The Concept of Krisis in Husserl’s The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology

Abstract

In The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, Husserl argues that the only way to respond to the scientific Krisis of which he speaks is with phenomenological reflections on the history, method, and task of philosophy. On the assumption that an accurate diagnosis of a malady is a necessary condition for an effective remedy, this paper aims to formulate a precise concept of the Krisis of the European sciences with which Husserl operates in this work. Thus it seeks an answer to the question: What exactly, according to Husserl, is “the ‘crisis’ [Krisis] of the European sciences”? There are two different tendencies in the literature on this question. According to the traditional interpretation, the Krisis of the European sciences lies not in the inadequacy of their scientificity but in the loss of their meaningfulness for life. According to an innovative suggestion, the Krisis lies not in the loss of their meaningfulness for life but in the inadequacy of their scientificity. These readings are mutually exclusive because each claims that the other misidentifies the Krisis as something that it is not. The argument of this paper, however, is that, given the many different senses of Krisis in The Crisis, an adequate understanding of the Krisis that Husserl identifies requires not a disjunctive but an inclusive approach. Therefore the paper proposes that Husserl’s Krisis of the European sciences is both a crisis of their scientificity and a crisis of their meaningfulness for life. The relevance of this result to Husserl’s philosophical and historical sense-investigations in The Crisis—as well as to the present critical situation of philosophy—is self-evident.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hua. VI, 1–269/276: Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie: Eine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophie. Parts I and II (1–104) originally appeared in Philosophia I (1936), 77–176. References to Husserl’s works are by volume and page of his Gesammelte Werke or Husserliana (Hua.). References to his correspondence are by volume and page of his Briefwechsel (BW). All translations are my own.

  2. 2.

    Hua. VI, 1–17.

  3. 3.

    Hua. XXVII, 184–221, 240–244; BW VIII, 91–95.

  4. 4.

    Hua. VI, 314–348.

  5. 5.

    Hua. XXIX, 103–139.

  6. 6.

    I use the German term Krisis because there is no way in English to convey the distinction between Krisis, with its medical connotations, and Krise, with its less technical sense. In the Prague Treatise, Husserl does not once mention Krisis or Krise in the singular, but he does once mention Krisen in the plural (Hua. XXVII, 208). In the Vienna Lecture, he, as a rule, again speaks of Krisis (Hua. VI, 314–315, 318, 337, 342). There, however, he also uses Krise four times and places quotation marks around the word three times (Hua. VI, 347). In the Prague Lectures, he uses Krisis only three times but Krise eight times (Hua. XXIX, 103, 108, 122, 137–138). There he also speaks once of Krisen in the plural (Hua. XXIX, 118). In The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, he invariably uses Krisis (Hua. VI, 1, 3, 10, 14, 216). There he also writes twice of Krisen in the plural (Hua. VI, 207, 216). The usage in the supplementary texts is consistent with that in the main text (Hua. VI, 356, 435). Husserl’s preference for the Greek Krisis to the German Krise is consistent with the debate among his contemporaries about the critical condition of the times. Cf. Graf 2010, 600–601.

  7. 7.

    Hua. XXVII, 184: “Über die gegenwärtige Aufgabe der Philosophie”.

  8. 8.

    Hua. XXVII, 208.

  9. 9.

    Hua. XXVII, 240.

  10. 10.

    Hua. XXVII, 240–244; BW VIII, 91–95. Emanuel Rádl (1873–1942), a Czech biologist, historian of science, and philosopher, presided at the 8th International Congress of Philosophy in Prague (1934).

  11. 11.

    Hua. VI, 314: “Die Philosophie in der Krisis der europäischen Menschheit” and “Die Krisis des europäischen Menschentums und die Philosophie”. Cf. Hua. XXIX, xviii–xix.

  12. 12.

    Hua. VI, 314–315, 318, 337, 342, 347.

  13. 13.

    Hua. XXIX, 103: “Die Psychologie in der Krise der europäischen Wissenschaft” and “Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die Psychologie”. Cf. Hua. XXIX, xxii.

  14. 14.

    Hua. XXIX, 103, 108, 118, 122, 137–138.

  15. 15.

    Hua. VI, 1, 3, 10, 14, 207, 216.

  16. 16.

    “European sciences” means “Western sciences”. Cf., e.g., Hua. VI, 318–336.

  17. 17.

    Gurwitsch 1956, 383. Cf. Gurwitsch 1957.

  18. 18.

    Paci 1963, 19.

  19. 19.

    Carr 1974, 46; Carr 2010, 86.

  20. 20.

    Boehm 1979, 27.

  21. 21.

    Ströker 1988, 207; Ströker 1992, 107.

  22. 22.

    Bernet, Kern, and Marbach 1993, 220–225.

  23. 23.

    Dodd 2004, 29–30.

  24. 24.

    Trizio 2016. I am grateful to Trizio for having “awakened me from my dogmatic slumber” on this issue. I had long taken the traditional interpretation for granted.

  25. 25.

    Banfi 1959, Janssen 1970, Ingarden 1972, Prufer 1975, Morrison 1977, Rockmore 1984, Trotignon 1986, Richir 1990, Buckley 1992, Mann 1992, Ströker 1996, Vetter 1998, Orth 1999, Moran 2000, De Gandt 2004, De Warren 2008, Gens 2008, Majolino 2008, Gasché 2009, Carr 2010, Moran 2012, Knies 2015, Knies 2016.

  26. 26.

    Gadamer 1986, 375.

  27. 27.

    Sokolowski (1972) recognizes the protreptical character of Husserl’s plea for transcendental phenomenology in Part One of The Crisis and establishes the concept of Krisis as a genuine rhetorical topos of his philosophical project.

  28. 28.

    Heidegger 1927, Jaspers 1932. Heidegger rejected the designation. Cf. Bollnow 1955 4, 15.

  29. 29.

    Cf., e.g., Heidegger 1992, 243; Jaspers 1931, passim. Cf. also Gadamer 1987, 177–178.

  30. 30.

    Cf., e.g., Rudolf Willy, Die Krisis in der Psychologie (1899); Goswin Uphues, Zur Krisis der Logik: Eine Auseinandersetzung mit Dr. Melchior Palagyi (1903); Karl Joël, Die philosophische Krisis der Gegenwart (1914); Georg Simmel, “Die Krisis der Kultur” (1916); Rudolf Pannwitz, Die Krisis der europäischen Kultur (1917); Paul Valéry, La crise de l’esprit (1919); Hermann Weyl, “Über die neue Grundlagenkrise der Mathematik” (1921); Ernst Troeltsch, “Die Krisis des Historismus” (1922); Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Krise der Weltanschauung (1923); Arthur Liebert, Die geistige Krisis der Gegenwart (1923) and Die Krise des Idealismus (1936); Hans Tietze, Lebendige Kunst-Wissenschaft: Zur Krise der Kunst und der Kunstgeschichte (1925); Karl Bühler, Die Krise der Psychologie (1927); René Guénon, La crise du monde moderne (1927); Hermann Platz, Das Religiöse in der Krise der Zeit (1928); Fritz Jellinek, Die Krise des Bürgers (1935). Husserl corresponded with Uphues, Joël, Simmel, Pannwitz, Weyl, Liebert, and Bühler. Cf. BW X, 71–76.

  31. 31.

    Cf., e.g., Karl Kraus, Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (1919/1922). See Heffernan 2014, 191, fn. 39, for further examples.

  32. 32.

    On “crisis consciousness” in German thought from the Kaiserreich to the Drittes Reich cf. Koselleck 1959, Koselleck 1982, Bambach 1995, Pohle 2009, Graf 2010, Grunewald and Puschner 2010.

  33. 33.

    Hua. XVII, 6–10.

  34. 34.

    Hua. VI, 4.

  35. 35.

    Hua. VI, 4; XXIX, 104.

  36. 36.

    Cf., e.g., Hua. XXV, 55–62, e.g., 56: “Die geistige Not unserer Zeit ist in der Tat unerträglich geworden.” The context is rich with motifs that recur in Part One of The Crisis.

  37. 37.

    Cf., e.g., Husserl, Letter to Stanton Coit, 18 September 1927, BW VIII, 39–40; Letter to Gustav Albrecht, 3 June 1932, BW IX, 82–84.

  38. 38.

    XXIV, 445 (25 September 1906).

  39. 39.

    Hua. V, 96 (1912).

  40. 40.

    Schuhmann 1977, 190.

  41. 41.

    Schuhmann 1977, 192–193, 209.

  42. 42.

    Schuhmann 1977, 200.

  43. 43.

    Husserl, Letter to Winthrop Bell, 11 August 1920, BW III, 12.

  44. 44.

    Cf., e.g., Oswald Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes: Umrisse einer Morphologie der Weltgeschichte (1918/1922–1923). See Heffernan 2014, 191, fn. 39, for further examples.

  45. 45.

    Cf., e.g., Hua. XXVII, 4 (1923): “Sollen wir den ‘Untergang des Abendlandes’ als ein Fatum über uns ergehen lassen? Dieses Fatum ist nur, wenn wir passiv zusehen—passiv zusehen könnten. Aber das können auch die nicht, die uns das Fatum verkünden.” Cf. also Hua. XXVII, 122–124 (mid-1920s), 243 (1934). Cf. finally Husserl, Letter to Thomas Masaryk, 2 March 1922, BW I, 114.

  46. 46.

    Schuhmann 1977, 191–192, 195–196, 199, 201, 211, 219, 222, 227, 236. Husserl’s experiences with depression enabled him to empathize with similar sufferings of others. Cf., e.g., his correspondence with Dietrich Mahnke, BW III, 414, 421, 435, 467, 469, 493.

  47. 47.

    Husserl, Letter to Gustav Albrecht, 27 September 1917, BW IX, 54.

  48. 48.

    Hua. VI, 437, n. 1 (spring 1937).

  49. 49.

    Cf. Hua. VI, 508 (probably 1934): “Philosophie als Wissenschaft, als ernstliche, strenge, ja apodiktisch strenge Wissenschaft—der Traum ist ausgeträumt.” But cf. also Hua. XXVII, 238 (1935): “[…] ‘Du glaubst noch an eine Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft? Hast Du den Aufbruch der neuen Zeit verschlafen?’—O nein. Ich ‘glaube’, ich ‘predige’ nicht: ich arbeite, ich baue, ich verantworte. Ich erweise mir die neue Wissenschaftlichkeit […].”

  50. 50.

    Hua. XXVII, 208, 242, 315.

  51. 51.

    Cf. Hua. XXVII, x–xvii, where Nenon and Sepp also develop these connections.

  52. 52.

    Hua. XXVII, 3–94. The word Krise (not Krisis) occurs only once in the Kaizo Articles (65), but their tone is one of an urgent need for renewal in the face of the ethical “emergency” and “emergencies” (Not and Nöte) of the world war and its aftermath (3, 9–10, 25, 72, 94, 96, 113, 116).

  53. 53.

    Hua. XXV, 52–62; XXVII, 54–59, 79–89.

  54. 54.

    Hua. XXVII, 109–122.

  55. 55.

    Hua. XXV, 55.

  56. 56.

    Hua. XXVII, 114–122.

  57. 57.

    In April 1935, Husserl revised the Prague Treatise for the Vienna Lecture. Cf. Hua. XXVII, 228–231, 322–323.

  58. 58.

    Hua. VI, 314–315, 318, 337, 342, 347.

  59. 59.

    Hua. VI, 315.

  60. 60.

    Hua. VI, 320 ff.

  61. 61.

    Hua. VI, 73, 319, 323–326, 336, 338–339, 341, 345, 492, 494.

  62. 62.

    Hua. VI, 340 ff.

  63. 63.

    Hua. VI, 342 ff.

  64. 64.

    Husserl 1936, 77.

  65. 65.

    Cf. Smid, Editor’s Introduction, Hua. XXIX, xi ff.

  66. 66.

    Trizio 2016, 193.

  67. 67.

    Husserl, Letter to Marvin Farber, 18 February 1936, BW IV, 72; Letter to Arthur Liebert, c. mid-April 1936, BW VIII, 277; Begleitbrief to The Crisis, Hua. XXIX, xxxiv.

  68. 68.

    Heffernan 2014, 193.

  69. 69.

    Hua. VI, 3, 5, 13–15.

  70. 70.

    Hua. VI, 3.

  71. 71.

    Hua. VI, 3–17.

  72. 72.

    Hua. VI, 4, 14.

  73. 73.

    Hua. VI, 10.

  74. 74.

    Hua. VI, 4.

  75. 75.

    Hua. VI, 3.

  76. 76.

    Hua. VI, 4.

  77. 77.

    Hua. VI, 4, 15–16, 39, 48, 50, 54, 57–60, 68, 72–74, 106, 121–122, 124, 135–136, 138, 156, 159, 169, 178–179, 185–186, 190, 193, 195, 200, 207, 215, 224, 250, 254–255, 262–264, 266, 272.

  78. 78.

    Trizio 2016, 197–198. It is impossible to neutralize the existential valence of Husserl’s vocabulary by employing alternative translations of Bedeutung, Bedeutsamkeit, Sinn, Sinnhaftigkeit, etc. In all his crisis-themed texts, from the Prague Treatise and the Prague Letter through the Vienna Lecture and the Prague Lectures to The Crisis, Husserl consistently and emphatically asserts that genuinely scientific philosophy—and this includes, of course, his transcendental phenomenology—must address existential questions. See XXVII, 206–207 (Prague Treatise); XXVII, 241 (Prague Letter); VI, 346–347 (Vienna Lecture); XXIX, 104–105 (Prague Lectures); VI, 3–5 (The Crisis).

  79. 79.

    Hua. VI, 15.

  80. 80.

    Hua. VI, 15–16.

  81. 81.

    Hua. VI, 3–6, 8, 11, 15, 17.

  82. 82.

    Hua. VI, 15.

  83. 83.

    Husserl, “Amsterdamer Vorträge: Phänomenologische Psychologie” (1928), Hua. IX, 302–349; “Nachwort zu meinen Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie” (1930), Hua. V, 138–162; “Phänomenologie und Anthropologie” (1931), Hua. XXVII, 164–181.

  84. 84.

    Hua. VI, 10, 15–16 (cf. Vienna Lecture, Hua. VI, 337, 345–346).

  85. 85.

    Hua. VI, 2, 11–13, 15–17.

  86. 86.

    Hua. XXIV, 442–449 (“Persönliche Aufzeichnungen vom 25.9.1906, 4.11.1907, und 6.3.1908”).

  87. 87.

    Husserl, Letter to Alexander Pfänder, 6 January 1931, BW II, 180–184.

  88. 88.

    Husserl (and Malvine Husserl), Letter to Dietrich Mahnke, 4/5 May 1933, BW III, 491–502; Malvine Husserl, Letter to Mahnke, 18 May 1933, BW III, 502–504; Husserl, Letter to Mahnke, 31 December 1933, BW III, 511–512.

  89. 89.

    Schuhmann 1977, 428.

  90. 90.

    Schuhmann 1977, 15–16.

  91. 91.

    Husserl, Letter to Dietrich Mahnke, 17 October 1921, BW III, 431–435.

  92. 92.

    Husserl, Letter to Gustav Albrecht, 1 July 1933, BW IX, 92.

  93. 93.

    Schuhmann 1977, 472.

  94. 94.

    Smid, Editor’s Introduction, Hua. XXIX, xxiv–lviii.

  95. 95.

    Hua. VI, 1–3.

  96. 96.

    Hua. VI, 3–5.

  97. 97.

    Hua. VI, 48–54, 105–193.

  98. 98.

    Hua. VI, 24, 52, 72–73, 118, 152, 213, 249.

  99. 99.

    Hua. VI, 3–6, 8, 11, 15, 17 (cf. Vienna Lecture, Hua. VI, 319, 322–323, 326–327, 329, 333, 336, 338, 340, 347).

  100. 100.

    Hua. VI, 6–10, 13. Cf. also Husserl, Letter to Karl Joël (Draft), 11 March 1914, BW VI, 205–208; Letter to Dietrich Mahnke, 2 December 1916, BW III, 405–406; Letter to Mahnke, 25 February 1917, BW III, 410; etc.

  101. 101.

    Hua. VI, 5–12.

  102. 102.

    Hua. VI, 1, 3–5, 10–11, 13, 15 (cf. Vienna Lecture, Hua. VI, 314–322, 324–336, 338–344, 347–348).

  103. 103.

    Hua. XLII, 297–333.

  104. 104.

    Hua. XLII, 238.

  105. 105.

    Hua. XLII, 237–238.

  106. 106.

    Hua. XLII, 307.

  107. 107.

    Hua. XLII, 304–309.

  108. 108.

    Hua. VI, 71–74; Gadamer 1986, 188–201, 352–368.

  109. 109.

    Gadamer 1986, 169–174.

  110. 110.

    In this section, in-text page references in parentheses are to Husserliana VI.

  111. 111.

    Hua. VI, 60, 69, 102–103, 106, 123, 126–127, 129, 134–135, 156, 168, 176, 178, 182, 185, 218, 259, 264, 274.

  112. 112.

    Here I bracket concerns with the Krisis of “Eurocentrism”. Cf., e.g., Hua. VI, 12–17, 141–142, 318–320, 337. See Moran 2011.

  113. 113.

    On the distinction between Menschentum and Menschheit(en) see Carr’s remarks in Husserl 1970, 6, 15.

  114. 114.

    Hua. I, 47.

  115. 115.

    Husserl, Letter to Dorion Cairns, 24 April 1935, BW IV, 45; Letter to Gustav Albrecht, 16 December 1936, BW IX, 127–130; etc. This is the topic of another paper.

  116. 116.

    Hua. VI, 4; XXIX, 104.

  117. 117.

    Hua. VI, 6–10, 13.

  118. 118.

    Trizio 2016, 196.

  119. 119.

    Hua. XXVII, 208.

  120. 120.

    Hua. XXVII, 315.

  121. 121.

    Hua. XXVII, 207.

  122. 122.

    Hua. XXVII, 208.

  123. 123.

    Hua. XXVII, xxviii, fn. 2.

  124. 124.

    Hua. XXVII, 241–243.

  125. 125.

    Hua. XXVII, 240. Cf. 243.

  126. 126.

    Hua. VI, 314–315, 318, 337, 342, 347.

  127. 127.

    Hua. XXIX, 103, 118, 122.

  128. 128.

    Hua. XXIX, 108.

  129. 129.

    Hua. XXIX, 137–138.

  130. 130.

    Hua. VI, 1.

  131. 131.

    Hua. VI, 1–3.

  132. 132.

    Hua. VI, 1.

  133. 133.

    Hua. VI, 3.

  134. 134.

    Hua. VI, 3–4.

  135. 135.

    Hua. VI, 1, 3, 207, 216.

  136. 136.

    Hua. VI, 10, 14.

  137. 137.

    Hua. VI, 1.

  138. 138.

    Hua. VI, 1; XXIX, 103 (emphasis added).

  139. 139.

    Hua. VI, 3: “Die ‘Krisis’ der Wissenschaft als Verlust ihrer Lebensbedeutsamkeit.”

  140. 140.

    Hua. VI, 3: “Die Krisis der Wissenschaft als ‘Verlust ihrer Lebensbedeutsamkeit’.”

  141. 141.

    Hua. VI, 3 ff.

  142. 142.

    Hua. VI, 1–2, 62, 91, 102, 119, 127, 159, 197, 200–201, 203, 217, 219. What Husserl means by “genuine science” is clear from Hua. XVII, 32: “Wir sprachen von echter Erkenntnis, echter Wissenschaft, echter Methode. Die logischen Ideen sind durchaus Ideen der ‘Echtheit’. Das Echte ist das, worauf die Vernunft letztlich hinaus will, selbst in ihrem Verfallsmodus der Unvernunft. Es ist das, was in der Unklarheit und Verworrenheit ‘verfehlt’ wird, während es in der Ziel- und Wegklarheit und den ihr zugehörigen Wesensformen erzielt wird.”

  143. 143.

    Distinguishing between “prima facie scientificity” and “authentic scientificity”, Trizio (2016, 194–195, 203–206, 208–210) does not adequately clarify Husserl’s distinction between scientificity in the positivistic sense and scientificity in the philosophical sense. Thus he argues that for Husserl the crisis of the sciences must be a crisis of their scientificity alone and cannot also be a crisis of their meaningfulness for life (192–195, 196–198). This approach reinforces a false juxtaposition.

  144. 144.

    Hua. VI, 4; XXIX, 104.

  145. 145.

    Hua. VI, 6–10, 13.

  146. 146.

    Hua. VI, 1–3.

  147. 147.

    Hua. VI, 3–5.

  148. 148.

    Thus I find in The Crisis one more Krisis than Moran (2012, 7–8): the existential Krisis. Cf. VI, 10. In the Prague Lectures, Husserl also speaks of “an existential catastrophe” (“eine existenzielle Katastrophe”) into which the crisis of philosophy and science has plunged humanity. See XXIX, 108.

  149. 149.

    His argument is not demonstrative in the sense of Aristotle’s Analytics but probable in the spirit of his Topics.

  150. 150.

    Hua. VI, 10: “[…] Demnach bedeutet die Krisis der Philosophie die Krisis aller neuzeitlichen Wissenschaften als Glieder der philosophischen Universalität, eine zunächst latente, dann aber immer mehr zutage tretende Krisis des europäischen Menschentums selbst in der gesamten Sinnhaftigkeit seines kulturellen Lebens, in seiner gesamten ‘Existenz’.”

  151. 151.

    Hua. VI, 9–14.

  152. 152.

    Hua. XXIX, 137: “Die Krise der Wissenschaften und damit der ganzen, auf der Autonomie der wissenschaftlichen Vernunft basierenden modernen Kultur ist im Grunde allein eine Krise der Philosophie.” This statement is in Fink’s draft for a continuation of the Prague Lectures, but Husserl let it stand (Hua. XXIX, 463–465, esp. 465).

  153. 153.

    In Formale und transzendentale Logik (1929), his book on the Wissenschaftlichkeit der Wissenschaften, Husserl, remarking on “a more profound and consequential tragedy of modern scientific culture than one usually complains about in scientific circles”, but without using the term Krisis, emphasizes the unity of scientific, practical, and philosophical concerns. Cf. Hua. XVII, 6–10, 161, 213.

  154. 154.

    Hua. VI, 3–4.

  155. 155.

    Hua. VI, 8.

  156. 156.

    Hua. VI, 16.

  157. 157.

    I dedicate this paper to the memory of Thomas Prufer, under whom I first studied Husserl’s The Crisis at The Catholic University of America in 1975. I also thank Reinhold Smid, under whom I studied the work again at the University of Cologne in 1978–1979. Finally, I am grateful to Panos Theodorou, who organized the workshop “Phenomenology and History”, University of Crete, Rethymno, Greece, 18–19 July 2016, where I presented a preliminary version of the paper. My debt to Emiliano Trizio is evident.

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Heffernan, G. The Concept of Krisis in Husserl’s The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology . Husserl Stud 33, 229–257 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10743-017-9209-0

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Keywords

  • Human Existence
  • Positivistic Sense
  • European Science
  • European Humanity
  • Transcendental Phenomenology