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Commentary on Husserl's Logical Investigations, Prolegomena Chapter 10

By Jeremy Hausotter


Chapter 10: End of our Critical Treatments

In general, one can skip reading this chapter. It does not contribute much towards Husserl’s critiques or the development of his ideas. The task of the chapter is situating Husserl’s views with other logicians. This chapter is essentially Husserl working through a catalogue of logicians whose ideas Husserl found fruitful. In this regard, the chapter is interesting for those interested in the historical context of Husserl’s work and where it stands in relation to other prominent logicians from his times.

§57 Queries regarding readily formed misunderstandings of our logical endeavours

To summarize the main thesis up to this point, Husserl states that in opposition to the current trends in the philosophy of logic, what is required is a reestablishment of pure logic as independent of psychology and everything empirical. Pure logic as a science hence serves as the basis for logic as a technology. An indisputable task of pure logic is hence its independent construction from all influences outside of this ideal realm. Logic cannot be subservient to other disciplines.

What Husserl is seeking with his book is nothing other this “the radical transformation” of logic (p. 213). This pursuit has led to two reactions which Husserl briefly mentions in this section. Husserl notes that given his attack, some feel the pressure of his extended critique, but are however unprepared to jump ship and abandon psychologism. Logic as a discipline is facing a crisis, at Husserl’s time, because of the predominance of the psychologistic interpretation of logic and the popularity these authors are enjoying. Some attempted to synthesize Husserl’s analysis with psychologism, retaining some principles of pure logic while not wholly giving up the psychologistic view. Husserl calls these thinkers cowards: “Such reflections will satisfy many who feel the force of our idealistic arguments, without having the courage to draw the necessary conclusions.” (ibid).

Others take Husserl’s work as either a purely emotional reaction to a trend in philosophy or, if not both, as the attempt to restore traditional logic. Both interpretations are superficial given the extent of Husserl’s analysis and the fact that he has criticized in several places Aristotelian and Scholastic logic.

One last observation to make from this section is in footnote one wherein Husserl distinguishes empirical psychology from phenomenology. Phenomenology is defined as “a pure theory of the essences of experience”. (ibid).

§58 Our links with great thinkers of the past, and, in the first place, with Kant

Husserl here acknowledges his Kantian influences. He accepts Kant’s distinction between pure and applied logic. However, he rejects Kant’s definition of “understanding” and “reason” as faculties of the soul. Husserl instead understands the terms as “merely indicating a direction to the ‘form of thinking’ and its ideal laws...” (p. 214). Husserl labels Kant’s definitions here as “confusing, mythic concepts”. There is a question here as to what is Husserl aiming at exactly. There certainly appears to be an abuse with Kant, given Husserl’s statements concerning how we do not need a painting faculty in order to paint, for example, but on the other hand we need to be cautious given the metaphysical interpretation of these statements. Traditional metaphysics would say that reason is a faculty of the soul. How Husserl understands himself in this tradition is unknown thus far in the work. Husserl also wants to distance himself from Kant’s conception of pure logic, for Kant understood this as the Aristotelian-Scholastic thinkers did.

§59 Links with Herbart and Lotze

Husserl notes that his views are closer to Herbart versus Kant. Like Husserl, Herbart distinguishes clearly pure logic from psychology. For Herbart, concepts are “wholly timeless things” (p. 215). They are neither real objects nor real acts. We in our mental acts have presentations of concepts, but this does not entail the reduction of the objects of our concepts to psychology. Their presentations in our mental acts requires an object that is itself made manifest in the presentation, a praesentatum.

Husserl then criticizes Herbart’s logic as imprecise, immature, and ambiguous. Herbart’s most egregious error, however, is his failure to discern the fundamental difference between the ideal and real, since Herbart inevitably collapses the ideal into the real: “Herbart’s basic mistake was more important: he located what is essential to the ideality of the logical concept in its normality, thus shifting the sense of true, genuine ideality, of unified meaning, into the dispersed multiplicity of experiences.” (p. 217). Herbart commits a second error with his view of logic as a moral of thought, which hides logic from being its own pure, theoretical discipline. Herbart’s third main error is his inability to recognize the nonproblem of harmonizing “the subjective course of logical thinking with the real course of external actuality”, an error Husserl promises to analyze later. Lotze, a follower of Herbart, suffers these same fundamental errors of Herbart’s. Because of these errors, Husserl reproaches Herbart’s logic as impoverished, like Kant, Aristotle, and the Scholastics (cf. p. 217).

§60 Links with Leibniz

Husserl notes that his views are closest to Leibniz. For Leibniz, logic and mathematics formed a single discipline, and he sought to combine the two. What is remarkable is Leibniz’s insistence that the formalism in logic is a result of its conclusiveness by virtue of the form of logic (p. 219).  This combined with Leibniz’s inclusion of probability and mathematics within logical analysis shows us how much Husserl has accepted Leibniz’s theories. Husserl also attributed to Leibniz fatherhood of the theory of manifolds and also accepts Leibniz’s conception of pure logic.

§61 Need for special investigations to provide an epistemological justification and partial realization of the Idea of pure logic

In summary, in order to avoid the errors of those who came before, the logician must construct  a pure logic with a “sufficiently broad basis.”(p. 221). This is a promise Husserl makes to do in his analyses. The pursuit of a pure logic requires a treatment of logic in a theoretically closed manner. Such an ideal will be dashed thirty years later by Gödel’s proofs. Pure logic will serve as an important role for epistemology. One thing I found interesting is Husserl’s claim that epistemology precedes metaphysics, (ibid). Myself, I am more and more convinced that both epistemology and metaphysics are concomitant, distinct disciplines, yet so interdependent that one cannot study one without necessarily investigating the other. We will have to wait and see what Husserl’s view of epistemology preceding metaphysics leads. This view is perhaps a link between Husserl and Descartes’ methodology.


The appendix continues the theme of the chapter, looking at influences of Lange and Bolzano. From Lange, Husserl appreciated his realization of the need to separate the investigation of pure logic as its own discipline and that formal logic is an apodeictic science. As such, pure logic is of its own value independent of whatever practical uses it may have.

Husserl now gives a glowing compliment for Bolzano’s logic, that it “far surpasses everything that world-literature has to offer in the way of a systematic sketch of logic.” (p. 222-223). He gives much glowing praise to Bolzano, calling him one of the greatest logicians. A defect Husserl notes is Bolzano’s lack of investigations into epistemology, but interestingly seems forgiving.

The Prolegomena

Prolegomena: Introduction

Prolegomena: Chapter 1

Prolegomena: Chapter 2

Prolegomena: Chapter 3

Prolegomena: Chapter 4

Prolegomena: Chapter 5

Prolegomena: Chapter 6

Prolegomena: Chapter 7

Prolegomena: Chapter 10

Prolegomena: Chapter 11

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