Husserl Studies

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

Phenomenological Reflections on the Possibility of First Philosophy



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.



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.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

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

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