Husserl, phenomenology, and foundationalism

Inquiry 51 (2):194 – 216 (2008)
Husserl is often taken, and not without reason, to endorse the view that phenomenology's task is to provide the “absolute foundation” of human knowledge. In this paper, I will argue that the most natural interpretation of this view, namely that all human knowledge depends for its justification, at least in part, on phenomenological knowledge, is philosophically untenable. I will also present evidence that Husserl himself held no such view, and will argue that Dan Zahavi and John Drummond, though reaching the same conclusion, reach it for the wrong reasons. In the process, I will also defend a brand of epistemological externalism according to which knowledge does not depend upon knowing the epistemic principles under which one's knowledge falls, and argue that Husserl himself held such a view. I conclude with a discussion of a few of the ways in which phenomenology positively contributes to human knowledge.
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