I'm reading from an anthology of essays by and about Husserl (collected by Joseph Kockelmans):

More specifically, Husserl makes a strong argument against some of the internal problems of various natural sciences and philosophical methods.

However, it seems like phenomenological reduction is achieved by a relatively straightforward method:

1) Notice the assumptions as they appear to oneself primordially

2) Suspend these judgements, revealing the world as merely phenomena

3)Discovery of the transcendental ego

3) Proceed with the study of experience in an objective manner

My question is how this process actually gets at what is going on primordially, and more specifically how he justifies the lack of "presuppositions" that go on in this particular image of mental intentionality (why this is a more successful method in revealing the essence of things

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  • thanks! I wasn't assuming any particular etiquette, and I appreciate the welcome. Dec 22, 2015 at 18:42
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    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 22, 2015 at 19:14
  • @JosephWeissman I edited the statement slightly, i hope that this is clearer. Dec 22, 2015 at 19:19
  • Can you narrow this down so that it asks just one question? If you like, you can even create new questions and link back to this one to retain cohesion between the different aspects of the problem you want to explore
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 23, 2015 at 22:42

3 Answers 3


Husserl is perhaps the last truly classical figure in epistemology, he still believed in objective content of knowledge, the same for "angels and centaurs" as for humans, and the possibility of "apodictic certainty" at the end of eidetic and phenomenological investigations. He believed that by suspending ("bracketing out") stereotypes and presuppositions, and resolving into a state of "pure consciousness" we can reach the "things themselves", as they primordially reveal themselves to us. And that this revelation is the ultimate grounding of all knowledge. But yes, much of his optimistic maximalism does not appear feasible in the age of cynicism, doubt and suspicion.

In explaining how we should move "to things themselves" Husserl presents our mental faculties differently prom Kant, his transcendental idealist predecessor, with his unreachable things in themselves, productive imagination, and synthetic a priori. In particular, Husserl points out that our perception is not purely sensual but covers a spectrum, with sensuality being only an impoverished abstraction towards one of its ends. Abstracting towards the other end we discover "ideation", ideal perception, direct grasping of eidoses ("essenses") as they present themselves "in" sensual particulars, this is eidetic reduction. In this view of essences as "sekundär realisiert" beside the material objects one can discern a refined version of Aristotelian realism about universals (although Husserl was a transcendental idealist), enriched by detailed phenomenological analysis of perception and intuition. Eidetic reduction is the first step towards "primordial" knowledge.

The second step involves another movement away from the "natural" attitude, along what Husserl calls noema/noesis pole, roughly from content/representation to comprehension. In this second, phenomenological, reduction to pure consciousness the subject/object divide is supposedly dissolved, and apodictic certainty of things as they reveal themselves is supposedly attained. It is important that unlike "rational intuition" of Descartes and Leibniz Husserl's "eidetic intuition" (ideal perception) does not give us some backdoor access to the ultimate nature of things. Instead it strives to exploit more fully the non-mystical front door access to phenomena that we all are familiar with. Phenomenological investigation aims at elucidating received (empirical) knowledge through revealing its intrinsic eidetic and intentional structures, i.e. its meaning.

As for detachment, Husserl was a great believer in our ability to abstract from psychological habits and stereotypes, the entire first volume of Logical Investigations is dedicated to the critique of "psychologism", the supposed dependence of logical on empirical. Husserl's favorite argument against psychologism is its metabasis fallacy,

"a faulty though obvious shifting of problems. This shifting occurs between the psychological explanation of knowledge according to the methodical standards of natural sciences on the one hand and analyzing knowledge phenomena in terms of their intrinsic eidetic structures on the other hand".

In other words, while pre-existing morality, emotions, beliefs, etc., have psychological effect on the process of deliberation, according to Husserl they are simply irrelevant to "intrinsic eidetic structures", of knowledge. And phenomenology is a system of intellectual ("logical" in the old sense of the word) techniques to purge knowledge of this psychologistic baggage.

A nice review of epistemological issues in Husserl's phenomenology is Rinofner-Kreidl's Phenomenologist's Reply (to Quine) in Husserl and the Sciences edited by Feist.

  • Thank you so much for your thoughtful and engagig answer. Do you have any insight about the non-internalist picture of the mind? I mean, the intentional conscious-of-the-other picture. So knowledge of the world is secondary to being-of-the world. I find this to be interesting and certainky heideggarian. I apologize forvthe somewhay loose question. Dec 23, 2015 at 1:03
  • 1
    @Andres Mejia What I described is the early Husserl of Logical Investigations and Ideas for Pure Phenomenology. What you describe sounds like the late Husserl of lebenswelt in Crisis of European Sciences. That was indeed written under the existensialist influence of Heidegger, Husserl's most famous student. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with his late period to comment much. Kerszberg's essay in the book I linked touches on some of it.
    – Conifold
    Dec 23, 2015 at 3:30
  • Well thank you. Ill continue reading. If i gain insight, ill be sure to send you a message Dec 23, 2015 at 3:45

The method you're describing does not at least to me sound like the goal of Husserl's bracketing or Epoché.

You state:

1) Notice the assumptions as they appear to oneself primordially 2)Suspend judgements derived from emotional/ natural attitudes 3) then proceed with some different types of "reduction" that go backward to reveal the essence of the object of study.

This sounds to me to more like Kant's project than Husserl's at least on points 1 and 2.

First off, I would say I don't think Husserl's phenomenology is especially concerned with whether our judgments come from "emotional/natural attitudes" or from intellectually critical attitudes.

Second, what we're supposed to be noticing is the phenomenon as they appear to us -- rather than anything about assumptions per se.

A large motivation is to move our engagement with perception away from the question of the metaphysical status of what we experience and towards the nature of experiencing itself (i.e. the nature of our own mode of consciousness). Through this, Husserl believes he can reveal the essence of things precisely by skipping over what on his view would be the time wasted in epistemic quagmires which characterized the modern period of philosophy.

  • 1
    I take your first point as correct, im not sure why i stated those two particular "presuppositions" in paricular... i didnt really mean to place emphasis on what is revealed in our presuppositions. The first step seems to describe epoche as an active disengagement necessary in "reflection." By achieving this, it reduces experience to so called phenomenon, allowing for a purer treatment if experience. But why does this follow? Doesnt consciously deliberating on experience change its nature, or miss some part of it? Why is this stripped down understanding considered the essence? Dec 24, 2015 at 7:52

I take Phenomenology as a philosophical attitude that attempts to overcome the Descartian divide; a divide that Kant retains - the phenomenal world vs the noumenal world.

Whereas and hence: for Husserl, it is

to the things themselves

ie to their essences

Essences, here understood, at least in one aspect, in the onto-logic of Aristotle ie in his Categories; which a Locke later calls real essences; to be distinguished from nominal ones.

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