Philosophy Edmund Husserl
by
Dan Zahavi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0210

Introduction

Edmund Husserl (b. 1859–d. 1938) is a central figure in 20th-century philosophy. A student of Brentano (b. 1838–d. 1917) and a contemporary of Frege (b. 1848–d. 1925), he is the founding father of phenomenology and thereby a figure with a decisive impact not only on thinkers like Heidegger (b. 1889–d. 1976), Merleau-Ponty (b. 1908–d. 1961), and Sartre (b. 1905–d. 1980) but also on subsequent theory formations in German and French philosophy. More recently, a number of Husserl’s ideas have also been taken up and discussed by analytic philosophers. Husserl is primarily known for his analyses of intentionality, perception, temporality, embodiment and intersubjectivity, for his rehabilitation of the lifeworld and his commitment to a form of transcendental idealism and for his criticism of reductionism, objectivism, and scientism. Most of Husserl’s writings have been published posthumously and they continue to disclose aspects of his thinking that it would have been difficult to anticipate through the study of the works originally published by Husserl himself. Many of these volumes have not yet been translated into English, and the same holds true for much of the relevant research literature.

General Overviews

The following list includes not only more historical overviews such as Spiegelberg 1981 and Moran 2000, which relate Husserl’s contribution to the work of other phenomenologists, but also a number of accessible introductions including Bernet, et al. 1993; Sokolowski 2000; Zahavi 2003; Smith 2003; Held 2003a; and Held 2003b that all provide a general outline of the different facets of Husserl’s thinking.

  • Bernet, Rudolf, Iso Kern, and Eduard Marbach. An Introduction to Husserlian Phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993.

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    Translation of Edmund Husserl. Darstellung seines Denkens (1989). Excellent treatment of the major topics and periods of Husserl’s phenomenology written by three renowned Husserl experts.

  • Held, Klaus. “Husserl’s Phenomenological Method.” In The New Husserl: A Critical Reader. Edited by Donn Welton, 3–31. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003a.

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    English translation of Held’s German introduction to a selection of texts by Husserl entitled Die phänomenologische Methode: Ausgewählte Texte I (1985). Contains a concise presentation and discussion of some of Husserl’s methodological core-concepts by one of Germany’s foremost Husserl experts.

  • Held, Klaus. “Husserl’s Phenomenology of the Life-World.” In The New Husserl: A Critical Reader. Edited by Donn Welton, 32–62. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003b.

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    English translation of Held’s German introduction to a second volume of selected texts by Husserl entitled Phänomenologie der Lebenswelt: Ausgewählte Texte II (1986). Discusses Husserl’s notions of constitution, passivity, intersubjectivity and lifeworld. When read in conjunction with the previous text by Held, it provides an overall introduction to Husserl.

  • Moran, Dermot. Introduction to Phenomenology. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    A more recent historical account that focuses on the major figures from Brentano to Derrida. It includes a number of chapters on Husserl.

  • Smith, Arthur David. Husserl and the Cartesian Meditations. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    Although being a commentary on Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, the book manages to situate that work in the broader context of Husserl’s philosophy. Contains helpful discussions of a number of central themes and also a slightly controversial reading of Husserl as a metaphysical idealist.

  • Sokolowski, Robert. Introduction to Phenomenology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Although the book contains very few references to Husserl, it is a lucid introduction to and systematic discussion of themes in Husserlian phenomenology. Particularly apt for undergraduates.

  • Spiegelberg, Herbert. The Phenomenological Movement: A Historical Introduction. 3d rev. ed. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 1981.

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    A classical, if slightly outdated, historical survey of the phenomenological tradition. It accounts not only for Husserl’s thinking, but also for his philosophical predecessors, contemporaries, and post-Husserlian phenomenologists (up to Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur). Is particularly valuable because of its inclusion and treatment of a number of lesser-known figures.

  • Zahavi, Dan. Husserl’s Phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

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    A clear and concise introduction that discusses the development and overall unity of Husserl’s philosophy. Includes chapters on intentionality, reduction, temporality, embodiment, and intersubjectivity. Suitable for beginners.

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