Edmund Husserl (book review) Maurice Alexander Natanson

Philosopher of Infinite Tasks


130315: this is a strong five. this has ventured to explain husserl, explicate phenomenology, describe this philosophical attitude and method, far better for me than all the other books read (154) on these subjects- though of course that it works so well might just be all those works read. yes it is an historical document, from 1974, and husserl himself (29) in the early 20th century, but I can see how he is so influential, his work, his techniques, his tasks yet to be completed or superseded, as phenomenology underlies much continental philosophy of the past century...


but am I able to encapsulate his thought as explored in this book, in this review? I will try, simply by following with a gesture towards the chapter titles: 1) introduction, 2) the world of the natural attitude, 3) the phenomenological attitude, 4) phenomenological method, 5) intentional consciousness, 6) phenomenology applied, 7) the life-world, 8) phenomenology and existence, 9) the crisis of reason, 10) conclusion...


1) the order, the themes, natanson follows is very logical, such that even previously enjoyed summaries of husserl seem too brief, too simple, and fail to reflect how much work put into it, the thousands of pages of notes, the way it by close inspection can overcome or correct logical complaints- particularly against charges of obscurantism by those who would see philosophy as a 'positivistic' discourse concerned with metaphysical claims and disputes of ontology, materialism, idealism, skepticism, of natural science- but none of these are husserl's interests, and phenomenology is above or beyond such disputes. phenomenology is the attempt to ground science, to be a 'first science', that cannot found itself...


in 2) there is his idea of the 'natural attitude', how this insistence of subject/object, of the metaphysics borne of this dispute fails to express a true conception of philosophy- this attitude would have us believe the world we think of is independent of 'how' we think of it, how we must participate, 'construct' or 'be constructed', by our minds beyond vagaries of perception, this attitude is how we live, how we pursue scientific knowledge 'naively'... this is the way we humans all live our lives and this is not a bad thing. this is not yet science, however, from which...


3) the phenomenological attitude must free us, the attitude that recognizes all our 'knowledge' of any sort is only our human sense where such concepts as we create are always on the first level of reflection- that level which thinks the world is only as our psychology thinks it in 'psychologism'- not the level of reflection on itself, nothing but our 'representations' of the world, not the 'predicative' but the 'primordial' 'essence' of the 'things themselves'- please be patient, I finished reading this book the first time only yesterday, and doubt my attempts to review it- see, this is the attitude we must employ before the abstractions common to say the natural sciences, these are the abstractions of thought itself, as examined in...


4) the phenomenological method, husserl's technique by which all questions of metaphysics, of what is 'real', is 'bracketed' or put 'in suspension', so the thought concentrates on what is 'eidetic'- that is, 'essential' in the way he uses it- of the phenomena, and here comes the first wonderful description of how this precedes, overcomes, any complaint from the sciences, such as neurology. husserl makes no claims, admits his own ignorance of the causal structures of the brain as it was then known, as it will ever be known by science, because what is reflected on is the mind, the thought, the 'things themselves' and in recognition that first comes...


5) intentional consciousness, which foregrounds the fact of any mental operation, thought, dream, concept, perception- is ultimately 'intentional', that is intending, or being about, of being 'of-' some 'thing' and how we are freed from idealistic worries of both solipsism and skepticism, how everything from 'the world' to 'the other' is 'given', and thus our thinking being, our ego, our selves, are always already 'in the world', through the constant human intentionality of sense and thus we are inescapably 'transcendent'...


6) by 'application' of these techniques of phenomenology, which sets out a critical reflection on reflection, which it is claimed husserl himself critiqued himself, never expressing himself as the arbiter of correctness of the way his idea of phenomenology could be used, though we can set up qualifications of everything thought, has it escaped the natural attitude, has it reduced itself from extraneous aspects to capture essence, has it recognized how it is in the world before thought thinking, all these are questions we can ask of anything calling itself 'phenomenological'...


7) and ultimately, this leads to the 'life-world', world of our human being as distinct from the universe of our human body, our 'corpse'- this definitely confronts, dismisses, any complaint husserl was abstract and obscure and did not care for the human, for this is our 'primordial' world, this is in a sense the 'revenge of the natural attitude'- with attempts to phenomenologically reduce phenomenological reduction! is this possible? how is the natural world how is the phenomenological world? admittedly, I am not a prof, not someone who can explain even this question let alone offer an answer...


8) but maybe existentialism can? well this is actually where my interests in philosophy, and thus phenomenology, began- with sartrean existentialism, so many books ago, years past (decades...), but this book concentrates on the literary expression of this from 'underground', from Dostoevsky, and suggests that the narrator, the unhappy man, howls against religion as an answer for the world, feels abandoned- but cannot find something else to justify his being. yes I have read this book but no the claim, the nihilism implicit, did not then and does not now impress me: the angst of being seems too much turning away from being oneself however that being is...


9) for out of such nihilism rises the 'crisis of european man', which bothered me as a title firstly because it is parochial, ethnocentric, but suppose that is husserl in his time. for 'reason' is not domain of any particular culture, is defined by its universality, its applicability, rather than contingent works of art which are of its time, and I can agree that this is where relativism must be confronted, as husserl himself had to when he wrote his book- after one devastating European war, leading up to another even more global...


10) so, tried the other day to offer evidence for how this book is so good at explaining husserl, to a friend at another coffeehouse- by finding a few sentences on page 65: 'the turn from fact to essence will be called the eidetic reduction', and 'the movement from believing-ness to transcendental subjectivity will be called the phenomenological reduction'. great, isn't it? well it did not work for him, but definitely does for me...



0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o