Things Themselves: Easy Intro to Husserl’s Phenomenology
Phenomenology and Existentialism
Edmund Husserl is considered as the founder of modern Phenomenology (though it had previous forbearers). Husserl’s philosophical goal is to "rehabilitate" modern philosophy as the "first science" ("Prima philosophia"). Husserl sought to rebase philosophy as a basis for science as a science in itself. Husserl thought that philosophical thought in his times was overly based on prejudices and existential assumptions. This critique means two things: (1) that philosophy has no "strict" means to account for truth. (2) That in being dazed by presuppositions philosophy has lost touch "to the things themselves". Husserl therefore raised the call to return or "go back to the things themselves". His science of Phenomenology was intended to ensure that the sciences are only guided by evidence that comes from direct conscious experience.
Husserl’s hopes fell no short of a methodical reform of all sciences, starting with philosophy. In plain words, his plan was to "cut the bullshit" which means all myths, preconceptions, axioms and in general all the effects our psychology might have on our understanding of reality. Instead Husserl offered a "strictly scientific philosophy" that starts only with what is at hand, that is the naked phenomenon.
Husserl’s Philosophical Work
While Husserl’s early writings aimed at laying a psychological foundation for mathematics, His Logical Investigations, published in 1900 and 1901 laid the foundations for philosophical Phenomenology. Logical Investigations presented a comprehensive critique of the prevailing psychologism at the time. Psychologism, in general terms, saw the laws of logic as the expression of mere psychological facts. As an evolution of Kantian and Hegelian traditions, these forms of thought denied epistemic access to actual reality and focused on its configuration in our mind. Husserl believed that strict scientific logic would be the answer for this loss of things themselves.
Around 1907, Husserl presented his notions of "Phenomenological Reduction" and "Epoché". simply put, Phenomenological Reduction means basing all our knowledge solely on the given phenomena. For this end we need Epoché which is the suspension and "bracketing" of all our prior knowledge.
Husserl’s legacy and influence
Husserl’s dream of forming a new branch of philosophy called "Phenomenology" indeed came true. However, it turned out to be not what he initially intended. 20th century Phenomenology strove away from scientific knowledge and in directions which were more existential (Heidegger), ethical (Levinas), linguistic (Derrida) and even religious (Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion). Other prominant thinkers who follow in the Husserlian tradition include Oskar Becker, Eugen Fink, Edith Stein, Max Scheler, Alfred Schütz, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and more.