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  • Husserl’s Transcendental Phenomenology: Nature, Spirit, and Life by Andrea Staiti
  • Bob Sandmeyer
Andrea Staiti. Husserl’s Transcendental Phenomenology: Nature, Spirit, and Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xii + 313. Cloth, $95.00.

With this new book, Andrea Staiti provides both a richly researched work in the history of philosophy and an important new introduction, a contextualization really, of Edmund Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. Staiti situates Husserl among the Neo-Kantian philosophers, particularly Wilhelm Windelband, Heinrich Rickert, Emil Lask, and Franz Böhm of the Southwest school, and two life-philosophers influential in the development of his mature conception of transcendental phenomenology, Wilhelm Dilthey and Georg Simmel. The historical approach he adopts in the book is modeled on the Konstellationsforschung employed in the study of German Idealism by Dieter Heinrich, and this technique when applied to Husserl’s transcendental philosophy proves especially fruitful. It is by means of this style of analysis that Staiti substantiates his thesis that Husserl’s philosophy ought to be and was in fact understood by Husserl, himself, as scientific life-philosophy. [End Page 345]

The book is divided into eight chapters, but these coalesce implicitly into three sections. The first two chapters provide an overview of the two dominant philosophical schools against which Husserl’s philosophy developed. In the first chapter, Staiti argues convincingly against the standard interpretation of Southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism. The efforts conceptually to demarcate the natural and the human sciences imply, he argues, an ontological supplement by which to ground this demarcation. Staiti shows in this first chapter that this need was both recognized and evinced in the work of the major figures of the school. Turning in the next chapter to the life-philosophers, Staiti remains focused on the project of clarifying the demarcation between the natural and the human sciences. Here he shows how Simmel’s unique appropriation of Kant’s notion of the world-forming power of life and Dilthey’s analytical description of life offer a counterbalance to the philosophers of Southwest school. Where the first two chapters provide a historical overview and background to Husserl’s philosophy, Staiti painstakingly details the influence these two constellations play in the next six chapters. Chapters 3–5 examine Husserl’s work in confrontation and interplay with the Neo-Kantian philosophers. In these chapters, particularly, Staiti presents a master class in comparative philosophy. His analysis in the third chapter of the homology between the Neo-Kantian notion of “standpoint” and the Husserlian concept of “attitude” as essential to the idea of scientificity in the work of both is especially rich and nuanced. Chapter 4 details the reception of Husserl’s Ideen among the Neo-Kantians. Here Paul Natorp’s influence in the development of genetic phenomenology by Husserl comes into full view. According to Staiti, “Husserl’s move towards genetic phenomenology does not mean a move away from static phenomenology or a change of mind about fundamental phenomenological concepts such as essence and intuition” (130). It is unfortunate, however, that Staiti does not address and defend this view against clear and well-known objections to it. But this is a rare moment of weakness in an otherwise forceful and substantially researched argument. The fifth chapter concerns Husserl’s 1919 and 1927 “Nature and Spirit” lectures, and the book regains its footing here. Once again, the demarcation of the sciences of nature and of spirit, that is, the human sciences, takes center stage. Here Staiti details Husserl’s considered confrontation with Rickert in the lecture courses. Most significantly, this chapter marks a transition to the third and final set of chapters, which, in the main, centers on Husserl’s relation to and self-understanding of transcendental phenomenology as life-philosophy. In chapter 6, Staiti analyzes the development of Husserl’s conception of phenomenology from descriptive psychology to transcendental phenomenology. Of particular importance in this chapter is the explication of the historical method that arose in Husserl’s late articulation of his philosophy as universal science of both physical nature and human, historical subjectivity. In the final two chapters, the first on the life-world concept and its centrality to the transcendental-phenomenological worldview, and the second on...


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pp. 345-346
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