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Husserl Studies 18: 209222, 2002. 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.


Epoch and Solipsistic Reduction

Department of Philosophy, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Introduction Some commentators hold that the Husserlian principles of epoch and primordial reduction should be understood as Cartesian principles with the primary functions of abstracting from that which cannot be known with absolute certainty, and that which cannot be directly self-given. In this paper I aim to show that neither the transcendental epoch nor the primordial reduction (which, following a text by Husserl, I shall label the solipsistic reduction) should be understood in this way. Rather, one should notice that both principles have a specifically transcendental function, which is simply to ensure that we avoid a certain kind of circularity and that this function is even visible in Husserls more Cartesian texts. In part by way of arguing against the Cartesian interpretations, I shall try to get the real, i.e., transcendentally motivated, notion of both the epoch and the solipsistic reduction into focus, thereby hopefully making possible a more fruitful discussion and critical evaluation of Husserls philosophy, including the philosophy of intersubjectivity. Husserls theory of intersubjectivity has been the subject of many philosophical publications in the nineties.1 Much has been written about the primordial reduction and its relation to the phenomenological reduction and the epoch,2 but few authors have made it their explicit task to spell out exactly what these operations are supposed to do. The consequence has been that there are still now, more than sixty years after Husserls death fundamentally different interpretations of his philosophy in general and of his phenomenology of intersubjectivity in particular. These, of course, reflect the fact that Husserl himself was not altogether clear about which functions his reductions were to serve, sometimes viewing his phenomenology in a decisively Cartesian light, and sometimes strongly dissociating himself from the very same Cartesian motifs.

210 In the present paper I shall argue that neither the transcendental reduction and epoch nor the primordial reduction should be seen as instruments in the service of the Cartesian enterprise. Whereas Husserl often mixes Cartesian concerns into his renderings of both reductions, there is another, completely different and much more convincing way of looking at them, equally present in Husserls texts. My point is not that nobody has ever noticed these NonCartesian elements before (because many have, right back to Eugen Fink and Ludwig Landgrebe), but that there is a need for an understanding which specifically aims at a Non-Cartesian understanding of both the transcendental and the primordial reduction, one which for both of the two operations steers well clear of Cartesian (mis)interpretations.3 Precisely that is what I intend to offer on the following pages. I shall start by giving an outline of Husserls famous epoch, and at the same time as I hope to accomplish this positive task I shall have to do the negative job of fending off the Cartesian misinterpretation. Then in the second part the primordial epoch or reduction will be introduced and, I hope, significantly clarified. Once again, in order to get into focus what this reduction is, I shall have to say a few words about what it is not. The aim of this paper is a modest one, namely exclusively to clarify the Husserlian principles of transcendental and primordial reduction. I do not wish to defend these notions, but only to describe what they are supposed to do. And surely, it is only against the background of a clear understanding of them, that we can begin to defend or to criticise the two reductions.

1. The Epoch As is well known (both from primary and from secondary texts)4 Husserl distinguishes several different ways to the transcendental reduction although he often fails to separate them in practise. One of these, namely the so-called Cartesian Way is still by some commentators unhesitatingly attributed to Husserl, even as the exclusive way to Husserlian phenomenology, despite Husserls own occasional sharp criticism of it.5 In what follows, I shall try to show that the Cartesian way is not the way leading to transcendental phenomenology, and that therefore it should be abandoned in favour of another way (which some perhaps will identify with the ontological way). This alternative way, this alternative motivation for the reduction, is even present in the most Cartesian of Husserls writings. Husserl treads the Cartesian path when he discusses the hypothetical scenario of world-annihilation. In his 1913 work Ideen zu einer reinen Phnomenologie und phnomenologischen Philosophie, Husserl asks us to imagine a total annihilation of the world and to consider what would remain what would be the residue after such an annihilation (Hua III/1, p. 104). According to

211 Husserl, as is well known, the pure ego would remain not unchanged, but nevertheless unshaken in its existence (ibid.). We have to ask ourselves, however, precisely which scenario Husserl has in mind here. If I try to imagine a total destruction of the world, I will find it hard to conceive of it in such a way as to allow myself to remain existing: if the universe were destroyed in a huge explosion, surely I would no longer exist. But then, this is not the scenario that Husserl is aiming at. He is not asking us to consider the possibility that we might just be brains in vats, either, since for him that is ultimately a senseless suggestion, leaving our perceived world untouched. After all, what could I possibly mean by the word world if not just the experienced world a world in which I certainly do not appear as a brain in a vat? If world is supposed to mean anything it can only mean this world, the one I perceive, the one in which I live and act, according to Husserl (cf., e.g., Hua XV, p. 546; Hua VI, p. 258). By the same token, what Husserl has in mind is not the idea that the perceived world as such could be an illusion either. An illusion is something which sometimes occurs to me within my experiences of worldly objects, occurs in the way that one apparent perception is corrected by others. Thus an illusion can only appear against the background of experiences that are not illusions (see, e.g., Hua VIII, p. 393, and Hua XVII, p. 164), and consequently it would be nonsensical to claim that all my worldly experiences could be illusions. What Husserl has in mind is the notion that nothing prevents the perceived world from stopping its existence tomorrow or this minute, not by means of an explosion, but simply in the way that I am no longer able to perceive a world (Hua III/1, p. 103). The world, then, is no longer there (for me), but I (an experiencing subjectivity only no longer having perceptual experiences of existing worldly objects) am still there, according to Husserl. This is the crucial point: the world is not the least secure in its existence, but we can see that even if it would cease to exist right this moment, something would remain existing, viz. consciousness (Hua III/1, p. 103f). Yet some might object that imagining this is not imagining world-annihilation, but simply imagining that I might go insane (or have my sensory apparatus severely impaired), and whereas that certainly would leave me changed but still existing in the way prescribed, it would not affect the existence of the world at all. The Cartesian Husserl would probably insist that we now take for granted the existence of the world precisely that which we are not allowed to take for granted, according to the epoch and reduction.6 But if we take a closer look, we shall see that he is not allowed to make such an assertion. The phenomenological epoch or reduction is the procedure intended to take us from the natural, worldly attitude to the phenomenological attitude (cf. Hua III/1, p. 106f). When Husserl claims that the above scenario is indeed one of world-annihilation, what he is doing is presupposing the phenomenological attitude, the one which should have appeared only at the

212 end of the chain of reasoning exactly as the attitude still possible after a hypothetical annihilation of the world.7 Husserl has to show why the natural, worldly attitude must be temporarily abandoned in favour of the phenomenological, but he does so by referring to a thought experiment which does not in the natural attitude amount to world-annihilation at all, and thus cannot lead to the insight that the existence of the world is a less than secure foundation for philosophy. Only when we have already abandoned the natural attitude can we see how Husserls thought experiment is one of worldannihilation instead of insanity etc., because only then do we stop passively positing an existing world behind the confused experiences (i.e., the experiences which by hypothesis do not add up to experiences of worldly objects). This positing, after all, is just what characterises the natural attitude.8 In other words, the scenario that Husserl is describing can only be understood the way he wants it to be understood, when the phenomenological reduction has already been performed, thus it cannot be that which brings about the reduction, or necessitates it in the first place. Another, more simple, but maybe equally important point is that the motivation behind the thought experiment of annihilating the world is to show how the certainty of the existence of the ego and its cogitationes is greater than the certainty of world-existence (cf. Hua II, p. 30).9 This, we should note, is a motivation entirely different from a transcendental motivation which concerns the possibility of experience in its Husserlian form it strives e.g., to understand the possibility of perceiving transcendent things in a transcendent world, a world which includes myself and my peers as worldly beings within it. Although there is no direct opposition between a transcendental concern and a Cartesian quest for absolute certainty, there is no necessary affinity either. As the late Husserl says, exactly to separate his transcendental enterprise from a Cartesian one, [e]s gilt nicht, Objektivitt zu sichern, sondern sie zu verstehen (Hua VI, p. 193). And even as early as in the 1910/ 11 lecture on the basic problems of phenomenology, Husserl points out that the Cartesian aim to exclude all possible doubt is not the central concern of his own phenomenology (Hua XIII, p. 150). In short, the Cartesian way with its hypothetical annihilation of the world in search of a secure departure point is not, as such, a way leading to transcendental phenomenology, for one thing because it presupposes transcendental phenomenology, and secondly because the aim which motivates it is different from the aim of transcendental philosophy. Although there is nothing necessarily preventing the Cartesian way from leading to the transcendental field it might indeed be that the transcendental ego is also the secure starting point, the pure ego of Cartesianism its interests are simply not those of transcendental phenomenology. Seen from the vantage point of the latter, then, the Cartesian way is not an equally possible way to phenomenology,

213 contrary to what Husserl still claims in his 1930 Nachwort to Ideen I (Hua V, p. 148). What is the point of the epoch and reduction in the transcendental context? Husserl contends again and again that asking transcendental questions calls for certain radical measures. When we want to know e.g., how perceptual experience of transcendent objects is possible, we have in fact not only asked a quite unusual question, but also one which due to its radical nature prohibits utilising any natural knowledge. What we ask is exactly how perceptual knowledge is possible, i.e., any knowledge based on perception is part of what we want to investigate regarding its possibility, so to rely on such knowledge in answering this question amounts to a vicious circle. It is simply begging the question if one (1) accepts to answer a question of the type how is perception of transcendent objects possible at all?, and then (2) proceeds by referring to knowledge about perceptual objects, i.e., objects which we ultimately know about from perception since what we asked about was precisely the possibility of attaining such knowledge in the first place.10 Not only everyday knowledge is excluded from this investigation, but scientific knowledge as well: photons, retinas, etc., are also objects of the kind in question (cf. Hua XXV, p. 15). This does not, from a Husserlian viewpoint, mean that there is anything wrong with natural science, in fact it is perfectly compatible with the belief that natural science tells us just how the world really is, and exactly how it is. The question which natural science asks itself and then proceeds to answer is not of the same type as (1), Husserl would claim. Science, roughly stated, deals with how the world is, whereas the transcendental question concerns the possibility of getting in perceptual (and in other ways) contact with a world in the first place or, more precisely, with the constitution of the world in the first place and although individual scientists might believe that they are answering questions like (1), this can not be the case without resulting in a circulus vitiosus. The epoch is the operation which is to ensure that we do not, in a transcendental investigation, use any natural, e.g., perceptually based, knowledge as premises, a task which it with Husserls famous expression performs by putting this kind of knowledge in brackets (Hua III/1, p. 63). Contrary to the claims of some commentators, the epoch and reduction do not thereby amount to looking away from the being of the natural world with its perceived and perceivable objects,11 and unlike the Cartesian enterprise Husserlian phenomenology does not refrain from using empirical knowledge because of its uncertainty, or because it is a lower kind of knowledge. It is unequivocally affirmed by Husserl that all that which the epoch prevents us from using is exactly not ignored, even in the work namely Ideen I which bears most marks of his Cartesian confusion: Das Eingeklammerte ist nicht von der phnomenologischen Tafel weggewischt, sondern eben nur

214 eingeklammert und dadurch mit einem Index versehen. Mit diesem aber ist es im Hauptthema der Forschung (Hua III/1, p. 159; my emphasis). The thematic focus of transcendental phenomenology is not on the objects themselves and their properties (these constitute the theme of the sciences of the natural attitude), but precisely on the being of objects and the world; more precisely, transcendental phenomenology seeks to answer the question, how there can be objects and a world for me, given in my perceptual experiences, etc. That is indeed why we cannot allow ourselves to use any knowledge of the being of objects: this knowledge taking for granted that there are objects given, it is an instance of that which we would ultimately like to have explained it is so to speak the goal at which we are aiming and thus it is not something we can allow ourselves to employ in order to reach that goal. Although I have not said anything about how, in the natural attitude, such a transcendental question could ever arise (and I shall not enter into that discussion at all), clearly the question can be understood in a natural attitude. It might take some reflection to see just how radical the question is and to appreciate the radical measures it calls for, but contrary to what is the case with regard to Husserls Cartesian thought experiment, the phenomenological attitude is not being presupposed. Let me sum up: The point of the epoch and the transcendental reduction is to enable us to answer transcendental questions without arguing in vicious circles. It is not designed to supply phenomenology with a secure starting point as we know now, Husserl sometimes realises that securing things, securing knowledge, is by no means the main task of phenomenology but only to give it a starting point which is not question-begging.

2. The Solipsistic Reduction With the above distinctly Non-Cartesian characterisation of the purpose of the transcendental reduction in mind, we can move on to the second topic of this article the primordial reduction. In 1973 Iso Kern argued that in the case of the primordial reduction described in the Cartesianische Meditationen Husserl mixes up two different reductions, stemming from two different concerns.12 Again, one of these concerns is intimately related to the Cartesian search for apodictic knowledge, and following this line of thought we should by way of the primordial reduction reach that which can be given originally. All my experiences can of course be given in this way (I have direct perceptual access to them), including those experiences that aim at other peoples experiences (I see, say, that my wife is angry). Those mental states of others aimed at in such experiences cannot be given originally to me (only my wife truly feels her anger), but my experiences of them can. With regard to objects and states of affairs in the physical world, however, I have original

215 access not only to my experiences-of, but also to the objects and the states of affairs themselves.13 The affinity between this sort of primordial reduction, which abstracts from that which cannot be directly self-given to me, and the Cartesian motifs discussed in the previous section, should be obvious. It should be equally plain that the kind of transcendental interests outlined above would have no use for a reduction that carves out all that which is originally accessible to me. What is instead needed here is that which Husserl striving to avoid jumbling the two different lines of thought in one text labels the solipsistic reduction (Hua XV, p. 51). In what follows, I shall attempt to show that this solipsistic reduction is intended by Husserl to do basically the same kind of job as the transcendental epoch. But since the solipsistic epoch is an operation supposed to occur after the transcendental epoch and reduction (Hua I, pp. 124, 126),14 i.e., the former is Husserls reply to certain difficulties within the field of research opened by the latter, first of all we have to briefly describe that field of research. It is well known that Husserls transcendental phenomenology does not limit itself to considering the transcendental ego and its cogitationes, but because these cogitationes are intentional, i.e., object-directed, has to draw in the intended objects as well. Now, the epoch prohibited any use of our natural knowledge of these objects, thereby actually revealing the possibility of a thematic treatment of objects, not as we think they appear, but as they actually appear in the experiences in question. This object just as it appears, or just the way it is intended Husserl calls the noema or the cogitatum (cf. Hua III/1, pp. 202205; Hua I, p. 71f). When I look at a tree, to take Husserls example, I am of course looking at a natural object which has certain properties, e.g., in this case an object which can burn, which has such and such a chemical structure, and so on. However, supposing that I just stop writing for a moment to look merrily out the window at a blossoming apple tree (cf. Hua III/1, p. 203), the mentioned chemical structure and the quality of flammable do not at all figure on the side of the perceived just as perceived (cf. Hua III/1, p. 205). What I see taken just as that which I see is something which might be said to have a certain shape and certain colours, but it certainly does not have the quality flammable. Of course, under different circumstances flammable could be a property of the perceived tree just as perceived say, if I were searching for firewood (in which case I still would not necessarily see the tree as having a particular chemical structure). In other words, the noema is not identical with the natural object. That it is not separated from natural object in such a way as to leave us with two objects should, I hope, be equally obvious: the noema is the same object, only viewed in a special way, viz. just the way it appears. But is the noema then unaffected by the epoch? The epoch understood as the move necessary to prevent circular arguments in transcendental philosophy must affect this cogitatum, since just like the natural tree the tree-noema appears

216 as a transcendent, outer object. Obviously, that which I see taken just as the object intended in this act of seeing is not a part of me or my experience, but is really transcendent and should insofar as we are trying to explain how my experiences can present me with a world of objects different from myself consequently be put in brackets. The reason why the notion of noema is interesting in the context of transcendental questions is that it being exactly what is intended in the experiences which are to be explained regarding their ability to intend in such a way ensures us that we are working with the right transcendental guiding clue (Leitfaden),15 i.e., that the goal we are heading towards is the right goal. Striving to understand, say, how consciousness can have visual perceptions of such transcendent things as trees, the first thing we have to do is to work out phenomenologically exactly what, in such experiences, is intended, and how it is intended. Having described that, we can then move on to consider what a consciousness which is to be a consciousness of just such an object must, so to speak, look like.16 The noematic description a description of the intended objects in other words functions as a transcendental guide for a noetic description, a description of the subjective intentions. Staying with our example of the perceived tree, we can say more than just which colours, shapes, and the like, it has. As it was said, the intended tree is not identical with my experience of it, it gives itself as something which transcends my experience, something which is always more than what is really there, really given in that experience (cf., e.g., Hua XI, pp. 37). For instance, it gives itself as something that can be seen from another distance, something which can appear in different perspectives, present sides different from the one I see now. It might be objected that I am now smuggling bits of my natural knowledge into the noematic description, and that one could just as well say that the intended tree presents itself as having this or that chemical structure but we should not accept that objection. If we hypothetically assume that the tree does not give itself as more than momentarily experienced, we shall see that no perception of a tree, i.e., of something different from the experience, would be possible. Everything intended being given from the start, if I were to move my head a few inches to the side, the whole object-field would have changed not just (as is actually the case) my perspective on the various objects. Since with every movement I make I have the tree given in a different way, in a different adumbration, if each of these were identical with the intended object as such, then with every new movement I would be presented with a new object (cf., e.g., Hua IX, p. 180f). That is to say, due to the object being completely given in the momentary experience, the object would literally change when the experience changed and it would not be possible to separate object from experience. Thus, only the intentional surplus (the intended object being always more than what is given) makes possible the perception of objects different from the perception itself.

217 Another point is of even greater interest in this context. The co-intended backsides of things, such as the momentarily invisible backside of my perceived tree, are for me only subsequently perceivable or they were perhaps seen by me prior to this perception. They are, of course, visible to me, but not while I have this perception (of the side which is now the front). The sides that are only later to be seen by me, are however intended as there and available to perception now as well. How is this to be understood? The perception to which they are available now can obviously not be mine, since as I said I can only perceive them subsequently. On the other hand we do not want to say that the tree has no other sides yet, but only develops them later when I begin to perceive them, because as we saw, it was important that the intended from the beginning was more than the given. Likewise, it would be counterintuitive to claim that the tree does already have the additional sides, but they are not yet visible (they are somehow always only visible precisely when I choose to look at them). The point I am trying to illustrate is of course that such things as trees present themselves not only as perceptual objects for me, but also for others.17 While I cannot perceive the tree from all sides at one time, there might be other subjects perceiving the sides that are at the moment inaccessible to me (cf. Hua XIII, p. 377f). A perceived tree presents itself to me not as my private spectacle but exactly as a possible perceptual object for others as well as for me (Hua I, p. 123). Should others fail to confirm my perception (they do not see any tree), this is exactly a problem since I saw a tree, i.e., was presented with an intersubjectively available object. Had I closed my eyes and imagined a tree, and should others be unable to confirm that, there would be no such problem; this latter noema could have almost all the characteristics the perceptual noema had (same colours etc.), but contrary to the latter it would not be characterised as immediately there for others as well as for me. The fact that the noematic world opened up by the transcendental epoch and reduction is one permeated with intersubjectivity becomes even more obvious, of course, if we consider cultural objects. But what is so important about the above description is that it stresses how even the most natural, simply perceptually given object bears traces of intersubjectivity. In former Husserl-assistant Ludwig Landgrebes words, [s]o ist die Welt [], rein so genommen, wie sie als Phnomen mir gegeben ist, erlebt als Welt nicht nur fr mich, sondern als Welt, die ich mit anderen teile, die sich als unsere gemeinsame Welt gibt.18 The world, Husserl says, is experienced as having the meaning Frjedermann-da (Hua I, p. 124). Now, this presents a problem to transcendental phenomenology when it seeks to explain the knowledge we have of others. We cannot simply proceed by describing a noematic other and the corresponding noetic intentionality, since the world and everything in it appears phenomenologically as ours as our world and our objects. In Husserls view, to say that the world is our world

218 equals saying that it refers back to or presupposes in the core of its meaning the presence of a plurality of subjects (Hua I, pp. 124, 126f) i.e., exactly the presence we wanted to explain. Thus the order of the different moments of our phenomenological analysis becomes important: if we want to avoid begging the question we have to ensure that the noematic guide is initially19 free from intersubjective meaning (and correspondingly, that we do not on the noetic side find the experiences of a transcendental subjectivity), since it can only receive such meaning on the basis of an established noematic other (cf. Hua I, p. 124). To put the matter in less Husserlian terms, what we would like to have explained eventually is how I can experience myself and others as beings in a world which has the meaning our world. Now this end result, this goal, itself has an ordered structure, that is, the others must be there before the world can have the meaning our world, and therefore we have to hypothetically clean the world of its intersubjective sense before we can proceed to establish how experiencing an other is possible. This cleaning of the noematic realm of all meaning referring to others is exactly what the solipsistic epoch is supposed to deliver (Hua I, p. 124; cf. Hua XV, pp. 78, 529, 568, 572). I reduce my noematic world to a solipsistic world in order to discover how another subjectivity can appear to my initially solipsistic subject, an other which then confers intersubjective meaning to the initially solipsistic world. To Husserl, the fact that the experienced world has the meaning world for others as well as for me implies the necessity of a new epoch, because it reveals an order of constitution namely that the other must be there before the world can be our world which must be followed by phenomenology if it is not to commit the error of presupposing in its explanation of my knowledge of others the very presence of others. In other words, the solipsistic reduction properly named so, since it hypothetically reduces me to a solus ipse is intended to do just the same job as the transcendental epoch: it must guard us from arguing in vicious circles.20 Just like the transcendental epoch, this one has nothing to do with the Cartesian search for certainty,21 and consequently the reason for Husserls reduction to a solipsistic sphere is not that only what is mine is ever really known by me, or anything of that sort. When one judges either one of the epochs one should keep in mind that these are properly understood not Cartesian tools but wholly in the service of transcendental phenomenology. I certainly do not intend to claim that the argument presented in this paper saves Husserls primordial or solipsistic epoch from all possible objections. The opposite is rather the case. It is as difficult now as it was before to see how one is supposed to carry out an operation such as the one required.22 How does one go about removing all traces of others from the things around oneself? It is hardly possible, yet isnt this more or less what Husserl asks us to do? Here towards the end I would like to try to give a hint as to how Husserl could have imagined the solipsistic reduction being carried out. As Klaus Held

219 aptly stated in his famous 1972 article on Husserls theory of intersubjectivity, it is absurd to imagine that Husserl literally want us to go critically through all features of our common environment to see what depends on others, and then abstract from the features that show such a dependency such a procedure being both impossible and thoroughly unphenomenological.23 Rather, in my view, Husserl wants us to conduct a thought experiment, more precisely, he wants us to imagine that we were somehow solipsistic subjects and neither the surrounding world nor we ourselves would bear any traces of intersubjectivity. We must ask ourselves, then, what could motivate an experience of another subjectivity, and, eventually, of a common world a world for all of us (cf. Hua XV, pp. 51f, 68). Although this procedure might prove extremely difficult or even impossible, the practise of thought experimenting is a familiar one for philosophers and perhaps Husserls solipsistic epoch could be carried out along these lines. In any case and this goes for the transcendental epoch and reduction as well one can, as I said to begin with, only begin the critical evaluation of these principles of Husserlian phenomenology when it has been made abundantly clear how we are to understand them.24

1. Just consider the number of books dedicated to the problem of intersubjectivity in Husserlian phenomenology published in English and German during the nineties: James G. Hart, The Person and the Common Life. Studies in a Husserlian Social Ethics (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1992); Kathleen Haney, Intersubjectivity Revisited. Phenomenology and the Other (Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio 1994); Anthony J. Steinbock, Home and Beyond. Generative Phenomenology after Husserl (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois 1995); Daniel Birnbaum, The Hospitality of Presence. Problems of Otherness in Husserls Phenomenology (Almqvist & Wicksell International, Stockholm 1998); Richard Kozlowski, Die Aporien der Intersubjektivitt. Eine Auseinandersetzung mit Edmund Husserls Intersubjektivittstheorie (Knigshausen & Neumann, Wrzburg 1991); Georg Rmpp, Husserls Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt. Und ihre Bedeutung fr eine Theorie intersubjektiver Objektivitt und die Konzeption einer phnomenologischen Philosophie (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1992); Julia V. Iribarne, Husserls Theorie der Intersubjektivitt (Karl Alber, Freiburg/Munich 1994); Thomas Stoelger, Das sthetische Apriori des alter ego. Untersuchungen zur transzendentalen Intersubjektivitts-Theorie in der Phnomenologie Edmund Husserls (Knigshausen & Neumann, Wrzburg 1994); Dan Zahavi, Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivitt. Eine Antwort auf die sprachpragmatische Kritik (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1996); and finally Horst Gronke, Das Denken des Anderen. Fhrt die Selbstaufhebung von Husserls Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt zur transzendentalen Sprachpragmatik? (Knigshausen & Neumann, Wrzburg 1999). This list is probably not even exhaustive. 2. The phenomenological reduction is not identical with the epoch (cf., e.g., Hua I, p. 60f, and Hua VI, p. 154f). However, the difference between the two is of no consequence to

the argument put forth in this paper and I shall therefore throughout the text treat the two concepts as synonyms. This need is evidenced by the Cartesian interpretations of both the epoch and the primordial reduction found in recent studies such as Stoelger, Das sthetische Apriori des alter ego, op. cit. (cf., especially, pp. 31f, 39ff), and Gronke, Das Denken des Anderen, op. cit. (cf. pp. 79, 96, 100, 108, 214, et passim). Heidegger was perhaps the first to charge Husserl with being completely under the influence of a Cartesian concern with certainty (Sorge der Gewiheit). Cf. Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe Band 17. Einfhrung in die phnomenologische Forschung, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann (Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1994), pp. 254290. Apparently unaware of any fundamental Non-Cartesian motifs in Husserls phenomenology, some Heideggerians have simply accepted this verdict. For an example of this, see von Herrmanns very recent publication Hermeneutik und Reflexion. Der Begriff der Phnomenologie bei Heidegger und Husserl (Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 2000), especially Part II. The Beilage to the lectures published in Hua VIII offer primary texts on the subject. Apart from Rudolf Boehms introduction to that volume, the classic secondary text is Iso Kerns Die drei Wege zur transzendentalphnomenologischen Reduktion in der Philosophie Edmund Husserls, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 24, no. 1 (1962): pp. 303349. See also John J. Drummond, Husserl on the Ways to the Performance of the Reduction, Man and World 8 (1975): pp. 4769, and Antonio Aguirre, Genetische Phnomenologie und Reduktion (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1970), pp. 3164. Consider, for instance, this recent statement: Die Aufgabe dieser [] Reduktion liegt allgemein gesprochen darin, ein Residuum fr eine absolut sicheren und evidenten Erkenntnisbereich aufzuweisen [], Thomas Stoelger, Das sthetische Apriori des alter ego , op. cit., p. 31f. Similarly: Die von Husserl als spezifisch philosophische Methode entwickelte Verfahrensweise der Epoch und der mit ihr verbundenen phnomenologischen Reduktionen hat die Funktion, den anfangenden Philosophen in eine reflexive Einstellung zu versetzen, in der sich ihm mittels eine Ausschluverfahrens des Bezweifelbaren absolut sichere Einsichten erschlieen, Gronke, Das Denken des Anderen, op. cit., p. 96. Husserl criticises his own Cartesianism e.g., in Hua VIII, pp. 164, 432, and Hua VI, p. 157f. Cf. Hua VIII, pp. 5557. Note that Husserls criticism of the insanity objection here centres round the circularity of that objection, i.e., he has to bring the Non-Cartesian understanding of the purpose of the epoch into play. Possibly Eugen Fink was hinting at this problem when he described the hypothetical world-annihilation as [] eine Hypothese, die in ihren methodologischen Voraussetzungen unerhellt bleibt []. See his very insightful article Die phnomenologische Philosophie Edmund Husserls in der gegenwrtigen Kritik, in E. Fink, Studien zur Phnomenologie 19301939 (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1966), pp. 79156. The quotation is from p. 129. See, for instance, section 30 of Ideen I, entitled Die Generalthesis der natrlichen Einstellung (Hua III/1, p. 60f). Of course, there is another important consideration here, namely that the world for its existence is dependent upon consciousness, whereas consciousness shows no such dependence on the world, but rests in itself. This concern with showing what the real substance is a concern that is dominant in classic rationalism is especially present in Ideen I. Cf. Hua III/1, p. 104. There is an abundance of texts in which Husserl states this. One of the most unambiguous passages is found in Hua IX, p. 249f. Herbert Siegelberg can exemplify such a commentator. See Spiegelbergs The Pheno-






8. 9.

10. 11.

menological Movement, Vol. I (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1965 (2nd ed.)), p. 299, and his article The Reality-Phenomenon and Reality, in Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl, ed. M. Farber (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1940), pp. 84105. See Iso Kerns introduction to Hua XV, pp. XVIIIXXI. Curiously enough, this point has been largely neglected in the literature since then (even though it reappears in Rudolf Bernet; Iso Kern; Eduard Marbarch, Edmund Husserl. Darstellung seines Denkens (Felix Meiner, Hamburg 1989, 1996 (2nd ed.), pp. 146149), with some confusion regarding the primordial reduction as a result. Hua XV, p. XIX (Kerns introduction). That is also a reason why the primordial/solipsistic reduction is not identical with, or an extension of, the transcendental epoch. This notion of transcendental guide is already present in Ideen I (cf. Hua III/1, pp. 344, 348352), but the idea that it is the noematic object, or the cogitatum that is to function as guide is more clearly spelled out in Hua I, pp. 87, 122f. In the absence of a noematic investigation, all we would have to work on would be the simple object tree given to a consciousness, and we wouldnt know how to begin the phenomenological investigation. Only by spelling out the object as it appears (e.g., that it is only seen from one side, but intended as a whole), that is, by way of a noematic investigation, do we become able to say anything about the consciousness of the kind of object in question. See E. Fink, Studien zur Phnomenologie 19301939, op. cit., p. 220f. Cf. to this Zahavi, Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivitt, op. cit., pp. 32 40, and Manfred Sommer, Fremderfahrung und Zeitbewutsein. Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt, Zeitschrift fr philosophische Forschung 38 (1984): pp. 318. Ludwig Landgrebe, Der Weg der Phnomenologie. Das Problem einer ursprnglichen Erfahrung (Gerd Mohn, Gtersloh 1963), p. 90. What is at stake here is logical priority. We have to make sure that we do not use as a premise that which should appear at the end of the chain of reasoning, and therefore initially we have to clean the world of intersubjectivity. This should be kept in mind throughout the remaining part of this paper, especially when I (which is hardly avoidable) use concepts that seem to refer to priority in time. As is well known, however, the solipsistic epoch is a thematic epoch (cf. Hua I, p. 124), i.e., it entails that we look away from certain things, that we hypothetically clean the phenomenological thematic realm of intersubjective meaning. In this aspect it is entirely different from the transcendental epoch, which precisely does not leave anything out. That the primordial or solipsistic reduction abstracts from all trace of others solely in order to avoid begging the question has been emphasised very recently by Peter Reynaert. See his intelligent article, Intersubjectivity and Naturalism Husserls Fifth Cartesian Meditation Revisited, Husserl Studies 17 (2001): pp. 207216. Interestingly enough, Reynaert illustrates the relevance of the present article by claiming that Husserls approach (at least in Cartesianische Meditationen) is Cartesian in nature, i.e., one that aims to ensure apodictic certainty (p. 214). In other words, whereas Reynaert clearly interprets the primordial reduction correctly, he still sees Husserls overall drift (thus also the transcendental epoch) in the Cartesian Meditations as thoroughly Cartesian which to me confirms the need for an interpretation that precisely with regard to both reductions keeps the Cartesian motifs at bay. I am grateful to Bill McKenna and Dieter Lohmar for drawing my attention to Reynaerts article. Sometimes, Husserl himself is unsure whether a solipsistic reduction can performed or not. See, for instance, his reflections on p. 562 in Hua XV. Arguments in support of the Husserlian notions of solipsistic reduction and solipsistic sphere are perhaps rare, but not everyone is convinced that these notions are misguided. See, for instance, Albert A.


13. 14. 15.



18. 19.




Johnstones recent articles Oneself as Oneself and Not as Another, Husserl Studies 13 (1996): pp. 117, and The Relevance of Nonsymbolic Cognition to Husserls Fifth Meditation, Philosophy Today, SPEP Supplement (1999): pp. 8898. 23. See Klaus Held, Das Problem der Intersubjektivitt und die Idee einer phnomenologischen Transzendental philosophie in Perspektiven transzendentalphnomenologischer Forschung, eds. U. Claesges; K. Held (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1972), pp. 360. The passage referred to is found on p. 30. 24. For comments on earlier drafts of this paper, I am grateful to Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Thomas Schwarz Wentzer, and Dan Zahavi, as well as an anonymous reviewer for Husserl Studies.