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Husserl by Numbers, review of: Burt C. Hopkins. The Philosophy of Husserl.

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Husserl by Numbers, review of: Burt C. Hopkins. The Philosophy of Husserl., Page 1 of 1

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1. FN11) Gian-Carlo Rota, “Husserl,” in Mark Kac, Gian-Carlo Rota, Jacob T. Schwartz, Discrete Thoughts. Essays on Mathematics, Science and Philosophy (Basel: Birkhäuser, 1992), 175–76.
2. FN22) Brentano is the only author belonging to the historical context of Husserl’s thought who is evoked more than once in the book. There is one mention of Natorp and Lotze in an endnote (278n2), while nothing is said of Bolzano.
3. FN33) The only exception is chap. 12, whose textual basis is left completely undetermined, since the author neither quotes nor refers to any specific work of Husserl (although he clearly deals with themes that belong to the “fourth stage”).
4. FN44) Together, but to a minor extent, with Moderns like Galileo, Descartes or Leibniz (see 162–65). A small discussion of Gadamer can also be found (213).
5. FN55) It would be too long to discuss in detail the contents of chapters 1–3. Let me simply say that while Hopkins’ understanding of Plato is extremely solid, the accuracy of his interpretation of Aristotle appears at times more disputable. But the reasons for such a discrepancy are, in my view, less philological than, say, “ideological.” For one thing is sure: Hopkins likes Plato more than Aristotle (it appears perhaps most forcefully on page 272, where Hopkins avers that, given the superiority of Plato’s account of the phenomenon of appearance, Husserl’s alleged Aristotle-like understanding of appearing is treated as “something that should be abandoned”). Indeed, this fact conditions, at the same time, his understanding of Aristotle as well as the full appreciation of the more Aristotelian (and Stoical) aspects of Husserl’s phenomenology.
6. FN66) But that would not necessarily entail that we had to agree with him. First: claiming that “what is being?” and “what is thinghood?” (ousia) are for Aristotle one and the same question is a way to conflate the question with the answer. “Thinghood” is in fact the answer to the question “what is being?” (see Metaph. 7.1.1028b2–7), which Aristotle arrives at after having examined and ruled out other possible answers. And, in this sense, “thinghood” is not equal with being but eventually with its “primal meaning” (Metaph. 2.4.1003a33–b19). Second: the statement according to which “being-at-work” is the fundamental meaning of being as such, to which all other meanings are related in an analogical way is far from being undisputed. As far as I can tell, while one can certainly argue that the “on dunamei kai energeiai ” is one of the most crucial meanings of being identified in the Metaphysics, and certainly higher in rank than the “on kata sumbebēkos” and the “on hōs alēthes” (since, in contrast to these latter, it deals with “being in itself and outside thinking” [on kath’ auto exō tēs dianoias]), I do not see how the relationship with the other “meanings of being” (including, the “on kata ta skēmata tōn katēgoriōn” to which belongs the “ousia”) could be considered as analogical. The passage quoted in brackets by Hopkins (Metaph. 5.1016b31–1017a3) cannot be used to substantiate such a view, since it simply says that “certain things are one according to the number, others according to the species, others according to the genus, others according to analogy,” and not that the unity of “being at work” is analogical. The Thomistic interpretation of Aristotle of an analogical unity of being—that is nowhere to be found in Aristotle’s texts and yet is still defended, for instance, by Brentano in Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles (Freiburg im Breisgau,1862) or J. Owens, in The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics (Toronto, 1951)—identifies the “core” meaning of being not with “being-at-work” but precisely with the “categorial being.” Now, either Hopkins is conflating the two interpretations (the one claiming that the unity of being is analogical, and the other identifying the most fundamental meaning of being with “being-at-work”) or he is suggesting a new, original interpretation. In this case, it would be strange to find such a novel reading of Aristotle’s ontology almost casually presented within a chapter devoted to the Ancient Greek presuppositions of Husserl’s philosophy.
7. FN77) Even if we were to accept Hopkins’ decision to favor exclusively Husserl’s texts “published or prepared for publication” (and indiscriminately rule out all the unpublished manuscripts not because they are “irrelevant” but because they are unpublished ), such a criterion alone does not really justify the textual choices made by the author. For instance, nothing is said of Husserl’s significant lectures on time consciousness (except one footnote on Appendix XII [279]), though they were clearly “prepared for publication.” On the contrary, at least two chapters are devoted to Husserl’s later essay On the Origin of Geometry, which, as far as I can tell, was definitively not prepared for publication. Again, except for two quick quotes (280) included in chapter 18 (devoted to Derrida!), Formal and Transcendental Logic (one of the few books published by Husserl) is never taken into account, and even Experience and Judgment, clearly “prepared for publication” (as we know from Landgrebe), is totally neglected, except for a small quote on p. 18. These choices are surprising not only because they drastically limit the textual basis of Husserl’s thought, but also—and primarily—because they do not square with Hopkins’ overall project itself. Formal and Transcendental Logic and Experience and Judgment, for instance, are in fact fundamental texts for understanding the meaning of genetic phenomenology in its third stage as well as the genetic constitution of ideal objects, which Hopkins himself considers as extremely important. Not to mention that the question of the “mode of givennes of the eidē,” that sits at the core of PH, is extensively studied in §§ 86–93 of Experience and Judgment.
8. FN88) See the controversial talk of “constitution” in relation to the Logical Investigations (96); the account of “evidence” and the anticipation of its “further refinements” (126); the quite unusual talk of “noetic-noematic structure of ‘phenomenological time’ ” in Ideas I (134); and the idea of a transcendental Ego that “can constitute a plurality of Egos and thus the intersubjective being upon which all objectivity has its foundation” attributed to the Cartesian Meditations (151), while such a formulation would certainly reflect more faithfully an earlier, less refined, stage of Husserl’s understanding of intersubjectivity.
9. FN99) Gottfried Leibniz, “Meditations on Knowledge, Truth and Ideas” (1864), in Philosophical Essays, trans. by R. Ariew and D. Garber (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989), 24.
10. FN1010) Strikingly enough, only a few pages of PH are openly devoted to Husserl’s notion of intentionality, its relation with Brentano’s, and its subsequent transformation in Ideas I from its presentation in the Logical Investigation. The famous object-content distinction is touched upon on pp. 91–92, and only a small number of passages are devoted to the problems related to the notion of “noēma.” What is more, none of these passages tackles the crucial issue of whether the noema is an intentional entity or ontologically indiscernible from the intended object, whether its structure is mereological or something entirely different (e.g., identity-in-a-manifold) (see 116).
11. FN1111) While part of chapter 7 deals with the problem of temporality, Hopkins is not interested in time-consciousness or subjectivity per se, but rather with the “phenomenological temporal structure of the synthesis of manifold” that intervenes between multiple adumbrations of the same perceptual thing (see 132–34) and between the multiple lived-experiences of the same concrete ego (135).
12. FN1212) See Edmund Husserl, “Sixth Logical Investigation,” §4, in vol. 2 of Logical Investigations, trans. J. N. Findlay (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970), 680.
13. FN1313) And Hopkins knows this quite well (see PH, 86–89, 115).
14. FN1414) See Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, trans. by F. Kersten (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1983), §§ 10, 12–13, and 16.
15. FN1515) Unless Hopkins is referring to the fact that intuitively given meaning categories (as expressed in syncategorematic terms like “is,” “and,” “or,” and the like), once “seen” within a state-of-affairs, can be abstracted and seen “as such” through an abstractive ideation of the categorial, just like intuitively given material essences like “red” are abstracted from the concrete object to which their individual instantiations belong. That could be in some way consistent with Husserl’s principles. But even if we did not refer to “categorial intuition” as a categorically formed intuition (namely, the intuition of a state-of-affairs) but as the intuition of a category per se, “in species,” ideated and abstracted from the state-of-affairs in which it is embedded, there still would not be any reason to say that the apprehension of the species is “simpler” than the apprehension of a state-of-affairs. Apprehending “higher order categorial species,” as it were, would be far more complex than apprehending a simple state-of-affairs.
16. FN1616) It is not hard to imagine either that some Husserl scholars may find Hopkins’ reconstruction of the Husserlian theory of reflection and self-awareness quite controversial (140–47) or his understated account of the role of the living body in the constitution of transcendental intersubjectivity problematic (161–69).
17. FN1717) Jacob Klein, Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra, trans. Eva Brann (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1969; New York: Dover, 1992). This work was originally published in German as “Die griechische Logistik und die Entstehung der Algebra” in Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Mathematik, Astronomie und Physik, Abteilung B: Studien, vol. 3, no. 1 (Berlin: Springer, 1934), 18–105 (Part I); no. 2 (1936), 122–235 (Part II).
18. FN1818) Burt C. Hopkins, The Origin of the Logic of Symbolic Mathematics. Edmund Husserl and Jacob Klein (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).
19. FN1919) As a consequence, to appreciate the full force of Hopkins’ operation on Husserl, a preliminary knowledge of Klein’s work (which is constantly but secretly presupposed in PH) would be necessary. In that sense, the perfect strategy for an interested reader should be to read first OLM, and then PH.
20. FN2020) See Jacob Klein, “Phenomenology and The History of Science,” in Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl, ed. M. Farber (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1939), 143–63. Reprinted in J. Klein, Lectures and Essays, ed. R. B. Williamson and E. Zuckerman (Annapolis: St. John’s Press, 1985), 65–84.
21. FN2121) Though I fear that it is precisely the kind of question whose novelty and value is most likely to be left unnoticed by the beginners to which PH is nevertheless allegedly addressed.
22. FN2222) See Part Three of the book.
23. FN2323) That should explain why the two topics—the ontological status of the eidē and the “phenomenological” status of the phantasia—that are usually treated as mutually independent (as they actually are in Plato and Aristotle) are brought together in Hopkins’ reconstruction.
24. FN2424) William V.O. Quine, “Otherwordly,” in The New York Review of Books, 23 November 1978. And I trust Hopkins would gladly recognize himself in the way in which Goodman described his own book: “This book does not run a straight course from beginning to end. It hunts; and in the hunting, it sometimes worries the same raccoon in different trees, or different raccoons in the same tree, or even what turns out to be no raccoon in any tree. It finds itself balking more than once at the same barrier and taking off on other trails. It drinks often from the same streams, and stumbles over some cruel country. It counts not the kill but what is learned of the territory explored” (Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking [Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978]).
25. FN2525) See OLM, 198–223.
26. FN2626) Not every essence is an eidos, since eidos is a term usually reserved by Husserl to denote pure essences, namely essences that can indifferently be instantiated by actual as well as by imaginary-possible objects. And despite the numerous pages devoted to Plato and Aristotle’s phantasia, PH never addresses Husserl’s concept of Phantasie—an essential concept indeed, since the difference between essences and eidē depends on the understanding of fantasy (Phantasie) as the originally giving act of possible objects. Not to mention the clear relation, expressed in Experience and Judgment, between the eidos as “one-over-the-many” and free fantasy.
27. FN2727) As I have myself defended quite similar positions. See Claudio Majolino, “Les essences des recherches logiques,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale 49 (2006): 89–112; “Husserl and the Vicissitudes of the Improper,” The New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, 8 (2008): 17–54; and more recently, “Is Multiplicity a Phenomenological Notion? A Manifesto,” paper presented at the 42nd Husserl Circle Meeting in Florence, April, 2011.

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Affiliations: 1: Universite Lille 3/UMR 8163 STL


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