Edmund Husserl

Husserl

Contemporary philosophy

Husserl was a 20th century German philosopher (1859-1938). After studying mathematics, he devoted himself to philosophy, reflecting on the foundations and meaning of this discipline. He became a professor at the University of Halle, and published his first major work, the Logical Investigations. He taught at the University of Göttingen, then Freiburg im Breisgau, until he was disbarred by the anti-Semitic legislation promulgated by the Nazis. He is the inventor of phenomenology, which opposes both psychologism and logicism.


Husserl's works summarised on this site

coming soon

Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy

Husserl shows in this work how one moves from the natural attitude to the phenomenologist's attitude, based on transcendental epochè



coming soon

The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology

Husserl seeks an explanation for the crisis in the sciences at the beginning of the twentieth century, and beyond that, in European culture


Bibliography

Here are the essential books if you wish to gain a better understanding of this author's thought:

Moran, D. and Cohen, J., 2012, The Husserl Dictionary. London, Continuum Press
Ortiz Hill, Claire; da Silva, Jairo Jose, eds. (1997). The Road Not Taken: On Husserl's Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics. College Publications.
Sokolowski, Robert. Introduction to Phenomenology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Smith, B.; Smith, D. W., eds. (1995), The Cambridge Companion to Husserl, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Zahavi, Dan, 2003. Husserl's Phenomenology. Stanford: Stanford University Press

Recommended videos

Conferences, colloquia, radio broadcasts... here are 10 videos that will help you better understand Husserl's thought.

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Biography: life of Husserl

Youth

Edmund Husserl was born in 1859 in Proβnitz, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Prostejov, in what is now the Czech Republic).

After studying at Olmütz grammar school, he enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1876 to take courses in astronomy. He then turned to mathematics at the University of Berlin from 1878 to 1881.

After completing his thesis, the young doctor of mathematics reflected on the meaning and foundation of this discipline.

This led him to enrol at the University of Berlin to study philosophy.

In Berlin and Halle

One meeting proved decisive: that of Franz Brentano. This professor's lectures (Freud was also his pupil) were to have a decisive influence on him, to the point of convincing him to devote himself to philosophy for good.


In 1886, at the age of 27, he converted to Protestantism (he was of Jewish origin).

That same year he was appointed to teach at the University of Halle as Privatdozent (private tutor paid by his pupils, not by the state), a post he held for fourteen years.

In 1887 he defended a new thesis, this time in philosophy, "On the Concept of Number".

He published his first work: Philosophy of Arithmetic, in 1891.


Husserl's intellectual career can be summed up in three phases:

  • a psychologising approach to mathematics, displayed in Philosophy of Arithmetic.
  • a purely logicist approach, defended in Volume 1 of his next work, the Logical Investigations.
  • phenomenology, which constitutes the phase in which Husserl's thought finds its own consistency, and which is based on a critique of logicism and psychologism.

It was in Volume 2 of the Logical Investigations, published a few years later, that Husserl first defended this new approach.

At Göttingen

He was appointed professor at the University of Göttingen in 1906, where he taught for ten years.

At this period, Husserl was still little known; nevertheless, an article in the journal Logos, published in 1911, "Philosophy as Strict Science", established him as the founder of a new current of thought: phenomenology. Students flocked to him, and he founded a journal, the Yearbook for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.


In fact, it was in this journal that Husserl published Book I of his fundamental work, Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, in 1913.

At Freiburg

In 1916, he was appointed professor at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, a position he held for twelve years.

One of his students, Heidegger, became his assistant from 1916 to 1922, then succeeded him at the University of Freiburg. Heidegger would end up taking phenomenology in a completely different direction to the one Husserl had imagined.


In 1929, he published Formal and transcendental logic.

At the invitation of the Société française de philosophie, he gave two lectures at the Sorbonne, which would form the content of Cartesian Meditations.


Faced with the many fields of research opening up to him, he decided to dictate his texts in shorthand so that nothing would slow down his thinking. This enabled him to produce a huge number of as yet unpublished texts (over 300,000 pages), far exceeding the few works published during his lifetime.

End of life

From 1933 onwards, Husserl was hit by the anti-Semitic measures promulgated by the Nazis: he was no longer allowed access to the university library and was disbarred in 1936. Nevertheless, he refused to go into exile in the United States.

He gave lectures in Vienna and Prague, and published the first part of The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology.


He died in 1938 in Freiburg. His many unpublished manuscripts were transferred to Louvain to protect them from the Nazi threat. They are still preserved there, at the headquarters of the Husserl Archives.

Main works

Philosophy of Arithmetic
Logical Investigations
The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology
The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness
Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy
Cartesian Meditations