Husserl, Galileo, and the processes of idealization

Synthese 66 (2):329 - 338 (1986)
Abstract
This essay is concerned with the processes of idealization as described by Husserl in his last work, "The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology". Central as the processes of idealization are to Husserl's reflections on the origin of natural scientific knowledge and his attempt to reground that knowledge in the "forgotten meaning-fundament of natural science," they have not always been well understood. One reason for this is the lack of concrete historical examples. The main purpose of this paper is to correct this deficit. The paper is comprised of four sections. The first distinguishes two separate processes of idealization, one ascending from the life-world and the other descending and applying to it. The interaction of the two is then considered. The second section takes up Husserl's own discussion of Galileo's employment of idealization in his original mathematization of nature. The third section examines Galileo's analysis of freefall as a historical example of the processes of idealization. Here it is seen that the evidence clearly justifies Husserl's claims regarding the role of idealization in the origins of modern natural science. The conclusion employs the insights gained in the previous sections to exhibit the importance of understanding the processes of idealization as propaedeutic to the appreciation of the role and importance of the phenomenological methods of epoché and reduction to restoring lost layers of meaning by nullifying the idealizations which cover the life world
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