Husserl’s Early Genealogy of the Number System

Meta: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy 2 (11):408-428 (2019)
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This article accomplishes two goals. First, the paper clarifies Edmund Husserl’s investigation of the historical inception of the number system from his early works, Philosophy of Arithmetic and, “On the Logic of Signs (Semiotic)”. The article explores Husserl’s analysis of five historical developmental stages, which culminated in our ancestor’s ability to employ and enumerate with number signs. Second, the article reveals how Husserl’s conclusions about the history of the number system from his early works opens up a fusion point with his investigations from his mature texts, The Crisis of the European Sciences and “The Origin of Geometry”. On the one hand, the essay shows that Husserl’s methodology was similar, as he sought in both his early and late writings to uncover the essence of the history of the formal sciences and was not executing mere intellectual history. On the other hand, the article discloses that Husserl’s insights from both time periods are strikingly analogous. Already in his early texts, Husserl saw that the sciences emerged from pre-theoretical experiences of the world and that the sciences are the result of a historical process, which involves the psychic activities of past individuals and the maintaining of discoveries over time by intersubjective communities. I conclude by showing how, in light of the analysis of this paper, we can rethink the evolution of Husserl’s philosophy.



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Thomas Byrne
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign