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  • Eine Kritische Untersuchung der Erkenntnistheorie Josiah Royces. Mit Kommentaren und Änderungsvorschlägen von Edmund Husserl. Texte aus dem Nachlass von Winthrop Bell (1914 – 1922) by Winthrop P. Bell
  • David Glidden
Jason Bell and Thomas Vongehr, Eds.
Bell, Winthrop P. Eine Kritische Untersuchung der Erkenntnistheorie Josiah Royces. Mit Kommentaren und Änderungsvorschlägen von Edmund Husserl. Texte aus dem Nachlass von Winthrop Bell (1914 – 1922).
Husserliana Dokumente Band V, Veröffentlicht vom Husserl-Archiv (Leuven) unter Leitung von Ullrich Melle. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018. S. v-xxi, 245.

This volume (WPB) contains a German dissertation in philosophy examining Josiah Royce’s theory of knowledge. It was submitted to the Georg-August-Universität of Göttingen in 1914 by Winthrop Bell, a Canadian student of Edmund Husserl’s from 1911 to 1914. This edition includes an appendix consisting of hundreds of concise critical notes Husserl had written on the dissertation typescript that Bell submitted in preparation for his doctoral defense on August 7th of that year, along with several additional remarks Husserl wrote separately to address deeper concerns. Husserl was an exemplary Doktorvater. And he affirmed in a letter to Hocking in July of 1920 that he deeply respected Bell’s character and admired his philosophical dedication.1

For reasons to be explained shortly, the dissertation published here is one that Bell re-submitted to Göttingen in 1921. While dutifully following Husserl’s annotated suggestions, excisions, and corrections, this revised dissertation does not explicitly address Husserl’s more substantive concerns. Some of those are reflected in Bell’s synopsis of his dissertation published in 1922 in the Jahrbuch der philosophischen Fakultät in Göttingen, provided here as an additional appendix, deserving full scrutiny in its own right.

Jason Bell and Thomas Vongehr have produced the very model of primary source scholarship. Their superb introduction as well as the texts they edited are thoroughly annotated, including Winthrop Bell’s [End Page 197] expansive footnotes and the original quotations from Royce’s writings translated in Bell’s text, in addition to extensive notes and additional research references provided by the editors themselves. To produce such an edition required dedicated scholarship and familiarity with Royce’s epistemology as well as with Husserl’s phenomenological views, reflected during his Göttingen years (1901–1916).

It is a daunting task to do full justice to this volume, but the place to begin is with the peculiar circumstance of Winthrop Bell who followed the noted William Hocking as only the second North American disciple of Husserl’s. Both Hocking and Bell had studied under Josiah Royce at Harvard. Husserl had a special interest in Royce’s ‘Idealism’, and so Husserl assigned Bell to this thesis topic, though Bell had wished to write directly on phenomenology itself from an American perspective, as Bell recounted in a letter to Herbert Spiegelberg in 1955.2 Bell’s research on Royce’s ‘Idealism’ proceeded to completion just as the Great War broke out in July of 1914. As a Canadian, Bell was arrested as an enemy national, to be relegated to Ruhleben Prison Camp, a former horse racing track outside Berlin. Before he was removed to spend the subsequent four years living in Ruhleben’s cramped horse stalls, with each stall housing several foreign aliens, Bell was initially imprisoned at the university. Consequently, it was as a prisoner of war still confined to Göttingen that Husserl and the doctoral examining committee gained access to Bell, only days after the war had begun, in order to conduct Bell’s dissertation defence, much to the consternation of popular and university sentiment against fraternizing with the enemy, in this case a Canadian civilian of the British Commonwealth. Husserl and his colleagues approved the dissertation and awarded Bell the degree, but the university quickly overturned their decision, rescinded his degree, and Bell was exiled to the stables.

During their imprisonment, the prisoners at Ruhleben developed a cultural life of their own, including giving concerts and lectures for their mutual entertainment and edification. It is unclear whether Bell had any opportunity to continue his deliberations on what he had previously written about Royce or had learned...


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