Husserl and Busserl
There are several excellent second-hand bookshops here in Ottawa. Perhaps the best is a physically tiny shop standing next to the Bytown cinema (Ottawa used to be called Bytown after Colonel John By. He constructed the canal from Ottawa to Kingston to allow supplies to get to the troops in Kingston during the war of 1812 without coming under fire from the United States.). I pop into the bookshop from time to time and, for a long while, coveted a multi-volume set of Edmund Husserl’s philosophy. It was not, however, something I could afford (in time, rather than cash) so I always left without it.
The owner of the bookshop is astute and had noticed my interest and, when I went in one day, proudly told me that he had sold the Husserl. I was more surprised than heart-broken: I had really only come across Husserl in the Frege/Husserl context (in particular Hill and Haddock’s Husserl or Frege?) and had thought that several thick volumes of phenomenology was perhaps more than I wanted to know.
And then a few weeks ago I came across Husserl and the Sciences, edited by Richard Feist. This book is a series of essays relating Husserl’s work not to mathematics but to the sciences. My first surprise came when I noticed that the book has been published by the University of Ottawa press and my second when I realised that Feist teaches at one of the three universities in Ottawa. Coupled with my bookshop experience, I realised that I am living in a hotbed of Husserl enthusiasm.
This observation, and a concern about being caught out at a party in Ottawa one day by a group of Husserlites, sent me back to Alston’s and Nakhnikian’s translation of Husserl’s The Idea of Phenomenology. This has the advantage of being a thin volume (60 pages excluding introduction).
Having thus, extremely superficially, followed the path of Husserl interpretation from being the portrayer of a bizarre philosophy, to which he unreasonably clung in the teeth of the evidence, to being a misunderstood genius, albeit second rate, I was speculating about the concept of a Philosophy of Real Philosophy to match Corfield’s Philosophy of Real Mathematics (see this blog passim). Corfield argues that an understanding of how mathematicians do mathematics is the valid route of mathematical philosophy. An understanding of how philosophers do philosophy, as exemplified by a meta-study of the Husserl studies would, of course, only be valid if philosophy itself is not psychologistic, a turn that Husserl might have liked.