Descartes, Husserl and radical conversion
Phenomenology has been one of the most influential and far-reaching developments in 20th Century Philosophy and has had a great impact on the disciplines of philosophy of logic and math, theory of knowledge, and theory of meaning. The most profound influence on Edmund Husserl (1859 - 1938), the founder of phenomenology, was Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650), whose radical rethinking of philosophy’s overall project provided Husserl with both the historical and conceptual point of departure for his foundation of prima philosophia. Despite this explicit and well-known influence, there is no book- length study of their thematic parallels; numerous Journal articles focus almost entirely on the phenomenological reduction and, aside from this, are fairly unsatisfactory. The purpose of the present work is to elucidate systematic convergences (and divergences) between Descartes and Husserl throughout their respective philosophical developments. This comprises explication of several central topics: 1. The parallel between 17th C. skepticism, which Descartes attempted to overthrow, and 19th C. psychologism and relativism, which Husserl reacted against. 2. The striking similarity at the level of formal ontology between Descartes' simple and complex natures and Husserl's part-whole theory. 3. A clarification of the Cartesian sense of methodical doubt and how Husserl's mistaking of this shaped the initial formulation of the reduction. 4. Convergence in the maturation of the primitive notion of intuition as "clear and distinct seeing" and "seeing of essences" for both thinkers. 5. An analysis of the modes of methodical doubt, in terms of steps in the cognitive act of doubting, and not merely in the content of that which is doubted. 6. Far-reaching divergences in that Descartes was motivated to establish with scientific certainly an entirely new world of being, whereas Husserl was concerned to disclose an entirely new sense of the world. As such, thematic convergences between Descartes and Husserl are not due to accidental intersections of interest, nor are they curiosities of the comparative method in historical research. These parallels are intrinsic and systematic due to an overarching congruence in their visions of the starting point, methodological procedures, and reaction to pseudo-scientific matters-of-fact in the founding of a genuine philosophical project.