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Reviewed by:
  • Edmund Husserl’s Freiburg Years, 1916–1938
  • Gina Zavota
J. N. Mohanty. Edmund Husserl’s Freiburg Years, 1916–1938. New Haven, CT-London: Yale University Press, 2011. Pp. ix + 501. Cloth, $85.00.

In his 2008 book, The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl: A Historical Development, J. N. Mohanty traced the evolution of Husserl’s thought from his early engagement with problems in the philosophy of mathematics through the publication of Ideas in 1913. This highly anticipated companion volume picks up the story with Husserl’s arrival in Freiburg in 1916, providing an engaging summary and analysis of the most important texts from the last decades of his life. Considering Mohanty’s impressively clear, thematically organized accounts of each of Husserl’s major works, which blend seamlessly with his nuanced commentary on those texts, Edmund Husserl’s Freiburg Years is a work which has much to offer both experienced Husserl scholars and newcomers to the study of phenomenology alike.

In his introduction, Mohanty notes that Ideas represented the beginning of “Husserl’s first attempt to systematize his transcendental phenomenology” (2). The theme of repeated attempts at systematization provides an effective organizational principle for the six parts of Mohanty’s work. Part 1 describes the completion of this first systematization, beginning with a close study of Husserl’s inaugural lecture in Freiburg in 1917 and continuing with chapters on other centrally important themes from this period of Husserl’s career. In part [End Page 141] 2, Mohanty addresses his major works on time and intersubjectivity; this transitions naturally into a consideration in part 3 of the notions of passive synthesis and genetic phenomenology, as expressed in Analysis of Passive Synthesis, Formal and Transcendental Logic, and related texts.

With part 4, Mohanty arrives at Husserl’s second attempt at systematization, which reached its complete expression in the 1929 Paris Lectures, and which is characterized in part by the introduction of the universal epoché and a transcendental life characterized by historicity and intersubjectivity. In part 5, Mohanty discusses the Vienna and Prague lectures, which together comprised the beginning of the Crisis work. Undertaken under the “gathering clouds” of National Socialism, this final attempt at systematization was quite different from the first two. This latter “sought to diagnose the historical situation of Europe in the context of the crisis of rationality that had overtaken it” (388), arising from a deep concern with this crisis and attempting to address it at the mundane level. As Mohanty points out, however, this is not incompatible with the focus of the first two systematizations, insofar as my life within the mundane universe is inherently correlated with my universal, transcendental life.

Part 6 of Edmund Husserl’s Freiburg Years contains only two chapters, but they include some of the most intriguing and innovative material in the volume. The first of these, “Husserl and His Others,” consists of sections juxtaposing Husserl’s thought with Kant’s transcendental philosophy, Hegel’s phenomenology, and Heidegger’s gradual movement away from phenomenological orthodoxy. Mohanty’s contention that this contextualization provides a unique lens for viewing Husserlian phenomenology is particularly borne out by the way it allows him to consider not only Husserl’s positive theory, but also the topics he ignores and the ideological choices he rejects. In his concluding chapter, Mohanty provides a comprehensive overview, in thirty propositions, of Husserl’s theory of intentionality as it developed over the course of his career. It is difficult to conceive of a more informative and helpful summary of this complex set of ideas.

Even the most seasoned students of phenomenology will find that these last two chapters offer new perspectives on material of central importance to their research. But while this certainly makes Edmund Husserl’s Freiburg Years worthy of consideration by Husserl scholars, it is the immense clarity, comprehensiveness, and subtlety of Mohanty’s exegesis of Husserl’s ideas throughout the volume that make it an essential addition to the library of anyone working in twentieth-century philosophy. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction connecting the material to be treated with what has already been covered, and proceeds through a series of clearly demarcated sections. In each of these, Mohanty addresses...


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pp. 141-142
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