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Eugen Enyvvari’s road to Göttingen and back: A case study in the Transleithanian participation in early phenomenology (with an appendix of Edmund Husserl’s two unpublished letters to Enyvvari)


Despite attending Husserl’s classes, participating in the discussions of the Göttingen phenomenological circle, and writing prolifically on phenomenology, Eugen Enyvvari (1884–1959) seems to have been virtually ignored by phenomenological scholarship. I use an array of unpublished sources and a survey of his juvenilia to reconstruct Enyvvari’s biography and intellectual formation, including his confrontation with Melchior Palagyi’s critique of Husserl and Bolzano. Based on both his reports and records from the Göttingen University Archives, I attempt to establish the influences to which he could have been exposed in Göttingen. I rely on a careful micro-analysis of the development of Husserl’s notion of noematical meaning at the time of Enyvvari’s stay in Göttingen in order to asses Enyvvari’s specific contribution to phenomenology and his significance from the point of view of the general historiography of phenomenology.

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  1. The family name is a literal translation into Hungarian of Leimstädter in the 1880s.

  2. Enyvvari is not mentioned in any of the standard reference works on the history of phenomenology (Schuhmann 1977; Spiegelberg and Schuhmann 1982; Moran 2000). The present author is also not aware of any phenomenological secondary literature on Enyvvari either (see note 6 below). In March 4, 1985, Karl Schuhmann was told in a letter by Kornél Steiger (Budapest) about the existence of Enyvvari. Schuhmann intended to include Enyvvari in the planned revised edition of his chronology of Husserl (Schuhmann 1977). This revised edition was never completed, but he did mention Enyvvari in a short footnote appended to the version of the Reinach biography published in the critical edition of Reinach’s works (see Reinach 1989, 2:620, n. 3), Schuhmann’s claim that Enyvvari “nur sehr wenig publiziert hat,” however, is far from being true.

  3. Enyvvari 1910, 194, n. 1—Unless otherwise noted, all translation are by the present author. For obvious reasons, the Hungarian originals are not provided. German quotations are left untranslated, unless standard translations are available.

  4. Ms. M III 10 III 7/1a (the list also bears annotations by Husserl’s hand).

  5. Ms. SP 74. Its title page carries the dedication: “Herrn Prof. Edmund Husserl überreicht von seinem dankbaren Schüler E[ugen] Enyv[v]ári”.

  6. It is emblematic that the pioneering monograph by the Hungarian émigré Tibor Hanák (1981), that was intended to challenge the official Marxist historiography of early twentieth century Hungarian philosophy, heralded Enyvvari as a protagonist of the alternative narrative (6), yet Hanák’s actual presentation of Enyvvari is unconvincing and merely a half page long (133–134). The best exposition so far is the half column long discussion of Enyvvari in Balázs M. Mezei’s excellent English-language encyclopaedia entry on phenomenology in Hungary (1997, 321--322), which, however, puts its emphasis on Enyvvari’s late creative foray (cf. “Conclusion and perspectives: Enyvvari’s place in the phenomenological movement” section below).

  7. The entry on Enyvvari in the New Hungarian Biographical Dictionary (Budapest: 2001, II: 366–367), e.g., claims that Enyvvari “earned a doctoral degree in humanities at the University of Budapest in 1905” (366). In the records of the University Archives of Budapest there is no entry for his alleged doctoral examination.

  8. Besides the notes explicitly mentioned below, I have also relied on Enyvvari’s own manually bound collection of his offprints, which bears annotations presumably from his own hand, and Enyvvari’s biographical letter to Pál Gulyás (1881–1936) a lexicographer whose project of a comprehensive national biographical dictionary was forcefully terminated after the Second World War (Ms. National Széchényi Library (OSZK) Fond 36/175). Data on Enyvvari’s later career as a librarian is based on the history of the Municipal Library of Budapest (Katsányi 2004), which, unfortunately, leaves Enyvvari as a philosopher completely in the dark.

  9. Enyvvari received the grade “excellent” (the best of the five possible grades) in philosophical propaedeutic and religious studies, while in other subjects, except for freehand drawing, he was awarded “good” (the second best) or “sufficient” (just above the failing level). Ms. Budapest City Archives (BFL), VI.502.d (II. ker., 1902.1.6/8).

  10. Data are based on the historical almanacs of the university, consulted in the University Archives of Budapest.

  11. The curriculum of philosophy in the secondary schools was not historically oriented.

  12. It is an interesting question of how Palagyi (and other Hungarians) became aware of Bolzano in the years immediately following the turn of the century and whether osmotic transmission mechanisms from the original Bolzano-Circle, which never totally disappeared in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, played any role in this process. Both Palagyi and Enyvvari were members of the scarcely documented Bolzanoist philosophical circle in Budapest, called “BEMBE,” which is reported as having been active between 1909 and 1914 (Somos 1999, 597 ff.), Somos, however, believes that the interest in Bolzano was initiated by Husserl’s work (ibid.).

  13. Palagyi claimed that Husserl, despite his explicit praise of Bolzano in the Logical Investigations, concealed the “origin” (Provenienz) of his own position (Palágyi 1902b, 16). Such remarks were apparently taken by Husserl as a hint of intellectual plagiarism: “In a series of hints which would be insignificant taken separately, but which are efficacious when taken in sequence, he gives the reader no less a notion than that I have exploited Bolzano in a dishonest manner and have kept silent about my dependence upon him [in unredlicher Weise ausgenützt, aber meine Abhängigkeit von ihm verschwiegen habe].” (Husserl 1979, 155, ET: Husserl 1994a, 200).

  14. Daubert 2002, 344, ET: 345. Daubert did not explicitly refer to Palagyi’s book.

  15. Palágyi (1902a, 32).

  16. Palágyi (1902a, 34).

  17. Bolzano 1837, I:217, ET (mod.): 1973, 78.

  18. Cf. Ms. Göttingen University Archive, draft Abgangszeugnis 1910, Nr. 859, as well as the Abgangszeugnis itself (in private possession).

  19. Enyvvari 1910, 194, n. 1. The printed version reads “W. Conrad,” but Enyvvari corrected it in his own offprint copy to “Th. Conrad” (cf. note 8 above).

  20. Among the many formulations of this principle by Husserl, it is worth highlighting his retrospective claim from 1935 to 1936, according to which “[t]he first breakthrough of this universal a priori of correlation between experienced object and manners of givenness […] occurred during work on my Logical Investigations around 1898” (Husserl 1962, 169, n. 1, ET: 1970, 166, n.; cf., e.g., Moran 2003, esp. 56 ff.).

  21. This tripartite distinction between judgement in specie, uniformity of a relation to the same state of affairs, and state of affairs itself is richer and more specific than the equivocacy that Husserl, as Robin D. Rollinger pointed out, diagnosed between “sentences in themselves […] regarded as the objects” of thought and sentences in themselves “regarded as the species of these thoughts, more precisely of judgements” (Rollinger 1999, 80).

  22. Even the most detailed developmental analysis available so far (Mohanty 2008, 224–241) has a very narrow textual basis, respectively is not fine-grained enough for our purposes, not to mention the commentaries on Husserl’s Ideas I (cf. Ricoeur 1996, 138; Moran 2015, 221). Anchors are provided by the respective editorial introductions, see esp. Husserl 1984c, xxiii ff., 1987, xvii ff., 1996, xxxiii ff., 2009, xxxiv ff.

  23. The published text of Husserl’s lecture course of 1908 contains a more pronounced terminology, namely the distinction between “phansical [phansisch]” and “ontical [ontisch]” (Husserl 1987, 38); though these terms are later additions by Husserl. The adjective “phansical” was employed by Husserl for a short time around 1909-1910 to denote the investigation of mental acts according to their “immanent-real content [reellen Bestand]” (Husserl 2005a, 157, cf. 58 n., 65). Husserl intended to coin the terminus technicus φάνσις, in opposition to the more widespread term φαινόμενον (which he translated as “[das] Erscheinenden” or “[die] Erscheinung”), in order to denote “the appearing itself as an experience [das Erscheinen selbst als Erlebnis]” (Husserl 1988, 307–308). Husserl actively used this terminology during Enyvvari’s stay in Göttingen (e.g., Husserl 2004, 235, 241, 258, 2005b, 238, 258–259), thus Enyvvari unsurprisingly picked it up as early as in 1910 (cf. Enyvvari 1910, 184). Husserl continued to employ it sporadically in 1911–1912 (Husserl 1980, 313, 2009, 291, 300), but he later denounced it (e.g., Husserl 2012a, 465, n. 1) and explicitly replaced it by the adjective “noetical” (e.g., Husserl 2005b, 238, n. 3, 2009, 300, n. 1; unpublished manuscript Ms. M III 12/7-8).

  24. According to the assessments by Elisabeth Schuhmann (Husserl 2003, viii) and Ursula Panzer (Husserl 1996, xxxiv, n. 2).

  25. Compare Ms. A I 42/31a and Husserl 2012b, 29 ff.

  26. Husserl 1987, 156 and n. 1 (a research manuscript from 1907), 2012b, 38 (a research manuscript from September 1907), 1987, 33 (the SS 1908 lecture course itself). This incertitude in interpreting Bolzano is markedly opposed to Husserl’s continued confident references to Bolzano’s fundamental discovery of “the distinction between subjective presentations as psychical experiences and logical presentations as ideal unities” (Husserl 2001b, 56 (WS 1902/03), cf. 2002a, 14, 70 (SS 1905), 1984c, 143 (WS 1905/06), 2003, 42 (WS 1908/1909)). The discovery of the latter, simple distinction – essentially, the refutation of the psychologism (in contrast to Husserl’s more moderation assessment of Bolzano’s merits in this regards in the Logical Investigations itself, Husserl 1975, 226 ff.) – was, following the emergence of the noematic sense of meaning, reassigned by Husserl to the Ancient Stoics and Bolzano’s achievement was degraded to a mere rediscovery Husserl 2012a, 87.

  27. Husserl 2009, 160. Concerning the adjective “phansical,” see note 23 above.

  28. According to the student transcript (Ms. N I 3/11b), cf. Husserl 1987, 408.

  29. Husserl 1984b, 790. Bolzano as an unconscious forerunner of the noematic sense of meaning also figures in Husserl’s influential self-interpretation written in 1913 and first published posthumously in 1939 (Husserl 2002b, 298–299), even though the bulk of it is dedicated to explicating the dilemma between Platonism and psychologism (i.e., the more trivial first distinction).

  30. Cf., e.g. Thomas Sheehan’s retraction (1997, 17, n. 59) of his oft-cited claim of Heidegger’s “attack” against Husserl’s notion of an ahistorical pure ego in 1919.

  31. Gotthardt 1909, 27, n. 2; there are question marks at this passage in the copy in the Municipal Library of Budapest, where Enyvvari was working.

  32. Concerning Reinach, cf. the extant table of contents of Husserl’s otherwise lost text on Reinach (Husserl 2009, 447; cf. K. Schuhmann 1987, 246–247). As pointed out recently (Fabbianelli 2015), Conrad’s distinction between Bezeichnung (denoting) and Kennzeichnung (denoting in virtue of alleged ontologically intrinsic properties) aimed at transcending both of Husserl’s concepts of meaning (222, cf. 209), motivated by “entirely different conceptions of phenomenology” (224), i.e., the methodological opposition between Husserl’s Aktphänomenologie and the Gegenstandsphänomenologie that the Munich-based circle of Early Phenomenologists strived for.

  33. As the correspondence with his publisher demonstrates, the manuscript was already finished in November 1916, or presumably even earlier, the publication being delayed due to the war (Ms. National Széchényi Library (OSZK) Fond 2/375).

  34. From this point of view, Enyvvari’s insistence on passages in which Bolzano links proposition in itself and meaning (cf. Enyvvari 1910, 14–15) are particularly telling clues.

  35. Cf., e.g., his self-references at Enyvvari 1913, 10, n. 2, 48, n. 1, 1918, 59.

  36. First put forward: Enyvvari 1911a; further substantiated: 1912b). Enyvvari quoted the essay of Theodor Conrad (1881–1869), an elusive member of the Phenomenological Movement whom Enyvvari met in Göttingen (Conrad 1911; cf. Enyvvari 1912b, 98, n. 1). Since Conrad, however, completely rejected Husserl’s framework of intentional analysis of perceptions and presentations (Conrad 1911, 64 n.), it was mistaken for Enyvvari to rely on Conrad in trying to amend Husserl’s framework.

  37. For example, in presenting Husserl’s mature phenomenology, Enyvvari tried to quote Bolzano as a forerunner of phenomenology (Enyvvari 1913, 37, n. 1).

  38. In January 1915, e.g., he was officially nominated as a corresponding member of the prestigious Hungarian Academy of Sciences by two of his former teachers, Imre Pauer and Bernát Alexander (the first an ordinary, the second a corresponding member of the Academy).


Archival sources cited (Ms.)

  • Budapest City Archives (Budapesti Fővárosi Levéltár).

  • Göttingen University Archive (Universitätsarchiv Göttingen).

  • Husserl Archives, Leuven (Husserl-Archief, K.U.Leuven): A I 42, M III 10 III 7, M III 12, N I 3, SP 74.

  • National Széchényi Library, Manuscript Collection (OSZK Kézirattár).

  • Private Collection (Enyvvari-family).

  • University Archives of Budapest (ELTE Egyetemi Levéltár).

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The author would like to express his gratitude to Péter Enyvvari for his kind permission to consult and publish privately held manuscript material pertaining to Eugen Enyvvari, as well as for valuable background information and encouragement. Furthermore, the author gratefully acknowledges the impetus he received from Kornél Steiger, the valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper (especially by the editor-in-chief of this journal), and the kind permission by Ullrich Melle, director of the Husserl Archives at the K. U. Leuven to quote from Edmund Husserl’s unpublished manuscripts. The work of the author was supported by the Grant OTKA PD105101 of the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH) in Hungary.

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Correspondence to Peter Andras Varga.

Appendix: Edmund Husserl’s certificate and postcard to Eugen Enyvvari

Appendix: Edmund Husserl’s certificate and postcard to Eugen Enyvvari

Certificate (Husserl’s handwriting):

Zeugnis. |

Herr Enyvvari Jenö aus Budapest, | welcher in diesem Wintersemester | zur Vertiefung seiner philosophischen | Bildung an unserer Georgia Augusta | studierte, hat sich durch außerordent-|lichen Eifer und Fleiß, durch seine | Gründlichkeit u < nd > Tüchtigkeit, durch seine | begeisterte Hingabe an die schwierig-|sten Probleme der Erkenntniskritik | meine besonderen Sympathien erworben. | Seine künftige wissenschaftliche Entwicklung | lässt das Beste erhoffen, wenn ihm, was | er sehr verdient, entsprechende Förderung | zu Theil wird. |

Göttingen<,> den 2. März 1910 |

Dr E. Husserl |

o. ö. Professor an der Uni-|versität.

Postcard (Postal stamp: Göttingen; August 14, 1913; reproduction of a signed photograph of Edmund Husserl, text in Husserl’s handwriting):

Mit freundlichstem | Gruß an |

Herrn Eugen | Enyvvari |

Göttingen<,> 13.8.<19>13.

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Varga, P.A. Eugen Enyvvari’s road to Göttingen and back: A case study in the Transleithanian participation in early phenomenology (with an appendix of Edmund Husserl’s two unpublished letters to Enyvvari). Stud East Eur Thought 69, 57–78 (2017).

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  • Eugen Enyvvari
  • Edmund Husserl
  • Bernard Bolzano
  • Melchior Palagyi
  • Noematical Meaning
  • Phenomenological Movement