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Husserl's Theory of the Phenomenological Reduction: Between Life-world and Cartesianism

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This essay attempts a renewed, critical exposition of Husserl's theory of the phenomenological reduction, incorporating manuscript material that has been published since the defining essays of the first generation of Husserl research. The discussion focuses on points that remain especially crucial, i.e., the concept of the natural attitude, the ways into the reduction (and their systematics), and finally the question of the "meaning of the reduction." Indeed, in the reading attempted here, this final question leads to two, not necessarily related, focal points: a Cartesian and a Life-world tendency. It is my claim that in following these two paths, Husserl was consistent in pursuing two evident leads in his philosophical enterprise; however, he was at the same time unable to systematically unify these two strands. Thus, I am offering an interpretation which might be called a modified "departure from Cartesianism" reading that Landgrebe proposed in his famous essay from the 1950s, in which he was clearly influenced by Heidegger (a reading that is still valid in many contemporary expositions of Husserl's thought). This discussion should make apparent that Husserl's theory of the phenomenological reduction deserves a renewed look both in light of material that has since appeared in the Husserliana and in light of a new incorporation of the most important results of recent tendencies in Husserl research.


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