On Husserl's Theory of Wholes and Parts

History and Philosophy of Logic 21 (1):1-43 (2000)
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Abstract

The strongly innovative theory of whole-parts relations outlined by Husserl in his Third logical Investigation—to which he attributed a basic value for his entire phenomenology—has recently attracted a renewed interest. Although many important issues have been clarified (especially by Kit Fine) the subject seems still worth being revisited. To this aim Husserlian universes are introduced. These are lower bounded distributive lattices endowed with a unary operation of defect and a binary relation of isogeneity. Husserl's contents are identified with nonzero elements of a Husserlian universe and the dependence relations among contents are defined and studied starting from the idea that the defect of xis what x needs in order to ‘exist’ i.e., in order to be ‘closed’ with respect to the closure operation defined as the sup of x and its defect. It turns out that there are (at least) eight dependence relations which are worth to be considered. Many other questions concerning the world of contents (among them the proofs of the famous Husserl's Sätze) may now be discussed and clarified. Then the theory of species and genera is developed. Ultimate species (for short: species) are identified with equivalence classes of contents modulo isogeneity, and species in general (for short: genera) are identified with arbitrary unions of species. On the basis of the relation obtaining among two contents when they are isogeneous to two contents the first of which is a part of the second it becomes possible to develop a rather satisfying interpretation of Husserl's theory of the dependencies among species and genera and of the material a priori laws. By strengthening the notion of Husserlian universe into the notion of rigid Husserlian universe, the theory of species and genera obtains a stronger version. Three models of the theory are exhibited. The first one, suggested by combinatorial-topological considerations, identifies contents with finite non-empty sets of natural numbers; the second one identifies contents with non-empty sets of formulas of a formal language; the third one (not totally ‘rigid’) identifies contents with positive integers.

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