Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

The New "Crisis" Contribution: A Supplementary Edition of Edmund Husserl's 'Crisis' Texts

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

The New "Crisis" Contribution: A Supplementary Edition of Edmund Husserl's 'Crisis' Texts

Article excerpt

Edmund Husserl's Crisis was not only one of his most important formulations of an introduction to phenomenology, but also the inspiration for a plethora of studies that have helped shape the direction of thought in the twentieth century, from Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomonologie de la perception(1) to Jurgen Habermas's Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns.(2) It is well known that the problematic surrounding the Crisis occupied Husserl during his last years, from 1934 to 1937. The first critical edition of these reflections was prepared by Walter Biemel and published in 1954 as volume 6 of the Husserliana series bearing the title, Die Krisis der europaischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phanomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die phanomenologische Philosophie.(3)

As one might suspect from a philosopher who bequeathed nearly 45,000 stenographed manuscript pages, however, we have not heard the last of Husserl on the celebrated Crisis issue. The latest installment of the Crisis problematic is a collection of supplementary writings entitled, Die Krisis der euroaischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phanomenologie: Erganzungsband. Texte aus dem Nachlass 1934-1937.(4)

There is much to be learned from a text of this sort; it both placates historical curiosity about the extant material on the Crisis and piques thematic interest in topics the Crisis only promised to treat. In the following pages I would like to discuss this new Crisis volume in four stages. First, I will give a basic introduction to the Crisis problematic; second, I would like to discuss the composition of the new Crisis selection and its standing in relation to the first Crisis edition. After offering an overview of the material included in this supplementary volume in my third section, I will conclude by suggesting the direction that Husserl's incomplete Crisis might have taken.


The condition of Husserl's research manuscripts has been explained in many works and need not be repeated in detail here.(5) In place of such an ambitious undertaking, let me simply emphasize some of the salient points surrounding the Crisis collection and, in a more cursory fashion, highlight the circumstances involving its emergence.(6) According to an outline for the Crisis prepared by Husserl's close assistant Eugen Fink (with whom Husserl held daily consultations), the Crisis was to be divided into five parts.(7) The first two parts originally published in an international journal entitled Philosophia,(8) and were later reprinted in the critical Crisis edition. They are entitled, respectively, "The Crisis of the Sciences as Expression of the Radical Life-Crisis of European Humanity," and "Clarification of the Origin of the Modem Opposition between Physicalistic Objectivism and Transcendental Subjectivism." For Part 3, divisions A and B of the Crisis, the situation is somewhat more complicated. Let me explain.

After Husserl had assiduously reworked Part 3--already months past his deadline for publication--Fink apparently forwarded the typescript to the editor of Philosophia, Arthur Liebert.(9) After writing more amendments and supplements to this draft, however, Husserl once again rethought the conception of the "most mature results of [his] life's work of over 40 years."(10) In true Husserlian style, by trying to nail down an adequate conclusion to Part 3, Husserl amassed writings that he conceded would far exceed the space of two volumes of Philosophia. According to a letter to his former student, Jan Patocka, sheer length was one reason Husserl thought it necessary to alter his plans for a conclusion to this work, and to reevaluate how the Crisis should be divided.(11) Citing delays in thinking and writing that were due to health, the tremendous difficulties related to the themes in the Crisis, and the formidable task of his new way into transcendental phenomenology--to say nothing of the voluminosity of his text--Husserl requested at the end of June 1936 that Liebert return the typescript. …

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