Metaphysical Neutrality in Logical Investigations

  • Dan Zahavi
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 164)


One of the striking features of Logical Investigations is its metaphysical neutrality. What are the implications of this neutrality? Should it be counted among the many virtues of the work, or rather mourned as a fateful shortcoming? In an article published in the beginning of the 1990s, I answered this question rather unequivocally.1 At that time I considered the neutrality in question to be highly problematic. In the meantime, however, I have had the pleasure of reading Jocelyn Benoist’s recent work Phénoménologie,sémantique, ontologie, where he argues for the opposite conclusion, criticizing my own interpretation in the process. In the light of this criticism, I would like to use this occasion to reconsider the question anew.


Logical Investigation Intentional Object Intentional Content External Reality Intended Object 
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    It has occasionally been claimed that even though Husserl is not a metaphysical realist when it comes to spatiotemporal objects, his Platonism in the Prolegomenadoes commit him to some kind of metaphysical realism about ideal objects. In reply, it might first of all be pointed out that Husserl himself subsequently emphasized that he was not trying to argue for the existenceof ideal objects in a separate supernatural realm, but that he was simply engaged in a defense of the validityof ideality. In short, he was advocating a logicaland not an ontologicalPlatonism (HuaXXII, 156–157). Secondly, Husserl’s `Platonism’ is mainly to be found in the Prolegomena,but the main part of this text dates back from 1896, and it has often been debated whether it truly forms an integrated whole with the rest of the Logical Investigations.In other words, it remains contested whether the Prolegomena isat all a phenomenological piece of work, or whether it does not rather remain pre-phenomenological. Thirdly, and most importantly, even if one concedes that it is possible to find assertions that seems to indicate a realism in regard to ideal objects, this does obviously not change the fact that Husserl quite explicitly speaks out against metaphysical realism and that he defines phenomenology in terms of a metaphysical neutrality. In short, even if Husserl’s `Platonism’ does commit him to some form of metaphysical realism, this would not turn Logical Investigationsinto a piece of realist metaphysics, it would only confirm (cf. p. 101 below) that the work contains some serious internal tensions.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Zahavi
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CopenhagenDenmark

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