Husserl Studies

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 123–141 | Cite as

On Husserl’s Alleged Cartesianism and Conjunctivism: A Critical Reply to Claude Romano

  • Andrea StaitiEmail author


In this paper I criticize Claude Romano’s recent characterization of Husserl’s phenomenology as a form of Cartesianism. Contra Romano, Husserl is not committed to the view that since individual things in the world are dubitable, then the world as a whole is dubitable. On the contrary, for Husserl doubt is a merely transitional phenomenon which can only characterize a temporary span of experience. Similarly, illusion is not a mode of experience in its own right but a retrospective way of characterizing a span of experience. Therefore, Husserl cannot be plausibly characterized as either a disjunctivist or a conjunctivist. The common premise of both theories – namely, that perception and illusion are two classes of conscious acts standing on equal footing – is phenomenologically unsound. I propose to call Husserl’s theory a hermeneutical theory of perception, i.e., one that interprets perception as a temporal and self-correcting process. In the last part of the paper I argue that Husserl’s positive appraisal of Cartesian doubt is only pedagogical in nature. Husserl does not take Cartesian doubt to be practicable, but the attempt to doubt universally has the positive effect of revealing transcendental subjectivity as the subject matter of phenomenology.


Conjunctive Theory Husserlian Phenomenology Transitional Phenomenon Cartesian Meditation Transcendental Subjectivity 
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.



I presented an earlier version of this paper in German at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg on June, 27th 2013 for the invited lecture series Colloquium Phaenomenologicum with the title Husserl ohne Descartes? I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmuth Gander for the invitation and all the participants for their insightful remarks. I am much indebted to Evan Clarke for the English translation of the original text, which served as a basis for all subsequent versions of the paper. My gratitude goes to Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl, Andrea Cimino, Steven Crowell, and an anonymous referee for their helpful comments and remarks, which greatly improved the paper. A generous research grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung allowed me to do most of the work of rewriting and expanding on the initial version. Any obscurities or mistakes in the present article are entirely my responsibility.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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