Husserl's existentialism

ideality, traditions, and the historical apriori

Steven Crowell

pp. 67-83

Husserl's concept of an "historical apriori" is marked by a tension: It simultaneously departs from, and develops his long-standing commitment to philosophy as transcendental phenomenology. This paper looks at some reasons for this tension in the context of Husserl's attempt to determine philosophy as a "tradition" in The Origin of Geometry. Husserl is convinced that philosophy is a scientific tradition, and the historical apriori serves in the analysis of the conditions that define a distinctively scientific "handing down." The key here is a kind of writing—mathematics—thanks to which the participants in the tradition can be certain that they are in essential connection with the "original" idealities of that tradition. But Husserl's discovery about the individual philosopher's relation to the philosophical tradition—namely, that it is always mediated by a kind of "poetic invention"—undermines his conviction that philosophy can be a scientific tradition. This is Husserl's "existentialism."

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-015-9356-y

Full citation:

Crowell, S. (2016). Husserl's existentialism: ideality, traditions, and the historical apriori. Continental Philosophy Review 49 (1), pp. 67-83.

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