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Husserl, Edmund Gustav Albrecht


HUSSERL, EDMUND GUSTAV ALBRECHT (1859–1938), German philosopher, the founder of phenomenological philosophy. Husserl was born in Prossnitz, Moravia (then part of Austria). He studied mathematics, physics, and astronomy at the universities of Leipzig, Berlin, and Vienna, where in 1883 he completed his doctorate in mathematics under Leo Koenigsberger. In 1886 Husserl converted to Protestantism, as did many other Jewish academicians in Germany and Austria at that time. This conversion was of a strictly formal nature. While living in Vienna, Husserl, under the influence of the philosopher Franz Brentano, turned more and more to philosophy. In 1886 he became assistant to psychologist-philosopher Karl Stumpf in Halle and in 1887 began teaching philosophy at the University of Halle. He subsequently taught at the universities of Goettingen and Freiburg, retiring in 1929. The last years of his life, spent in Freiburg, were overshadowed by the political events in Germany in general, and especially, by the philosophic and political disloyalty of Martin Heidegger, on whom he had pinned his hopes, and whom he had suggested as successor to his professorial chair.

Philosophical phenomenology, which Husserl also called constitutive phenomenology or transcendental phenomenology, is a systematic study of consciousness from a specific point of view. In psychology, to the extent to which it concerns itself with consciousness at all, acts and occurrences of consciousness are considered as events alongside other events, both organismic-somatic and extra-organismic, to which they stand in multifarious relations of causal or functional dependency. In phenomenology, on the contrary, acts of consciousness are considered strictly and exclusively under the aspect of their presentational function. Whatever we encounter, conceive of, and deal with, appears to us, through acts of consciousness, as what it is taken by us to be and is for us. This consideration holds with regard to perceptual objects of everyday experience as well as the constructs of the several sciences, the ideal entities of logic and mathematics, universal concepts, phenomena pertaining to social and cultural life, and so on. Phenomenology sets itself the task of accounting for entities of every description and for "objects" of all kinds (the term "object" understood in the widest possible sense) in terms of subjective conscious life. For the clarification of their sense and the responsive meaning of their existence, all entities and "objects" must be referred to the acts of consciousness in which they originate and whose correlates they prove to be.

The realization of this program of constitutive phenomenology requires an appropriate conception of consciousness. Husserl adopted Brentano's notion of intentionality, but developed it far beyond Brentano's formulation. Intentionality denotes the essential reference of acts of consciousness to their respective "objects." In this connection Husserl introduced a new concept of far-reaching significance, namely, the notion of the object as it is meant and intended through a given act of consciousness. Husserl's theory of intentionality makes apparent the indissoluble connection between acts of consciousness as psychological occurrences and senses or meanings which are ideal entities of a nature different from psychological events. Considering the central importance of the theory of intentionality, phenomenology may appropriately be characterized as the "logic" of consciousness. In the course of recent decades, Husserl's theories and results have exerted a considerable influence outside the field of philosophy as well as inside, e.g., upon several trends in the psychological sciences, especially in continental Europe.

A few months after Husserl's death, Father H.L. van Breda of the University of Louvain succeeded in transferring Husserl's manuscripts, about 40,000 sheets in shorthand, and his library, to Louvain. He also took Husserl's widow (Malvine, née Steinschneider) to Louvain, hid her from the Nazis, and saved her life. During the occupation of Belgium, a few scholars of Jewish origin, while in hiding, transcribed Husserl's manuscripts from the original shorthand. Such were the beginnings of what after the war became the Archives-Husserl at the University of Lou-vain. Further branches of the Archives were established at the universities of Cologne, Freiburg, Paris, Buffalo, and the New School for Social Research in New York. One of the main functions of the Archives, especially at Louvain and Cologne, is the publication of Husserl's writings and university lectures. Eleven volumes of the series Husserliana appeared, 1950–66.

Among English translations of Husserl's writings are Cartesian Meditations, an Introduction to Phenomenology (1960); The Idea of Phenomenology (1964); Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (1931); The Paris Lectures (19682); "Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man," in: Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, edited by Q. Lauer (1965); and The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness (1964).


A. Gurwitsch, Studies in Phenomenology and Psychology (1966); J.J. Kockelmans, A First Introduction to Husserl's Phenomenology (1967), includes bibliography; P. Ricoeur, Husserl, An Analysis of His Phenomenology (1967); R. Sokolowski, Formation of Husserl's Concept of Constitution (1964), includes bibliography; E.P. Welch, The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl (1941), includes bibliography; M. Farber, The Foundation of Phenomenology (1943); S. Kaznelson, Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich (1959), index; Wininger, Biog.

[Aron Gurwitsch]

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