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Gustav Špet’s “Hermeneutical Phenomenology” Project: His Reinterpretation of Husserl’s Phenomenology

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Early Phenomenology in Central and Eastern Europe

Part of the book series: Contributions to Phenomenology ((CTPH,volume 113))

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Over the past several decades, the figure of Gustav Špet (1879–1937) has grown unceasingly in prominence, and the significance of his work in contemporary philosophy has increased accordingly. Alongside this process has been another, equally relentless one—that of the elaboration and enrichment of our conceptions of this philosopher’s creative character, as well as of the nature and essence of his philosophy. Špet is set to become yet another major figure in the synthesis of the humanities that emerged during the first half of the twentieth century. From the point of view of historical fact, Špet’s involvement with the phenomenological movement is limited to him being Husserl’s student in Göttingen from 1912–1913, and to their subsequent written correspondence. Appearance and Sense, his monograph devoted to the problems of phenomenology, was published in 1914. The interweaving of phenomenology and hermeneutics that occurred in Appearance and Sense allowed Špet to reveal the very essence of phenomenology, the exact essence which, according to him, Husserl was unable to unveil. Here he relied on hermeneutics to present phenomenology in a fundamental way. In this text, hermeneutics and phenomenology are bound tightly together, and they intersect constantly. Following A. Savin, we endeavour to justify the thesis that hermeneutics only gained meaning within the scope of his phenomenological program, and as such for Špet himself hermeneutics most likely served to provide a detailed commentary of his phenomenological research with no independent significance of its own.

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  1. 1.

    Regarding Heidegger, we should put a special focus on the figure of Špet. After all, Heidegger was the thinker who proposed a radical revision of the subject, method, and implementation of philosophical work. He was, on the one hand, fashioning his ontological project in close connection with the traditional views which had already become thoroughly obscured in his day, and in a break with the tradition and a claim to a fundamentally new initiation, on the other hand. These claims Heidegger made, which might seem excessive, were in fact partly justified, due to the fact that one of the major questions that agitated Heidegger throughout his intellectual life was the question of what philosophy is. So Heidegger’s destruction of the philosophical tradition, the destruction which was this tradition’s only means of survival, emerged as a result of the attempts made to answer this central question. All the above makes us think of Špet, as both thinkers believed that the revival of genuine philosophy is possible through returning to its origins and to real philosophical problems.

  2. 2.

    Anna Han notes, “In the course of interpreting Husserl’s phenomenology of consciousness, Špet made two critical corrections to this system in his Appearance and Sense. … Špet saw a void in Husserl’s doctrine which consisted in the fact that he had not emphasized social existence as a special kind of existence and had not elaborated a phenomenological method of describing it. According to Špet, phenomenology as such would have experienced certain modifications and obtained some new cultural perspectives with the elaboration of such a method. The second critical correction Špet made pertains to the definition of the category of ‘sense’. Špet believed that, while describing the logical sphere as pertaining to a specific act within the whole of intentional experience, Husserl defined notion (that which expresses the meaning), but he did not define sense. According to Špet’s philosophical reasoning, sense represents not an abstract, logical area of an object but its inherent characteristic, an essential feature of the real being of an object. Therefore, the main question concerns the way in which an object can reveal sense, concealed within as the truth in…” (Denn et al. 2014).


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Artemenko, N. (2020). Gustav Špet’s “Hermeneutical Phenomenology” Project: His Reinterpretation of Husserl’s Phenomenology. In: Płotka, W., Eldridge, P. (eds) Early Phenomenology in Central and Eastern Europe. Contributions to Phenomenology, vol 113. Springer, Cham.

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