Commentary on Husserl's Logical Investigations, Volume II Introduction

By Jeremy Hausotter

Feb. 13, 2022

§1 The necessity of phenomenological investigations as a preliminary to the epistemological criticism and clarification of pure logic

Husserl ended the Prolegomena commenting on the importance of mathematicians for developing a formal system of logic. Here he seems to take this up again, for he makes the comment that the mathematical approach to logic alone is insufficient for investigating pure logic. We can arrive at several truths using the methods of modern mathematics, but there remains the question of interpretation, of striving to arrive at a clear understanding of what it is we are investigating. This requires a linguistic investigation. 


A discussion of linguistics is an indispensable philosophical preparation in order to begin building pure logic, (cf. p. 249). It is through an analysis of linguistics that we can arrive at a clarity of the notions used in logical research. This linguistic analysis is not concerned with particular languages or grammar, but with the “pure phenomenology of the experiences of thinking and knowing.” (ibid). 

Husserl now outlines his vision of what is phenomenology. The object of phenomenology is the examination of experiences in their essences. These experiences are not treated like empirical, real facts, but the description of essential concepts and their essence-laws made known through intuition. Such propositions about essences are a priori

Pure phenomenology is a neutral research field in which many sciences have their roots. For example, we can examine the essence of thought, knowledge, etc, which forms the basis for the empirical science of psychology. Phenomenology is concerned with laying bare, or manifesting the sources that the basic concepts and ideal laws flow from. Phenomenology is a clearing away so that we can obtain the apodictic truths of the things themselves. 

§2 Elucidation of the aims of such investigation


“All theoretical research, though by no means solely conducted in acts of verbal expression or complete statement, none the less terminates in such statement.” (p. 250). This is a magnificent line. No matter what research one does, it must terminate in disclosure, of being communicated. Truth is dialogical. The inner dynamism of truth is its self-communication. Truth and research are ordered to disclosure and communication. They need to be communicated. There is an urgency in conducting research to communicate it, otherwise it would not be research. Truth and research has a second person standpoint, for this needing to be communicated requires someone to be communicated to. 

When we conduct our logical researches, we must keep in mind that they are conducted in “grammatical clothing”, that is, “embedded in concrete mental states” (ibid). These mental states function as the meaning fulfillment of verbal expressions thus forming a unity. Given the fact that logic is conducted with thoughts, judgments, and other related mental acts, the grounds of which has been a source of confusion for the psychologistic interpretation of logic, we cannot confuse the fact that the acts by which we do logic as if this meant that the objects of logic itself were also psychological. The task of the logician is not mental states, but the Ideas that provide the basis for logic as such. He is concerned with universals. The success of this task, of obtaining the self-evidence of the laws of logic, requires us to be clear about the verbal meanings of the judgments passed on the discovered laws. 

It is here now that we discover where phenomenology begins, according to Husserl. The task before us is “to bring the Ideas of logic, the logical concepts and laws, to epistemological clarity and definiteness.” (p. 251). The origin for logical concepts must be through ideational intuition mediated through experience. The investigations of logic are not concerned with “mere words” or a “merely symbolic understanding of words”, but must be grounded in the things themselves (p. 252). It is here that Husserl states his famous saying that we must “go back to the things themselves” (ibid). Our task is to clarify the verbal expressions and word meanings so that we can have self-evident intuitions of logic itself. Through phenomenological investigation we are seeking the “fixed meanings to all the fundamental concepts of logic” (ibid). 

Husserl admits that we can have some insights without the need of phenomenological analysis, but this does not dispense us of the necessity of phenomenology. Husserl gives three motives for the necessity of phenomenology: 1) clarify research; 2) free us from psychologism; and 3) establish pure logic. These motives lead us towards questions of epistemology, especially given the questions that arise from doing these investigations. Husserl lists several such as what is the meaning of adaequatio rei et intellectus (p. 254)? 

What is rather intriguing is the following sentence: “We have, further, the fact that all thought is ensouled by a thought-form which is subject to ideal laws, laws circumscribing the objectivity or ideality of knowledge in general.” (ibid). All thoughts follow a form, which Husserl called a ‘thought-form’, and this form is subject to ideal laws. The form and its laws determine the limits of ideality of knowledge. This seems like a view that can be understood in terms of realism or idealism. On the one hand, if left as is, then it can be taken to simply mean that when one has the thought of judging, the judgment itself must follow the judgment-form and its corresponding ideal laws. Such a view is not problematic for a realist. My question then is whether one could apply this view to some types of thought-phenomena where such application is necessarily flawed or erroneous, whether we could overextend this view and apriorize beyond what can legitimately be done. Doing such would then lead us towards idealism since mere mental phenomena would be absolutized. 

The threat of idealism seems to be present given that the task of phenomenology itself is essences of experiences as Husserl just claimed. The question arises as to whether phenomenology can investigate other types of essences, or whether all essences are members of the genus experience. Are all essences ultimately species of experience? Such a view does not appear consistent with Husserl’s statements about logic which we have thus far examined, especially in light of his view of basic laws and concepts that pertain to the Idea of Logic itself. 

§3 The difficulties of pure phenomenological analysis

The source of all of the difficulties in phenomenological analysis, according to Husserl, is due to the unnatural direction of intuition (p. 254). Husserl wants to draw us away from our native mode of thinking that posits or assumes the existence of objects and characterizes them. Instead, we must use reflection to make the mental acts of these activities our object: “we must rather practise ‘reflection’ i.e. make these acts themselves, and their immanent meaning-content, our objects.” (ibid). These acts become thematic of our research. These acts must become the object of our apprehension, theoretical assertion, essentially circumscribed, through ideational thought. 

When I read this, while not rejecting the validity of such investigation, I have to wonder to what extent are we to ignore our native way of thinking in favor of reflecting upon the essences of mental activities. If this is given too much emphasis, then phenomenology as Husserl conceives it here appears to be concerned only with the essence forms of thought and of nothing else. Such a view would ignore several elements of reality worthy of philosophical investigation and seems like an opening for idealism. We can also note here the beginning traces of his later doctrine of epoche

Husserl cites other difficulties with phenomenological analysis. Once we are able to overcome the inherent tendencies of our thought that prevent us from such analysis and are able to achieve insight into self-evident truths, that is, to obtain essential truths of these Ideas, then these results can still be hindered by the other person. We must communicate with language, which may be imprecise or contain ambiguities, such as when we use a term like ‘perception’ or ‘experience’. Once the language is accepted and understood equally, one may still not arrive at the same insight but remain existentially blind. Interestingly, Husserl does not mention this last possible obstruction. 

Phenomenological research requires us to avoid the temptations of naturalism, psychologism, and other similar isms. There is a purity to phenomenological analysis which has its reason in the investigation of essences and Ideas. The type of investigation conducted through the phenomenological method results in a formal purity similar to that found within mathematics. 

§4 It is essential to keep in mind the grammatical side of our logical experiences

For Husserl, ‘analytic phenomenology’ is primarily concerned with presentations, especially presentations with expressions for they have meaning intentions or meaning fulfillments. These considerations raise questions concerning an analysis of meaning and grammar, where grammar is phenomenologically investigated into its linguistic forms. An insightful distinction Husserl makes is that some grammatical distinctions of meaning are essential, while others are contingent. Some meanings belong to the essence of the object at hand, whereas others are ephemeral, grounded in what is empirical or factual. 


§5 Statement of the main aims of the following analytical investigations

The purposes of this section are to state Husserl’s project in the upcoming analyses. Given that Husserl himself said that these comments were vague (p. 260), we will not concern ourselves with their content. 

§6 Additional Notes

This section is broken up into three notes concerning the upcoming investigation. The first two notes are simply statements on methodology and do not concern us. In the third one, however, Husserl addresses the objection that phenomenology is just psychology. In the time between the first and second edition of Logical Investigations, some have interpreted phenomenology to be “ordinary descriptive psychology”, (p. 261), and if this is the case, then why all the fuss over psychologism when phenomenology is by definition psychologism? Husserl replied that phenomenology is not descriptive psychology since such a science is concerned with the real states of the human organism and their empirical conditions. Phenomenology, on the other hand, is concerned with perception, judgment, feeling as such, what pertains to their essence as “pure instances of pure species” known through insight. Phenomenology thus conceived is the ground or basis for descriptive psychology, yet irreducible to it. 

Some of this confusion no doubt can be found in the translator’s note 4 which gives us the original version of note 3 from the first edition, wherein Husserl stated: “Phenomenology is descriptive psychology. Epistemological criticism is therefore in essence psychology, or at least only capable of being built on a psychological basis. Pure logic therefore also rests on psychology…” (p. 262). It is at the very least understandable why some authors misinterpreted Husserl on these points given this original passage. While I think his intentions can still be inferred like in the revised note, it is harder to parse out given Husserl’s use of less precise language. 

§7 ‘Freedom from presuppositions’ as a principle in epistemological investigations

In order for an epistemological investigation to call itself scientific, Husserl claims, then such an inquiry must be free of all presuppositions. The methodology to accomplish this is pure phenomenological research, i.e. an elucidation of essences, their basic laws, interconnections, structures, and fundamental concepts. 

Husserl wants to separate the theory of knowledge from theory. He paradoxically states: “On our view, theory of knowledge, properly described, is no theory.” (p. 264). The theory of knowledge is not a theoretical theory, whereby what Husserl means are those theories that seek to generalize individual facts into common laws and those into fundamental ones. In the realm of facts, our concern is discerning the circumstances to repeat event X according to natural laws. We seek to uncover how these laws of nature function through observation and generalization. 

The theory of knowledge as a purely phenomenological discipline is prior or precedes the empirical and physical sciences. It also precedes metaphysics. It is not concerned with explaining knowledge as a psychological or psychophysical fact, or how actual knowledge acts are interconnected. Rather, the theory of knowledge is concerned with the pure forms and laws of knowledge, to determine its essence structure. It is an investigation into the idea of knowledge and not of the real. As such, the presuppositions Husserl ignores includes metaphysics, science, and psychology. This is what his principle of freedom from presupposition entails. This is the direction Husserl plans to take his investigations. 

   One thing to keep in mind here is that Husserl conceives of metaphysics differently from its classical meaning. Husserl distinguishes between formal and material ontology, equating material ontology with metaphysics and places it within the real. This is a distinction we will see again. At the very least, given this distinction, it makes sense why Husserl places the theory of knowledge as prior to metaphysics, since what is ideal is prior to the real. 

Storm in the Mountains by Albert Bierstadt
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