Pfänder, Alexander (1871–1941)

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Alexander Pfänder, a German philosopher and phenomenologist, was born in Iserlohn. In 1891 he began his studies at the University of Munich, where he came under the influence of Theodor Lipps. With the publication of the Phänomenologie des Wollens: Eine psychologische Analyse (Phenomenology of willing: a psychological analysis; 1900) he joined the philosophical faculty in Munich, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1904 he came into contact with Edmund Husserl. Though the two of them had much in common in their phenomenological orientation and accordingly had great respect for each other, Pfänder was the leader of the phenomenological circle in Munich, which was distinct from the one that Husserl led in Göttingen and later in Freiburg. Under Pfänder's influence, the Munich phenomenologists were especially wary of the transcendental turn and its concomitant idealism that Husserl put forward in his Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy (1913). In Pfänder's later years, in which he suffered from protracted ill health, he worked toward the development of an understanding psychology and elaborated on his concept of phenomenology and phenomenological philosophy in his lectures. His most outstanding contributions, however, are to be found in his specialized treatment of volitional, emotional, and intellectual phenomena.

Pfänder had embarked on phenomenological investigations already in the late nineteenth century, before the publication of Husserl's Logical Investigations (19001901). The fruit of these investigations, namely Phenomenology of Willing, is thus a noteworthy achievement as a phenomenological work that came about independently of Husserl. Here, Pfänder is concerned with volitional phenomena in particular, but the work encompasses important considerations of method. The method that Pfänder employs is explicitly a descriptive one and thereby excludes any attempt to explain the phenomena under consideration in terms of cause and effect. At the same time this descriptive method avoids the sort of metaphysical speculation about willing such as what had been put forward by Arthur Schopenhauer in the nineteenth century. It is also important to note that Pfänder's phenomenology is not an introspective endeavor of the sort in which Lipps was engaged. His insistence that introspection is in fact retrospection is rather reminiscent of Franz Brentano, as is Pfänder's description of phenomena by means of an analysis into elements. His emphasis on the experienced ego throughout his analyses, however, is no doubt an aspect of his phenomenology that he drew from Lipps.

According to Pfänder volition always involves not only a presentation of the willed object but also an attention relief in which the object is made prominent against the background of others. Moreover, "willing" is used in a broad sense to designate striving, but also in a narrower sense that is closer to the one of ordinary language. While he does not dismiss the possibility of pleasure as the goal of willing, he does not find this to be the case in all instances of willing. Moreover, his analyses of willing are guided by the observation that one can will only that which one believes to be possible. Accordingly, the experience of the volitional sphere involves considerations of other aspects of consciousness.

In 1913 and 1916 Pfänder turned his attention to the emotional rather than the volitional sphere of mental life, albeit with the conviction that the two are closely related. The articles that he published in these years for Husserl's phenomenological Yearbook are particularly concerned with sentiments (Gesinnungen ) insofar as they are directed toward persons, places, animals, and so on, either positively or negatively, as when one speaks of someone being "well disposed" or "ill disposed" toward this or that. When there occurs a stirring of sentiment, this is an actual as opposed to a virtual or habitual sentiment. In each case the sentiment is something between a subject and an object and involves a centrifugal direction and streaming from the subject to the object. Moreover, the sentiment is either friendly or hostile toward the object in question. Sentiments can also be divided into genuine and spurious ones. The latter are exemplified by how one is disposed toward the characters in a theatrical performance. The rich array of analyses Pfänder employs in his investigations of sentiments was meant to be a contribution to the foundation of ethics and pedagogy.

Pfänder's Logik (Logic; 1921) should not be read as a logic textbook and certainly not as a logic in the technical sense that prevails in the current understanding of this term. Still, this work is of considerable interest as a philosophy of logic. Though his analyses of volitional and emotional phenomena are by and large focused on the acts of willing and feelings, Logic is primarily concerned with the correlates of intellectual acts. Pfänder calls these correlates thoughts (Gedanken ), which are comparable to the meanings (Bedeutungen ) that Husserl identifies as the subject matter of pure logic in the Logical Investigations, except that Pfänder conceives of thoughts as products of thinking. Moreover, Pfänder acknowledges not only special correlates of thinking but also a host of other objective correlates that are produced in a social context. In this sense Logic, like the works of other Munich phenomenologists (especially Adolf Reinach), opens up a new domain in the objective sphere for phenomenological investigation. Logic, Pfänder maintains, is particularly concerned with a class of thoughts known as judgments (Urteile ). These are peculiar insofar as they involve a claim to truth and refer to states of affairs (Sachverhalte ), which are made focal in Pfänder's reflections on rules of inference as well as on the laws of identity, noncontradiction, the excluded middle, and sufficient reason.

See also Husserl, Edmund; Lipps, Theodor; Phenomenology.


Spiegelberg, Herbert, in collaboration with Karl Schuhmann. The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction, 3rd ed. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982, pp. 170191.

works by pfÄnder

Phänomenologie des Wollens: Eine psychologische Analyse. Leipzig: Barth, 1900.

"Zur Psychologie der Gesinnungen." Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 1 (1913): 325404; 3 (1916): 1125.

Logik, 3rd ed. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1963.

works on pfÄnder

Spiegelberg, Herbert, and Eberhard Avé-Lallement, eds. Pfänder-Studien. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982.

Robin D. Rollinger (2005)