Original Articles

Husserl’s Preemptive Responses to Existentialist Critiques

Published in: Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology
Volume 1, issue 1, 2001 , pages: 1–13
DOI: 10.1080/20797222.2001.11433857


Existentialist thinkers often publicly acknowledged Husserl’s phenomenology as one of their main points of departure for treatment of such themes as intentionality, comportment, transcendence, and the lifeworld. Several central elements of Husserl’s approach were adopted by the Existentialists, but equal to their gratitude were vigorous declamations of Husserl’s mistakes, dead-ends and failures. Many of the Existentialists’ criticisms of Husserl’s project are well-known and have been rehearsed in various surveys of 20th century thought, but less well-remarked are the discrepancies between their complaints about Husserl’s aborted achievements and what Husserl actually delivered. This paper attempts to uncover the accuracy of some of their assessments of Husserl’s alleged failures and mistakes, whether or not Husserl actually held the position they claim he did, and especially whether or not Husserl was himself aware of some deficiency in his thematic analysis, and thus would have been able to offer a cogent response to critique. In doing so, a good case can be made that Heidegger, for example, quietly adopted some of Husserl’s main insights without credit, slanted his picture of Husserl’s work so that his own reversals had better purchase, or overlooked evidence that Husserl had already moved beyond that position. At least on some key topics, Husserl emerges as an exceptionally self-critical philosopher who had already gained the perspective more usually associated with an Existentialist orientation.

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