Husserl’s Early Semiotics and Number Signs: Philosophy of Arithmetic through the Lens of “On the Logic of Signs ”

Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 48 (4):287-303 (2017)
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This paper demonstrates that Edmund Husserl’s frequently overlooked 1890 manuscript, “On the Logic of Signs,” when closely investigated, reveals itself to be the hermeneutical touchstone for his seminal 1891 Philosophy of Arithmetic. As the former comprises Husserl’s earliest attempt to account for all of the different kinds of signitive experience, his conclusions there can be directly applied to the latter, which is focused on one particular type of sign; namely, number signs. Husserl’s 1890 descriptions of motivating and replacing signs will be respectively employed to clarify his 1891 understanding of the authentic and inauthentic presentations of numbers via number signs. Moreover, his schematic classification of replacement-signs in Semiotic will illuminate the reasons why he believed the number system to be necessary for the operation of replacing number signs.

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Thomas Byrne
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign