The Brentanist Philosophy of Mathematics in Edmund Husserl’s Early Works

In Stefania Centrone (ed.), Essays on Husserl’s Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics. Springer Verlag. pp. 147-168 (2017)

Carlo Ierna
Radboud University Nijmegen
A common analysis of Edmund Husserl’s early works on the philosophy of logic and mathematics presents these writings as the result of a combination of two distinct strands of influence: on the one hand a mathematical influence due to his teachers is Berlin, such as Karl Weierstrass, and on the other hand a philosophical influence due to his later studies in Vienna with Franz Brentano. However, the formative influences on Husserl’s early philosophy cannot be so cleanly separated into a philosophical and a mathematical pathway. Growing evidence indicates that a Brentanist philosophy of mathematics was already in place before Husserl. Rather than an original combination at the confluence of two different streams, his early writings represent an elaboration of topics and problems that were already being discussed in the School of Brentano within a pre-existing framework. The traditional account understandably neglects Brentano’s own work on the philosophy of mathematics and logic, which can be found mostly in his unpublished manuscripts and lectures, and various works by Brentano’s students on the philosophy of mathematics which have only recently emerged from obscurity. Husserl’s early works must be correctly placed in this preceding context in order to be fully understood and correctly assessed.
Keywords Franz Brentano  Edmund Husserl  Philosophy of Mathematics
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