Husserlian Recommendations

Since it’s Friday, I have a confession — I’ve never studied Husserl in any depth. This summer, I would like to remedy this gaping hole in my knowledge. Two points:

  • I have the impression that reading Ideas I, Cartesian Meditations, and Crisis of the European Sciences is sufficient to give me a good base. Is this correct?
  • I’d like to read two or three good secondaries — and my preference would be to start with “pure” secondaries rather than another great philosopher’s daring reinterpretation, etc. Any recommendations?

Thank you for your consideration.

25 thoughts on “Husserlian Recommendations

  1. “Off the cuff,” three secondary texts come to mind:

    1. Elliston’s _Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals_

    2. Natanson’s book, _Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks_:

    And, more recently:

    3. Donn Welten’s _The Other Husserl_:

    Hope this helps…

  2. (a fair bit of my early philosophical reading started out as an attempt to fill in the “background” of Derrida’s essays – rather as Badiou is now, for me, a gateway to mathematics…)

  3. Check out books by Dan Zahavi, J.N. Mohanty, Dermot Moran, Clare Ortiz Hill, A.D. Smith and David Woodruff Smith.

    Beware of those who follow Follesdal’s Fregean reading of Husserl (read Zahavi’s critique of such reading in his “Husserl and transcendental intersubjectivity”). Dreyfusians are famously guilty of this.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Adam,
    If you already have some familiarity with the basic tenets of phenomenology, then you should definitely read Husserl’s Encyclopedia Brittanica entry on Phenomenology. I also think the three texts you’ve listed are indeed good places to start.

  5. I still think Anthony Steinbock’s Home and Beyond: Generative Phenomenology After Husserl is a masterful secondary source. It’ll give you the sweep of development from the more static conception of phenomenology in Ideas to the later, more dynamic, historicized, post-SZ approach of the Crisis texts.

  6. My favourite:

    *Belief and Its Neutralization
    Husserl’s System of Phenomenology in Ideas I

    And great philosopher’s daring interpretation:

    *Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology / Paul Ricoeur

    * Discovering Existence with Husserl / Emmanuel Levinas

  7. Adam, if I had to choose two, I’d pick D.W. Smith’s “Husserl” (Routledge) and J.N. Mohanty’s “The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl” (Yale). The latter is fantastic, like Beiser’s works on German philosophy. A sequel is coming out in June with the title “Edmund Husserl’s Freiburg Years” – get that too if you can – I’m sure it’ll be brilliant as well!

  8. For primary texts: your choice of three is basically the ‘big three,’ although I’d suggest also looking at sections from the Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis volume if you get deeply into Husserl. Some of the most exciting stuff (that’s been translated, anyway) is in that volume.

    For secondary texts: as an intro / synthetic overview, Zahavi’s book published by Stanford UP is good. Steinbock’s _Home and Beyond_ is really good on the later Husserl and the late manuscripts. Donn Welton’s _The Other Husserl_ is recommended, although there is some overlap in theme with Steinbock; Welton also edited a collection of essays called _The New Husserl_ that is pretty swell, especially the two Klaus Held articles in the front of the book, and in light of there being Steinbock and Welton articles that serve as mini-summaries of their own book-length works.

    Beyond this, Ricoeur’s writings on Husserl (both the Northwestern book and the small key to Ideas I from Marquette) can be recommended. David Carr’s Phenomenology and the Problem of History is good, if slightly redundant after the Steinbock book. I also really think you need to read Eugen Fink’s essays on Husserl and Ludwig Landgrebe if you want to get deep into Husserl.

    For Dominic – Len Lawlor’s book on Derrida and Husserl is exactly what you’re looking for.

  9. I haven’t read the Crisis but I think Ideas II would be really worthwhile; it’s easy to get an overly intellectualistic/reflective picture if you stick with Ideas I, and there’s a lot of stuff in II that’s interesting in its own right. (How much of this might also be in Crisis I don’t know, for obvious reasons.)

    I’m reading a book by Zahavi now and he’s a very clear writer and apparently knows his way around the (enormous) Husserlian Nachlass; I would bet that either Husserl’s Phenomenology or Husserl and Transcendental Intersubjectivity would stand you in good stead.

  10. When I was a callow youth I saw that the library had a book by Ricœur called A Key to Husserl’s Ideas and I thought, great! Sounds like an approachable introduction to Husserl’s ideas! I didn’t know that was actually about Husserl’s Ideas, because I didn’t know that he had written a book commonly referred to as just Ideas.

    And then I found $5.

  11. I think that Zahavi’s *Husserl’s Phenomenology* is the best short introduction to Husserl as a whole.

    If you want to understand the “French” Husserl, *Formal and Transcendental Logic* (and the guide to it, written by Suzanne Bachelard — Gaston’s daughter) is pretty essential. It’s probably as important as CM for understanding how Husserl gets read in France.

    Another good text is a short work by Eugen Fink, “The Phenomenological Philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Contemporary Criticism,” which provides a good intro to Husserl (who “endorses” the essay in a short intro blurb) as well as detailing the difference between transcendental phenomenology and neo-kantianism.

  12. These are horrible recommendations. Sokolowski’s Introduction to Phenomenology is by far the only intro book to read, especially if you haven’t read any Husserl. It’s a shorter version of his Husserlian Meditations. As for reading Husserl, the Cartesian Meditations are unreadable. The Crisis is a good place to start, but there’s no substitute for reading the Logical Investigations, and the Sokolowski will help.

  13. CM may be difficult, but so is the Critique of Pure Reason and the Science of Logic. Like these texts, it’s an absolutely central work of modern philosophy. LI is also important, but it pre-dates the turn to transcendental phenomenology. LI is extremely important to Heidegger but less so to, e.g., Derrida and the rest of the French tradition.

    The Sokolowski book is just what it claims to be: an intro to phenomenology (and not to Husserl in particular).

  14. If you read Ideas I in Kersten’s translations be aware that there are some odd choices, e.g. “predicatively formed affair-complex” for Sachverhalt.

  15. @Sans Ouevre

    Phenomenology can be exciting and new, and I think reading LI (and Sokolowski) can give you a sense for why it originally attracted so many people. Ideas and the later Husserl are not exciting, unless methodological throat clearing to establish the transcendental basis of the ultimate egological etc etc. are the sort of thing to excite you.

    But preferences differ, some people may be interested in the more idealistic Husserl.

  16. There is a reason that Husserl kept writing after, say, 1905. Obviously he thought there was good reason to move beyond the latent psychologism of LI. But then, I’m just an anonymous coward. What do I know?

    Sokolowski’s Introduction to Phenomenology can certainly be recommended, regardless of our disagreements.

  17. Oh, and seriously – the two pieces by Klaus Held that are translated in Welton’s edited volume _The New Husserl_ are absolutely the best place to start. I went back and looked at them today. Clear, concise, meaty.

  18. I would highly recommend, and therefore concur, with Simon: Dermot Moran’s introduction from Polity’s “Key Contemporary Thinkers” series is a great, chronological guide to the development of Husserl’s thought. Unlike Sokolowski, whose “introductory” work on Husserl seems too often idiosyncratic because partisan (i.e., Sokolowski expounds a particular form of Husserilian phenomenology), Moran is a great hermeneut. I think this is especially important, since Husserl’s thinking on phenomenology undergoes at least three major shifts, and the subsequent developments of phenomenology will trace themselves back to particular periods in the founder’s intellectual development. Moran also provides a shorter treatment of Husserl in the opening chapters of “Introduction to Phenomenology.”

  19. As to primary sources, the three you name are often considered the standard works but I would start (unless you are trying to honor chronology) with the essay “Philosophy as Rigorous Science.” You can find it in a slender volume called Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy translated by Quentin Lauer (who provides a good introductory essay as well). It also includes the essay “Philosophy & the Crisis of European Man.”

    There is a merciful abridgment of the Logical Investigations out now too, and since some insist that this is the sine qua non of Husserl, you might check it out. (I think both Heidegger and Levinas both said that L.I. was where it was at.) Also, Personally I started with Experience & Judgment, and I think I turned out just fine….

  20. Another alternative for primary texts: Why not look at The Essential Husserl, which has big chunks of all the important stuff? It also has the advantage of being reasonably priced.

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