Husserl (book review) David Woodruff Smith

(The Routledge Philosophers)


250317 this is a much much much much much later note: i read this review again and saw that i did not 'name' the 'eidetic' reduction: this is finding the core, the essence, of any 'thing'- which means objects, artwork, utensil, tool, relationships, etc- and i think this book covers it and i just forgot to mention it by name- see 'essences' below...


250317 this is a much much much much later addition: it is amazing that i read this first about 5 years ago! and evidently loved it, though when i reread this review i become aware that my understanding of husserl (30 books) and phenomenology (152) has definitely progressed, and though exposed to some valid criticism i am deciding to read the man's work itself, no longer worried that i might find it difficult after 'crisis' [book:Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology|312730] , his last big work, but my favourite intro books by natanson [book:Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks|1857248] and zahavi [book:Husserl's Phenomenology|373521] are informed by all this reading and phenomenology as a style of thought remains for me very engaging...


this is a much much much later addition: when i think of all the 'continental' philosophy read, mostly phenomenology, i have come to rethink husserl's rather unconscious original percept- the unquestioned unity of this 'consciousness' which, from deleuze, seems better understood as not an essential, unified perspective, on the various worlds phenomenology describes as 'how', but that this is also a constructed stance. that is, descartes has a lot to answer for, in giving us the idea the 'i' comes first and is not also of various strands of Being woven together, so tightly, so invisibly, we might just not pause to reflect on its apparent univocal nature. i believe husserl does address this unthought prejudice of descartes, does refer to 'constitution' of consciousness, and how his argument on the self, the worlds created, is not hampered by impression of solipsism but always already requires that there are Others to validate our being-in-the-world... but does he escape descartes, i am uncertain...we need to reflect on reflection on reflection...


this is a much much later addition: i have read more and more, even such postmodernist such as deleuze, and someone's assertion that all continental thought derives some of its core power from husserl's 'phenomenological reduction', seems exact, even as i now read bergson, even as i am fascinated by this other style of thought... there is an entire other tradition yet to read- 'analytic'- but none of this dampens my enthusiasm for husserl, however sketchy, introductory, this book remains a five...


this is a much later addition: if truly this is a favourite, if i truly do love husserl's thought, if i enjoy thinking this way... why is much of his work so difficult to read? i have now read the introduction to 'crisis...', read the 'Cartesian meditations', but it is not getting easier (2016 have now read 'the crisis of european sciences and transcendental phenomenology', which is great, but not read any of 'ideas') though i have read also on him- at the moment reading ricouer's work on husserl's phenomenology... but even so, his work as interpreted by others is not easier. i have heidegger's problems of phenomenology to read, maybe this will help, but maybe this graduate introductory text is not clear as thought... or just maybe i do not understand as much as thought? well read on, read on...


220612 first review: this is what i have looked for all those years (decades...) since i first read kant in that survey course at u: this is the philosophy i have searched for, the method, the logic, the phenomenology, the ethics...


i have only read this once, yet rate it five. and i suppose i should not be surprised: i read one of those continuum guides for the perplexed on husserl in one long flight, that in fascination with his work did not seem nearly as long. but then much of the pleasure is context-specific, depending on where i was going and why. i have read so many texts since. i passed through some philosophy of..., I have read more guides for the perplexed, i have read some survey texts, but it is now after i have read sartre, merleau-ponty, heidegger, de beauvoir, and henri bergson, only now, can i believe i understand his thought to some extent...


and what thought. i had once thought i did not like math, once thought spinoza was dry, analytic philosophy was too much like reading math. i have to revise that. i am fascinated by logic- of the sort husserl invents, applies, finds, in what he called his logical investigations. there is no greater praise than that a given book spurs you to read on other books. but i do not want to say it is husserl's philosophy alone i enjoyed. this book is clear, precise, accessible, and above all- logical...


this book argues we can build and connect all those ranges of philosophical thought- ontology, logic, epistemology, ethics- by understanding the persistent influence and style even, of h's original method. this is known as the 'epoche', the 'bracketing', of the phenomenological reduction. this is to suspend the 'natural attitude', that the world exists independent of our senses, in order to investigate the content of first person subjective consciousness- this is not simply idealism or empiricism or even kant's wonderful categories of intuition, the major thought of transcendental idealism before h...


'epoche' means that this science of phenomenology that husserl has devised, takes as its subject matter, without recourse to theories, deductions, structures, even of a priori meaning- the objects of thought. these are 'the things themselves'. and these objects are as much how the objective world is constituted in perception, not there created, but there how it will be understood, how it will be sensed...


husserl is not simply an idealist. h is a lapsed mathematician, and if nothing else from this book i have discovered how very logical i can be. there are 'essences', not alone material but also action. h treats the world objects sensed according to three broad regions: consciousness, nature, and culture. these are all of the one moment and not sequentially. these are all necessary. phenomenology examines them all without prejudice. h does not denigrate our senses providing evidence, but insists that mathematization of the world has led us astray, has separated us from the lived experience all humans share...


'intuitions', in the technical and german sense, are generated by sensation, perception, informed by concepts- by meanings- that we receive through consciousness perceiving of the natural shared objective world according to the range of our cultural understanding. see, i think i almost understand his thoughts...! yes, this book does start with some bio, some history, and yes, h learns from kant and could only arise after- but phenomenology seems so complete it feels timeless...


but as this book makes clear, his method and conclusions are only the beginning. h is undoubtably influential and endlessly inspirational for the entire 'continental' philosophical tradition of the past hundred-plus years. without husserl, there would be no sartre, no merleau-ponty, no de beauvoir, no heidegger... and at least in this book, h has newly engaging interest for the 'analytic' philosophers. i would not know. i must admit my entire philosophical education has unfolded backwards, starting rather than ending with being and nothingness by sartre. so this book makes sense i could not have otherwise known...


i think i will go read some husserl now...

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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