Smashing Husserl’s Dark Mirror: Rectifying the Inconsistent Theory of Impossible Meaning and Signitive Substance from the Logical Investigations

Axiomathes 31 (2):127-144 (2021)
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This paper accomplishes three goals. First, the essay demonstrates that Edmund Husserl’s theory of meaning consciousness from his 1901 Logical Investigations is internally inconsistent and falls apart upon closer inspection. I show that Husserl, in 1901, describes non-intuitive meaning consciousness as a direct parallel or as a ‘mirror’ of intuitive consciousness. He claims that non-intuitive meaning acts, like intuitions, have substance and represent their objects. I reveal that, by defining meaning acts in this way, Husserl cannot account for our experiences of countersensical, absurd, or impossible meanings. Second, I examine how Husserl came to recognize this 1901 mistake in his 1913/14 Revisions to the Sixth Logical Investigation. I discuss how he accordingly reformulates his understanding of non-intuitive meaning acts from the ground up in those Revisions, where this also allows for him to properly account for the experience of impossible meanings. Instead of describing them as mirrors of intuitions, Husserl takes non-intuitive meaning acts to be modifications of intuitions, where they have no substance and do not represent their objects. Finally, in the conclusion to this essay, I demonstrate how this fundamental change to his understanding of meaning consciousness forced Husserl to revise other central tenets of his philosophy, such that the trajectory of his thought can only be properly understood in light of these revisions to his theory of non-intuitive meaning consciousness.

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Thomas Byrne
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Citations of this work

The Origin of the Phenomenology of Feelings.Thomas Byrne - 2022 - Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 53 (4):455-468.
The Origin of the Phenomenology of Instincts.Thomas Byrne - 2023 - Husserl Studies 39 (1):69-83.

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