Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) was born in Moravia (now the Czech Republic). After attending the University of Leipzig where he studied mathematics and science, he went to Vienna to study under Franz Brentano, who awakened his thought in philosophical psychology. Brentano held that a basic form of consciousness was intentionality. All thought and desire is about something. One never just thinks or desires but thinks or desires something, even though the object may be vague and amorphous. Husserl developed Brentano's ideas, centering his studies on the nature or phenomenology of consciousness. He is considered the father of phenomenology, the basic ideas of which are outlined in the selection that follows.

In 1916 he became a professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where he remained until his retirement in 1929. During the last five years of his life he was barred from public activities because of his Jewish ancestry.

In our selection from Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (1913) Husserl focuses on his notion of phenomenological (or eidetic) reduction: all acts must be reduced to an essence of eidos (essential idea). The perceiver must perform an epoche, that is, suspend judgment on the existence of the objects of consciousness. For example, I should not focus on whether the computer before me really exists but on the essential features of the experience itself. He describes this as “bracketing” the experience. For Husserl I am neither a thinking substance (as Descartes thought), nor a bundle of perceptions (as Hume thought), nor an embodied soul (as Plato thought), but a pure transcendental ego, a consciousness that cannot be bracketed, but transcends its intentional object.

The main criticism of Husserl's program is that it entails solipsism, the idea that the only thing which really exists is the self or ego—all else being uncertain. Husserl tried to answer this objection by explaining how one transcendental ego can experience other such egos.


Dreyfus, Hubert, ed. Husserl, Intentionality and Cognitive Science (MIT Press, 1982).

Husserl, Edmund. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, trans. W. R. Gibson (Allen & Unwin, 1931).

Kockelman, Joseph. Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology (Humanities Press, 1978).

Kolakowski, Leszek. Husserl and the Search for Certitude (University of Chicago Press, 1987).

Solomon, Robert, ed. Phenomenology and Existentialism (Harper & Row, 1972).

Speigelberg, Herbert. The Phenomenological Movement, 2 vols. (Martinus Nijhoff, 1960).

Stapleton, Timothy J. Husserl and Heidegger (SUNY Press, 1983).


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Classics of Philosophy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 1272

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?