Dissertation, University of Western Ontario (2013)

Rodney K. B. Parker
Carleton University
A pervasive interpretation among Husserl scholars is that his transcendental idealism inevitably leads to some form of solipsism. The aim of this dissertation is to defend Husserl against this charge. First, I argue that Husserl’s transcendental idealism is not a metaphysical theory. Transcendental phenomenology brackets all metaphysical presuppositions and argues from experience to the conditions of the possibility of experience. Husserl’s transcendental idealism should therefore be interpreted as a transcendental theory of knowledge. Second, it follows from the above characterization of Husserl’s transcendental idealism that the responses Husserl gives to the problem of solipsism are in no way meant to prove the existence in-itself of an external world or the existence in-themselves of other transcendental egos. The purpose of Husserl’s engagement with the problem of solipsism is to explain how it is that transcendental phenomenology can account for the constitution of both the Objectivity of the world of experience and other psycho-physical subjects. The result is a set of transcendental arguments that explain the necessary conditions of the cognition of a shared external world and of other persons. I conclude with Husserl that the solipsism is a transcendental illusion, and that Husserl’s transcendental idealism does not lead to a problematic solipsism. Through a careful study of Husserl’s Nachlass, with particular attention paid to Ideas I, Formal and Transcendental Logic, and Cartesian Meditations, I lay the framework for a transcendental-epistemological interpretation of Husserl’s idealism. Applying this interpretive strategy to Husserl’s discussions of the problem of solipsism and intersubjective monadology, I argue that, for Husserl, empathy is the condition of the experience of other subjects, but that it does not allow us to experience the mental-lives of other transcendental egos.
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