Friday, July 09, 2010

McIntyre, Ronald. Review of David Hyder, et al., eds. SCIENCE AND THE LIFE WORLD. NDPR (July 2010).

Hyder, David, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, eds.  Science and the Life-World: Essays on Husserl's Crisis of the European Sciences.  Stanford: Stanford UP, 2009.

This collection of essays addresses themes in Husserl's last work, the unfinished Crisis of the European Sciences, written in the years 1934-37. (The Crisis as we now have it, including several important appendices, was not published until 1954, although the first two parts were published in 1936 and the influential appendix called "The Origin of Geometry" in 1939.)

In relation to Husserl's earlier work the Crisis includes a number of new themes, or themes newly emphasized and developed, that are important not only to phenomenologists but also to philosophers and historians of science. Perhaps the central notion in the Crisis -- and certainly the most famous -- is what Husserl calls the "Lebenswelt," the "life-world." The life-world is key to Husserl's account of what he sees as "the crisis" of the European sciences and its diagnosis. This account leads Husserl to articulate a conception of "Europe" defined by the ideal of rationality and the universality of knowledge, and of the history of European science and mathematics since the time of the ancient Greeks as a pursuit guided by this ideal. The pursuit would seem to have reached its goal with the advent of what Husserl calls "Galilean science," in which nature is described in terms of purely objective, mathematical laws. But Husserl sees this victory as Pyrrhic, for reasons I will discuss shortly. The Crisis also introduces a new emphasis on "historicity": Husserl explicitly recognizes science as an historical cultural product, and his analysis of its current state leads him to an unusual kind of search for the life-world "origins" of formal geometry and mathematical natural science -- a search that is partly "historical" and partly "ahistorical" or conceptual.

These are the main themes addressed in the twelve essays the volume comprises. David Hyder's "Introduction," which gives a helpful overview of each of the essays and their relations to one another, groups the essays under three main headings: Husserl's theory of science and the notion of the life-world (essays by David Woodruff Smith, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Ulrich Majer, and Ian Hacking), the theory of history implicit in the Crisis (David Carr, Michael Friedman, Rodolphe Gasché, Eva-Marie Engelen, and Michael Hampe), and the dissemination and application of Husserl's theory of science in the Crisis (Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, David Hyder, and Friedrich Steinle). However, as is characteristic of Husserl's work, all of the themes of the Crisis are interrelated, and each of the essays overflows whatever area one might assign it to. I will discuss them in relation to the themes I noted above. . . .

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