Carlo Ierna
Radboud University Nijmegen
In 1913, in a draft for a new Preface for the second edition of the Logical Investigations, Edmund Husserl reveals to his readers that "The source of all my studies and the first source of my epistemological difficul­ties lies in my first works on the philosophy of arithmetic and mathematics in general", i.e. his Habilitationsschrift and the Philosophy of Arithmetic: "I carefully studied the consciousness constituting the amount, first the collec­tive consciousness (consciousness of quantity, of multiplicity) in its simplest and higher levels (consciousness of sums, sums of sums etc.). I immediately separated proper (intuitive) and symbolic consciousness, in the characteriza­tion of the former I hit the radical difference of categorial consciousness [...] and sensuous consciousness of unity." Later on, in the Third Investigation, Husserl makes some very specific claims, that are of considerable importance to assess the development of his early works and their relation to his later phenomenology: "This first work of mine (an elaboration of my Habilitationsschrift, [...], 1887) should be compared with all assertions of the present work on compounds, moments of unity, complexes, wholes and objects of higher order. I am sorry that in many recent treatments of the doctrine of "Gestalt-qualities", this work has mostly been ignored, though quite a lot of the thought-content of later treatments by Cornelius, Meinong etc., of questions of analysis, apprehension of plurality and complexion is already to be found, differently expressed, in my Philosophy of Arithmetic. I think it would still be of use today to consult this work on the phenomenological and ontological issues in question, especially since it is the first work that attached importance to acts and objects of higher order and investigated them thoroughly." Hence, at the time of the Ideas, Husserl retrospectively considers his first works4 as being still relevant for phenomenological issues. Not only does Husserl advance a very interesting priority claim with respect to Von Ehrenfels’ development of the notion of Gestalt and Meinong’s development of Gegenstandstheorie, but also a strong affirmation of continuity and coherence of his position from 1887 all the way up to 1913, encompassing the alleged “revolution” in his position from psychologism to anti-psycho­logism in the 1890s. Indeed, according to much of the recent secondary literature, in 1894, right in the middle of the ten “incubation” years between the Philosophy of Arithmetic and the Logical Investigations, Frege’s destruc­tive review would have converted Husserl to antipsychologism practically overnight. This gives us two conflicting interpretations: on the one hand, Husserl himself in 1913 still seems to approve of the Philosophy of Arithmetic and even considers it to contain valuable phenomenological material, on the other, it is routinely dismissed by much of the secondary literature as hope­lessly psychologistic. So which one is it: do we have a phenomenological arithmetic or a psychologistic arithmetic in Husserl’s first book? On balance, I think that Husserl in his Philosophy of Arithmetic developed a position that does not fall prey to the exaggerated and poorly aimed critiques of Frege, while at the same time, as a descriptive psychology of the genesis and constitution of number, it can certainly be considered as providing phenome­nologically meaningful analyses, though of course not made from within an explicitly transcendental phenomenological framework.
Keywords Edmund Husserl  Gottlob Frege  Philosophy of Arithmetic  Psychologism  Philosophy of Mathematics
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,066
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Foundations of Arithmetic.Gottlob Frege - 1953 - Evanston: Ill., Northwestern University Press.
Cartesian Meditations.Edmund Husserl - 1960 - [The Hague]M. Nijhoff.

View all 60 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Mathematical Roots of Phenomenology: Husserl and the Concept of Number.Mirja Hartimo - 2006 - History and Philosophy of Logic 27 (4):319-337.
The Beginnings of Husserl’s Philosophy, Part 2: Philosophical and Mathematical Background.Carlo Ierna - 2006 - New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy 6 (1):23-71.


Added to PP index

Total views
22 ( #510,257 of 2,498,775 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #422,193 of 2,498,775 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes