What Does Husserl Want?

I am preparing for a seminar on Plato, the Sophists, and psychologism this Fall.  Among the texts we will read is (sections of) Husserl’s Logical Investigations.  I have been working on the early sections on logic this morning.  Husserl complains of the incompleteness of all the sciences; none have that “inner clarity and rationality”:  as theories, they are not “crystal-clear”, the functions of all their concepts and propositions are not fully intelligible, not all of their propositions have been exactly analyzed.  –My question is this:  is this crystalline clarity Husserl demands itself crystal-clear, fully intelligible?  If not even mathematics (to take the crucial case) exhibits this crystalline clarity, then what grasp of what Husserl wants do we have?  Do we want a more mathematical mathematics?  Hard to see how that would help, since it would presumably only apply the lack of inner clarity and rationality to itself.  (And presumably not in a “fight fire with fire”-ish way.)

Now it is true that, in an important sense, Husserl attempts to explain what he wants across much of the rest of the book, often enough by the example of his phenomenological practice.  But it remains necessary to be aware that we do not really know what Husserl wants in the early sections:  clarity is something about which we have to become clear.  (Consider how distant Wittgenstein’s desiderated clarity is from Husserl’s.)

5 responses

  1. If you can read Husserl without wanting to kill either him or yourself, you have a much stronger mental constitution than I have. His writing repels me at a depth that not even the great obscurantistic H’s before and after him, Hegel and Heidegger, can match. This has always perplexed me. I think I understand well enough why Hegel’s writing and Heidegger’s writing repel me. Husserl’s nauseates and infuriates me in a way that I cannot account for.

    • I can sympathize. Husserl maddens me often. I’ve documented that here and there on the blog. But there is a purity of heart manifested in his work that I deeply respect. I’ve documented that here and there on the blog too.

      But, however that goes, I’m sure I don’t have a stronger mental constitution than you; likely I’m just easier to corrupt.

  2. That first thing you said totally reminded me of my essay about some something William James (I think) said, and I remember the Eureka moment I had in the shower (so many Eureka moments in the shower — that’ll be the name of my memoir: Eureka Moments In The Shower), and I dried off and wrote a couple of paragraphs about how, yeah, does this whatever meet its own standard of whatever, and you were well pleased. Greatest academic accomplishment.

  3. I’m re-readign these sections too, thinking about the unity of judgment (and content, the proposition, and the sentence). The opening reflections of the Prolegomena seem to connect clarity with that kind of wisdom that Socrates claimed to lack in the Apology: a know-how with a full account of this know-how. When the account backs up logical know-how (which Husserl claims the logician employs like an artist constructing a technical work of art), then we have clarity *of* logical practice. It is an “inner clarity and rationality” because it is the logos that the technician (logician, mathematician, artist) implicitly follows. The goal is to make this implicit understanding explicit.

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