Phenomenological Decomposition
and Recomposition


Serge Valdinoci
trans. Sylvia Nambiar

Les Études philosophiques, No. 1,
(JANVIER-MARS 1977), pp. 95-110


The fate of phenomenological philosophy is disconcerting: at first arising powerfully in Germany where it fecundated a school, phenomenology has propagated and lent its methods, if not its finalities, to the thought of the time. However, having gradually become either a tool, and thus integrated to an anthropology or a sociology, or simply the model of the bad attitude alongside the false infinities of Reason, of reflection and the ego, the phenomenological effort seems condemned to endorse the habit of a teleological offshoot of tradition. The phenomenological movement will be the ultimate backwash of the great philosophical expansion that takes its source from the 17th century. We see, after these findings, that it is vain to be too faithfully introduced, with a spirit of detail, into Husserl’s tormented conception and complete, in his most obscure advances, the uncontested Great Work. The only question that seems of importance, given the place of this philosophy in contemporary reflection, concerns all the phenomenological circumscription, its coherence and scope: in fact, did Husserl touch “the” phenomenological “things themselves”? It is thus necessary to reseize phenomenology, to find the agents of its disaggregation—alleged or real—and to attempt to retake the concepts whose philosophical density favors the construction of the edifice from a fundament that supports the critical test.


Phenomenological Mediation

Husserl’s efforts are constantly attached to surpassing naïve triumphant naturalism: to the reality of spatio-temporal ex-teriorization of domains of analysis, Husserl opposes the necessity of their transcendental interiorization. It is phenomenology’s confessed central motif: subtracting the true living philosophical subject from the object status and furnishing to practice the possibility of an approach itself purified of all objectivism tainted with naivety. However, the area of phenomenological reflection, i.e., the consciousness and its intentional arborescences, is eidetically comprehended within a theory of the object in the Husserlian sense of the term; in the Recherches logiques, II, it is noted that “one should systematically place the discussion in the pure (a priori) theory of objects as such, in which we will treat…”[1]. Thereby, the auto-theorizing subject enters as a component in the “category of the object”, if one adopts the perspective of Recherches logiques that Husserl never repudiated but simply integrated.

            However, this static description does not envelop all the profundity of the philosophical mediation instituted by Husserl: from a genetic point of view, the ego constituting the product of objectifiable significations; the ego is sinnegebend. That is why the theorization that corresponds to this activity cannot be uniquely auto-descriptive. The ideative abstraction—in which essence is given—delivers the possibility of intuition of the object at the same time; on the contrary, phenomenology innervated by the ego cannot be constituted as really understandable object in the manner that we will come to examine. There exists in it a genetic necessity and this genesis cannot be ex-plicated by a conceptual mechanism; it can only be accomplished in a course oriented towards a telos. Nevertheless, anew, the productive laws of time are equally fixed, universalized in the determination of limits of the surging of sense in egological circumscription. On two different planes, but in an astonishing relation, the objectified-produced sense sends back to an objectifying sense itself produced, i.e., to a framing-framed temporal structure.

            Our step thus reveals the phenomenological ambiguity, the mediation of the constitutive egological point of view opening in its spontaneity by the reality of a domain where the law is already legislated, where objectification is objectified. In fact, we discover that phenomenology, which is certainly not an object, but a multiplicity riddled by its genetico-subjective lines of flight, has the complete status of the problem. As the word problema indicates, this philosophy, which also encloses objective connotations, is “brought before us”, as the object, and remains in this position. But, an obstacle, it is at the same time a process for contouring the obstacle, which is equally said of the problem. In this sense, we say of the shield, for example, that it is also problema, i.e., arm and obstacle. The phenomenological problem places us well before the bi-function of this discipline: the originary subject-object figures the obstacle and its surpassing. Husserl approaches the pro-blem by grabbing and utilizing the subjective tool at the same time, the operative subject. Husserl destructures the naïve and exterior solidity of the world for the profit of interior noetico-noematic agencements. Given our previous analysis, it seems the author delivered a choice of which he only gives us certain reasons; one of them is the theoretic state of incompleteness of the sciences of the world. Without discussing for the instant this phenomenological decision, we have the possibility of analyzing the elements of the pro-blem and their developments. The latter are organized within a space[2] traveled by conductive paths: space covers the objective aspect of phenomenology, the network that it must, in the Husserlian perspective, absolutely girdle from subjectivity. If we examine the historical period in which phenomenology had come “to maturity”, which permits us a more complete analysis, we can recognize a pro-blematic center that is the theme of Reason. In the Krisis, Husserl retakes in his account the traditional and metaphysical conception of Reason. This is the totality that splits into “particular figures”[3] of which the most important touch cognizance, axiology, morals and to the interrogation on God. A finding is imposed on us: all these practices aim at “authenticity”[4] and at the establishment of the “ultimate sense”[5]. Whence the phenomenological telos fluidifies the objective compactness of implicit spatializations by its inscription in a time, a veritable central directive thread and armature of Reason, which is conducted to the Result: the absolute science. We recognize the pro-blematic status of the veritable science: the objectivity fashioned by the positive sciences and their eventual and residual offshoots in consciousness, these themselves that can engender a descriptive psychology for example, hide in fact the universal teleological background, i.e., the expression of the problematic of support that totalizes the difficulties for resolving them in an End where all is conciliated. The two slopes of the pro-blem are respected and Husserlian analysis, which is founded on a magician Reason for approaching the question from the interior limits of the subject, seems to succeed. Such is the process of phenomenological mediation.

            Despite everything, the movement of theorization lacks its ultimate fulcrum, its result. The latter—the concretized Telos—is the fundament of edifice. At the same time, we retrieve the Husserlian choice of the subject against the object. Without opposing a generalized objectivity to a relativized subjectivity, which would invert the terms of interrogation without modifying them, it seems to us possible to de-problematize the Husserlian subject by decomposing the relation of ordination established by the author between the subject and the object. This perspective has as its task, nevertheless, to avert the objectification of phenomenology, its transformation into a surface where the law of Wholes and Parts would prevail as Recherches logiques has shown, in lieu of respecting the genetic lines of flight, i.e., all the promises of theorization. The principial exigency of phenomenology’s auto-foundation is thus encountered: whereas the foundation of the world in Ideen, I, has consisted in neutralizing its accidental valencies, the philosophical foundation neutralizes the accidental implications of discourse. Phenomenology in its ensemble—this expression signifying that the Husserlian effort can have a term—is taken as object of study. As an instrument of analysis, we have the theoretic potential employed by Husserl himself; in effect, by decomposing the subject-object relation, we have not in any way put in question the exigency of auto-foundation of this philosophy and the concepts associated to this but the fulcrum of subjective interiority. In these conditions, our first task consists in analyzing the phenomenological methodology and notably—in this work— appreciating the terminological coherence of the Husserlian project in the eyes of our programmatic de-composition. Next is imposed the research of the real logic of phenomenological contents in terms of a fundamental question: is the Husserlian methodology inscribed on the right slope of the phenomenological pro-blem? Does the transcendental face authorize the auto-theorization of this philosophy? These questions hold, we have seen, to the possibility of concretizing a telos into a result, the latter being both foundative and a term of Husserlian intention.

            Before the ability to respond to these interrogations, we remark that the simple return to Husserl’s text clarifies his methodology. In Ideen, I, in effect, Husserl affirms the following principle:


Our point of departure is itself one that is anterior to every point of view, to knowing every field of intuitive given, anterior even to every thought that theoretically elaborates this given, all that one can view and seize immediately, precisely on the condition that one does not leave themself blinded by prejudices and prevents taking into consideration entire classes of authentic givens”[6].


            This thesis has a directive value for us—even if it may be necessary to put it in question—beyond the analysis of Husserlian terminology. But, at present, a concern is made precise: the author affirms the necessity of the absence of “every point of view”. Now, remarks abound in Husserl’s oeuvre where the ego is literally the center of perspective, just as the body is the center of action. What is more, the metaphoric of the gaze animates all the content of Ideen, I: the conversion of the gaze in the transcendental sphere[7], the gaze on the Ego[8], the gaze of the Self as noetic moment[9], are so many expressions that illustrate the central function of the ego. In a more general fashion, the metaphorical aspect hides another signification of reality of the point of view: the gaze is in effect the intentional conscience transposed in a both naïve and operative register. The given thus necessarily corresponds to the effectuation of an intention. It is gnoseologically posterior to it and not anterior. This characterization also finds its origin in the importance of the concept of intention at first formed by Brentano. Finally, this figuration takes its ultimate dimension in a philosophy of vision that dates back to Plato at least.

             The surpassing of the analysis of the metaphoric of the point of view for that of the concept of the subject leads to an equivalent result; the Husserlian point of departure is not anterior to every perspective: since Descartes, the path that leads to Husserl is clear. The concern approfounds still if, beyond the literal study of the citation that we come to undertake, we resort to the loans that effectuate phenomenology in its ensemble. The Leibnizian concept of the Monad enlightens the signification of the theory of Einfühlung, the concept—already reprised by Dilthey—of Geist renders an account of Husserl’s socio-personology. All of the phenomenological terminology seems to have the function of agglomerating fundamental but exterior elements. It however remains that these notions were naively borrowed: the epochè is not practiced in their place even though they trigger the central process of the problematization.

            But the encounter of difficulties does not cease; theorization does not only suffer the existence of difficultly assimilable extrinsic languages. It still suffers an intrinsic exigency; in effect, phenomenological reduction owes it to neutralize the world. Now, it is constrained to conserving, to be able to say, the syntactic structures of mundane language and, by that, this becoming profoundly serious, the “nucleus” of which the naïve and mundane relevance is manifested. At the limit, semantic contents themselves are unpurifiable by reduction. Phenomenology would thus have to invent a formalized language; but this would definitively discard the possibility of the enterprise of the analysis of the lived. The circle is thus patent. In these conditions, Husserl could hardly approach the phenomenological pro-blem as he wanted, i.e., by the interior of the subject: in effect, our last remark suggests that philosophical exercise is exercised in the exterior of the presignifying world. But, on the other hand, the association of terminologies borrowed form anterior philosophies, insofar as it cedes to the law of accumulation and not to one of integration within a becoming of subjective Reason, plunges the Husserlian effort in the movement of Historie and not in that of Geschichte of sense. In Krisis alone, Husserl integrates some philosophies to the becoming of Vernunft; nevertheless, the theory of these assimilations and of the transformation of the exterior given into interiority is not accomplished. Since then, the Husserlian pro-blem exclusively becomes an obstacle and no more a process of development; it loses the ambiguity which, hitherto, favored it.

            Terminologico-semantic over-determination thus provokes the development of Historie, of an exterior and unitless story. Does the dependence with respect to philosophy, certainly manifest, simply traverse phenomenology as a neutral, lethalized medium? Our exercise of decomposition should now apply to the eventual under-productions of Husserl’s involuntary alliance with nondominated history, and to internal avatars of the concept of the subject. Now, one important conceptual metamorphosis is exactly observed in correspondence with the necessity of philosophical autofoundation. It seems in effect that phenomenology, conveyed by the exigencies of Historie, institutes in it the internal history of the disorganization of its concepts. Recherches logiques implements a theory of the Whole and Parts within the object, the concept of foundation—Fundierung—is the instance that permits connecting the idea of the part to that of the whole. According to Husserl: “If, conformingly to a law of essence, an α can only exist as such in a unity that it embraces (a whole) and that connects it with a µ, we say that an α as such has need to be founded by a µ…”[10]. The concept of foundation thus has the “horizontal” function of realizing the essential interdependence of parts in the whole. It is thus that the phenomenological pro-blem is presented viewed from the side of the object. But the notion of foundation does not conserve univocity. In Ideen, II, in effect, the foundation—Fundierung—applies to “animal realities”[11] inasmuch as they are taken in their “fully concrete character”[12], i.e., in Husserlian language, in their character of totality. Now, the description of these realities show that they are founded in the sense where they “presuppose qua substructure of material realities, named material bodies”[13]. The concept of foundation at present connotes the verticality of rapports between complementary layers of a totality. Numerous texts, from the time of Ideen, II, would need the same analysis[14]. This transformation of function otherwise corresponds to the integration of phenomenology in the pro-blematic field of subjectivity viewed here under its psychophysical aspect. Finally, the operation of integration of parts in a whole takes another denomination. The foundation called Fundierung becomes, in the later texts, Begründung. The dimension of verticality is thus conserved, but the inclusion corresponds to the fact that “every existent is constituted in the subjectivity of the conscience”[15]. But Begründung et Fundierung are perfectly covered since consciousness is a totalizing domain. For Husserl, in effect, “all pure research into what concerns consciousness conducts to all the Ideas (…), to all eidetic domains and their ontologies”[16]. Thenceforth, the difference of denomination can only come from an exterior causality, and notably from the inscription of Husserlian phenomenology in a philosophy of life which draws near—despite certain positions Husserl takes—to that of Dilthey. The central concept of this philosophy is that of Lebenswelt. The development or, it seems rather, the errancy of the concept of foundation thus neatly characterizes the bearings of the Husserlian research. At the same time, the directive threads of our work are found knotted: on one hand, and despite a decision for the subject-side, the object-side of the phenomenological pro-blem, i.e., the horizontal or vertical structuration of parts in a whole, has a very strong position. It governs the implicit of the discourse of Husserl. On the other hand, the consequences of the second degree of the incidence of Historie cut the thread of phenomenological auto-theorization as the consequences of the first degree had severed terminological continuity.

            Thus, a last reflection is imposed, which, with Husserl, responds to the necessity of conciliating two types of history, exterior history and the history of the heteronomous disorganization of certain internal concepts. This thesis, a mediation in the almost diplomatic sense of the term, belies the Husserlian proposal of only accepting “the field of the intuitive given”: in effect, by introducing the notion of a specific and noetico-noematic temporality of the ego, the author mediatizes empirical temporality, whether it be the time of Historie or that aroused by the impact of the latter on the conceptualization. But, here, the question is of importance: the noetico-noematic bi-temporality of the subject should, if its analysis was well led, close the phenomenological becoming. The subject-side of time would carry it over the object-side and theorization would finally attain circularity, auto-foundation. It would thus live its result. Thenceforth, is it possible to bring this proposal to terminal evidence, or would not such a mediation, as Husserl affirms of every preintuitive theorization, still be “prejudice”?

Discourse without Bounds

            Launched to the pursuit of the “result” of phenomenology, we glimpsed the fact that the veritable Husserlian touchstone, the rampart behind which it houses its conceptualization to a dominant subjective, is the utilization of time. However, time has in Husserl an equivocal signification. Our proposal is to recognize the possibility of closing the internal cycle of time of phenomenology considered in its ensemble. Now, Husserl, although he has a constant preoccupation with the auto-foundation of his discourse, hardly thematized this latter temporality. In Méditations cartésiennes he simply evokes “the evidence of an infinite task”[17]. But here the evidence is still teleological, related to an absence of immediate result. On the contrary, we owe it to ourselves to brew the phenomenological material to align, if possible, the temporalities over one same conductive thread and towards one same direction.

            Husserl’s putting of noetico-noematic bi-temporality in the foreground can serve us as a point of anchorage since it eliminates empirical becoming and its offshoots. Noematic time is the element in which reduced objects, objects in their “how” of manifestation, are presented. In this element, the judgement on things is effectuated in the present, even if, in a gradient, a structure of emboxing permits us to keep our past in grip. We find here an original aspect—unlike terminology—of the Husserlian methodology; the originality of the time-structure does not seem affected, as is Reduction for example, by external conceptual interferences. Noematic time is distinguished from noetic time of which Husserl refuses to make a theory in Ideen, I, a theory that he starts in the unpublished manuscripts. It is to be noted that this last analysis can only ever take charge, under another form, the temporality which appears in the agencements and entanglements of the phenomenological text itself. In effect, there is an adequation between the ego and phenomenology which is its elucidating representation; Husserl affirms it in these terms:


The whole of phenomenology is nothing more than awareness [prise de conscience] by itself from transcendental subjectivity, a scientific awareness that first of all operates in an immediate manner, thus even with a certain naivety but which is then considered in a critical manner its proper logos”[18][19].


            As Husserl invites us to do, we can consider that noetic theorization is at work in the text of phenomenology while it is envisaged in totalized complexity. In these conditions, the question that springs sends back to the possibility of crossing the two temporalities—noematic time and the profound time that runs through the texts—into an archeological point which would carry originary subjectivity as a numeral [chiffre].

            Before the decisive time of the publication of Ideen, I, even as the theoretical trouble arises, it is easy to recognize, notably in Recherches logiques, the external limit where our interrogation has no more sense. According to Husserl:

(A theory) is thus not constituted from acts, but from purely ideal elements, from truths and in purely ideal forms, those of principle and consequence”[20].


The subjective point of view is radically suppressed and Recherches logiques, V, if it temporalizes consciousness, in no way still makes the rapport between consciousness and subject. Subject and time are out of the circuit. The unique law is that of the omnipresence of intemporal truth. The phenomenological pro-blem is absent. From Ideen, I, even though all the theorization is shaken by the introduction of the monopolizing thematic of the subject, the philosophical questioning takes form. The necessity of transcendental Reduction puts in place the inevitability of the pro-blem that we have detected: there is from now on a truth from the side of the object, eidetically described, and a truth from the side of the subject; subjective investigations constitute the truth—transcendentally understood—of the truth—naively comprehended. Transcendental reflection, i.e., the putting of the world at a distance in its reprise, thus arouses an epistemological reflection. In this context, the Husserlian preoccupations bearing on time are inserted: the transcendental exigency of a truth of the truth finds its correspondence in the reality of an ultimate temporality that fuses within noematic time. In the language of Husserl, the Ur-Zeit overflows the erledigte Zeit from all sides. The becoming of phenomenology in its ensemble properly consists in reflecting the process of overflowing or noematic objectification of the Ur-Zeit, and this is what Husserl operates in reverse by using repeated phenomenological Reductions, that spread noematized time on one hand, and liberates the decisive and originary time on the other, the absolute present named Ur-Gegenwart. The opposition thus takes the aspect of the complementarity between constituted temporality and constituting temporality. Thus, questions bearing on constitution are gradually introduced: from the necessity of reflecting on the truth until the possibility of thinking constitution, Husserl progresses from a static analysis until a genetic explication. Whence the phenomenological pro-blem seems resolved: the absolute subject is the unique flux—Husserl employs the expression Strom—that is metamorphosed and produces every objectification.

            But it is still necessary to close the course of this flux so that it remains, in each of its points, constantly and totally present to itself, so that its movement is only governed by it towards it. This is another presentation of the exigency of auto-foundation of the Husserlian text. Now, Husserl does not at all confound noematic temporality and objective temporality. The univocal constituent-constituted duality leaves room for the equivocal triad: absolute constituent, noematic constituted in relation to the constituent, but noematic constituent in relation to the objective mundane constituted, and finally objective constituted. The phenomenological problem reposes on another plane: it is about philosophically engendering the correspondence between the temporalized noema, and its mundane outcomes, and noesis, i.e., versing complex noematic time within the domain of inscription and originary production. In sum, phenomenology’s task is to assume the—ultimate—truth of the—noematic—truth of the naïve truth.

            Husserl at least attempts to effectuate the adequation of the two former truths in Ideen, I; the analysis of noetico-noematic structures in effect realizes a partial attempt to establish the continuity. This research succeeds well, after chapter III consecrated to the explication of noesis and the noema, to chapter II bearing on the structures of “pure consciousness” that is the phenomenological instance in which the absolute temporality-truth is impressed. The reprise of the questioning in its noetico-noematic duplication clearly indicates the necessity of maintaining [ménager] a passage that conducts from pure consciousness to the world, even if the latter is not attained. Moreover, all of this chapter IV in Ideen, I, is only an ensemble of both very stimulating and perilous “phenomenological exercises”[21], the exercises attempting to apply the consequences of the questions left in suspense by the descriptions of noema and noesis. The only conductive thread that really solidifies the analysis around a fundamental direction is the ontological continuity inscribed within the mother belief or noetic certainty[22], the filiation of which is developed until the reality of the world included in the noema like one of its characters[23]. However, the Husserlian questioning is displaced in relation to the phenomenological pro-blem such as we have gradually seen engendered and formulated. In effect, we have analyzed how the ordered composition of the subject and the object is taken in the block of time. In Ideen, I, we retrieve all the same, it is true, the structure of the degraded—corresponding to the tripartite temporal structure—that characterizes the progressive construction of the thesis of the world: the noetic characters of belief, correlated to the noematic characters of being, engender the pregnancy of mundane reality. This homology therefore only reinforces the already apperceived necessity of conciliating the continuity of temporal “species” in the interior of a unique temporal “genre”, just like the “species” of the reality of the world proceeds from the doxic position uniquely developed in homogenous moments. Husserl, in an explicit statement of Méditations cartésiennes, confers absolute evidence to the exigency of conciliation. According to him:


Association embraces an extended ensemble of essential laws of intentionality that preside over the concrete constitution of the pure ego; it designates an ‘innate’ a priori region, without which an ego as such would have been impossible. It is only due to the phenomenology of genesis that the ego becomes comprehensible as an infinite ensemble of systematically coherent functions within the unity of universal genesis; and that, by echelons that should necessarily be adapted to the universal and constant form of time” …[24]


           The work therefore consists in “reuniting” phenomenology, in concretizing, in constructing the result of the program included in the Méditations cartésiennes. The latter delivers us a key that permits us to relate every temporality to the passive form of universal genesis. This is expressed in the laws of association. Are we in the presence of “these entire classes of authentic givens” liberated from all the “prejudices” that Husserl evokes in his statement aiming to glorify the method of direct intuition?

            If this were the case, all of phenomenology would find the unity of an arché that would be a concretized telos at the same time. Now, it seems that we are, on the contrary, entrained in a process of infinite mediation, in a discourse that does not encounter bounds, for lack of being well-limited; in effect, every successive partition of time is retrieved in this mosaic that Husserl recovers from the conceptual varnish of unity. Association plays a definitive role according to the author, and it is a fact that the associative transcendental motivation operates the recovering—the Deckung—of originarily separated domains. Nevertheless, we quit static and descriptive phenomenology here for genetic or explicative analysis, as Husserl still names it sometimes. At the same time, we forsake the terrain of direct intuition. Phenomenology could still accommodate it since, even if “science (…) should be founded on a full intuition, on the production of the appresentation that that replenishes (intention) (…)”, it is true “that a full intuition (…) is impossible”[25]. This ascertainment treats natural realities, but also, and this concerns us at the highest point, realities of spirit, even if the latter is conceived under its objective and “real” aspect. In effect, the analysis of the person—Husserl employs the expression Geist, the content of which intersects with that of Person—is integrated within the process of objectification as we render an account of it. Nevertheless, even if he recognized certain limits to the method of direct intuition towards the thirties, Husserl found rigor at another level by affirming that a descriptive science “supposes that one is not obliged to go to infinity”[26] and that we thus fix a conceptual determination. In our situation, on the contrary, since we owe it to ourselves to give in theorization, we are placed in front of the gigantic and quasi-indeterminable task of gathering not only the three temporal instances, the already clarified noetic, noematic, and mundane instances, but also every sub-order, every continuity that corresponds to conceptual separations within the transcendental and psychophysical field. Our situation therefore difficultly corresponds to that required by the Husserlian rigor. Thus, a veritable lineage of different temporalities is constituted, by parting from the exterior towards the interior of the subject; we notably recognize: the time of the natural world, of Person, of the socialized Geist, of the habitus of the subject, individualized noematic and intersubjective noematic, individual and intersubjective noetic time, even if the latter two must be recovered. Now, Husserl avails, to dominate this task, only of the concept of auto-objectification of the ego, which, as it happens, has an operative value, but which is only a first toothing-stone for analyses that are really diversified and adapted to the phenomenological context. In fact, we are still far from the moment where the adequation can be made between noetic temporality, the noematic time of the manifestation of objects that culminates in presence, and the diverse raised temporalities of which, moreover, the present moment does not necessarily concur with the temporal presence in which the things of the world are given. But this cleavage is really important: if the time of the world is not aligned on the present of the subject with necessity and if, much more, there exist different presents in the world and in the subject, how to irrelativize the constituent omni-presence of the living present? Parallelly to this last remark, it is appropriate to enregister the difficulty of integrating exteriority within the subjective interiority, what Husserl nonetheless decided. The pro-blem that hitherto had two faces is now broken into disjointed morsels; at the limit, it is hardly any longer possible to recognize what makes an obstacle and what indicates a solution. The discourse that would theorize phenomenology errs without finding neither a point of departure, nor a term. Much less can it conjoin the arché and the telos within a perspective of auto-foundation. Furthermore, the global disparity between noematic time and noetic time, if we accept eliminating the other temporal hiatuses that nonetheless make a problem, allows us to retrieve, displaced, the opposition between a logic of contents that wants to be original and a terminological methodology condemned to composer with the history of philosophy. The transposition of our research at the level of time refines the primitive opposition: it is around the question of the present regarding history that the terminological impossibilities are ordinated; it is from the possibility of thinking the pro-blem by recognizing the choice of the dominant subjective stumbles onto the question of the temporal cohesion of the subject that the logic of contents risks developing ad infinitum or breaking. The path is open, now, that leads us to the study of the destiny of phenomenology taken in the progressive constriction [reserrement] of its pro-blem. How can the Husserlian project, analyzed here in its implicit dimension, be achieved?

Phenomenological Amplification

            Enclosed in its originary question and strangled by the problematic refinement that it imposed on itself by arousing the crucial interrogation on time, phenomenological theorization can only attempt to recompose its pro-blem, to re-install the subject-face in its omnipotence. Husserl’s desire to found his discipline made him tackle the question of time, that moreover remains constantly of actuality in all of the oeuvre despite the movements of research; phenomenology thus has a center of gravity. Nevertheless, in the approfounding of this perspective, it loses in extension what it gains in comprehension. That is why Husserlian reflection develops in parallel, for the sake of radicalism, a demarche in “zigzag”, a surface analysis but that always seeks the fundament, the alliance of the telos and the arché.

            This parallel demarche can be called amplifying: the phenomenological work veritably produces an internal expansion of contents from some original and matrixial figures; the first conceptual resort—the only one we analyze here—resides in the extension of the process of theorization in the interior of a framing with multiple aspects: the ego. The subject encloses in it the one and the multiple. According to Husserl:

It is exactly what is remarkable and nonetheless evident that the pure I qua I is constituted in a thousand manners and is presented a thousand times in separate acts—and yet it is recognizable numerically as being identically the same[27]”.


            In these conditions, the ego is an operator of integration of problematics that appear at first glance as exterior to one another: one of the fundamental questions of Recherches logiques consists in the status to be accorded to the essence of signification—or even certain manifestations like color—in relation to “real”, mundane actualizations of it. Now, in this context it appears that essence is transcendent in relation to consciousness. It is to be noted that, at this time, transcendence was not yet opposed to transcendental immanence. In Ideen, I, where this division is on the contrary central, Husserl distinguishes between “immanent essence” and “transcendent essence”[28]. By this discrimination, the author interiorizes “phenomenological” essence and operates a partition in being: the essence of liveds of the cogito is not the essence of eidetic material regions. The situation is properly upset in relation to that of Recherches logiques, notably in what concerns the status of the type of being of essences. In the Recherches, the “is” that indicates the sense of existence—ideal or real—of essences is not a copula but a part of the predicate. The “is” is not a link woven subjectively between representations indifferent to one another. More precisely, for Husserl, “every judgment has a positional character. The is and is not are differences in matter”[29]. In Ideen, I, if it is true that the “thesis of the world” is a character of the noema—the noema being a concept that approfounds the notion of matter in the Recherches—, it is above all fundamental to remark how much the being of the object, the “X” bearing the determinations, enters in a problematic of constitution in which the concept of noesis is central. It is noesis that operates the “givenness of sense” and directs the position of being. One of Husserl’s propositions extracted from Ideen, I, seems very clarifying:

… a more precise study shows that parallel variations in the noemata correspond to those of characters of apprehension, if not in “color itself” that does not cease to appear, at least in its variable “modes of appearing”, for example, “in the angel under which it appears to me”. Thus, in a general fashion, the noetic “characterizations” are reflected in those of the noema”[30].


Thenceforth, the position of being, that was inserted in the order of presentation of things themselves, an eminently objective order, at present fuses from the noetic function of originary givenness. The function of the ego concept is to integrate two different problems within the subjective sphere: that of the objectivity of essence and that of degrees of being of essence. It conjoins these two problems in the originary conceptual matrix of constitution. The question of regions of being and of their elongation in the temporal current in relation to the living present and objectifying becomes the primordial preoccupation of phenomenology.

            Thus, all of the phenomenology of genetic constitution is amplified from the primordial exigency of the subjective research of the Ur-Grund. Very quickly, we can note that Husserl orients phenomenology in the relationships of the subject and the body; the successive concepts of constituent Leib and then transcendental Instinkt operate the conjunction of two qualities of being, transcendental being and psychophysical being, in one fundament of which the limits are those of the ego. But the extension of the phenomenological frame equally aims at the scabrous domain of history: in the E III Manuscripts notably, Husserl attempts an “empirical” genesis of transcendentality, by distinguishing epochs of history, the latter taking the positive figure of phenomenology. Here is the being of the Faktum and of the irrational that are “integrated” in the teleological becoming finding its term in adult humanity[31].

            What is more, and this shows the plasticity of the ego after the plasticity of signification of domains inserted bit-by-bit in the phenomenological process of amplification, the ego itself sees its limits being displaced. It is the fundament of being that loses its being. The orthodox situation is clearly expressed in Erste Philosophie:

It is clear that thought (…) cannot principally surpass this subjectivity, that transcendental subjectivity can only ever indicate itself as transcendental subjectivity, that transcendental ideal configurations can only remain, on their side, anew in the transcendental domain, that their ideality (…) can never signify a surpassing of the transcendental sphere” …[32].

            But this proposition is battered in breach by the analyses that Husserl consecrates to temporality in the C Manuscripts. The last of the Reductions show that the ultimate form of the I is that called nunc stans[33]. Thus, the principial and orthodox exigency seems respected: the omnipresence of the subject in produced configurations. Nevertheless, this exigency was confirmed a veritable tour de force: an anterior Reduction, that had delimited the Ur-Gegenwart[34], has shown that there exists a Strömen before being and of which Husserl says it is vor-seiend. At this level of analysis, being, non-being, the regions of being, and their chiasmus in the subject are inappropriate concepts; the egological node seems to be undone and phenomenological amplification thus breaks the subjective resort of the expansion of contents. In fact, a phenomenological “reestablishment” is operated when we thus restitute it—by understanding its functional domain—its pro-blematic value: the nunc stans according to Husserl, is “always first”[35] and thus doubles the original flux, the Strömen that, it also, is “always first”[36]. Husserl thenceforth loses the clarity of origin but continues phenomenology around its central pro-blematizing figure.

            Thus, the regime of phenomenological development seems condemned to explore every direction: we have noticed that the ego is in temporal flux and that phenomenological auto-theorization should, as Husserl makes precise, follow the movement of the past towards the present. Such is the genetic analysis. But phenomenology withal presents the particularity of having to seek a pre-genesis, an originary ur-egological statism; the phenomenological book seeks an antecedence: it is no longer written from left to right, but the characters have the destiny of constricting and surpassing the margin beyond which writing is not said. Thenceforth, the pro-blem risks losing its center of gravity: the ur-egological antecedents surpass the subject at the limit. Husserl himself renders an account of the difficulty by thematizing at length the concepts of Ur-Affektion and Vor-Zeit. The raw and wild given no longer enters in the two-faced pro-blem: neither the object nor the subject have any right to the city. Amplification and extension encounter the same crossroads where we had already conducted the analysis of time; at the point where our research leads us, the possibility that Husserl gave himself cannot satisfy us: in effect, the choice between dominant subjective and a dominant objective cannot be effectuated; subject and object are really, in Husserlian language, coordinated in an a priori of correlation. That is why the task of interpretation of phenomenology is compromised, and the entire body of notions, polarized by the subject, slides towards an indescribable edge; the question of terminology is reposed here, as Husserl himself could note it, and apropos the cardinal question of time:

But is not the current an and-so-on, does it not however have a now, an actual phase and a continuity of pasts, now conscious of retentions? Here, we can hardly find help and (can say) only: this current is something that we thus name after the constituted current, but it is nothing temporal—objective. It is absolute subjectivity (…). For this we have no name”[37].


            In these conditions, the concept of a commencement takes all of its sense. It is a question of the true departure and of the consideration what is to be retained and rejected. The phenomenological bound of amplification is the disarticulation of the conceptual process. More than ever, research of the real internal limit of Husserlian thought is imposed. The necessity of limiting it and recomposing the philosophical domain therefore supplants that of the point of departure.

Towards a Phenomenological Center

            The inscription of phenomenological practice within its proper territory implies a reevaluation of the economy of the Husserlian text. It is articulated on the immense backdrop of a totalizing Reason: the entire phenomenological corpus is ramified in the interior of this englobing absolute that crystallizes in the figure of the ego. But out elucidation of the internal disequilibrium of the philosophical project and our discovery of the proliferation of words and conveyed contents incites research of a “well-saying” and a “well-thinking”.

            Husserl himself has posed the first stone of this research. His distinction between the normal-reasonable and the anormal rejoins the necessity of readjusting the economy of the phenomenological territory. Normality is the relay of Reason in its proper domain, that of the intersubjective world. Furthermore, unreason, or anormality, are only constructed in relation to Reason and is a dissident figure. There exists indeed therefore a conductive flux and an axiological line of partition that closes the phenomenological cosmos. Nevertheless, these Husserlian developments risk aborting insofar as the axiological problematic should, according to a phenomenological exigency, absolutely be integrated within a gnoseological problematic. It is thus that, for Husserl, value is founded in its being of value. It is thus required of phenomenology in general that it adopts the point of view that predominates in the Prolégomènes and according to which the theoretical laws prevail over value judgements.

            It thus appears that the philosophical “center” depends on an auto-theorization that invents its proper laws. But at the same time, it becomes difficult to support that the whole of phenomenology corresponds to process of the progressive awareness [prise de conscience] of the ego. Conceptualization is not an auto-temporalization of the subject; in effect, the problem of the status of time and its over-determination should be posed: in Husserlian discourse, time is both the sensible animator of consciousness and the abstract principle of explication of its laws of development. These two functions should therefore be separated to clarify the content to which we have opposed at the start of our analysis by evoking time: the framing-objectifying structure and the framed-objectified structure. Thenceforth, the concept of temporal constitution would only ever be in Husserl this operative notion that obliterates the difference of level between the production of the framing-sense of phenomenology in its ensemble and the production of framed-significations for and by consciousness. Constitution would therefore indicate the hiatus between thought in phenomenology and the theory of phenomenology: the egologico-phenomenological auto-constitution hides this ambiguity despite the supporting “scientific” terminology that constitutes the exigency of a philosophical foundation.

            That is why, finally, the philosophical foundation can hardly be determined after the given of the pro-blem such as Husserl posed them: its two faces—subject and object—are for the author two steps in a general process of auto-objectification of time; the subject is closer to the upstream and the object to the downstream, but both of them bathe in the universal flux. We have followed the process of breaking-proliferation of the movement of theorization; it fundamentally corresponds to the impossibility of pro-blematizing phenomenology by inscribing it in the time that is developed across the ego. How much greater still is the difficulty if time is, so to speak, the instance that incarnates the auto-theorization of phenomenology! It seems, in fact, that the two elements of the pro-blem are themselves carted by Historie of which we have remarked the importance and is thus very badly inscribed in the proper time of global phenomenological theorization: the auto-constitution of the time of the ego that organizes that of the intentional liveds correlated to the object is in this case only the hetero-constitution of the time of the ego that disorganizes lived temporality. Thenceforth, global auto-theorization cannot exist; the subject is not even a form of unity, it can still less be a form of the auto-explanation of phenomenology. However, Husserl more-and-more neatly confirms, as and when he ages and approaches the “true commencement”, that philosophical thought is auto-nomous; this affirmation is in principle of the Husserlian effort. If we want to respect it, we can comprehend that a new formulation of the pro-blem proves to be necessary, but it risks being operated at the expense of the subject form and object form. The result of phenomenology is at this price: still look for the concrete, the “things themselves”, and above “the entire classes of authentic givens”, as Husserl expresses in Ideen, I.

[more translations]


[1] Recherches logiques, II, p. 1.

[2] The call to the space metaphor attempts to account for Husserl’s numerous allusions to the “path” (Ideen, I, p. 334, trans. Ricœur), to the “configuration” (ibid.), to the image of stratification, even if Husserl relativizes it (Ideen, I, p. 422), to “the englobement” (Ideen, I, p. 488), and overall to all the noetico-noematic descriptions that utilize the metaphorical support of spatiality.

[3] Krisis, p. 7, in German, Sondergestalten.

[4] Ibid. It is thus that one can render the adjective echt and the expression letzten Sinn.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ideen, I, p. 69, the emphasized words are so by us, except the expression anterior which figures in italics in the text.

[7] Ideen, I, p. 112-113, 117-118, 394, among others.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Recherches logiques, III, p. 45.

[11] Ideen, II, p. 32. We translate animalische Realitäten and in voller Konkretion.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ideen, II, p. 32. We translate: “… in sich als Unterstufe materielle Realitäten, sogenannte materielle Leiber voraussetzen.”

[14] Notably in Ideen, II, p. 240-280-285-323-347, and Ideen, III, p. 19; see also Krisis, p. 231 and 233, among others.

[15] “Formal Logic and Transcendental Logic,” title of § 94 of Chap. VI

[16] Husserliana, vol. IX, p. 475. We translate: “Reine Bewusstseinsforschung führt also zu allen Ideen (…) zu allen eidetischen Gebieten und zu ihren Ontologien”.

[17] Méditations cartésiennes, p. 74

[18] “Formal Logic and Transcendental Logic”, p. 363.

[19] We equally owe it to ourselves to remark that every critical work is pre-comprised beforehand in the activity of phenomenology. Thus, the point of junction of two temporalities and the problem of the prevalence of the subject or the object are interior to its discourse. The fundamental question nevertheless consists in asking in what lieu discourse should be closed to close apodictically, under penalty of breaking.

[20] Prolégomènes, p. 265.

[21] Ideen, I, p. 335, in Ricoeur’s note

[22] Ibid., above all § 103

[23] Ibid.

[24] Méditations cartésiennes, p. 68. Emphasis partly ours.

[25] Husserliana, vol. XV, p.97, 1. 25 to 45.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Erste Philosophie. Husserliana, VIII, p. 412. We translate: “Das eben ist das Merkwürdige und doch Evidente, dass das Ich als reines Ich ein tausendhaftiges ist und tausendmal in gesonderten Akten auftritt—und doch erkennbar numerische identisch desselbe”.

[28] Ideen, I, p. 196 (trans. Ricœur)

[29] Recherche logiques, II, p. 156.

[30] Ideen, I, p. 345 (trans. Ricœur). Emphasis ours.

[31] We translate: die reife Menschentum.

[32] Husserliana, vol. VIII, p. 482, 1. 5 to 13.

[33] C 7 I, p. 30.

[34] C 3 I, p. 9.

[35] C 17 IV, p. 5. We translate: im voraus.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Husserliana, X, p. 371. Emphasis ours. We translate the following text thus: “Aber ist nicht der Flus ein Nacheinander, hat er nicht doch ein Jetzt, eine aktuelle Phase, und eine Kontinuität von Vergangenheiten, in Retentionen dem Konstituierten so nennen, aber es ist nichts zeitlich “Objektives”. Es ist die absolute Subjektivität (…). Für all das haben wir keine Namen”.