The Significance of Husserl's Logical Investigations

Read before The Society for the Study of Husserl's Philosophy at the APA meetings in Albuquerque, April 7, 2000. Co-Symposiasts: Dagfinn Follesdal and Barry Smith.



This is a topic which anyone with a high regard for the Investigations must contemplate with sorrow and some amazement, though not entirely without hope.


There are three different perspectives, at least, from which one might consider it.

1. With respect to contemporary philosophizing in North America. Here one would have to say that the LI has no significance at all. If it had never been written, there would be no philosophically significant difference in what is now said on the pages of The Journal of Philosophy or The Philosophical Review or in the books and thinking of those who, rightly or wrongly, are regarded as the pacesetters of contemporary work in North American philosophy.

Of course there are many able people, on the English-speaking side of 20th Century philosophizing, who have devoted significant attention to the LI; and among the pacesetters those able people are sometimes regarded as doing something useful--someone, surely, ought to know something about Husserl and his writings. But I would be surprised if anyone could find a single person among those who are currently regarded as setting the pace for philosophizing in this or other English-speaking countries who has ever worried that their own work might be philosophically deficient because of failure to take the LI into consideration, or whose work would differ in any philosophically important way (i.e., not just by Husserl being referred to or discussed here and there) had the LI never existed.

2. With respect to the historical development of philosophy. The historical development of Western philosophy generally does show effects of the LI, even though in those very effects the philosophical content of that work is largely erased.

The effects are confined almost totally to the "Continental" side of subsequent philosophizing. American "New Realism" briefly drew some inspiration from the LI and other works by the students of Brentano; but it never fulfilled its promise precisely because it never was able to understand or, perhaps, to accept the view of consciousness and its objects that Husserl unfolded in his first great work and continued to elaborate. The "New Realism" was quickly supplanted by "Critical Realism," which struggled vainly in "private space" with "sense data" for a few decades and disappeared with hardly a whimper into "linguistic analysis," which in turn has mutated into whatever it is we have now--"analytic" philosophy, no doubt.

For Continental thought, Husserl (with some help from others, e.g., Bergson) effectively opened a way between Positivistic (later, "Phenomenalistic") constructionism and the familiar forms of Immanentism dominant in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century philosophy. Thus "Phenomenology" vaguely understood became a powerful movement of thought. It at least saved the Continent from recycling, as "the new way of words," the same problems and outcomes found in "the new way of ideas" that had lasted, roughly, from Locke to the end of the Nineteenth Century. But the influence of Heidegger, mainly, subverted the content of Husserl's thought, in the LI and later, in such a way that "Hermeneutics,""Post-Structuralism,""Deconstruction" and even "Post-Modernism" came to be regarded either as successful refutations of Husserl's views or, worse, as what he "really" meant--no doubt in his "later" writings, so that LI can be safely disregarded. Thus it comes about that the very type of view of consciousness and its objects that Husserl most strongly opposed is often, through association with "Phenomenology" and what "it" became, identified as his own views. Similarly, the very type of holistic immanentism that the "New" and "Critical" realists rejected at the outset of the Twentieth Century is again triumphant at the end of the Century--different "whole," different "inside,"--not experience or consciousness, but language/culture--no "ego-centric" predicament, but a lingo/culturo-centric one.

One cannot but wonder how differently things might have turned out if, for example, Adolph Reinach had not died in World War I, or if Sartre had been able to hold onto the insights of his little paper, "Une idee fondamentale de la 'Phenomenologie' de Husserl, l'intentionalite," (La nouvelle revue francaise, Jan. 1939), instead of succumbing to the noematic sea of Being and Nothingness under the influence of Heidegger, or if Western Philosophy from the 1930's on had not been inflamed by the rock-star mentality that characterized its increasing "professionalization."



3. With respect to Husserl's own philosophical problems as he perceived them at the time of the LI. From this perspective there is some reason to be glad and hopeful about the LI.

In one phrase, Husserl's problem for the years culminating in the LI was the objectivity of knowledge. (LI p. 56 ) This one problem involved many subordinate issues. It is important to say at the outset that it was mainly a "how" problem, not a "whether." That is, the issue for Husserl was not a skeptical one, but a question about what goes on when we grasp objects in perception and thought and when, further, we have knowledge of them. He understood clearly that the "how" question is the prior one, and that only if it is answered correctly can we even approach the "whether" question. He also understood, of course, that there is an interplay between these questions, and made every effort to handle that interplay without any rationally illicit moves.

Husserl began his work with inquiries into the "how" of specifically mathematical knowledge--more specifically, arithmetic. He wanted to answer the question of how the arithmetician even manages to think of numbers and relations in the way he actually does, and then of how one moves from merely thinking of this infinitely complicated field of objects to actually having knowledge of vast ranges of numbers and number relations--again, not whether we do, but how we do have such knowledge.

Within a few years Husserl realized that the basic questions about mathematical knowledge arose with reference to all of science and to every area of thought and knowledge. The basic questions were always the same in every area, and once you answered them you could then think about how the answers differentiated to apply to the various kinds of objectivities of which the human mind has a cognitive grasp. This was the conceptualization that led to Husserl's view of Phenomenology as preliminary to every field of knowledge, insofar as it is to be a field of knowledge and not mere opinion and practice. The Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung (Vol. I, 1913) was founded as an organ of (hopefully) a community of inquirers who would carry forward this work.

In the "Introduction" to volume II of the LI Husserl gives one of his fullest and clearest statements of the "basic questions of epistemology" which, on his view, phenomenological clarification "of the essences of our thought- and knowledge-experiences" (LI p. 253) can alone answer. He takes as given "the fact that all thought and knowledge have as their aim objects or states of affairs, which they putatively 'hit' in the sense that the 'intrinsic being' of these objects and states is supposedly shown forth, and made an identifiable item, in a multitude of actual or possible meanings, or acts of thought." Then there is, "further, the fact that all thought is ensouled by a thought-form which is subject to ideal laws, laws circumscribing the objectivity or ideality of knowledge in general." (pp. 253-254--See section 1 of the Introduction to my Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge, pp. 1-3 on these starting "facts")

With reference to these "facts" revealed in a proto-phenomenological reflexion upon thought and knowledge, four questions then arise: (I) "How are we to understand the fact that the 'in itself' of the objectivity comes to 'representation'--indeed, that in knowledge it falls within our 'grasp'--and so ends up by becoming subjective after all? (II) What does it mean to say that the object is both 'in itself'and is 'given' in knowledge? (III) How can the Ideality of the universal, in the form of concepts or laws, enter the flux of real psychical Experiences and turn into a knowledge possession of the one thinking? (IV) What does the adaequatio rei et intellectus involved in knowing signify in the various types of cases, depending on whether the knowing grasp takes in an individual or universal, a fact or a law, etc.?" (My translation. cp. the Findlay translation, p. 254)

These were Husserl's philosophical problems at the time of the LI, and the significance of the LI for Husserl was that he there solved those problems--at least "in principle." In my view he did in fact there solve those problems, he never afterward retracted the solutions there developed, and everything he afterwards developed amounted to details within the framework of those solutions--often "details," such as the famous reductions and the noemata, that would guarantee perpetual misunderstanding of his problems and his solutions and pretty surely guarantee him a place as only a withered corpse in the philosophical museum.



Before looking at his solutions to the problem of the objectivity of knowledge, I want briefly to stand aside from him to look at the broader setting of that problem and where matters currently stand with reference to it.

A good place to start would be Hilary Putnam and his alignment (sort of) with Kant:

In Renewing Philosophy (1992) Putnam remarks that "In a famous letter of Marcus Herz, Kant described the problem of how anything in the mind can be a 'representation' of anything outside the mind as the most difficult riddle in philosophy." (See Kant's letter to Herz, Feb. 21, 1772, in Kant: Philosophical Correspondence, 1759-1799, ed. Arnulf Zweig, pp. 70-75.) Putnam goes on to say: "Since the so-called linguistic turn in philosophy earlier in this century, that question has been replaced by the question 'How does language hook onto the world?' but the replacement has not made finding an answer any easier." (p. 21 of Renewing Philosophy) Putnam goes on in this passage to examine and reject analyses of the "reality hook," as it is sometimes called, in terms of natural selection. His larger target is, of course, any sort of naturalistic or, indeed, absolutist (metaphysical realist) conception of the tie between language (or mind) and the world. "There is no essence of reference," he says (RP. p. 168)

In an earlier work he stated emphatically that since "the causes/background-conditions distinction is fundamentally subjective, not descriptive of the world in itself, then current philosophical explanations of the metaphysical nature of reference are bankrupt." (The Many Faces of Realism, [1987], p. 39) Indeed, on his view no distinction fails to be fundamentally subjective, for all groupings of objects ultimately depend on choices. There are no distinctions known to man or woman that do not. "The deep systemic root of the disease , I want to suggest, lies in the notion of an 'intrinsic' property, a property something has 'in itself', apart from any contribution made by language or the mind." (MFR p. 8)

The basic point is made clearly here by Putnam: Language or mind makes 'contributions' to properties, and therefore to the things that have the properties. I have tried to lampoon this view, gently but indelibly, by calling it "Midas-touch epistemology." (See my "Predication as Originary Violence, in Working Through Derrida, ed. Gary Madison) The touch of the mind or language makes an object what it is, whether or not in addition something else makes a 'contribution' to it as well. That is the view. And, make no mistake about it, the Midas group, including Putnam, are giving us an element of the absolute essence of the language (mind)/world relationship. They are telling us that no correct account of that relationship can leave out the "contribution" element, and that that is not a contingent matter of fact.

At the same time, I must add, no one has ever been able to give a coherent account of exactly what this essential element is or of exactly how it works--least of all Kant, in his own version, or in the "linguistic" versions later forced upon him. Indeed the presumption that these versions (Kant's and the linguistic ones) are somehow versions of the same thing is testimony to how obscure both versions are concerning what is really going on in the "contribution." It is, in any case, this "contribution" element--"the myth of the taking and making," we might usefully call it, to parallel Sellars'"myth of the given"--that is, above all, what Husserl successfully avoids. He also has a finely elaborated explication of the phenomena that, through misinterpretation, gives rise to the myth of taking and making.

But he stands in a lonely position, and the philosophical angels are all, or with few exceptions, on Putnam's side. Not only so, but even in the broader reaches of philosophy and in popular culture it is almost universally assumed that the world we know cannot be the one that is there when we are not aware of or cognitive of it. Thus, in the field of philosophy of religion, John Hick and Robert M. Adams. Hick comments that "The world is indeed there, and is as it is; but we do not have access to it as it is in itself, unperceived by us. We are aware of it only as it impinges upon us and is perceived and inhabited by us in terms of many kinds and levels of dispositional meaning. The dispositional meaning of an object, event, or situation consists in the practical difference that it makes, currently and/or potentially, to the meaning-perceiver." ("On Religious Experience," in Faith, Scepticism and Personal Identity, p. 17)

Hick was profoundly influenced by Kant, and Adams, at least in one respect, stresses an affinity with Kant. He points to Kant's "'transcendental idealism', that is...the view that they are not things in themselves but appearances, constructed by our minds , that we know them, and even conceive of them, only as they appear to us." He continues, further on: "The objective or 'transcendental' reality of the objects of our beliefs--be they God or other human minds, or even our own past and future--is an independence from our own present thought and experience which is bought at the cost of an ontological gap between subject and object. This gap inevitably introduces a greater or smaller degree of unprovability into our beliefs about the objectively real. Realism goes naturally with some kind of skepticism, and with a need for faith." (The Virtue of Faith, pp. 5-6)

A bit further out of the philosophical center, Bryan Magee remarks that "Central to Kantian philosophy is the doctrine that precisely because reality exists independently of all possible experience it remains permanently hidden." [What does independence have to do with hiddenness? Is dependence or part/whole the only sort of union objects can have with the mind?] He continues: "I do agree with him that whatever the nature of independent reality may be it must lie permanently outside all possibility of experience, and that all forms of experience are inevitably subject-dependent.... [A]ll we can ever encounter in direct experience is experience, and experience as such is subject-dependent. Inherent in its logic is the fact that it is not objective. We know for the marvelously insightful reasons supplied to us by Kant that it is impossible that it should ever be independent reality. Indeed, precisely because it is experience it cannot be independent reality. Experience can never be independent reality. [Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher, pp. 149-150]

(So here is this cow I see. And she is experience? Well maybe not. A cow isn't subject dependent. Or is she? Don't we know how cows are produced and what they depend on? What do I see? My experience of the cow?)

Finally, to return to the hard-core theorists, Donald Davidson comments: "Yet if the mind can grapple without distortion with the real, the mind itself must be without categories and concepts. This featureless self is familiar from theories in quite different parts of the philosophical landscape.... In each case, the mind is divorced from the traits that constitute it." Now of course, as Davidson insists, the mind simply cannot be divorced from the traits that constitute it. Nothing can. But the point to be taken from his statement quoted is that, if the mind has "categories and concepts," it must distort "the real" when it comes to "grapple" with it. But on the other hand it must have them so to "grapple." Hence the mind must distort its objects and therefore never has access to undistorted objects, i.e., to things as they are apart from the distorting caused by the grappling with or toward things "in themselves." [Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, p. 185]

But this will be enough. I wanted to show what Husserl was up against in contemporary terms. Since the LI runs 180 degrees contrary to the Midas touch tradition of "contributions" and "distortions" it is no wonder that it is such a negligible presence in contemporary philosophizing. We now turn back to Husserl's solution to the problem of the objectivity of knowledge as given in the LI. Here we will try to state the solution fully, but not develop the argument for it in any thorough fashion.



Consciousness of an object: Husserl's basic view on consciousness of an object is one according to which the act of consciousness is a natural sign. That is, the act of consciousness (and by extension the linguistic act) is of or about something else simply in virtue of the sort of thing it is. The intentionality or meaning ('ofness' or 'aboutness') of the act is grounded in the other aspects of the act, but is itself an element in a unique and indefinable range of universals--or "species," as Husserl commonly says.

In his language: "What 'meaning' is, is a matter as immediately given to us as is the nature of color and sound. It cannot be further defined, it is an ultimate in description: whenever we perform or understand an act of expression, it means something to us, we have an actual consciousness of its sense." (LI 400)

"This is," as he goes on to say in this passage, "of course not the last word in the phenomenology of meanings, it is only the beginning." But such a phenomenology must be carried through to completion if the objectivity of knowledge is to be understood, and this task is made very difficult by the fact that, normally, "One thinks in meanings and not about meanings." (pp. 400-401) "The act-analysis of meaning investigates 'what is contained in our meanings'.... [M]eanings are reflected upon and made objects of investigation, their real parts and forms are enquired into, not what is true of their objects." (p. 401)

Meanings or intentionalities of acts are properties of those acts: aspects with reference to which mental acts and, fundamentally, only mental acts may resemble and differ. More specifically, they are also concepts, repeatable and shareable 'thoughts'. Of course they are not the properties which they are of, and which belong to the things they are of. The concept red is not the quality redness, much less the things which have or might have that quality. The law of identity requires that these three things be distinguished because they have different properties, and because of the necessary relationships between them. The concept--and therefore the act in which it is instanced as a property--does not by accident involve (intensionally) the quality of redness, and thereby (in a different manner: extensionally) the objects that do or might have that quality.

Putnam, by contrast, says (or said) that "mental representations no more have a necessary connection with what they represent than physical representations do. The contrary supposition is a survival of magical thinking." (Reason, Truth and History, [1981], p. 3) And: "Just postulating mysterious powers of mind solves nothing." (p. 2) And: "Some primitive people believe that some representations (in particular, names) have a necessary connection with their bearers." (p. 3) On Putnam's view nothing has a necessary connection with anything, since all distinctions are founded on mental/linguistic selectivity which itself involves no necessity (unless necessity can be "mysteriously" injected into selectivity itself). (See RTH p. 5, etc.) Only reference itself seems exempted, for, as noted above, making a 'contribution' to the object is a feature Putnam thinks is absolutely necessary to reference (or mind/language).

In any case, for Husserl there is a natural affinity between the property which is a concept and the properties which things must have if they are to "fall under" that concept. [For further discussion see my: "How Concepts Relate the Mind to its Objects: The 'God's Eye View' Vindicated?"Philosophia Christi, 1999, pp. 5-20.] Thinking of a certain thing or state of affairs is a matter of the corresponding concepts being instanced in the mind. That is Husserl's view. The correlation between concept and the correlative properties is an "Ideal" one, in Husserl's language. That is, it obtains in the realm of universals. (This is discussed in great detail in Chapters 3 and 4 of the first "Logical Investigation," in the entire second "Investigation," and in the 2nd Chapter in Ideas I<"Ideas," of course, are universals or Ideal beings.>) Thus the extension of a concept may be empty. What we think of may not exist (the famous "Intentional inexistence"). But the direction in terms of certain properties (existent or not) that may or may not belong to things we think of is always there if a thought is there. This is the main component of what Husserl calls "the act's intentional essence." (LI 590) It is the act's "matter." (LI 598)

Now for present purposes it is essential to stress that, for Husserl, what our mental or linguistic act is about is not produced or modified in any way by the act directed upon it. The properties in the intension of the concept instanced in our act are not produced by the act. They either exist or do not regardless of any act that does or does not bear upon them. The same is true of whatever may fall in the actual or possible extension of the concept instanced in the act. Thus "the Midas touch" is totally eliminated. Of course we can think of or experience objects in ways that are false to what they actually are. But this is, in general, correctable. This possibility of inadequate or mistaken apprehension of objects does not produce a screen or wall of contributed or produced 'objects' over which we cannot conceivably get. It does not produce an inescapable "inside" to the mind or language, positing as "the most difficult riddle in philosophy" the question of "how anything in the mind can be a 'representation' of anything outside the mind." (Kant and Putnam)



Rather, inadequate or mistaken apprehension of objects simply points the way to a more adequate apprehension of the same object, and in certain cases to an apprehension of the object itself in such a way that nothing in the object that is thought is not simultaneously given in direct perception (intuition). ("Appearance" is the key to "reality," not a wall eternally shutting us off from "reality.") This is the case of "fulfillment" in the complete sense. Here the object thought of is found to be as it was thought to be.

Complete fulfillment is a rare case indeed, generally speaking, but complete fulfillment in reflexive perception bearing upon the fundamental structures of thought and experience was thought by Husserl to provide, when appropriately developed, an elucidation of proper epistemic method and of what knowledge amounts to in all of the subject matters where complete fulfillment--fully finding objects to be exactly as you thought them to be--is, in the nature of the case, impossible. The abstract structures of cognitive processes--including those of formal logic--are, on his program, to be philosophically clarified through complete fulfillment and accompanying conceptual analysis. (LI pp. 400-401, etc. etc.) In Hume's language the "ideas" (concepts) are to be correlated with their "impressions" (the "things themselves"--the abstract epistemic structures in this case). And then those structures are to safely guide us in the advancement and appraisal of knowledge in all areas of inquiry, and most especially with regard to the sciences and their ontological commitments, where any talk of a significant degree of intuition is totally out of the question.

{The immediately following pages are largely excerpted from my article "Knowledge" in The Cambridge Companion to Husserl.}

On the scale of degrees of fulfillment, representations or judgments short of full intuitiveness, which Husserl usually refers to as "mediate," always in some measure present their ultimate objects "as objects of other presentations, or as related to objects so presented." Objects can of course be presented through their relations to other objects, and these "other objects" may also be presentations. In this latter case "the presentations are presented presentations in the relational presentation : they belong among its intentional objects, not among its constituents." (LI 724)

When I see this apple here, for example, an essential part of what my perception is of--and I do see an apple--is its back side and its inner and unseen parts, as well as a certain history. These parts are present to me essentially in terms of how my present perception of the apple would develop if I were to proceed to open the apple with a knife, or bite into it, or trace its history, etc. etc. There is possible here, "phenomenologically, a continuous flux of fulfillment or identification, in the steady serialization of the percepts 'pertaining to the same object'. Each individual percept is a mixture of fulfilled and unfilled intentions. To the former corresponds that part of the object which is given in more or less perfect projection in this individual percept, to the latter that part of the object that is not yet given, but that new percepts would bring to actual, fulfilling presence." (LI 714; cf. 701) The result is a sequence of syntheses of "identifications binding self-manifestations of an object to self-manifestations of the same object." This sequence is governed by a law of essence that "dictates a determinate order of fulfillment a priori" (LI 724) for every presentation, according to its type.

At the lowest levels of fulfillment we have only an abstract descriptive knowledge of objects that does not even reveal their identity. Progression in fulfillment eventually brings us to a point where the objects are individuated for us--we know which entities they are--because they are given in terms of properties that form some significant part of their identity. Husserl holds that only perception of objects, not any type of symbolic or even imaginative representation, can bring us to this level of comprehension. (LI 729) But it is only adequate perception, or the ultimate degree of fulfillment possible for the given type of object, that guarantees the existence of the corresponding object.



With this view of knowing, not just thought, before us, a few matters of special significance must be emphasized.

1. The relation between the act of knowing and its object, while a true relation with all that that implies, is an external one. That is, the object may pass into and out of that relationship while retaining its identity. We have seen that, on Husserl's view, the act of knowing requires the existence of the corresponding object, given the precise nature of such an act. The relationship established between the "mere thought" with its meaning and the corresponding object by the fulfillment synthesis is not just intentionality, or basic 'ofness' or 'aboutness', though in it intentionality is obviously presupposed in a number of ways. Fulfillment in its ultimate stage, or knowledge in the strict sense, admits no corresponding "inexistence." Knowledge forms a peculiar type of whole, which exists only as its parts do, and one of the parts is the object in question. (See my Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge, Chapter V, § 5 for further development of this idea of occurrent knowledge as a whole with the object as part.) Some of the parts, on the other hand, may exist without the whole. This is true of the "mere thought" involved, of the intuition involved, and of the object involved, though not of the peculiar synthesizing act of identification, nor of the relation of the thought to the object which is realized on the basis of that synthesis.

Moreover, in the relationship to the mere thought that is realized when the thought achieves its object in union with an appropriately corresponding intuition, the object receives a property which it does not have outside of that relationship. That is, the property of being known or cognized by a certain person. (LI 696) But that property in no way distorts or conceals the identity of the object before, during or after the time when it has it, any more than being hit by the bat does so to the ball. Husserl comments with reference to categorial acts, of which knowing is one, that "The object is intellectually grasped by the intellect, and specifically by knowledge (which indeed is itself a categorial function), but is not distorted.... Otherwise...relational and connective thought and knowledge would not be of what it is, but would be a falsifying transformation into something else." (LI 819f) No Midas touch here. The property of being hit by bat x at time z does not produce or destroy the identity of the ball, but in fact presupposes that identity as determining what is and was hit. It is the same for the property of being known by person x at time z. Both the relation of hitting and that of knowing are "external," and the properties which they impose upon their relata are contingent, with a coming and going that can in suitable cases be observed.

Intentionality, by contrast, does not impart a property to its object. It makes no "contribution" whatsoever, not even an external relation. That is why 'inexistence' of the object is possible for it, and why the axioms for genuine relations do not hold for it. If it imparted a property to its object, then of course the object would have to exist. For, on a widely accepted understanding of what it means to exist, nothing can both have properties and not exist. And since very often, as we know, intentionality's object does not exist in "the real world" (as with Pegasus, etc.), it would have to exist "immanently,""in the mind." Husserl's final dismissal (in the Vth "Investigation") of immanent objects as a factor in mental acts is based on genuine insight into the nature of intentionality.

2. Given this view of knowing, a new "Critique of Reason" becomes possible. The externality of the knowledge relation or context to its object--and its resultant inability to cast an inescapable veil or distortion over that object--opens up the possibility of comparing object with meaning and of observing the agreement or disagreement between the conceptualization and its determinately qualified object. Among philosophers, as we have seen, this--the "God's eye view," it is sometimes called--is usually thought to be out of the question because of the widespread assumption that in taking something as our object, and all the more so in knowing it, we must necessarily modify it. Thus we can never grasp it as it is apart from consciousness (language) or 'in itself'. The 'Midas Touch' of the mind transforms the substance of all that it contacts, on such a view. But if Husserl is right, the object, when appropriately "given," is in itself as we then find it to be. Knowledge is not a modifying but an apprehending function, and nothing stands in the way of comparing the object with our thought of it, and finding them to "agree" (or not). Of course we must compare the object as given to us with its conceptualizations as we have them. That is trivially true. But it alone does not exclude that the object as given is, under suitable circumstances, the object as it is.

On Husserl's view, accordingly, we on appropriate occasions live through the agreement between conceptualization and the object as given--including the cases of certain universals ("Ideal objects") and their connections, or certain mental events and their parts, where the object as given is the object itself, every phase of the object being directly united with the meaning directed upon it from the conceptualizing act. (See Ideas I, § 75 for appropriate qualifications.) And while not every such agreement lived through is viewed, any one of them can be viewed by an objectifying reflexive act appropriately directed upon it. (LI 765f) Mental acts are, then, not ontologically privileged by Husserl, in such a way that all other things--and even whatever mental acts may be cognized--take their character from their status as objects. A mental act, a representation or judgment for example, is just one specific type of entity among others, which may from time to time have whatever relations to other entities are made possible by the kind of thing it is and they are. And as entities can in general be observed in their interrelationships, so can a meaningful sign or mental act and its object. It is this fact alone, Husserl thinks, that opens the door to a phenomenology of knowledge and of "Reason," which he treats as the minds capacity validly to grasp reality. (The Idea of Phenomenology, Alston and Nakhnikian translation, pp. 33 and 46. On Reason and Reality see also the 4th Section of Ideas I, especially chapter 2.)



Now while all of this is clearly assumed in the Sixth Investigation, it is given a completely explicit statement in the 1908 lectures on The Idea of Phenomenology. The main issue dealt with in these lectures is precisely how in knowledge the mind enters into relation or 'grasps' what is independent of it in existence and nature: the "transcendent," as Husserl usually calls it here and later. "How can knowledge reach the transcendent?" he asks. "What I want to understand is the possibility of this 'reaching'." (IP 4, cf. 1) And how is it possible to understand this possibility? Husserl's answer is: Only by seeing cognition actually reach its object. (IP 4, 29f) In seeing the 'reach'-become-'grasp' I can abstract its essence and know what it is, thus understanding how it can come about or what makes it possible. Indeed, in appropriate cases--the "dynamic" ones carefully described in the Sixth Investigation (LI 694ff)--I can see it coming about and thus see how it arises.

The key to Husserl's discussion in this 1908 text is his distinction between two senses of "immanent," with corresponding senses of "transcendent." Something is of course immanent to the act or to the mind if it is genuinely (reell) contained in it as a constituent, and correspondingly transcendent if it is not. (IP 27f) This we might call "ontological" immanence/ transcendence. But now, in conformity with our discussion of knowledge in the strong sense above, Husserl articulates a second meaning of "immanent" (and "transcendent"). In this case anything is immanent if it is object for the absolute self-givenness of perfect Evidence. (IP 28, 47-49) Here the act-intentions or meanings are, as we have said, directly united--in the full sense related--to all the features and phases of the object as well as to the object as a whole. This we might appropriately call an "epistemological" immanence/transcendence. Something immanent in this latter sense might be transcendent in the first sense, which is exactly so with crucial cases of essences or universals and their laws. And something transcendent in the second sense might be immanent in the first sense, as with a thought or valuation not fully focussed on in reflexive intuition, or perhaps the self (ego) itself. (LI 725) Physical objects, or entities sharing their basic nature, are always transcendent in both senses, though they may still be known in a weaker sense. (See Ideas I, §§ 128-142)

Now after these clarifications Husserl makes a crucial move. He includes the object of knowledge in the strict sense within the domain left over after the phenomenological reduction. How is this to be warranted? I believe it is to be taken in the following way: He rejects the "naturalist's" error that "Knowledge is something apart from the knowledge-object," such that the "knowledge is given, but the knowledge-object is not." (IP 3) The knowledge relation itself is fully present in and to consciousness, and it is also, according to him, directly involved in or attached to its object, whether that object is a part or element of consciousness or not. There is nothing "between" it and its object, and where it is its object also is. Thus: "Phenomenological reduction does not entail a limitation of the investigation to the sphere of genuine (reell) immanence, to the sphere of that which is genuinely contained within the absolute 'this' of the cogitatio.... Rather it entails a limitation to the sphere of things that are purely self-given,... In a word, we are restricted to the sphere of pure Evidence." (IP 48f) We only "bracket the references that go beyond the 'seeing'." (IP 50f)

The upshot is, as we have indicated, that something can now be both transcendent (independent of the mind in character and existence, or not immanent in the ontological sense) and at the same time immanent (fully given to the act conceptualizing and intuiting it). And this is, specifically, true of the 'knowledge relation' itself. Evidence can be given in Evidence. It can be fully found in a reflective "seeing" directed upon a case of finding something to be exactly as it was thought to be. (IP 36; cf LI 165 & 194f) Thus it is epistemologically immanent. But it also is ontologically transcendent, for it is an abstract structure, an essence, which--like all universals--exists and is what it is independently of its cases. Though 'in' the concrete act of knowing reflected on--'in' in the manner of universals viz a viz their instances--it is not a part of the act. It does not cease to exist, nor is its nature changed, when the exemplifying act, with all its parts, does cease.



This provides Husserl with the key to determining the possibility of knowledge in general; for examining fulfillment (knowing) in its cases provides him with knowledge of what knowing amounts to. That possibility is just the possibility of the mind fully coming, in the manner described above, into direct relation with what is not a part of, not genuinely (reell) contained in, the relevant acts directed upon it. Thus, he says, it would be "senseless, with respect to the essence of cognition and the fundamental structure of cognition, to wonder what its Sinn is, provided one is immediately given the paradigmatic phenomena of the type in question in a purely 'seeing' and eidetic reflection within the sphere of phenomenological reduction." (IP 45)

So to say that knowledge of x is possible is, for Husserl, simply to say that representations or judgements about x can be incorporated in a synthesis of fulfillment where x is intuitively found to be precisely as 'x' represents it. Accordingly, a 'critique' of knowledge and reason--of Erkenntnis and Vernunft (see IP 50 for a brief statement on their difference and interrelationship)--is a matter of determining, as a matter of essence, the precise manner and extent to which objects of specific types that may be in question can be given in a concept-matching intuition. To the extent that they are "in principle" subject to such intuition they are knowable.

We can see here that Husserl is substituting "empty intention" for "understanding," and "intuition" for "sensibility," in the familiar Kantian "critique" project. Kant's critique of reason was carried out by limiting knowledge to the sensibly given, shaped by the apriori forms of sensibility and understanding. One can easily see how Husserl might have been tempted to compare his critique to Kant's, and on what points Kant's critique would be vulnerable in such a comparison--as well as how Kant might reply.

In fact, Husserl is quite stern in his criticism of Kant. His general point is that Kant simply does not succeed in "clarifying the relationship between thinking and intuiting," as well as the various matters of principle associated with that relationship. (LI 832) Certainly, from its earliest appearance, Kant's first Critique was hounded by complaints that the relation he hypothesized between sensation and concept--or, more generally, between the various faculties and factors involved in cognition--is hopelessly obscure. That is a historical fact, and the complaints are surely justified. Moreover, it would seem that his very analysis of knowledge would necessitate that we can have no knowledge of that relation--other, perhaps, than that it must be there. For the interaction of sensibility and understanding does not itself fall under the forms of sensibility. It fails therefore to be a possible object of knowledge in Kant's own terms, and a "transcendental deduction" of it will not help in that respect.

Husserl at least is not caught in any such self imposed bind. He points out that Kant tried to 'save' knowledge, show that it is possible, before determining what it is, "before subjecting it to a clarifying critique and analysis of essence." (LI 833) This is further traced by Husserl to Kant's failure to get clear on the specific nature of "pure Ideation, the adequate survey of conceptual essence, and the laws of universal validity rooted in those essences." (Ibid.) On Husserl's view, such a failure is built into any effort that is not "a critique based on 'seeing'." (IP 50f) Thus it was naturally impossible for Kant to "investigate the pure, essential laws which govern acts as intentional experiences, in all their modes of sense-giving objectivation, and their fulfilling constitution of 'true being'. Only a perspicuous knowledge of these laws of essence could provide us with an absolutely adequate answer to all the questions regarding...the 'possibility of knowledge'." (LI 834)

Now no doubt Kant's own understanding of intuition and universals (essences)--and they are the heart of the matter--was so very opposed to the one adopted by Husserl that there is little likelihood he would have been convinced by Husserl's criticisms of his Critique of Pure Reason. However, is Kant's position on the relation of the mind to object in knowledge all that attractive? A candid appraisal would have to hold, I think, that it may be a position we are driven to, but it is hardly one we could have hoped for. Kant's answers to the four questions about the objectivity of knowledge posed above by Husserl would seem to simply give away points commonly assumed to distinguish knowledge from other ways our experiences bear upon objects. His answers are, after all, driven by the assumption of the "Midas touch," and, indeed, are nothing but an elaboration of it.



And how in the LI does Husserl answer the four questions (listed above) which flesh out the problem of the objectivity of knowledge for him? Let us take them one by one:

"How are we to understand the fact that the 'in itself' of the knowledge falls within our 'grasp' and thus becomes subjective?"
Answer: The objectivity as it is when unknown, and thus 'in itself', is not changed by entering into the knowledge relation. Rather, through the fulfilling synthesis it becomes directly related to the meanings directed upon it, and in that sense only does it "become subjective." It is 'possessed' by the act and mind through an external relation. But it does not take on the nature of the mental, any more than a ball loses its nature and takes on that of the bat or of the person that hits it.

"What does it mean to say that the object is both 'in itself'and is 'given' in knowledge?
Answer: It is to say that the direct union of the act with the object in the peculiar context of knowledge does not turn the object into something other than what it is outside of that context. And yet the act is related, in knowledge, to the object.

"How can the Ideality of the universal, in the form of concepts or laws, enter the flux of real psychical experiences and turn into a knowledge possession of the one thinking?"
Answer: Here we have two distinct cases to consider. Of course these "universals" that make up theory (LI 229 & 232) can 'enter' into knowing in the manner of every type of objectivity that is fully given, as signitive or 'inauthentic' representations of them progressively give way, in the appropriate manner, up to the point where they are given in pure intuition. Thus they are before the mind or act and all said under 1 and 2 applies to them. However, those universals which are concepts and theories also are present (as concepts and propositions) in appropriate thought acts as their properties. (LI 329-331) They are the "ideally conceived" intentions or meanings of those acts. In those acts they are 'possessed' as the instance possesses its nature or "species" through exemplification or predication. The singular cases from which the concepts and propositions that make up theory are 'abstracted' to become objects of eidetic insight are events of conceptualization and judgment that wholly fall within the ontologically immanent sphere. This perhaps confers upon such universals some significant advantage in becoming epistemically immanent, or the objects of knowledge in the full sense. But it does not, on Husserl's analysis of universals, detract from their objectivity, from their independence in existence and nature. And that is what Husserl is really asking about with this third question. The universal/instance relation does not modify the universal any more than the object/knowledge relation modifies the object. Both relations are external with regard to the universal (in this case the concept, proposition or theory).

  1. "What does the adaequatio rei et intellectus involved in knowing signify?"
    Answer: It signifies that the components of the object and the intentionalities or meanings involved in the knowledge synthesis are set into direct relation with each other, each meaning being paired intuitively to an objective component and conversely. Such "adequation" will be a matter of degree, depending on the type of objectivity conceived. It is fully possible only with respect to certain generic universals.



Of course not many agree with me. Well, almost everyone agrees that the LI represents Husserl's attempt to provide a theory of mind and knowledge that solves the problem of the objectivity of knowledge in a strongly realist (not just "critical" or "internal" realist) manner. They generally hold, however, that the attempt failed, that Husserl came to understand that it failed, and that he then became some kind of 'idealist'.

David Bell and Theodore De Boer are probably as representative as you can get of this point of view. But then they often say things about the LI and Husserl's "development" that make me, at least, wonder whether they could possibly be right.

Bell, for example, rightly points out that it is a condition of success for Husserl's theory "that in perception we should be presented with an object itself, as it is in itself." (Husserl, p. 147) Then he goes on to say, "Strangely, Husserl himself unwittingly provides precisely the reasons why this condition cannot be met, and why perception cannot in general be said to present 'the object itself, as it is in itself'." He then cites Husserl's words about the perception of physical objects to back up his view.

But "strangely"? "Unwittingly"? Surely neither, if one simply reads Husserl's expositions. The condition of adequate perception invoked by Bell (and Husserl) is met fully only in special cases, for Husserl, and these special cases are thought by him to provide the basis for an account of what "knowledge" means in the cases where it is not fully met. Perception of physical objects is of course one such case, and perhaps the main one for philosophical interests.

Bell goes on to say that Husserl never accounts for the identity in reality of objects experienced as identical, for identity as an objective fact. Adding: "It is the very possibility, in general, of my being aware of an objective fact, and also the nature of the relation in which mere subjective seemings stand to genuinely objective knowledge, that are precisely what need to be explained in the first place." (H p. 147) He says: "Even if we accept that certain experiences are capable of fulfilling other experiences, we nevertheless lack the resources with which to explain how such subjective, intentional experiences can ever make contact with reality, or can ever be related to things which are not subjective or intentional in such a way as to constitute objective knowledge of them." (H pp. 147-148)

Of course "explain" can mean many things, and Husserl would agree that the possibility of explanation (Erklärung) ceases at a certain point. But the possibility of clarification (Aufklärung) may still remain, and clarification is what Husserl supposes himself to have achieved. Bell, like so many of Husserl's expositors, simply makes the mistake of limiting the "fulfullment" relation to experiences, which Husserl does not do--as I hope I have shown. I believe that understanding of Husserl is blocked for most of his readers by the assumption that experiences simply cannot reach and relate to what lie "outside" of experiences. But that is simply to beg the main question against Husserl and to dismiss his account of how that happens.

Bell attributes Husserl's failure to achieve in the LI a successful realist account of the objectivity of knowledge to the fact that he assumed "methodological solipsism" and "naturalism." (H p. 148) There is some textual basis for the presence of "methodological solipsism," but the associations of the word "solipsism" do not apply to Husserl, in my opinion. He never, so far as I can tell, purposefully assumed the model of "the enclosed mind," even to the extent his teacher, Brentano, did. But as to being a naturalist!?! Could anything have been further from Husserl's thought as expressed in the LI?

Bell explains a few pages later what Naturalism is: "A Philosophical theory is naturalistic to the extent that it is committed to the view that the universe contains nothing but natural phenomena--a natural phenomenon being any object, event, property, fact, or the like, whose explanation can in principle be couched exclusively and without remainder in terms acceptable within the natural sciences. So not only does naturalism exclude all ineliminable supernatural or theological elements from a proper explanation of things; it excludes all such metaphysical or philosophical elements as well. A naturalistic philosopher will hold, with Quine, that 'knowledge, mind, and meaning are part of the same world that they have to do with, and that they are to be studied in the same empirical spirit that animates natural science. There is no place for a priori philosophy'." (H pp. 154-155, quoting Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, p. 26.)

Now if there is anything clear about the LI, it is that Husserl was not remotely near Naturalism as explained by Bell. The entire point of that work, as the "Prolegomena" alone makes abundantly clear, is that the sciences, mathematical as well as natural (not to mention any others) must receive their clarification and, indeed, explanation, from non-scientific sources, and that empiricism (or naturalism) when presented as a theory of knowledge is self-refuting. These points are plainly stated by Husserl; and, in a clear sense, "a priori philosophy" is all he ever consciously intended to do. (Really, is there any other kind, regardless of Husserl? Who among philosophers of any period has failed at a certain point to tell us how things must be, in the essential nature of the case, far beyond anything that "experience" could tell us?)

Bell's opinion is that "the obvious secular opponent of naturalism is transcendental idealism..., the view that the mind is not ultimately just a part of the natural world , but on the contrary must be assigned some foundational or constitutive role with respect to the natural world as a whole --a role that therefore inevitably places some aspects or functions of the mind beyond the explanatory reach of the natural sciences." (H p. 155)

All of which, again, leaves Husserl's view in LI

totally out of the picture. It was, there and later, the Ideal and its laws that alone could make science or knowledge in general possible, and the understanding of which made the understanding of knowledge possible. (LI pp. 193-194, 185-186, etc. etc.) This is the entire point of the LI (and long before, in fact), and it has nothing to do with transcendental idealism as Bell understands it.

It is hardly surprising that one so far off on such fundamental matters would also conclude that Husserl has no account of how subjective experiences can make contact with reality.

De Boer requires a more lengthy treatment, which I hope to give in a later paper. Just a comment or two: De Boer claims that "the idea of an independent transcendent thing is just as absurd to Husserl as the idea of a round square." (The Development of Husserl's Thought, [1978], p. 404 and elsewhere) He makes much of such statements from Husserl's later works as: "Everything outside is what it is within this inside and has its true being in the self-presentations and confirmations within this inside...." And: "There is no conceivable place where the life of consciousness could break through or be broken through so that we would encounter a transcendency that could have a sense other than that of an intentional unity appearing in the subjectivity of consciousness itself." (DHT p. 404)

Now the language here must be closely adhered to. The point is not about the existence of transcendent objects ("outside" of consciousness), but about their sense or nature. What it is for a transcendent object of any type, real or Ideal, to exist or have being is fully revealed within the structures of consciousness that may be directed upon it. Evidence (in the usual sense) for its existence, and perhaps even knowledge of its existence, is given (or not) within consciousness. Moreover, what the object is, its essence, is not indifferent to how it is to be approached by consciousness for epistemic purposes. There are connections of essence between the kind of object and the kind of acts in which it can come before the mind and enter into knowledge. The idea of a kind of object the nature of which lays no condition upon the kind of act of consciousness in which it "appears" is what, for Husserl, is as absurd as the round square. Not the idea of objects that exist without any consciousness--even that of a "transcendental ego"--being actually, existentially, directed upon them or enveloping them. And when the object is actually known it does not take on a character it did not have before that. It is the possibility of this latter, existential, independence that, I believe, Husserl made clear in the LI. And I don't think he ever backed away from it.



When one thinks that Husserl's view of how thought etc. contacts existentially and qualitatively independent objects is strange, weigh the "strangeness" in the balance with that of the "contribution" view of mind and language. When I do so I am unable to discover an excess of the "strange" or the "mysterious" on Husserl's side. How thought (or language)--being what it is--could by itself do anything to the entities with which it deals--being what they are (cows, trees, numbers, symphonies)--is surely very strange and mysterious, in spite of all the attempts since Locke and Hume to explain it.

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