Husserl Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 131–145 | Cite as

Phenomenological Reflections on the Possibility of First Philosophy

  • Nam-In LeeEmail author


In this paper, I will examine the possibility of first philosophy from a phenomenological point of view. I will do this by assessing Levinas’s criticism of Husserl’s conception of first philosophy. In Sect. 1, I will delineate Husserl’s conception of first philosophy. In Sect. 2, I will introduce Levinas’s conception of ethics as first philosophy and sketch out his criticism of Husserl’s conception of first philosophy. In Sect. 3, I will assess Levinas’s criticism of Husserl’s conception and show that from a phenomenological point of view, it is possible to develop first philosophy only in a relative sense and not in an absolute sense. The possibility of first philosophy in a relative sense implies that both Husserl’s and Levinas’s conceptions of first philosophy have some limitations and should be revised, since in a certain way, they are each conceived from an absolute point of view. In Sect. 4, I will show that the conception of first philosophy in a relative sense is a phenomenological one and sketch out some basic features of first philosophy in a relative sense.


Relative Sense Transcendental Phenomenology Static Phenomenology Genetic Phenomenology Transcendental Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper was presented at the XXVth International Symposium of Eco-ethica, Copenhagen, October 31–November 6, 2006. I thank Professor Tomonobu Imamichi and Professor Peter Kemp for their kind invitation to the symposium. It was also presented at the 3rd BESETO Conference of Philosophy, Tokyo, January 10–11, 2009. I thank Professor Junich Murata for his kind invitation to the conference.


  1. Aristotle. (1968). The metaphysics (H. Tredennick, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barnes, J. (1995). Metaphysics. In J. Barnes (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Aristotle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Descartes R. (1978). Principes. Traduction française, IX-2, Œuvres de Descartes, publiées par C. Adam & P. Tannery. Paris: J. Vrin.Google Scholar
  4. Hua I. Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vorträge. S. Strasser (Ed.). Den Haag. Martinus Nijhoff, 1963. Cartesian meditations. An introduction to phenomenology. D. Cairns (Trans.). Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1999.Google Scholar
  5. Hua III/1. Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Erstes Buch: Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie. K. Schuhman (Ed.). Den Haag, 1976. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy. First book: General introduction to a pure phenomenology. F. Kersten (Trans.). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982.Google Scholar
  6. Hua VII. Erste Philosophie (1923/24). Erster Teil: Kritische Ideengeschichte. R. Boehm (Ed.). Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1956.Google Scholar
  7. Hua VIII. Erste Philosophie (1923/24). Zweiter Teil: Theorie der Phänomenologischen Reduktionen. R. Boehm (Ed.). Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1959.Google Scholar
  8. Hua IX. Phänomenologische Psychologie. W. Biemel (Ed.). Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962.Google Scholar
  9. Hua X. Zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins (1893–1917). R. Boehm (Ed.). Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966.Google Scholar
  10. Kern, I. (1975). Idee und Methode der Philosophie. Leitgedanken für eine Theorie der Vernunft. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  11. Lee, N.-I. (1993). Edmund Husserls Phänomenologie der Instinkte. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  12. Lee, N.-I. (2002). Static-phenomenological and genetic-phenomenological concept of primordiality in Husserl’s Fifth Cartesian Meditation. Husserl Studies, 18, 165–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Levinas E. (1969). Totality and infinity (A. Lingis, Trans.). Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Levinas, E. (1981). Otherwise than being or beyond essence (A. Lingis, Trans.). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  15. Levinas E. (1998). Ethics as first philosophy. In S. Hand (Ed.). The Levinas reader (pp. 75–87). Oxford: Blackwell. Originally published as “Ethique comme philosophie première.” In G. Hottois (Ed.), Justifications de l’ėthique (pp. 41–51). Bruxelles: Editions de l’Universitė de Bruxelles, 1984.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, College of HumanitiesSeoul National UniversitySeoulKorea

Personalised recommendations