Husserl and Foundationalism

  • John J. Drummond
Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 4)


Some might think perverse my suggestion in the title for this part of the work that Husserl is committed to realism and not to foundationalism. On the one hand, Husserl clearly identifies his own philosophy as a form of “transcendental idealism” (CM, §41), and on the other, Husserl clearly is committed to the discovery of an indubitable starting point upon which and a clear methodology by which philosophy can establish itself as a sure science of cognition. Husserl, then, certainly seems committed to both idealism and foundationalism.


Perceptual Experience Transcendental Idealism Natural Knowledge Philosophical Science Conscious Life 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, pp. 16–20.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, pp. 4, 166; cf. also p. 168 for Rorty’s version of the anxiety faced by Husserl in the face of scientific objectivism, psychologism, naturalism, and historicism.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For the sense of “objectivist” in this context, cf. Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, pp. 8–13.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Edmund Husserl, “Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft” in Edmund Husserl, Aufsätze und Vorträge (1911–1921), ed. by T Nenon and H. R. Sepp, Husserliana XXV (Dordrecht, Boston, Lancaster: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987), pp. 3–62 [“Philosophy as a Rigorous Science” in Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, ed. by Q. Lauer, (New York: Harper Tbrchbooks, 1965), pp. 71–147].Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    The reference is to the first of the Cams Lectures delivered at the 1985 meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, since published as The Many Faces of Realism (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Co., 1987); see lect. I.Google Scholar
  6. 7a.
    I do not intend to survey the various positions in these debates. For a sample of the entire range of positions, cf. M. M. van de Pitte, “Husserl: the Idealist malgré lui,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 37 (1976): 70–78;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7b.
    Karl Ameriks, “Husserl’s Realism”, Philosophical Review 86 (1977): 498–519;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 7c.
    Gary Gutting, “Husserl and Scientific Realism,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 39 (1978): 42–56;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 7d.
    Roman Ingarden, Der Streit um die Existenz der Welt (2 vols., Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1965), vol. 2, and “Die vier Begriffe der Ttanscendenz und das Problem des Idealismus in Husserl,” Analecta Husserliana (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1971), vol. I, pp. 37–74;Google Scholar
  10. 7e.
    Guido Küng, “Husserl on Pictures and Intentional Objects”, Review of Metaphysics 26 (1973): 670–80, and “The World as Noema and as Referent”, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 3 (1972);Google Scholar
  11. 7f.
    J. N. Findlay, “Phenomenology and the Meaning of Realism”, Phenomenology and Philosophical Understanding, ed. by E. Pivcevic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975);Google Scholar
  12. 7g.
    W. Morriston, “Intentionality and the Phenomenological Method: A Critique of Husserl’s Transcendental Idealism”, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 7 (1976);Google Scholar
  13. 7h.
    Smith and McIntyre, “Intentionality via Intensions;” Richard Holmes, “Is Transcendental Phenomenology Committed to Idealism?”, The Monist 59 (1975): 98–114; and Harrison Hall, “Was Husserl a Realist or an Idealist?”, HICS.Google Scholar
  14. 8.
    Cf. C. F. Delaney, “Presidential Address: Beyond Realism and Anti-Realism,” Realism, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 59 (1984), ed. by Daniel O. Dahlstrom (hereafter Realism), pp. 2–3, 11. Delaney offers a historical sketch of the realism debate which is similar, although with differences in detail, to the one I provide below in §46.Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    Michael Dummett, “Realism,” Truth and Other Enigmas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), 145–46.Google Scholar
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    Dummett, 146–47; cf. Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Realism vs Anti-Realism: How to Feel at Home in the World,” Realism, pp. 190–91.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, p. 12, and Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, pp. 5–7, 358.Google Scholar
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    Edmund Husserl, Erste Philosophie. Erster Teil’ Kritische Ideengeschichte (hereafter EP I), ed. by R. Boehm, Husserliana VII (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1956).Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    It is not only philosophers who might consider this lack of experimental predictions a problem for these theories. At least some physicists are also skeptical. Cf., e.g., the reservations expressed by Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam in the NOVA presentation “What Einstein Never Knew,” originally broadcast on PBS, October 22, 1985; see the transcript of the program (Boston: WGBH Transcripts, 1985), pp. 17–18. The desire for experimental verifications might also help explain why some theorists apparently prefer quantum-foam theories to string theories: since quantum-foam theory explains the gravitational force in a manner reminiscent of the “gauge”-theory formulation of the other forces, it holds the promise of unification with a theory which already has some experimental confirmation. Cf. Amitabha Sen and Sharon Butler, “Quantum Physics: Closing In on the Secret of Gravity,” The Washington Post, March 22, 1987, p. C3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John J. Drummond
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMount Saint Mary’s CollegeEmmitsburgUSA

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