Commentary on Husserl's Logical Investigations, Introduction to the Prolegomena

By Jeremy Hausotter

Introduction

 

§1 The controversy regarding the definition of Logic and the essential content of its doctrines


Husserl begins by citing the following words of John Stuart Mill, from his Logic:


There is accordingly as much difference of opinion in regard to the definition of logic as there is in the treatment of the science itself. This was only to be expected in the case of a subject, in regard to which most writers have only employed the same words to express different thoughts.


This highlights Husserl’s main critique of the status logic as a discipline or a science. The science of logic has three tendencies or schools: logic, the psychological, formal and metaphysical. All these authors “merely employ the same words to express different thoughts.” (p. 53). This emphasizes a kind of poverty in the science of logic, a problem that needs to be addressed. 


§2 Necessity of a renewed discussion of questions of principle


Despite the many treatises written on logic, Husserl concluded:


The fact, however, that so many attempts made by such important thinkers to put logic on the sure path of a science, have not led to any shattering success, suggests that the ends in view have perhaps not been sufficiently clarified to allow successful investigation. (p. 54)


Each of these authors failed to clarify what are the ends of the science of logic. As Husserl notes, “One’s conception of the aims of a science find expression in its definition.” (p. 54). Hence part of the misidentification of logic is due to these authors misdefining the science as a whole. 


Therefore the concept of science itself needs to be addressed. The definitions follow from the stages of development. As the sciences develop, the investigator’s understanding and definitions thereby develop, and also the boundaries, scope, place, and concepts. “The definitions of a science mirror the stages of that science’s development; knowledge of the conceptual character of a science’s object, of the boundaries and place of its field, follow the science and progress with it.” (p. 54). 

 

To develop the notion of science, Husserl begins with the insight that “The field of a science is an objectively closed unity: we cannot arbitrarily delimit fields where and as we like.” (p. 54, emphasis mine). This statement of Husserl affirms a realism concerning truth, science, and knowledge. Truth is “objectively articulated into fields” (p. 54) grounded in the objects of the particular sciences themselves. As Husserl notes, “There is a science of numbers, a science of spatial figures, of animal species etc., but there are no special sciences of prime numbers, trapezia, or of lions, nor of all three taken together.” (p. 55). Science is delimited into fields that are determined by the objects of that science. 

 

In a science there are two dangers in the demarcation of that science. One might define the field of that science too narrowly, which means that he or she would have to append to the field beyond what was originally delimited. 


A second danger confuses different fields into the same. This is very dangerous for a science for it leads to a misinterpretation of the proper objects of that science, invalid ends or aims of it, and invalid methodologies for investigation; all of which can in reality be opposed to the true objects of that science. Psychologism in logic is subject to these dangers with almost no exceptions. 


§3 Disputed questions: The path to be entered


Husserl ends the Introduction to the Prolegomena in a surprising manner. He lists four questions: 1) is logic theoretical or a practical discipline? 2) is logic independent of any other science, including psychology and metaphysics? 3) Is logic a formal discipline? 4) Is logic a priori and demonstrative discipline or empirical? The answers to these four questions follow two basic camps, those who see logic as a theoretical discipline and those who see it as a technology dependent upon psychology. Husserl writes “Since we do not really mean to become involved in these traditional disputes…” (p. 56). Does Husserl mean that he is not going to study these questions or is he going to pursue them in a way different from his predecessors? 


Husserl lists that his method is to start with the contemporary view of logic as a technology from which he will attempt to elucidate the foundations of logic and its fields and boundaries. The goal of this investigation is to delineate a theoretical science that has the character of a priori and demonstrability as a formal logic.

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