Publication 5793

Zahavi D. (1994) Beyond realism and idealism: Husserl’s late concept of constitution. Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 29: 44–62. Fulltext at
Excerpt: One of the perpetual problems in Husserl-scholarship concerns the clarification of Husserl’s notion of constitution, especially its bearing on the realism- idealism controversy. The dominant tendency among Husserl’s many critics has been to interpret constitution as a creative activity, thus accusing Husserl of an untenable idealism. Among philosophers more favourably disposed towards Husserlian phenomenology one often finds this critique rebutted in one (or both) of the following ways: Either it is maintained that constitution is in reality merely a matter of epistemic restoration (thus being fully compatible with a realism), or it is argued that the dimension disclosed by the transcendental reduction and constituted by transcendental subjectivity is a dimension of meaning; not of being. The following paper will attempt to refute the above mentioned interpretations, presenting an alternative clarification of some of the formal elements in Husserl’s transcendental concept of constitution, by way of an explication of the late Husserl’s view on the relationship between world and subjectivity. An explication eventually making it apparent, that Husserl’s concept of constitution entails reflections much more in line with the views espoused by later phenomenologists, such as Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, than is normally assumed by his critics. In order to situate these reflections my exposé will start by recapitulating some of the main ideas in Husserl’s transcendental-phenomenological project – focusing on the notion of reduction. This is essential for a precise estimation of Husserl’s overall aim, and I believe that a correct comprehension of his transcendental concept of constitution will only be possible on this background.

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