Tag Archives: Edmund Husserl

Two pinnacle questions – Husserl and Edith Stein

There are two pinnacle questions that drove me to study both Edmund Husserl, the father of modern day phenomenology, and his student Edith Stein. It is analogous to walking around a piece of art in amazement, trying to understand what is its essence, or perhaps listening in awe to a pianist elevate and unveil an unseen but very beautiful and very real substance that exists above and beyond us. 

Edmund Husserl developed a model of thought that purposefully, deliberately excluded facts. He loved science but found science’s claim to be a pathway to truth as absurd and circular in its reasoning. His model is, in his mind, the science of all sciences and one without which natural science can never achieve its stated goal. Husserl’s model is one of pure consciousness and apriori reasoning. For Husserl, reason directs science, not the other way around. That was the first of my pinnacle questions. Why?

His student Edith Stein, a Jewish atheist, assisted him in the organization of his work. She was transfixed on Husserl’s work. One day she came across the book St. Teresa of Avila’s Autobiography, who was the founder of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There is reason to believe that Edith read it overnight in one sitting. When she finished the book, she closed it and said, “This is truth.” That was my second pinnacle question. Why?

Why did two well-recognized philosophers believe that truth could be found through pure essence, pure consciousness and reason, such that it could even direct the natural sciences, and why did one of them, Edith Stein, close St. Teresa’s book and posit, “This is truth”?

These are my two questions, the answers to which I seek. Stein later would give me a clue. There is something, she said, that consistently is there, unchanging, in the flow of our life, something higher and toward which we move in space in time, something toward which each artist, each person, strives. Ultimately, she would fulfill her phenomenological mission. She would discover that this something toward which we move, toward which we strive, that we seek to unveil, is a Trinity of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

Objectivity affects consciousness – not the other way around (Husserl)

As one whose life-project is to bring to light how our subjective experiences are grounded in objective truths, we can see how the following statement shattered the darkness.

“I apprehend the world-about-them and the world-about-me objectively as one and the same world, which differs in each case only through affecting consciousness differently.” ~ Edmund Husserl, Ideas 

Husserl’s point here in Part II of his Ideas is a radical disruption to the modern worldview. The axiom here is that the world is an objective reality, and this objective reality affects individual consciousness, not the other way around. The modern “progressive” worldview reverses this by positing that the individual more or less creates his or her (or none?) reality, i.e., individual consciousness determines objective reality for that person. The Phenomenological Husserlian understanding finds this modern view to be intellectually untenable. 

In my earliest manuscript, I asserted that whereas each of us walking the same trail will highlight different moments (the subjective experience), we nevertheless all are walking the same trail (the objective experience). I did not realize how phenomenologically Husserlian was that metaphor. I was saying the same thing Husserl posits in his Ideas.

This phenomenological orientation is why I am unable to cooperate with a society that believes in radical “progressive” individualism and claims that people should create whatever reality suits them (e.g., a man decides that his “reality” is that he is a she). They have it all backwards. Affective consciousness does not create the objective; it is the objective that “affects consciousness differently.” Men cannot be women; though, the objective reality of “manhood” possibly can affect their consciousness to make them think it is so. But a man, they remain.

What is objectivity, then, but “essence” in Husserl’s view? Well, if objective truth is “essence,” then, de facto, no subjective mind can “create it.” To do so is not “essence” (reality) but “imagination.”

The model influenced by Edith Stein and Edmund Husserl

The model I have been developing for the past twelve years to which I often refer is, as stated in my writings, bimodal. That was the beginning form. Over these many years, I have focused on two particular phenomena, a sudden “instant instance” whereby I received an intuition about Thérèse of Lisieux and a sudden “instant instance” whereby I received an intuition about Joan of Arc. This bimodal experience became the definition of my life, and anyone who knows anything about Thérèse of Lisieux also knows that she and Joan together represent a spiritual speciation of a more encompassing genus of French Spirituality. Thus, by simple syllogism, my life became defined by French spirituality. 

My efforts the past few years have been around modeling the experience, the idea being that the instantiation of Joan and Thérèse in my life is an objective reality given to me in my own subjectivity. The challenge to objectify subjective phenomena began. The solution came through the philosophy of Edith Stein and her mentor Edmund Husserl. As I integrated Stein into my work, it became clear the she was the only philosopher who could close the system and give me relief in my search.

Through Husserl, I came to define the bimodal “instant instances” (my term) as his “primordial dator” which, according to him is the “principle of all principles.” The area under the curves represents the speciation of the model through intuition of essential essence (Husserl) with the model developed in a “step-by-step” fashion (Stein).

The capstone for me, though, has been the one principle I added on my own that gave the model its final presentation and life – syntax. I added syntax after reading Husserl and experiencing the most serendipitous (seemingly) encounter with the works of the French pop artist Nolwenn Leroy (how unexpected!). That experience brought to light the principle of syntax which demonstrated how the model was “ordered” so as to be a complete instantiation of my “primordial dator” experiences in 1984 and 2008. Syntax represents the spirit that orders it to a certain rhythm and mathematical beauty.