Husserl and Descartes on Ego cogito

Husserl admires Descartes and follows him up to a point, but from there on he goes on a different path. Husserl goes that far that he is willing to speak about phenomenology as a new twentieth century Cartesianism (Husserl, 1973, 3). According to Husserl the themes in Meditations are timeless and can give birth to what is characteristic of phenomenological method (Husserl, 1973, 3).


Husserl follows the train of thought in Meditations and at one point he will go his own way, but still making references to Descartes’ greatness. The subjectively oriented philosophy of Meditations is carried out in steps. The philosopher withdraws into himself and then, from within, attempts to destroy and rebuilt all previous learning (Husserl, 1973, 4). He first has to discover an absolutely secure starting point and the rules of procedure (Husserl, 1973, 4). The ego is engaged in philosophizing that is seriously solipsistic (Husserl, 1973, 4); he infers the existence and veracitas of God, and then he deduces objective reality as a dualism of substances. In this way he reaches the objective ground of knowledge (Husserl, 1973, 4). Through this return to the ego cogito Descartes inaugurates a completely new type of philosophy, it is movement from naive objectivism to transcendental subjectivism (Husserl, 1973, 5).


Husserl sees in this radical turn to the ego cogito the path that led to transcendental phenomenology (Husserl, 1973, 5). So, we begin, everyone for himself and in himself, with the decision to disregard all our present knowledge (Husserl, 1973, 5). But, can we find evidence that is both immediate and apodictic? From this point forward Husserl begins to depart from Descartes, even if his shadow will continue to be present. The evidence he finds is the evidence given by the existence of the world (Husserl, 1973, 6); to be in the world precedes everything (Husserl, 1973, 6). This experiential evidence is a hypothesis that needs verification (Husserl, 1973, 7).
Husserl makes a great shift that leads to transcendental subjectivity, it is the shift to the ego cogito, as the apodictically certain and last basis for judgment upon which all radical philosophy must be grounded (Husserl, 1973, 7). There is no knowledge that is valid for me nor a world that exists for me, the entire concrete world ceases to have reality for me and becomes instead mere appearance (Husserl, 1973, 7). This radical detachment from any point of view regarding the objective world is termed by Husserl the phenomenological epoch (Husserl, 1973, 8). This is a methodology through which Husserl comes to understand himself as an ego and life of consciousness in which and through which the entire objective world exists for him, and is for him precisely as it is (Husserl, 1973, 8). For him the world is nothing other than what he is aware of and what appears valid in such cogitationes (Husserl, 1973, 8). He sees himself as the ego in whose stream of consciousness the world itself first acquires meaning and reality (Husserl, 1973, 8).
Husserl tries to leave aside any vestige of Scholasticism found in Descartes; that is why, he does not see ego cogito as referring to an apodictic and primitive axiom (Husserl, 1973, 9). The ego cogito is not the foundation for a deductive and universal science, a science ordain geometrico (Husserl, 1973, 9). He does not follow Descartes in inferring the rest of the world through deductive procedures according to the principles that are innate to the ego (Husserl, 1973, 9). This is the error Husserl considers that Descartes has done. Descartes transformed the ego in a substantia cogitans, that becomes the point of departure for conclusions by means of the principle of causality (Husserl, 1973, 9).
Husserl says that we must regard nothing as veridical except the pure immediacy and givenness in the field of the ego cogito which the epoch has opened up to us (Husserl, 1973, 9). The independent epoch, with regard to the nature of the world as it appears and is real to me, discloses the greatest and most magnificent of all facts: I and my life remain untouched by whichever way we decide the issue of whether the world is or is not (Husserl, 1973, 9). To myself I discovered that I alone am the pure ego, with pure existence and pure capacities (Husserl, 1973, 10). Husserl says that through this ego alone the world make sense to me and has possible validity (Husserl, 1973, 10). Through the phenomenological epochi the natural ego, specifically my own, is reduced to the transcendental ego. This is the meaning of phenomenological reduction (Husserl, 1973, 10).
Husserl does not use the Cartesian discovery of the ego cogito as an apodictic proposition and as an absolute primitive premise, but to notice that the phenomenological epochd has uncovered, through the apodictic I am, a new kind and an endless sphere of being (Husserl, 1973, 11). It is the sphere of a new kind of experience: transcendental experience (Husserl, 1973, 11). So, this phenomenological epochd reduces me to my transcendental and pure ego; I am the sole source and object capable of judgment (solus ipse). The most important thing is not about the ego cogito but a science about the ego - a pure egology (Husserl, 1973, 12). And this is the ultimate foundation of philosophy in the Cartesian sense of a universal science.

Husserl, Edmund. Paris Lectures. Translated by Peter Koestenbaum. Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1973.

blog comments powered by Disqus