Andreea Smaranda Aldea, David Carr, Sara Heinämaa (Eds.): Phenomenology as Critique: Why Method Matters

Phenomenology as Critique: Why Method Matters Book Cover Phenomenology as Critique: Why Method Matters
Routledge Research in Phenomenology
Andreea Smaranda Aldea, David Carr, Sara Heinämaa (Eds.)

Reviewed by: Matt Burch, Niclas Rautenberg, and Diego Martínez-Zarazúa

Routledge Research in Phenomenology promises cutting-edge, historically informed phenomenological research that enlivens contemporary debates. Phenomenology as Critique: Why Method Matters—edited by Andreea Smaranda Aldea, David Carr, and Sara Heinämaa—delivers on that promise. After a helpful introduction, its 15 original chapters showcase phenomenology’s critical potential across diverse domains, with special emphasis on the tradition’s rich methodological resources.

The volume is a timely contribution with treasures in store for everyone from the verdant novice to the veteran phenomenological researcher. Since we cannot capture its full content in the space available here, we try something else. Dividing the chapters evenly between us (Burch: 2–6; Rautenberg 7–11; and Martínez-Zarazúa 12–16), each of us briefly summarizes their respective section and then explores an important theme, problem, or debate engaged therein. While far from comprehensive, we hope the approach reflects the volume’s potential to enrich, recast, and transform contemporary debates both within and beyond the borders of phenomenological research.

Chapters 2–6: Classical Phenomenology and the Problem(s) of History

Although chapters 2–6 raise many important issues, I will focus on how they contribute to the longstanding debate about the problems history poses for phenomenological research. But first, a brief summary of their contents: David Carr kicks things off in chapter 2 with a characteristically clear and scholarly case that phenomenology is best understood as a critical method designed to answer not the question of metaphysics (What exists?), nor the question of epistemology (How can we know what exists?), but rather a distinctive question staked out by Husserl, namely, Of what exists, or may exist, how is it given, and what are the conditions of the possibility of its being so given? In chapter 3, Michela Summa explores the important and under-researched topic of the epistemic function of exemplarity in critical philosophy, highlighting important parallels between Kant and Husserl’s respective approaches. Julia Jansen follows this up in chapter 4 with a lucid account of Husserl’s phenomenological method, showing how it enables four fundamental types of critique, which, she argues, could enrich an array of critical and normative projects. In chapter 5, Andreea Smaranda Aldea makes the case that Husserl’s mature phenomenology is radically critical, and she endeavors to clarify the conditions for the possibility of its distinctive critical character, namely, a “self-reflexive thinking of a specific kind: imagining reflection” (62).  Finally, in chapter 6, Mirja Hartimo argues that, with the practice of Besinnung, Husserl furnishes us with a hermeneutic method that we can use in conjunction with transcendental phenomenology to critique contemporary practices.

So, what is the debate about history to which these chapters contribute? In truth, it’s a cluster of related debates. Critics have argued that history throws up a host of problems that classical phenomenological methods cannot handle or, in many cases, even detect. For a non-exhaustive but representative list of such problems, critics argue that classical phenomenology:

  • Is blind to the socio-historical preconditions of its own activity (Horkheimer 1972 [1937], 190).
  • Lacks resources to criticize historical practices and “world-disclosures” (Tugendhat 2011 [1970]).
  • Fails to appreciate how inquirers find themselves “in medias res,” caught in history’s sway, interpreting phenomena, rather than grasping them in complete evidential fulfillment (Ricoeur 1975, 91).
  • Tends to elide the material, empirical, and historical conditions of experience (Alcoff 2000, 39).
  • Often illegitimately assumes that “we can separate out what is empirical from what is transcendental in the mixture of experience” (Al-Saji 2017, 146).
  • Fails to tackle the “quasi-transcendental, historically-grounded study of particular lifeworlds” (Guenther 2021, 5).
  • Cannot reliably bring deep-seated historical biases into view (Cerbone 2022).

Since most of these criticisms target Husserl’s phenomenology, a reader who took them at face value would be forgiven for believing that phenomenology’s inventor was borderline oblivious to the challenges posed by history.

Dispelling that belief is one of the major goals of Phenomenology as Critique. According to its editors, the belief that Husserl’s phenomenology is fundamentally ahistorical is one of several “widespread misconceptions” that “classical- and existential-phenomenological authors have already discussed in detail and patiently corrected” (7). Husserl was profoundly preoccupied with the problems history posed for phenomenological research. If meaning is historically transmitted, he worried, then reflecting on the pre-given world with the epoché and reduction would never deliver a complete account of meaning-constitution, because our reflective standpoint is saturated with sedimented historical meanings that rarely come to explicit awareness. Thus, as scholars have discussed for decades now (e.g., see Aguirre 1970; Carr 1974; Welton 1983), in his writings from 1917–1921, Husserl distinguished between “static” and “genetic” methods: static phenomenology consisted of synchronic constitutive analyses of how phenomena are given, while genetic phenomenology studied individual subjectivity’s concrete diachronic self-temporalization by analyzing developmental, associative phenomena like habit formation. What’s more, in the 1930s, Husserl pioneered another methodological approach that Anthony Steinbock (1995a; 1995b; 2017) has dubbed “generative phenomenology.” The method is “generative” in the sense that it studies the “constitution of normatively significant lifeworlds” over the course of generations, thereby uncovering “the dimension of sense-constitution which takes place historically, geologically and intersubjectively” (Steinbock 1995b, 59).

For the editors’ of Phenomenology as Critique, then, the apparent problems mentioned above stem not from Husserl’s failure to come to terms with history, but rather from his critics’ failure to appreciate the historical development of his thought in depth and detail. Of course, many of Husserl’s critics have studied this dimension of his work closely; they just think it lacks critical import in some important respect(s). Thus, the volume aims to challenge that belief too.

Carr’s contribution helps undercut the belief that Husserl’s phenomenology is fundamentally ahistorical. Towards the end of chapter 2, he notes a fundamental ambiguity in the Crisis’s portrayal of Galileo’s impact: on the one hand, Husserl maintains that, although Galileo changed the way we think about the world, we still live in the same world as our forebears; on the other hand, Husserl implies that Galileo’s thought in fact changed the pre-given world, and so we are not in the exact same world as our forebears. In other words, the “lifeworld varies historically” (Carr 23). “So,” Carr writes, “if phenomenology is a critique of everyday experience […] then it would seem appropriate to ask: whose ordinary experience, and when? That is, in what historical context?” (ibid.; Carr’s emphasis). From this perspective, the belief that Husserl was insensitive to the historical dimension of meaning-constitution loses credibility.

What about the second belief, namely, that the way Husserl handles history lacks critical bite? In the chapters I covered, Aldea and Hartimo do the most to challenge this belief. Building on some of their earlier work (Aldea 2016; Hartimo 2018), they argue that Husserl’s method of Besinnung makes classical phenomenology capable of radical historical critique. I cannot cover every aspect of their complex accounts here; nor can I trace the parallels between their work and the wider scholarly literature on Husserl’s genetic and generative methods; instead, I try to synthesize what I see as the compatible aspects of their accounts into a rough picture of Husserl’s method for historical critique.

In that picture, Besinnung is a method designed to reflect on, critically evaluate, and revise our practices. Hartimo recommends that we think of Besinnung as one of the various attitudes identified by Husserl. Just as the naturalistic and personalistic attitudes enable us to see the world from a determinate cognitive standpoint, Besinnung gives us access to “a teleological-historical world” (Hartimo 80). In this attitude, the inquirer begins with a target practice in its “present-day form,” and then looks “back at its development,” moving “forward and backward in a zigzag pattern” (Hua VI 59/58 cited by Aldea 57). The “zigzag” here refers to the method’s recursive character. Looking back to the beginnings of the practice, the inquirer attempts to discern its original goals and purposes, not just as a matter of intellectual history but also through an act of empathy with its original practitioners; then the inquirer considers their interpretations of the practice’s past against the reality of its present; and they repeat this process recursively across the practice’s historical development. In this way, the inquirer works through the “layers of sedimented meanings, values, norms, commitments, and goals […] that condition our experience of the lifeworld as well as our own theoretical work” (Aldea 57).

This teleological-historical inquiry becomes radically critical in conjunction with transcendental phenomenology. Besinnung reveals the goals and purposes of a practice that typically remain sedimented in consciousness as habitual beliefs; and transcendental phenomenology allows us to evaluate the “genuineness” of “the normative commitments, goals, and values […] inherited from the previous generations” (Hartimo 91). Thus, the approach puts the phenomenologist in position to recommend revisions to contemporary practice.

Although it paints a promising picture of classical phenomenology’s resources for historical critique, it would be premature, I think, to say that this line of research can defuse the diverse criticisms highlighted above. What’s more, in addition to disagreements with classical phenomenology’s critics, I think Aldea and Hartimo should expect pushback from phenomenologists who find Husserl’s historical methods unappealing. Specifically, although Aldea assures us that the “self-reflective reflection [of Besinnung] […] remains transcendental-eidetic through and through” (62), and Hartimo concurs (81), others might demur.

Is Besinnung consistent with Husserl’s claim that the epoché rules out speculation, construction, and guesswork? Can it satisfy his demand that every phenomenological claim rest on evidence that the inquirer and their interlocutors can redeem for themselves from the first person-perspective? Can the phenomenologist first-personally grasp the sub-psychic genesis of sedimented meanings and the cultural-historical transmission of generational meaning, or do such analyses invariably rely on conjecture?

Perhaps more importantly, is Besinnung consistent with what contemporary practitioners think phenomenology ought to be? Some phenomenologists might think Besinnung sounds too much like armchair social science. And rather than speculating about the historical development of social practices and sedimented generational meaning, they might prefer to collaborate with researchers in the human sciences, or at least to draw heavily on their work. In other words, they might prefer to tackle the tasks identified by Aldea and Hartimo with a division of labor more like the one Jansen describes in her contribution. Building on a distinction I draw between core phenomenology and applied phenomenology (Burch 2021), Jansen describes critical phenomenological work as “a mode of applied phenomenology that focuses on problems that require interdisciplinary research (mostly, but not exclusively, in the human sciences)” (54). Why prefer Besinnung to this kind of interdisciplinary approach?

Although Steinbock’s contribution does not occur in my section, he offers a powerful answer to this question that should be mentioned here. Phenomenologists should prefer Besinnung, because “phenomenology—as Selbstbesinnung (first-person singular or plural) and as generative—takes subjective and intersubjective experience as the touchstone for clarifying the meaning of social praxis and the norms generated within that human activity”; thus, it “describe[s] human crises critically in terms of political, cultural, psychic, sub-psychic, emotional, and aesthetic relations, etc., as they are lived through and not only as externally generated in a particular domain” (157, Steinbock’s emphasis). If true, this is indeed an excellent reason to prefer a thoroughgoingly phenomenological approach.

But is it true? Some will argue that Husserl’s historical methods target phenomena that lie beyond the reach of first-person reflection, and so they run afoul of his own demand for first-person evidence, morphing instead into a kind of a quasi-Hegelian project of rational reconstruction.

I will not pretend to settle such complicated matters here; instead, I will simply conclude by saying that this volume offers rich resources to help us think them through. It will no doubt enliven and enrich the ongoing debates about these issues for years to come.

Chapters 7–11: Critical Phenomenology vs. Classical Phenomenology: Between Redundancy and Revolution

The second section—as drawn by us in this review—follows naturally from the first. The authors pick up the discussion on phenomenology’s capacity to critically address the socio-historical and political dimension of the lifeworld. Connected to this matter, though chapters 7–11 also discuss topics that merit their own discussion, we find a common thread uniting all of them: i.e., an exciting—and fruitful—dialogue on the merits and distinct features of “critical phenomenology” (CrP hereafter) compared to “classical phenomenology” (ClP).

While a consensus definition of CrP is still missing (see discussion below), we can identify some core commitments of the project: (1) it signals dissatisfaction with ClP’s transcendental techniques of inquiry and (2) champions a move to a quasi-transcendental analysis of particular lifeworlds situated in malleable, but relatively stable socio-historical structures; (3) its target are structures of power and oppression (e.g., white supremacy, heteronormativity, capitalism); and (4) it has the political impetus to dismantle these structures (e.g., Guenther 2021; Weiss, Murphy & Salamon 2020). In a recent paper, Lisa Guenther argues that these features, among others, render CrP a distinct enterprise (Guenther 2021, 5–6). In chapters 7–11, we see this claim of CrP’s status critically addressed in various ways. In the following, I will reiterate them not in the order they appear in the book, but along a spectrum that leads from a more reserved attitude towards CrP to a more assertive one.

In chapter 7, Lanei M. Rodemeyer argues that CrP is distinct neither in method nor in content from ClP. On the former, albeit targeting the quasi-transcendental instead of the transcendental, CrP still applies a method starting out from experience and revealing the structures that enable that experience (Rodemeyer 103). Regarding its subject matter, Rodemeyer holds that classical phenomenologists such as Husserl, Heidegger, or Merleau-Ponty were already invested in revealing the ego’s socio-historical embeddedness and employed these inquiries to effect social change (103–5). Rodemeyer closes her chapter with a historical analysis of Husserl reception, which she deems to fall prey to misconceptions thwarting a clearer view on the critical potential of Husserlian phenomenology (106ff.).

In a similar vein, Steinbock’s chapter 10 highlights the transformative aspects already operative in ClP. In understanding the ego as a sense-maker that takes part in the constitution of meaning, ClP reveals the inherent responsibility of the self in this social process (Steinbock 155–6). Following this insight, Steinbock sketches the motivation to move beyond the natural attitude and towards phenomenological critique, locating it in a (qualified) free thinking founded in a “mindful discernment of the heart” (162–6). Phenomenological investigation is here not understood as concerned with static objects, but as generative, engaged in an “attentive reflexion within experiencing, while this experience is ongoing” (165).

Alice Pugliese’s chapter 11 marks a transition from “pure” phenomenological debate towards dialogue with other schools of thought and methodologies. Debunking the common prejudice that Husserl’s oeuvre lacks the resources to tackle ethical and socio-political issues (Pugliese 170–1), she provides an interesting reading of phenomenology that could serve as a complementary position in ethics and political theory alongside the likes of deontology, utilitarianism, and critical theory. Introducing a “critical phenomenological public ethics,” she demonstrates how noetic and genetic analysis can contribute to the understanding of trust in the public sphere.

Chapter 8 presents a noticeable shift; instead of arguing for the superfluousness of CrP, Sara Heinämaa defends the tools of ClP—the epoché, eidetic and phenomenological-transcendental reduction, and the first-person approach—from critique by CrP and post-phenomenology. Heinämaa identifies two interpretations of this criticism (Heinämaa 115–6): either they mean to say that we need to move beyond (some of) ClP’s techniques in individual investigations; or these techniques are dispensable tout court. Leaving aside—and somewhat accepting—the first reading (116), Heinämaa provides a brief but informative recap on the debate on (particularly Husserlian and Merleau-Pontian) theories of embodiment, in which she convincingly argues for the value and necessity of “traditional” forms of phenomenological inquiry.

Finally, in chapter 9, Depraz sketches a view that is arguably furthest away from Rodemeyer’s, claiming that phenomenology should be subject to constant transformation. She distinguishes a conservative, “archivistic” self-understanding of phenomenology that merely maintains secured knowledge, from a “creative-constructive” attitude that moves towards the new and risky, at the cost of the researcher’s vulnerability and the provisionality of findings (Depraz 148). Claiming that phenomenology could only be neutral, unsituated, and apolitical in the “mythical mind of a child” (ibid.), she urges phenomenologists to embrace this circumstance and consider new avenues of thought. Two of these are CrP and micro-phenomenology, i.e., the analysis of the experience of specific subjects in a given moment in time and space (141), with Depraz arguing that both in conjunction provide a fruitful progression from ClP.

If there is one conclusion we can draw from this discussion, it is this: CrP’s project is yet to be determined.[1] Chapters 7–11 provide nuanced and varied positions on a debate that is at the time of this review still riddled with mutual misconceptions and, at times, staunchly extreme positions. One such misconception seems to rest on the role of transcendental phenomenology in CrP: while many critical phenomenologists do not deny its value (e.g., Guenther 2018, 49; 2021, 10, 20; Salamon 2018), much of the current debate seems to suggest that the quasi-transcendental is the only or true center of its methodology. I already noted that Heinämaa’s contribution to this volume presents a powerful antidote to this misconstrual. Similarly, Rodemeyer shows that the work of ClP can provide a valuable methodological foundation for critical investigations (Rodemeyer 105–6). Yet, when it comes to the target of CrP, i.e., the quasi-transcendental, socio-historical structures forming and formed by praxes of power, we might want to ask, pace Rodemeyer, if these nonetheless constitute a feature rendering CrP methodologically distinct from ClP?

In this vein, we can also ask what the status of CrP is or will be in the philosophical and wider academic landscape; will it be an updated and modified phenomenology (reparative reading); a decided break from phenomenology (abolitionist reading);[2] will it prove to be superfluous (conservative reading); or will it in fact be recognized as an inter­-disciplinary project (collaborative reading)?[3] The latter seems particularly enticing, as it offers venues for mutual critique and stimulation, without thereby questioning the raison d’être of either side. Hence, phenomenology would not only support other disciplines, as Steinbock suggests (Steinbock 157); it would remain open to be interrogated by them, challenged, as Depraz notes in her chapter (Depraz 142). For instance, other disciplines can put phenomenology to the test whether its formulation of a structure really is universal, or only a situated and incomplete description.[4] This image does away with phenomenology’s old aspiration, as we can find it in Husserl’s Crisis, of grounding all other sciences. Rather, it champions a pluralist view that regards phenomenology as part of a horizontal academic fabric geared towards understanding the human condition.[5]

Another question surrounds the meaning of critique that CrP envisions.[6] Is ClP really critical enough? We might ask, for instance, if Husserl’s goal to change the sciences, Heidegger’s remarks on historicity, or Merleau-Ponty’s interventions in psychology and psychiatry, as listed by Rodemeyer (104), reach the ramifications of social critique that is integral to CrP—expressed in an activist and emancipatory impetus to wholesale dismantle systemic injustice? (In a way, Rodemeyer answers this question herself when she, for instance, talks of Husserl’s quite patriarchal discussion of the family [106].) Or does this way of thinking rest on a conflation of the political and the methodological—despite critical theory’s insistence on the impossibility of such a separation?

Finally, what about the works of authors such as Simone de Beauvoir? Are these really exemplary of ClP, as Rodemeyer writes (104), or rather testimony to a CrP avant la lettre? Depraz’s discussion of Beauvoir’s work on gender (145)—one would also have to mention Fanon’s work on racism and colonialism—suggests the latter.

While these questions can be settled neither by this review nor by the volume it discusses, the chapters I had the pleasure to read provide valuable impulses to this debate and beyond.

Chapters 12–16: Phenomenology in Dialogue with Social Philosophy

In this last set of chapters, all but one (that of Timo Miettinen, who concentrates exclusively on Husserl) attempt to open a dialogue between the Husserlian figure of phenomenology and two authors not often associated with it, but prevalent in the critical discourse of social philosophies: Marx (or Marxian-inspired thinkers) and Foucault.

In chapter 12, Nicolas de Warren directs our attention to how much—or rather how little—criticism actually assumes worldliness and thus “a common horizon with that which it seeks to critique” (de Warren 189), all the more so when the current situation is defined by what might be referred to as a loss of worldliness (Weltverlust), which results from what, following Guy Debord, he calls the society of the spectacle. De Warren thus expounds the societal conditions upon which critique would have to be developed in the first place (or, rather, where it might have just become impossible), drawing from a wide range of sources and examples, from Edgar Madison Welch’s notorious case of paranoia and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men to the Marxian dialectics of the commodity-form. Then comes Christian Lotz in chapter 13 with an inquiry into the best hermeneutical strategy to approach Marx’s oeuvre, especially Capital. Lotz claims to find such a strategy in the phenomenological approach, rather than in the Hegelian interpretations of Marx, which he in turn subjects to a thorough critical assessment. He concludes that “critique,” in Marx’s project of a Critique of Political Economy, must be understood in the Kantian or phenomenological—and thus non-Hegelian—sense of defining the inner limits of its object, in this case the capitalist society.

Next, we have Timo Miettinen’s chapter; as I mentioned, the only one in this set of chapters that discusses Husserlian thought exclusively. In his piece Miettinen describes the later Husserl’s dealings with tradition, and how phenomenological reflection must grasp its historical belonging if it is to become radical, rather than trying to overcome or eliminate it. Miettinen thus describes the “transition from the critique of the present moment to a teleological understanding of philosophy” (Miettinen 225), a shift that doubtlessly influenced generations of phenomenologists and post-phenomenological thinkers alike.

Finally, the book closes with two chapters that deal in their own way with questions concerning Foucault’s relation to phenomenology and its critical potential. Chapter 15, by Sophie Loidolt, outlines different forms of critique and shows how these are prevalent in both Foucault and a handful of representatives of phenomenology, especially Husserl, but also Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and Arendt. She does this by taking as a point of departure three paradigmatic forms of critique: the “presupposition/justification” model (traditionally exemplified by Plato or Kant, as well as by Husserl), the “immanent tensions” model (Hegel-type, but later also present in French existentialism), and the “genealogical” model (as developed by Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault). The closing chapter of the book, by Maren Wehrle, consists of a comparative reading of Husserl and Foucault that seeks to underscore their shared goal: “to strengthen the human capacity for reason as a critical means of theoretical and practical reflection” (Wehrle 252). Wehrle convincingly presents some interesting parallels between the two philosophers, who are often seen to pursue conflicting goals. But Husserl and Foucault, Wehrle argues, fundamentally target the same issue, albeit from opposite but complementary perspectives: “the problem of subjectivity, which is both constituting,” as Husserl stresses, “and constituted,” as Foucault does for his part (Wehrle 259).

It is to some of the issues touched upon in the chapters of Miettinen, de Warren, and Lotz that I would like to devote the remaining lines of our book review.

As I mentioned, Miettinen’s chapter sets out to understand Husserl’s relation to history and tradition. In the later stages of his thinking, Husserl subscribed to the idea that radical phenomenological reflection, rather than attempting to do away with historical embeddedness—as though it were a burden one would do well to leave behind in favor of an absolute beginning, as it appears to have been for the early Husserl—must instead, if it is to be truly radical, gain its ground by “taking possession of the whole of the tradition” through a “critical ‘questioning back’ (rückfragen) of the present moment” (Miettinen 228–229). Miettinen thus shows us the itinerary through which Husserl passes, if I may use philosophical clichés, from being a philosopher of Cartesian inspiration to being one of Diltheyan inspiration. The author does so by pointing to a shift in Husserl’s own intentions, namely, from establishing a starting point free of presuppositions (Voraussetzungslosigkeit) to assuming presuppositions (i.e., tradition and history) as the inescapable task for a radical philosophy. It would be the itinerary, I am inclined to think, through which Husserl blazed the trail for the philosophical generation to come—the names of Heidegger and Gadamer come forcibly to mind—very much in keeping with his idea of philosophy as a generational undertaking. Miettinen’s chapter thus contributes to the understanding of the more general relationship between phenomenology (certainly not only in its Husserlian figure) with history and tradition.

Now, if Miettinen’s suggestion is that philosophical thought must take root in the historical lifeworld, Nicolas de Warren’s piece would show why such an effort is bound to fail given the current societal condition of spectacle. The spectacle is defined as “the commodity form of the image” (de Warren 192). And nothing is real, de Warren writes, “until it has become commodified into an image, which, as the original form of objectivity, not only structures the interaction between objects and subjects but also subjects in relation to each other” (de Warren 193). However, submitting to the conditions of “the spectacle” comes at a cost. I would say it is precisely the cost that Marx had already described as the contradiction in the commodity-form, that is, the fact that the real is denied because (abstract) exchange value always comes at the expense of a (concrete) use value. Likewise, the spectacle would consist in a farce and is therefore something unreal (much like the value-form, “a phantom-like objectivity”). However, in a society of the spectacle, all that is is precisely as spectacle, which means that it attains its being insofar as it falsifies itself. Thus, the social dynamics described by de Warren work in such a way that—similarly to the dialectical negation of use value by exchange value—real and phenomenological experience “becomes displaced by the anti-phenomenology of the spectacle” (de Warren 192). Hence the “loss of worldliness” that de Warren mentions, which elsewhere I have referred to as “the impoverishment of the lifeworld” (Martínez-Zarazúa 2022).

It seems to me that some of the issues addressed in Miettinen’s and de Warren’s chapters illustrate well why a phenomenological interpretation of Capital is called for. And that is precisely what Christian Lotz, here as elsewhere (2022, 2013), has set out to do, indeed, as have several scholars in recent years (to name just a few: Angus 2022, 2021; Martínez-Zarazúa 2022; Westerman 2019; Martínez-Marzoa 2018; Martínez-Matías 2014. It would appear that we Martínez are prone to this line of questioning). Lotz intends to show that, according to his own words, “a renewed, thorough, and sober phenomenological reading of Marx’s philosophy […] can be done best through 1) moving Marx away from a Hegelian framework, 2) understanding the concept of critique as an attempt to de-naturalize social phenomena and as disclosure, and 3) showing that Marx’s concept of philosophy, his method, as well as his understanding of technology, are forms of ‘disclosure’” (Lotz 208). I believe that Lotz makes a convincing case for all three points—moreover, the idea of Marx’s philosophy as a form of disclosure is a key finding that goes rather unnoticed in English-speaking scholarship—but I disagree somewhat with the first point.

Lotz seeks to disengage his reading of Marx from Hegel because of what he takes to be Hegel’s attempt to transcend finitude. In turn, he appears to find Kantian sobriety more promising when interpreting Marx’s work, as Marx himself pursued his scientific endeavors with such an attitude. And so Lotz seems to believe that associating Marx with Hegel would make Marxian thought as unrestrained as Hegel’s, something that would certainly contravene the very limits Marx imposed on his analyses in Capital as well as the phenomenological tenets by which Lotz wants to interpret that work. However, dismissing Hegel outright strikes me as a bit excessive. To approach Marx from a Hegelian standpoint does not necessarily mean raising Marxian thought to an absolute standpoint. One may recognize, for example, the influence of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right in the theory of value presented in Capital, and even resort to the former to offer new perspectives on the latter—especially with regard to the type of sociality involved by the presence of the commodity-thing (cfr. Martínez-Marzoa 2018)—, without having to take on the task of transcending finitude, as Hegel does, for example, in the Phenomenology of Spirit or the Science of Logic. That would be my only reservation about Lotz’s otherwise sound text and his contribution to the project of a phenomenological Marxism.


As we said at the outset, this volume has more to offer than we could cover in a review of this length. We sketched its rich contributions to debates about 1) the problems history poses for phenomenology, 2) the contested status and prospects of critical phenomenology, and 3) the relationship between phenomenology and Foucauldian and Marxist social philosophy; but this really only scratches the surface of its contents. For anyone interested in classical phenomenology’s critical resources, Phenomenology as Critique is required reading.


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———. 2021. “Six Senses of Critique for Critical Phenomenology.” Puncta 4 (2): 5–23.

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Husserl, E. Hua VI. 1954. Die Krisis de Europäischen Wissenschaften und die Transzendentale Phänomenologie, edited by Walter Biemel. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, translated by David Carr. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970.

Lotz, C. 2013. “Reification through Commodity Form or Technology? From Honneth Back to Heidegger and Marx.” Rethinking Marxism 25 (2): 184–200.

———. 2022. “Capital as Enframing: On Marx and Heidegger.” In Marxism and Phenomenology, ed. by B. Smyth and R. Westerman. Lanham: Lexington Books: 151–170.

Martínez-Marzoa, F. (1983) 2018. La filosofía de “El capital”. Madrid: Abada.

Martínez-Matías, P. 2014. “Producto y mercancía: sobre la constitución ontológica de la modernidad a partir de Heidegger y Marx.” Logos. Anales Del Seminario De Metafísica 47: 199–225.

Martínez-Zarazúa, D. 2022. “When Things Impoverish: An Approach to Marx’s Analysis of Capitalism in Conjunction with Heidegger’s Concern over Technology.” Rethinking Marxism 34 (1): 6–24.

Ricoeur, P. 1975. “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics.” Noûs 9 (1): 85–102.

Salamon, G. 2018. “What’s Critical about Critical Phenomenology?” Journal of Critical Phenomenology 1 (1): 8–17.

Steinbock, A. J. 1995a. Home and Beyond: Generative Phenomenology After Husserl. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

———. 1995b. “Generativity and Generative Phenomenology.” Husserl Studies 12 (1): 55–79.

———. 2017. Limit-Phenomena and Phenomenology in Husserl. USA: Rowman & Littlefield.

Tugendhat, E. 2011. Der Wahrheitsbegriff bei Husserl und Heidegger. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Waldenfels, B. 1985. In den Netzen der Lebenswelt. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Weiss, G., A. V. Murphy, and G. Salamon. 2020. “Introduction: Transformative Descriptions.” In 50 Concepts for a Critical Phenomenology, ed. by G. Weiss, A. V. Murphy, and G. Salamon, xiii–xiv. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Welton, D. 1983. The Origins of Meaning: A Critical Study of the Thresholds of Husserlian Phenomenology. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Westerman, R. 2019. Lukács’s Phenomenology of Capitalism: Reification Revalued. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

[1] CrP agrees; e.g., see Weiss, Murphy, and Salamon 2020, xiv.

[2] Both interpretations are discussed in Guenther (2022).

[3] It is in the latter sense—i.e., in the interdisciplinary wedding of phenomenology and critical theory—that Gayle Salamon’s claim that “what is critical about critical phenomenology turns out to have been there all along,” should be understood. In other words, she does not argue that ClP already harnesses all that CrP purports to add to the debate. See Salamon 2018, 12; see also 13.

[4] As already mentioned in Matt Burch’s section above, Jansen argues in this volume that this would render CrP a variant of applied phenomenology (54).

[5] E.g., see Waldenfels 1985.

[6] For a detailed discussion, see Guenther 2021.

Neal DeRoo: The Political Logic of Experience, Fordham University Press, 2022

The Political Logic of Experience: Expression in Phenomenology Book Cover The Political Logic of Experience: Expression in Phenomenology
Perspectives in Continental Philosophy
Neal DeRoo
Fordham University Press
Paperback $32.00

Hanne Jacobs (Ed.): The Husserlian Mind

The Husserlian Mind Book Cover The Husserlian Mind
Routledge Philosophical Minds
Hanne Jacobs (Ed.)
Hardback GBP £190.00

Reviewed by: Mitchell Atkinson III (IFiS PAN)



I am not aware of any recent collection of pieces by Husserl scholars that includes so many of the most important names in the field. Hanne Jacobs has demonstrated an astonishing prowess at organizing not only the material within the text but also in choosing and arranging contributors for this compilation. The book has, in its substance, aspirations to be the definitive introduction to Husserl—and by implication to phenomenological philosophy—in the English language. As philosophers and good critical readers, we must assess these aspirations in light of the works we already have while attempting to bring Husserl to a wider readership within and outside of the academy.

Perhaps it’s appropriate to examine for a moment the question why one makes such a fuss over Husserl in the first place. There has been a line of discussion in phenomenology, and several “post”-phenomenological disciplines, that makes of Husserl a sort of spastic Cartesian, chastised by Frege for psychologism, flailing ineffectually between an outdated dualism, an outdated essentialism, and a metaphysics he dare not name. This sort of dismissal can be found among so-called analytic as well as continental philosophers, although the level and volubility of the attack tends to differ between the schools. Strong phenomenologists have published doubts of central Husserlian notions, including essence and the epoche. Others have attempted to refine or expand Husserl’s work into new domains of human experience. Still others have attempted to use parts of the phenomenological method to deepen work in adjacent disciplines, most notably the social sciences, psychology, and cognitive science. But the question of Husserl’s value remains, nonetheless. We can ask ourselves, as Adorno’s imagined interlocutor says of Hegel, “Why should I be interested in this?”[1] Are there not many other philosophers, many other more contemporary dealers in concepts whose work will bring me closer to the intellectual promised land? The question is related intimately with the question why one does philosophy to begin with. The money’s no good and hardly anyone reads it. If J.K. Rowling or Stephen King wrote a text on transcendental epistemology, would anyone care to read it? Philosophers, as a group, have given weak answers to the question of the utility of philosophy. Socrates, in line 38a of Plato’s apology, famously says the unexamined life is not worth living. Wittgenstein seems to have thought sometimes that philosophy isn’t good for much at all. Philosophers like Schopenhauer see in philosophy the path to a kind of resignation to the dreariness of life. The existentialists give us angst and its attendant pleasures.  And what of Husserl? How would he answer this question? And might we, if we tease out a possible answer for him, not see something penetrating about what it is that Husserl has to offer us today?

One of the problems with trying to catch hold of Husserl’s motivations for doing his philosophy—and by extension what he thought philosophy could do—is that Husserl wrote so much that had implications for so many disciplines. One need only glance at the list of works in Husserliana to get a sense of the dizzying and perhaps dismaying depth of Husserl’s Nachlass. What this means in practice is that one must always interpret Husserl with a certain air of humility. It is always possible that a new page, maniacally scribbled over in his modified shorthand, will be discovered, and one’s prize interpretation will be sent to pot. This difficulty has been noted before, and it haunts all scholars who choose to tangle with prolific thinkers. There is always the threat of another level or dimension in the work which one has not quite reached, an aspect of the work which, having remained obscure to you for years, comes into focus just in time to obliterate the paper you’re currently writing. If our Husserl presents himself as such a bottomless pit of philosophical insight, perhaps the power of philosophy was for him also bottomless. In which case, the answer to the question, what for Husserl, can philosophy do? would be exceedingly simple: everything.

Now, invocations of “everything” are not so common in good philosophy without adequate justification, and we certainly have not yet provided it. Further, if we take a step back and examine our aims in this little review, we will find a much more satisfying route toward the answer that we seek. It is not an undifferentiated omnipotence that Husserl saw in philosophy. What is more differentiated than the work of Edmund Husserl? Rather it is a multifarious form of experiential description, questioning, analysis and elaboration—according to a sharply defined method—that he sees in philosophy. The value of the activity and method we’ll say ever-so-few words about at the end of this text.

In the meantime, it would be nice to get straight about what it is philosophy can do by Husserl’s lights. It so happens the book currently being reviewed is beautifully structured to do just that. Jacobs’ collection is divided into seven parts: (1) Major works, (2) Phenomenological method, (3) Phenomenology of consciousness, (4) Epistemology, (5) Ethics and social and political philosophy, (6) Philosophy of science, (7) Metaphysics. A naive interpretation of the structure of the book would be that Husserl’s thought fits comprehensively within these categories. To the extent that it does, we can say the book captures the Husserlian mind, thereby living up to its title. Where such a set of categories misses Husserl, where he slips away, may mark territory where this collection refuses to follow him.

Major Texts

The book appropriately opens with an overview of Husserl’s major texts. Pierre-Jean Renaudie writes on the Logical Investigations, Nicolas de Warren on Ideas I, Sara Heinämaa on the Cartesian Meditations, Mirja Hartimo on Formal and Transcendental Logic, and Dermot Moran on The Crisis. We can see the logic in this selection of texts. We begin with Husserl’s first mature philosophical book and end with his last one. We have the lynchpin of the transcendental turn in Ideas I. Sara Heinämaa writes persuasively on Husserl’s egology in the Cartesian Meditations, as well as helping us to contextualize the extent to which Husserl can be called a Cartesian. Heinämaa writes, “Husserl presents Descartes’ doubt as a great methodological innovation which provided the possibility of reforming all philosophy. However, he immediately points out Descartes made a series of fundamental mistakes that blocked the entry to the transcendental field that radicalized doubt laid open” (p. 41). Heinämaa shows that Husserl is a Cartesian in a rather qualified sense, in the sense of having received a limited inspiration in the theme of Cartesian skepticism. The themes in Descartes that are most commonly attacked, most notably a rather untenable mind-body dualism, are not at all operant features of Husserl’s mature philosophy. Nicolas de Warren, in his contribution, tells us something illuminating of Husserl’s approach to doing philosophy. The title of his piece, “If I am to call myself a philosopher,” refers to a line from a 1906 writing in which Husserl, characteristically, sets himself a task in order to gain philosophy as such. While de Warren’s contribution is eminently useful as an elucidation of difficult phenomenological concepts like noesis and noema, the natural and naturalistic attitudes, and many others, perhaps the greatest insight it provides is given in this short quotation. Still in 1906, Husserl was writing things like “If I am to be…” He had not, on some level, settled into an image of himself. Or perhaps better, he was still challenging himself to develop in order to match the philosophical aspirations he held so dear.

When setting out a philosopher as prolific as Husserl’s “major works,” there will necessarily be some difficult omissions. Here, one might like to see a chapter on either the Analysis Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis or Experience and Judgment. In that way, with one or both represented, the importance of the theme of genesis, the technique of genetic phenomenology all told, would receive a fuller exposition. No text as comprehensive as this one can possibly avoid the genetic theme altogether, but it would be helpful to see one of the major genetic texts included with the ”major works.”

Phenomenological Method

The second part of this book is, to my mind, the most important for young philosophers. The method of phenomenology must always be front and center because phenomenology is something philosophers do; it is not a list of conclusions other philosophers have already reached. Those who focus on and reiterate the method as Husserl’s major discovery enact a tradition of phenomenology that allows it to be a living, dynamic branch of philosophical practice as opposed to a stodgy cul-de-sac of philosophical history. In this collection, we have Dominique Pradelle discussing transcendental idealism, Andrea Staiti on the transcendental and the eidetic in Ideas I, Rochus Sowa on eidetic description, Jacob Rump on reduction and reflection, Jagna Brudzińska on the genetic turn, and Steven Crowell on Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. Pradelle’s text is absolutely essential for unlocking the association between Kant and Husserl, and the ways in which Husserl suffers under the Kantian influence. An under-appreciation of the nuances in both thinkers might tempt us to characterize the phenomenological reduction as merely a restatement of Kant’s Copernican revolution. Such a reading would see the Kantian transcendental and the Husserlian transcendental as one and the same; their differences, as philosophers, would be relegated to style and method. Pradelle writes that for Husserl, “Kant discovers the region of pure consciousness or subjectivity, which is not intra-worldly but supra-worldly, which is not objective but constitutes all objectivity, and which is not inserted in the spatio-temporality or causality of the world but is fundamentally different from any worldly entity” (77). But for Husserl, as a central feature of his philosophy, the Kantian thing in itself is inimical to consciousness, a strange exteriority to conscious life that can’t, in the end, have anything whatsoever to do with a philosophy grounded in the transcendental as a method as well as a theme.

Rochus Sowa and Andrea Staiti together help us to clarify the eidetic method as we see it in Husserl. Sowa takes us from Husserl’s insistence that descriptions are facts, due to the factual nature of experience, to an analysis of Husserl’s descriptive eidetic laws which Husserl needs to motivate a view of phenomenology as general enough to undergird other forms of human enquiry. Key to this generality of application is the distinction between empirical concepts and pure descriptive concepts, the latter of which apply to possible or ”thinkable” objects and states of affairs irrespective of their empirical instantiation. Sowa also helps us to see that in eidetic work, the examples brought before the mind, whether objects in the world as experienced or possibilities in phantasy, are not the theme of the analysis; the examples are there to help guide us to an essential relation or an eidetic law. It is against such precise considerations that we can read Andrea Staiti’s contribution on the relation between eidetics and the transcendental. Staiti points to a tendency in the literature to treat the suspension of the being of the world as an instant path to essential description, as if all one had to do was dunk one’s head in the transcendental waters to see the colorful essential fish. This idea is sharply incongruous with Husserl’s work ethic, with his almost superhuman drive to add, distinguish, complexify. At the same time, those who acknowledge the need for eidetic work can draw too sharp a distinction between the transcendental and the eidetic, the implication being that we can pick one or the other to motivate our phenomenology. Staiti concludes that the eidetic and transcendental are “inextricably linked’ (96). Although this may sound obvious, it has implications. Perhaps most importantly, it places rigorous limitations on the degree to which phenomenologists are doing phenomenology when they engage in interdisciplinary work. On Staiti’s view, phenomenologists may have much to say about case-specific, empirically oriented studies in the human sciences but their properly phenomenological contributions will be bound by the transcendental and characterized by the eidetic.

Jagna Brudzinska gives us a penetrating overview of Husserl’s turn to a genetic phenomenology, a development in his thinking that is increasingly seen as crucial for understanding his later works. Brudzinska points out that even today many phenomenologists view the eidetic method as purely static. If phenomenology is meant to be anything like a theory of subjectivity, however, a static methodology is bound to be inadequate. The experience of the subject is dynamic, flowing, changing in our awareness of time’s passage. Brudzinska gives us a quick historical overview, making the claim that the importance of the genetic theme was there for Husserl as far back as the Logical Investigations. From there, Brudzinska develops the expansion of the field of inquiry that the genetic method achieves. She says, “In this context, it becomes possible to take into account not only present and immediately intuitive experiences. In addition to consciousness of the past we also gain the possibility to consider alien and future consciousnesses.” (132). Phenomenology needs this breadth of enquiry if it is to become the philosophy of subjectivity, for experiencing subjects are constituted and constituting in time.

Steven Crowell’s contribution is in many ways a commentary on the other pieces in the methodology section. His aim is to further clarify Husserl’s phenomenology by examining his notion of the transcendental and distinguishing it from Kant’s.

Phenomenology of Consciousness

Although the papers on method are some of the most important in this collection for young philosophers, part three, on consciousness, will no doubt be of interest to many seasoned Husserl researchers. Christopher Erhard introduces us to Husserlian intentionality by exploring three questions, why intentionality matters philosophically, what intentionality is, and finally what the lasting impact of intentionality is. He develops, through a reading motivated by a tight logical style, a view of Husserl’s idealism that shows its fundamental differences from both Kant and Berkeley. Maxime Doyan works through the normative turn in intentionality, citing a normative theme in Husserl’s studies of intentionality that is seldom observed. Doyan identifies the most important norms for this discussion as identity and recognition, identifying them with noema and noesis respectively. This allows a discussion of illusion and hallucination to unfold alongside a Husserlian rejection of the conjunctivist/disjunctivist distinction. Doyan here sides with Zahavi and Staiti, claiming that from the Husserlian view the question whether perceptions, illusions and hallucinations are the same kind of experience hardly makes sense at all.

Lanei Rodemeyer’s work on inner time consciousness is required reading for anyone attempting to understand Husserl and his place in the literature today. In her contribution here, she provides an overview of Husserl’s phenomenology of internal time consciousness, displaying as ever her unique pedagogical powers. She reiterates Husserl’s claim that the phenomenology of time is the most difficult of philosophical topics. Indeed, getting the phenomenology of time in a digestible package is difficult for various reasons. Husserl changed his mind concerning the structure of inner time consciousness in at least one major way and his ideas on time are scattered throughout his works. Rodemeyer treats us to a general introduction to the problem in Husserl, discusses the place of content in inner time consciousness and describes levels of constitution in Husserl. There are few practitioners in contemporary phenomenology as helpful in introducing the reader to Husserl’s work on temporalization.

Chad Kidd, in his contribution, seeks to rescue the theme of judgment from philosophical obscurity. His approach outlines Husserl’s theory of judgment while avoiding a reiteration of the commonplace debates concerning psychologism. Roberto Walton provides us with an excellently researched elaboration of Husserl’s work on language as a ground of the common world. Among the piece’s many useful contents, it stresses the distinction between Wittgenstein’s insistence on language as a “proto-phenomenon” and Husserl’s understanding of prelinguistic modes of consciousness that “condition the general structure of predicative statements” (255). Walton’s work sets the stage beautifully for Phillip Walshes’s text on other minds. Walsh is keenly aware that one of the most common charges against phenomenology is that of solipsism, or even more—Cartesian methodological solipsism. Walsh notes that the problem of intersubjectivity, of the constitution of the other in consciousness, is a fundamental phenomenological problem to which Husserl returned again and again. Zahavi’s chapter on three types of ego is the last in the section on consciousness. Because of Zahavi’s extraordinary precision as a scholar and reader of Husserl, his papers on changes to phenomenology, false starts and complete reversals, are incredibly valuable. Here, he unveils the steps Husserl took from an almost absolute disinterest in the ego concept to placing it so prominently in later works like the Cartesian Meditations. The chapter has extraordinary pedagogical value, not least because Zahavi synthesizes Husserl’s complex egology into the three phases given in the title while at the same time going painstakingly over the important details in the body of the text.


Clinton Tolley’s is the first paper on epistemology in Husserl. Here, he helps us understand Husserl’s project as a clarifying of cognition. This task is placed in a Kantian shadow that Husserl labored in throughout his career. Many of his pages were filled with responses to neo-Kantians like Natorp, Cohen, and Rickert. The chapter helps bring into focus the extent to which Kant’s preoccupation with (human) reason is taken up by Husserl. Walter Hopp begins his work with a nod to the challenge posed by the philosophical zombie. He develops an argument whereby we come to see the notion of unconscious intentionality as absurd on its face. Philipp Berghofer’s seeks to establish the sources of knowledge available in phenomenological work. He provides a typology of knowlege that includes types of object, experience, givenness and evidence. Using these categories, we can better understand the range of knowledges available to philosophical discussion. In John Drummond’s contribution, Husserl’s concept of objectivity is explored. Here, we begin by rejecting any reliance on either subjectivism or objectivism. If these categories, as naive theoretical types, are cast aside, the question of what it is to be an object for consciousness remains. Drummond motivates his discussion with what he calls putative and intersubjective objectivity. Hanne Jacobs, the editor of the volume, makes her contribution by discussing Husserl on epistemic agency. Jacobs uses a reading of Husserl to challenge deflationary accounts of epistemic agency, accounts that would minimize the role of our active participation in the formation of beliefs. Husserl’s emphasis on the centrality of attention in our holding of any proposition to be true as epistemic agents. Jacobs takes the reading of Husserl to the realm of personal responsibility, arguing that, for Husserl, one can be responsible not only for positively held beliefs but also for what one does not believe, doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know.

Ethics, Social, and Political Philosophy

The fifth division of the book collects chapters on ethics, social and political philosophy. One might fault this section for being a kind of grab bag of “social” topics, but in reading the chapters here, one sees how they are inter-related as levels of exploration of the intersubjective theme in Husserl’s phenomenology. Inga Romer imagines Husserl’s history of ethics as a battlefield, pitting reason and feeling against one another. Romer’s text is a deep resource for understanding the works in philosophical history that informed Husserl’s development as an ethical thinker. The chapter also lays bare a tension in Husserl’s sometimes stated aims with respect to formal and material axiology and praxis as a science of ethics and the view of ethics toward which his late phenomenology pulled him. Mariano Crespo situates Husserl’s ethics among his contemporaries, including Lipps, Pfänder and Geiger. In the discussion, Crespo uncovers insights related to live issues in phenomenology, including especially the need for a phenomenology of the will. Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl writes about evaluative experience in prose whose grace is a relief after many turgid lines. Rinofner-Kreidl reminds us that Husserl does not hold that evaluative experiences infringe upon our rationality. The axiology Husserl develops is nonetheless complex, involving top-down formal axiology and formal praxis with bottom-up descriptions of associated experiences. We are even given an analysis of Husserl’s Kaizo articles and a discussion of the complex late ethics, culminating in a teleological view that grants us a universalism, as it were, from within. Sophie Loidolt writes on the fragility of the personal project. Loidolt moves from Husserl’s claim in Ideas II that motivation is the “basic law that governs the life of the person” (393) to a discussion of various topics guiding the debate on personhood and practical agency in Husserlian phenomenology. We end up with the claim that the person for Husserl is not defined as an achieved unity; the person is rather a fragile potential unity, ever missing its ultimate aim. Indeed, Loidolt ends with the rumination that it may only be through the support of others that our fragile projects of personhood can be maintained. Sean Petranovich takes us through Husserl’s work on social groups, exploring Husserl’s mereological work to draw attention to Husserl’s relevance to contemporary discussions regarding mereology and the social. The final chapter in this section of the book is by Esteban Marín-Ávila, discussing Husserl’s conception of philosophy as a rigorous science and its influence on his axiology and ethics. Marín-Ávila tackles the problem of Eurocentrism in Husserl with candor, refusing to dismiss it as an idle charge yet at the same time insisting that a Husserlian ethics, as elaborated in works like the Crisis, have much to say to non-European peoples. Husserl’s unfortunate writings on the impossibility of European peoples “Indianizing” themselves are referenced here, as well as his apparent belief that the achievements of Europe were such as to motivate a kind of rationally motivated mimicry in all other peoples of the world. Marín-Ávila ends with an affirmation of transcendental phenomenology that sees it as an already critical discipline capable of leading us toward a philosophy that matters.

Philosophy of Science

The sixth division of the text takes up Husserl’s work on the philosophy of science. We begin the division with Marco Cavallaro’s text which attempts to outline Husserl’s theory of science and posits a distinction between pure and transcendental phenomenology. Cavallaro sees ”pure” phenomenology as related to the project of a theory of science and transcendental phenomenology as related to ultimate epistemic foundations. Cavallaro is quick to point out this distinction is not made explicitly by Husserl. Jeff Yoshimi is the first in this collection to focus on the deepening field of phenomenological psychology. In this chapter we encounter Husserl’s main contemporary psychological influences (Wundt, Stumpf, Brentano, Dilthey). Yoshimi wants to link phenomenological psychology with transcendental phenomenology, phenomenological with empirical psychology and finally phenomenological psychology with philosophy of mind. One might misconstrue this as an effort to naturalize phenomenology, but it seems Yosimi is after a much more Husserlian move—establishing a transcendental dimension in the philosophies of mind and cognitive science. David Carr’s contribution looks to history as a science and its relation to phenomenology. This piece has pedagogical value as a general introduction to philosophy of history as well as an example of good Husserl scholarship. Carr helps us to see history as a study of the natural attitude in temporal development. Carr’s important Husserlian claim is that in the Crisis phenomenology takes on a decidedly historical character, for it is here that Husserl makes of philosophy as such a human endeavor with a history. The proper description for the historical a priori is something, Carr reminds us, Husserl struggled with until the very end. We are once again in full view of Husserl as a philosopher forever unsatisfied and unwilling to yield to his own limitations. The final contribution on the philosophy of science is Harald Wiltsche’s text on physics. Wiltsche quickly contextualizes the early twentieth century as a time of great upheaval in the sciences, noting above all others the arrival of relativity theory and quantum theory as fundamental disruptions to the way we view the world. He associates these shifts with changes in dominant philosophical discourses. Wiltsche shows that while Husserl himself may have demonstrated limited interest in the cutting edge physics of his day, in the person of a one-time student, Hermann Weyl, Husserlian ideas found their way into the scientific mainstream. Wiltsche also, rightly, points out that the discursive divide between analytic and continental philosophy is still far too robust today, despite our best efforts to pretend its dissolution a thing already achieved.


The final division of the text is devoted to metaphysics. We may find the inclusion of these chapters strange because, as Daniele De Santis points out, Husserl’s relationship to metaphysical philosophy is all-too-often taken for granted. If for no other reasons (and of course there are other reasons) the chapter is useful in that it contributes to the literature refuting the charge that Husserl is a naive metaphysician of presence. De Santis is a systematic thinker whose penetrating Husserl scholarship attempts to make the development of the metaphysical in Husserl something clear and useful for scholars. Claudio Majolino takes on the Herculean task of mapping Husserl’s ontology. The difficulty, as Majolino points out, is that Husserl is so vast and many of his works have ontological elements and implications. Majolino’s work here—using Burnyeat and Aristotle to seek out contours of Husserl’s ontology—is too original for a few lines in a review such as this. The chapter is worth serious study. Timo Miettinen’s contribution begins with a general introduction to the theme of teleology, moving quickly to a detailed exposition of the place of teleology in Husserl’s phenomenology. Miettinen notes the importance of genetic method in exploring the development of experiential structures demonstrating immanent teleological character. This means that early static analyses of teleology were not sufficient given the temporal requirements of goal-directed experience. Miettinen also, here, deepens our understanding of Husserl’s alleged Eurocentrism, responding to an accusation by Derrida that, Miettinen shows, relies on a crucial misreading. One unresolved question in the chapter is whether and how all of Husserl’s teleological descriptions can be subsumed under transcendental phenomenology. The final chapter of the final section of the book is Emiliano Trizio’s paper on teleology and theology. Trizio, more than any other scholar in this compilation, is concerned with Husserl’s investigations of the nature of God and what they can do to deepen our phenomenological understanding. For Trizio, God is a necessary theme of phenomenology. Trizio shows how theology fits within Husserl’s overall phenomenology. And, finally, Trizio develops a non-objectivist reading of Husserl’s most theological passages.

Concluding Remarks

Having commented on these contributions, we are left dizzied by the depth and variety of Husserlian concern. Beginning this review, we confronted two basic questions. The first, Why Husserl?, asks us to assess Husserl as a thinker today. The second, What for Husserl can philosophy do?, is a refinement and extension of the first. What perhaps a collection like The Husserlian Mind gives us is the scope to determine, for ourselves, the answers to these questions. At the very least, we have within these pages the first lengths of many different paths one might take through the mind of Edmund Husserl and accordingly through philosophy as such. In so doing, we can discover for ourselves the value of great minds and the philosophies they make.


Adorno, Theodor W. 1993. Hegel: Three Studies. Translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen. MIT Press.

Husserl, Edmund. 2001. Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis: Lectures on Transcendental Logic. Translated by Anthony J. Steinbock. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

———. 1970. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated by David Carr. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press.

———. 1973. Experience and Judgment. Translated by James Spencer Churchill and Karl Ameriks. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press.

[1] Adorno (1993: 109).

Daniele De Santis: Husserl and the A Priori: Phenomenology and Rationality, Springer, 2021

Husserl and the A Priori: Phenomenology and Rationality Book Cover Husserl and the A Priori: Phenomenology and Rationality
Contributions to Phenomenology, Volume 114
Daniele De Santis
Hardback 114,39 €
XIII, 331

Maren Wehrle: Phänomenologie: Eine Einführung, J.B. Metzler, 2021

Phänomenologie: Eine Einführung Book Cover Phänomenologie: Eine Einführung
Philosophische Methoden
Maren Wehrle
J.B. Metzler
Softcover 22,35 €

Giovanni Jan Giubilato: Freiheit und Reduktion. Grundzüge einer phänomenologischen Meontik bei Eugen Fink (1927-1946)

Freiheit und Reduktion. Grundzüge einer phänomenologischen Meontik bei Eugen Fink (1927-1946) Book Cover Freiheit und Reduktion. Grundzüge einer phänomenologischen Meontik bei Eugen Fink (1927-1946)
Ad Fontes, Vol. 8
Giovanni Jan Giubilato
Verlag Traugott Bautz
Hardback 45,00 €

Reviewed by: Cathrin Nielsen (Frankfurt / Eugen-Fink-Zentrum Wuppertal – EFZW)

Die in der Reihe Ad Fontes vorgelegte herausragende Studie von Giovanni Jan Giubilato befasst sich mit der Freilegung und Ausbuchstabierung einer Zusammengehörigkeit, die bereits bei Husserl angelegt ist, jedoch erst im Denken seines Schülers und Assistenten Eugen Fink explizit in Erscheinung tritt: dem dialektischen Aufeinanderverwiesensein von Reduktion und Freiheit. Finks Grundgedanke besteht darin, dass der immer neu zu vollziehende Entwurf der menschlichen Freiheit den eigentlichen Kerngedanken der Phänomenologie markiere: die Reduktion als diejenige Bewegung, die uns von der natürlichen Einstellung befreit und ihre Beschränktheit überwinden lässt. Das originäre Telos der Philosophie ist somit die Freiheit des Menschen, nicht formal, sondern als „transzendentale“, absolute Dimension wie zugleich in existenzieller Je-Meinigkeit.

Giubilato entfaltet diesen Gedanken im Durchgang durch die frühe phänomenologische Meontik Finks, die in Form von zahllosen Notizen – durchgespielten, weiterverfolgten oder aber verworfenen Denkansätzen – seit 2006 in den von Ronald Bruzina im Rahmen der Eugen Fink-Gesamtausgabe edierten Bänden Phänomenologische Werkstatt (3.1 und 3.2) vorliegen. Dabei konzentriert sich Giubilato auf die Jahre der Zusammenarbeit mit Husserl und damit auf die Profilierung von Finks eigenem philosophischem Standpunkt. Zugleich hat er immer auch das Spätwerk im Blick und bahnt fruchtbare Schneisen in Finks Kosmologie. Gerade zu Klammer und Kontinuität zwischen Finks Denken vor und nach der Zäsur des Zweiten Weltkrieges gibt es bislang nahezu keine monografischen Arbeiten, so dass mit Giubilatos Dissertation ein unverzichtbarer Grundstein gelegt sein dürfte.

Im ersten Kapitel (Von der Transzendentalphilosophie zur Meontik) wird Finks in kritischer Auseinandersetzung mit dem transzendentalen Idealismus Husserls entwickelte Idee einer me-ontischen Philosophie entfaltet. Nach Fink ist diese bei Husserl bereits in Andeutungen vorhanden, ohne dass dieser jedoch den Schritt zur „meontischen Natur der absoluten Subjektivität“ zu Ende gehe. In ihr verschiebt sich die Frage nach der Selbstkonstitution eines absoluten Bewusstseins zu der nach dem Verhältnis zwischen dem nicht seienden Absoluten (me on) und der seienden Welt. Für Fink heißt dieses Verhältnis von Absolutem und seiner weltlichen Erscheinung „Freiheit“. Demzufolge sei die Idee einer me-ontischen Phänomenologie des Absoluten grundsätzlich eine „Lehre von der Freiheit“, deren Auslegung dann die zwei Hauptteile der Untersuchung gewidmet sind.

Warum Freiheit? Damit beschäftigt sich das zweite Kapitel (Der Anfang der Philosophie und die Freiheitsproblematik). Die Frage nach einem methodisch gesicherten Anfang der Philosophie, den Husserl im Blick auf das Ideal der Wissenschaft formulierte, wird bei Fink sukzessive aus seiner nach-cartesischen Verankerung im ego cogito herausgelöst und im Hinblick auf das Problem der Welt enggeführt. Welt erscheint nun nicht mehr als Korrelat einer transzendentalen Subjektivität, sondern als dasjenige, das uns zu einer Besinnung auf unseren Ort aufruft, unserer Verortung sowohl in der Entsprungenheit der binnenweltlichen Manifestation als auch im Unendlichen bzw. dem me-ontischen Ursprung von Welt selbst. Es ist diese Differenz zwischen Absolutem und Endlichem, welche die menschliche Situiertheit in der Welt ausmacht und zugleich die erste Motivation der Philosophie darstellt: als Besinnung auf das im Endlichen ,vergessene‘ Unendliche, das Apriori der Welt, das als me-ontisches nicht in Erscheinung tritt. Diese Besinnung ist im Vollzug Freiheit, da sie die natürliche Einstellung sprengt. Wodurch aber wird die Freiheit zu dieser ,Sprengung‘ motiviert? Mit dieser Frage befasst sich das dritte Kapitel (Die radikale Unmotiviertheit der Philosophie und die Freiheit). Im Horizont der wesenhaft geschlossenen natürlichen Einstellung gibt es nämlich „kein Problem, als dessen Beantwortung sich die Phänomenologie herausstellen könnte“. Das Übersteigen des Endlichen kann mit anderen Worten seinerseits nicht endlich motiviert sein, sondern markiert den Einbruch des Absoluten in die Welt: „Fink bestimmt die Besinnung auf die Weltsituation als eine Er-Innerung. Sie ist in der Tat eine recordatio, eine Anamnesis des vergessenen Weltapriori.“ Die ihr entsprechende Grundstimmung ist nach Fink das Staunen (thaumazein), wobei sich diese Stimmung der Verfügbarkeit menschlicher Freiheit entziehe – wir werden vom Staunen „ergriffen“.

Der zweite Teil der Studie befasst sich folglich mit dem Schlüsselbegriff der phänomenologischen „Meontik als Freiheitslehre“: der „Reduktion als Befreiung“. Im vierten Kapitel (Die Reduktion und ihre Situation) wird nach den Ausgangsbedingungen dieses Vollzuges der Befreiung gefragt, den Fink über eine Analyse der Medialität des Bildbewusstseins als einen medialen Akt für das Erscheinen des Absoluten begreift: In ihm öffnet sich gleichsam ein „Fenster ins Absolute“, das im Ausgang von der „mundanen Äußerungssituation“ in diese zurückstrahlt (und auf sie bezogen bleibt), also unauflösbar zwischen intramundaner Befreiung und Übersteigung der Endlichkeit oszilliert. Inwiefern die weltliche Situation der Reduktion eine wesenhaft unfreie ist, und in welchem Sinne die Reduktion genauer als Befreiung verstanden werden kann, untersucht das fünfte und letzte Kapitel (Weltbefangenheit und Befreiung). Ort der Manifestation des Absoluten, das über diese Manifestation hinaus wie gesagt nicht ist – „Nichts ,ist‘, me on“ –, ist wie gesagt die Welt. Insofern der Mensch als ein ens cosmologicum – ein Weltwesen –, wie der späte Fink sagen wird, existiert, verlangt die strukturelle Analyse den Aufweis einerseits des Weltapriori in der naiv-mundanen Existenz (dies wäre der Aufbruch der Freiheit) wie sie andererseits den radikalisierten Vollzug der Weltbewohnerschaft im Durchgang durch das ,Nichts‘ der Welt darlegt. Dies macht erforderlich, den Weg der Weltkonstitution und unseres Aufenthaltes in ihr als ,Mensch in der Welt‘ gleichsam mit Gewalt gegen das ,natürliche Leben‘ rückwärts zu gehen: Um die „Vermenschung“ des Absoluten zu verstehen, also eine „Ent-menschung“ zu vollziehen, eine periagogés tes psyches. Die Transzendenzbewegung, die im Vollzug der Reduktion erfolgt, habe dabei den Sinn einer „nicht ontischen Vernichtung der ,Maske der existenten Subjektivität‘, die nun durchsichtig geworden ist“.

Mit dem Terminus des „Instandes“ bzw. der „Instände“ (Geschichte, Geburt, Tod, Sein-bei, Schicksal) erarbeite sich Fink ein methodisches Handwerkszeug, um die „Selbstobjektivation des absoluten Lebens“, seine Mundanisierung oder „Ontifikation“ zu fassen. Die „Inständigkeit“ markiert den Ursprung des Dasein, sein Woher (hier arbeitet Giubilato wichtige Aspekte von Finks Auseinandersetzung mit der Fundamentalontologie Heideggers heraus). Ihr letztes Stadium erreicht der reduktive Rückstieg als „Entmenschung“ jedoch in der Befreiung auch von diesen Inständen, in denen sich das Absolute aus seiner radikalen Transzendenz in eine mundane „Stellung im Kosmos“ verendlicht. In der hier stattfindenden me-ontologischen Erkenntnis des Ontologischen (des Seins) können die Strukturen des „Weltsturzes“ (der Endlichkeit) auf eine „konstruktive“ (nicht analytische) Weise – Fink spricht auch von Spekulation – thematisch werden. Die phänomenologische Reduktion wird so zur „me-ontischen Ab-solution“, zur radikalen Loslösung aus der Welt-Befangenheit und Rückführung ins Ursprüngliche, die Welt-Unbefangenheit – nicht im Sinne eines methodischen Kunstgriffes, sondern als „Schmerz des Erwachens“, den sich „der absolute Geist selbst antut“ (Fink-Zitat). Erst als Absolution führt die Reduktion zur Freiheit im Sinne einer ekbasis, eines „Entkommens“.

Der ekbasis als „Ausgang“ aus der erscheinenden Welt korrespondiert umgekehrt die katabasis des Absoluten, seine Selbstentäußerungund emanative Verendlichung in die Welt. Die Idee einer me-ontischen Phänomenologie des Absoluten als Freiheitslehre vervollständigt sich, so Giubilato, „im Gegenspiel zwischen reduktiver ekbasis und konstitutiver katabasis“, zwischen Aufstieg in die Befreiung und Abstieg in die Entäußerung.

Die Entscheidung des Autors, Finks Idee einer me-ontischen Philosophie und Phänomenologie des Absoluten als Lehre von der Freiheit darzustellen, erweist sich als wohldurchdachter Glücktreffer. Mit seiner luziden Genauigkeit, Prägnanz und detaillierten Aufmerksamkeit gelingt es Giubilato nicht nur auf eine ebenso substanziell-gediegene wie faszinierende Weise, Finks ganz eigenen, im kritischen Dialog mit Husserl und Heidegger gebahnten Denkweg aus dem Dickicht tastender Versuche herauszuschälen und zu konturieren. Auch für das Spätwerk – Finks kosmologisches Denken – werden entscheidende Weichen gestellt, allem voran die Einsicht, dass wir „Weltwesen“ sind und bleiben, „Welt“ jedoch selbst durch ein Entzugsmoment charakterisiert ist, welches auf eine näher zu entfaltende Weise auf uns selbst als ,Fragmente‘ ihrer zwiefältigen Differenz zurückweist. Die Fülle miteinander verschränkter Analysen, die Originalität des Zugriffes, die sorgfältige Arbeit am Begriff sowie der Elan und die philosophische Tiefe der Durchführung weisen Giubilatos Untersuchung als einen Meilenstein der Auseinandersetzung mit einem Autor aus, der gerade dabei ist, mithilfe internationaler Unterstützung aus seiner Versenkung in der deutschen Forschungslandschaft herauszutreten.

Larry Davidson: Overcoming Psychologism: Husserl and the Transcendental Reform of Psychology, Springer, 2020

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Panos Theodorou: Husserl and Heidegger on Reduction, Primordiality, and the Categorial

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