pupil of Husserl, was perhaps the closest to psychology: even before the “existential” trend, he emphasized the person rather than consciousness, and he wrote on many topics of relevance to the social sciences—feelings and values, war, religion, social action, and interpersonal bonds.
In the United States, Husserl’s intellectual descendants also have departed from his philosophical position. Marvin Farber, a key figure both as expositor of Husserl and as editor of the quarterly Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, now espouses naturalism rather than phenomenology; Alfred Schutz, never actually a pupil of Husserl’s, was often at theoretical odds with him as he himself made original contributions to a phenomenologically oriented social science; and Herbert Spiegel-berg, author of the definitive historical survey The Phenomenological Movement (1960), has restricted himself to essentially scholarly pursuits and to effecting a rapprochement between phenomenological philosophy and psychological theory. Aron Gurwitsch has perhaps remained closest to Husserl, as in his book The Field of Consciousness (1957).
Phenomenology and sociology
Husserl’s influence on the social sciences seems to have been indirect, even diffuse, in part because of the programmatic nature of so much of his writing. He proposed to look for essences, directly given, which would be revealed in each discipline by methods unique to that discipline. In history, for example, intelligible unities were to be apprehended within an intuitively apprehended flow of world events. Although any direct influence should be ruled out, interesting parallels may be demonstrated between Husserl and sociologists in the French tradition, such as Durkheim, who have chosen to study society with man left in, as it were; or between Husserl and Max Weber, even though Husserl showed little of Weber’s broad interest in history; or even between Husserl and Howard Becker, particularly in the latter’s “interpretive sociology” of ideal types as true social structures from which predictions can be made. Husserl’s thinking is also consonant with that of George Herbert Mead, R. M. Maclver, and Florian Znaniecki, yet such relationships have not often been recognized; in Znaniecki’s Social Actions (1936), for example, a program that sounds quite Husserlian is expounded with no reference to phenomenology. The journal literature of the social sciences contains a number of studies that can be classed as descriptive phenomenology—or as intentional psychology, to use Scheler’s term. Such studies usually take the form of intuitive and impressionistic analyses of social structures. Husserl would have regarded these as essential. But in general it can hardly be said that the social sciences have found any important place for phenomenology as such.
Phenomenology and psychology
In psychology Husserl’s influence may be traced in a broad range of writings, both in theory and in research. In an often striking parallel to the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, although developed independently of it, Jean Piaget’s work stresses the significance for childhood development of the adaptive and assimilative processes of cognition. Alfred Adler’s marked similarity in method and attitude to the phenomenologists is now widely recognized, but there is no evidence that Husserl ever influenced him directly. [SeeAdler; Individual Psychology; Developmental psychology, article ona theory of development.] Erwin W. Straus, both as a psychiatrist and as a phenomenological psychologist, has elaborated his own eidetic phenomenology and critique of contemporary scientific methodology. Phenomenological conceptions, sometimes considerably transformed, may also be detected in the school of thought known as existential psychology. [SeePsychology, article onexistential psychology.]
The most direct and specific of Husserl’s effects on psychology, as may be expected, occurred in Europe. A notable instance is David Katz, whose investigations of the perception of color and of touch derived at least in part from contact with Husserl when both were at Göttingen. Of the important group who were at the University of Berlin just before World War I, and from whose joint efforts came the school of gestalt psychology, Max Wertheimer and Karl Duncker were apparently deeply influenced by phenomenology. During this time Kurt Goldstein, the neurologist, came under the influence of Husserl’s thinking, as is quite evident in his later writings on organismic biology and psychopathology, as well as in his collaborative work with Martin Scheerer on the analysis of a structure of consciousness which they called the “abstract attitude.” William Stern, also in the Berlin group, was later influential in espousing a “personalistic” psychology, and still another member, Kurt Lewin, based a productive career on phenomenological methods and conceptions: for example, his concept of an individual’s “life space,” his use of topology as a mathematics specific to psychological data, and his intuitive apprehension of “group” as an intelligible unity, an approach that gave rise to the area of research and study now known as group dynamics. Fritz Heider, in an early paper on “thing” and “medium,” analyzed fundamental unities of space and action, and later contributed significantly to the exploration of phenomenal causality and to the problem of the “naïve” analysis of social action; and his influence, in turn, may be seen in recent investigations in “psychological ecology” by Roger Barker and Herbert F. Wright.
Shifting again from Europe to America, the school which follows Carl R. Rogers is, like its founder, not inconsistent in its approach with a phenomenological orientation, although admittedly by virtue of related attitudes toward science rather than because of any strict adherence to Husserl’s thought. [SeeMental disorders, treatment of, article onclient-centered counseling.] Robert MacLeod is probably the psychologist most clearly identified with Husserl, because of his proposals—unique in American psychology—for the application of a phenomenological approach in theoretical and social psychology. Finally, contemporary psychology in Germany and the Netherlands owes much to Husserl’s influence—for example, Linschoten’s studies of William James (1961), C. F. Graumann’s investigations of perspective and of early behavioristic theory (1960), and the important work of F. J. J. Buytendijk on pain, on the psychology of women, and on human movement (1932; 1943; 1951; 1957).
This roster, although only partial, suggests that Husserl’s influence on the empirical sciences has been far-reaching, but neither as pervasive nor as profound as it might have been, considering that he was at the forefront of what may turn out to have been an epistemological revolution. One reason for the relative neglect of his work—until recently, this neglect in the United States has been of shocking proportions—may be that by temperament as well as by the nature of his philosophic task, he was condemned to a never-ending search for “the beginning of the beginning.” The current phase of his influence, indeed, appears to rest primarily on the later Husserl, the “engaged” thinker of the Lebenswelt doctrine, who helped to establish the philosophical basis for a basic science of man considered as a social creature. But because he conceived phenomenology not as a system but as a continuing and vital means of breaking new ground, his thought has served as a general inspiration and influence rather than as an inventory of specific problems. Recent work by Husserlian scholars, however, suggests that his work is now being read more carefully; noteworthy, for example, is Stephan Strasser’s Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (1963). The Swiss philosopher Pierre Thevenaz, in his brilliant essay What Is Phenomenology? (1962), suggested that, in the perspective of history, Husserl stands between classical idealism and twentieth-century existentialism. To others, Husserl has seemed the central figure, perhaps even the source, of broadly based convergence of old and new philosophical traditions—a convergence marked by new styles of analysis for old problems and a bold critique of the excessive claims of scientific empiricism. In any case, whether as chief navigator of a main current or as a beacon to steer by, Husserl surely has a unique position in the history of Western thought.
[Other relevant material may be found inField theory; Gestalt theory; Phenomenology; Psychology, article onexistential psychology; and in the biographies ofGoldstein; Katz; Lewin; Scheler; Schutz; Stern; Wertheimer.]
1882 Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung. Dissertation, Univ. of Vienna.
1891 Philosophie der Arithmetik: Psychologische und logische Untersuchungen. Vol. 1. Halle (Germany): Pfeffer.
(1900-1901) 1913-1921 Logische Untersuchungen. 2d ed., 2 vols. Halle (Germany): Niemeyer. → Volume 1: Prolegomena zur reinen Logik. Volume 2: Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis. A French translation of the 2d German edition was published in 1959-1963 by Presses Universitaires de France.
(1911) 1965 Philosophy as Rigorous Science. Pages 71-147 in Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy. New York: Harper. → First published in German in Volume 1 of Logos as “Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft.”
(1913) 1952 Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. New York: Macmillan. → Translation of Volume 1 of Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophic.
(1928) 1964 The Phenomenology of Internal Time-consciousness. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press. → First published as Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des innern Zeitbewusstseins.
1929 Formale und transzendentale Logik: Versuch einer Kritik der logischen Vernunft. Halle (Germany): Niemeyer. → A French translation was published in 1957 by Presses Universitaires de France.
(1931) 1960 Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. The Hague: Nijhoff. → Written in German and first published in French.
Husserliana: Edmund Husserl, Gesammelte Werke. 9 vols. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1950-1962. → Volume 1: Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vorträge, 1950. Volume 2: Die Idee der Phänomenologie: Fünf Vorlesungen, 1950. Volumes 3-5: Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie, 3 vols. 1950-1952. Volume 6: Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phdnomenologie: Eine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophic, 1954. Volume 7-8: Erste Philosophie (1923/1924), 2 vols., 1956-1959. Volume 9: Phänomenologische Psychologie, 1962.
Buytendijk, F. J. J. (1932) 1936 The Mind of the Dog. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. → First published in Dutch.
Buytendijk, F. J. J. (1943) 1962 Pain, Its Modes and Functions. Univ. of Chicago Press. → First published in Dutch.
buytendijk, F. J. J. (1951) 1953 Die Frau. Cologne (Germany): Bachem Verlag.
Buytendijk, F. J. J. 1957 Attitudes et mouvements. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer. → Published simultaneously in Dutch.
Graumann, Carl F. 1960 Grundlagen einer Phänomenologie und Psychologie der Perspektivität. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Gurwitsch, Aron (1957) 1965 The Field of Consciousness. Pittsburgh: Duquesne Univ. Press. → First published in French.
Linschoten, Johannes 1961 Auf dem Wege zu einer phänomenologischen Psychologie: Die Psychologie von William James. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Spiegelberg, Herbert (1960) 1965 The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction. 2d ed., 2 vols. Phaenomenologica, Vols. 5-6. The Hague: Nijhoff.
Strasser, Stephan 1963 Phenomenology and the Human Sciences: A Contribution to a New and Scientific Ideal. Pittsburgh: Duquesne Univ. Press.
Thevenaz, Pierre 1962 What Is Phenomenology? And Other Essays. Chicago: Quadrangle.
Znaniecki, Florian 1936 Social Actions. New York: Farrar & Rinehart.
"Husserl, Edmund." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/husserl-edmund
"Husserl, Edmund." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/husserl-edmund
The German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) is considered the father of phenomenology, one of the most important trends in 20th-century philosophy.
Edmund Husserl was born on April 8, 1859, in Prossnitz, Moravia. After finishing his elementary education in Prossnitz, he attended schools in Vienna and Olmütz. In 1876 he entered the University of Leipzig, pursuing physics, astronomy, and mathematics. He proved to be especially gifted in mathematics, and in 1878 he moved to the University of Berlin to study with a number of the leading mathematicians of that era. He became profoundly interested in the question of the foundations of mathematical reasoning, and he took his doctoral degree in mathematics at Vienna in 1883. Thereafter, however, his interest turned increasingly to philosophy, and he followed the lectures of Franz Brentano with great interest.
Husserl began his teaching career at Halle, initially as an assistant to the distinguished psychologist Carl Stumpf. Here Husserl published his first research into the foundations of mathematics, volume 1 of his Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891). Following British empiricism, he tried to show how the foundations were to be found in acquired habits of thought. But, yielding to sharp criticisms by Gottlob Frege, he soon revised his opinions. He then pushed the question further back into the ultimate foundations of all rational thought. Gradually he became convinced that the ultimate justification of thought patterns rested in the synthetic powers of consciousness—not in mere habits of thought but rather in indispensable concepts and relations, which, as underlying all thought, were seen to be necessary. These ultimate phenomena became now the constant objects of his tireless research.
Husserl's first preparatory studies in phenomenology were published as The Logical Investigations (2 vols., 1900-1901). Called to a professorship at Göttingen (1901-1916), he continued to write extensively. Works from this period include The Idea of Phenomenology, Philosophy as a Rigorous Science, and the first part of his Ideas toward a Pure Phenomenology (1913).
In 1916 Husserl was called to Freiburg as a full professor. Here he published the second and third parts of his Ideas, together with three other long works. He retired in 1929 and, remaining in Freiburg, continued to write. From this period date the Cartesian Meditations and the Crisis of the European Sciences. In all of these works Husserl doggedly pursued his vision of a radical foundation for rational thought. His passionate dedication to clarity and fundamental insight were what most impressed his students. Never satisfied with his results, however, he referred to himself at the end of his life as "a true beginner." Husserl died at Freiburg on April 27, 1938.
A definitive study of Husserl's work must await the complete publication of his papers. Meanwhile, a generally reliable and elementary guide is Joseph J. Kockelmans, A First Introduction to Husserl's Phenomenology (1967). For general background and for assessing Husserl's influence on other authors, Herbert Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction (2 vols., 1960-1965), is indispensable. □
"Edmund Husserl." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/edmund-husserl
"Edmund Husserl." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/edmund-husserl
Edmund Husserl (ĕt´mŏŏnt hŏŏs´ərl), 1859–1938, German philosopher, founder of the phenomenological movement (see phenomenology). 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
the data of consciousness by suspending all preconceptions, especially those drawn from the
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
(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." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/husserl-edmund
"Husserl, Edmund." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/husserl-edmund
"Husserl, Edmund." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/husserl-edmund-0
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"Husserl, Edmund." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/husserl-edmund
"Husserl, Edmund." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/husserl-edmund