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  • Philosophy and the Disdain for History:Reflections on Husserl's Ergänzungsband to the Crisis
  • Gail Soffer
Gail Soffer
New School for Social Research


1. Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transcendentale Phänomenologie. Ergänzungsband: Texte aus dem Nachlaß, 1934-1937, edited by R. N. Smid, Husserliana, Vol. XXIX (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1993). (Hereafter cited as Hua XXIX.)

2. See Hua XXIX 10-11 (emigration); 38 (territoriality); 42-43 (racism, xenophobia).

3. Hua XXIX 332.

4. "Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums" of April 7, 1933, banning all persons with one or more non-Aryan grandparent from civil service (including university positions). For the contents of the law, see Martin Heidegger-Elisabeth Blochmann. Briefwechsel (1918-1969), edited by J. W. Storck (Marbach: Deutsche Schillergesellschaft, 1989), 149-50. Husserl was in fact suspended not by the Berlin decree but by Baden, which enacted its own version of the civil service law one day earlier than Berlin (the Baden version was subsequently rescinded). Husserl described the law and his suspension as the "greatest mortification of my life" (Schuhmann, Husserl-Chronik, 428). For further discussion of Husserl's suspension from the university in the context of his relations to Heidegger, see Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: A Political Life, translated by Allen Blunden (London: Harper Collins, 1993), 172ff.

5. According to the history of Erste Philosophie, progress towards the true idea of philosophy is not flawlessly linear. Later thinkers adopt some of the "right" discoveries of previous ones, but there is a miserable decline in other areas. Plato (or Socrates) is said to originate the goal-ideas of final justification and absolute self-responsibility. Descartes extends these ideas beyond the realm of episteme to the doxa themselves, and thereby discovers transcendentalism (the constitutive role of subjectivity). But because his overriding aim is to establish the new science of nature, Descartes immediately goes over to objectivism. Locke discovers the immanent-descriptive method of epistemology, but abandons it in order to affirm the Cartesian model of perception. The empiricist-nominalist account of general ideas (universals) is a disaster. Hume, who precedes Kant, is held to be more radical then he, and also to have a more genuinely phenomenological descriptive method. However, he lacks the idea of responsibility and justification. Kant grasps the transcendentality of the ego and the ideal of founding the sciences, but his method is too rationalist and insufficiently descriptive. The German idealists understand the constitutive nature of subjectivity even better than Kant, but combine this understanding with a confused speculative metaphysics.

6. Thus I cannot agree with David Carr's claim in Phenomenology and the Problem of History that the historical part of Erste Philosophie, unlike that of the Crisis, is designed solely to convince the reader of the failures of the philosophies of the past and of the generic need for reform (Carr, 52ff.). Rather, the goal in both cases is the same: to give a historical demonstration of a very specific goal-idea of philosophy, and thereby to awaken the motivation in the reader to fulfill this specific idea. This interpretation is in consonance with Boehm's view in his introduction to Erste Philosophie: "Daß dieses Idee das Wesentliche der Philosophie ausmacht und wie sie konkreter aufzufassen und auf welchen Wegen sie schon ihrer Verwirklichung entgegenzugehen vermochte und entgegengehen mußte, zeigt die kritisch-ideengeschichtliche Abhandlung des Ersten Teiles der Vorlesungen..." ["The critical history of ideas of Part One of the Lectures shows that this idea contains what is essential to philosophy, how this idea is to be conceived more concretely, and in what ways this idea has already been realized and had to be realized..."] (Hua VII xxv). For explicit teleological claims in Erste Philosophie, see Hua VII 4, 80, 285.

7. "Dem historischen Problem der Motivation, die diese Überzeugung erweckt hat, steht zur Seite das Problem der idealen Genesis, näimlich das Problem, die Notwendigkeiten zu verstehen, die im Historischen im verborgenen bestimmend waren und die es verständlich machen, warum Wissenschaft der Vorstufe aus eigener Konsequenz zu solchem neuartigen Absehen, dem auf eine absolute Endgültigkeit, hindrägte" (Hua VII 296).

8. This is discussed by Carr, 180. See also the passages referred to by...


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