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Edmund Husserl by Andrew Hart
October 25, 2010, 6:45 pm
Filed under: philosophy

Edmund Husserl was an Austrian-born philosopher who spent much of his life in Germany.  He lived from 1859 to 1938.  His family was Jewish, but he was baptized a Lutheran in 1887.

Husserl is widely considered the founder of a branch of philosophy called phenomenology, though some consider his teacher, Franz Brentano, that discipline’s founder.  The basic idea of phenomenology is the study of consciousness in general.  Husserl believed that the world was explainable as the phenomena that act on consciousness.

Husserl is an essential link in the chain of philosophic teachers and students in the twentieth century.  His teachers were Brentano and psychologist Carl Stumpf, who is perhaps best-known for leading the commission that investigated the supposedly speech-capable horse Clever Hans.  Husserl’s famous student is Martin Heidegger, though the two had a falling out when Heidegger heeded his publisher’s suggestion and edited out a dedication to Husserl in his magnum opus, Being and Time, because he feared that the Nazis would censor it because of Husserl’s Jewish background.  Husserl’s phenomenology had perhaps its greatest influence on Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who wrote The Phenomenology of Perception.

Some important Husserlian concepts:

Intentionality: Borrowed from Brentano.  Consciousness is always intentional.

Bracketing: Or epoche.  The phenomenologist must “bracket” or put aside prejudices about the actual world while studying the consciousness.

The Sachlage and Sachverhalt: also known as the “situation of affairs” and the “state of affairs.”  In Husserl’s analysis of language, the “situation of affairs” is the state that we are in when we are presented with information.  The “state of affairs” is the meaning that we derive from what we learn in that situation.

Eidetic reduction: The goal of phenomenology, which is to reduce a phenomenon to its most basic parts.

Husserl is most widely known for three works: Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891), Logical Investigations (1901), and Cartesian Meditations (1931).

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