II’ve been spending some time over the last few weeks slowly and painfully making my way through the article Edmund Husserl wrote on phenomenology for the 1927 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (available free on the web.) I've hardly read anything as difficult, matching the most enigmatic portions of Heidegger. At only twenty or so pages, I have yet to make it halfway through, and even then I am missing some of the structural logic.
In his essay, Edmund Husserl is always fighting. He is trying to gain credibility for his philosophy--and what a philosophical project it is! Peel back the dense layer of Husserl's prose and one discoveries one of the boldest projects philosophy has to offer. I can hardly believe that he could even suggest such a project, especially given the "know nothing" epistemologies of today.
During the course of his article, Husserl gives a marvelous description of Descartes' Meditations. He explains why they are so important for modern philosophy. I found it a helpful and satisfying explanation, and is as follows:
In Descartes' Meditations, the thought that had become the guiding one for "first philosophy" was that all of "reality," and finally the whole world of what exists and is so for us, exists only as the presentational content of our presentations, as meant in the best case and as evidently reliable in our own cognitive life. This is the motivation for all transcendental problems, genuine or false. Descartes' method of doubt was the first method of exhibiting "transcendental subjectivity," and his ego cogito led to its first conceptual formulation....Once the world in this full universality has been related to the subjectivity of consciousness, in whose living consciousness it makes its appearance precisely as "the" world in its varying sense, then its whole mode of being acquires a dimension of unintelligibility, or rather of questionableness.
Edmund Husserl; Renee Descartes; epistemology; phenomenology.