Phenomenological movement

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD075-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

2. Realistic phenomenology

Immediately after the publication of the Logical Investigations, Johannes Daubert persuaded a group of fellow students of Theodore Lipps at Munich to abandon Lipps’ psychologism and accept the Logical Investigations as their philosophical bible. Many of these students, including Adolf Reinach, soon went to Husserl at Göttingen. The phrase ‘phenomenological movement’ first arose in this group, and realistic phenomenology became a distinct tendency within it only when Husserl developed the so-called ‘transcendental turn’ that its members did not accept. Daubert published nothing in his lifetime. Alexander Pfänder’s Phänomenologie des Wollens (Phenomenology of Willing and Motivation) (1900) is retrospectively seen as the earliest major document of realistic phenomenology, and he and Reinach, as well as Max Scheler and Moritz Geiger, led the first generation of realistic phenomenologists. In 1913, together with Husserl, they began editing the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, the quasi-official organ of the movement. The second generation includes Theodor Celms, Hedwig Conrad-Martius, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Roman Ingarden, Aurel Kolnai, Edith Stein and Kurt Stavenhagen.

In order to gain a systematic body of a priori knowledge on a wide range of matters, this first tendency emphasizes Husserl’s eidetic method. Eidetic method involves suspending belief in any actual facts with which one begins, feigning variations of the matter at issue, and then grasping the invariant or universal essence that the facts, fantasies and any ‘thought experiments’ exemplify or instantiate. Since there is always already a vague and tacit acquaintance with essences, eidetic method is a procedure of clarification and description: a method of discovery, not invention. Terms and relations of possibility, compossibility, necessity and contingency by virtue of which facts are intelligible are thus disclosed. Husserl importantly distinguished formalizing universalization, which yields formal ontology, from generalizing universalization, which yields taxonomies. Mistakes in employing this method – its use in accounting for itself included – can be made, but are also in principle discoverable and corrigible by means of it.

The realistic phenomenologists maintained a metaphysical realism of universals and particulars. Geiger contributed to aesthetics and the a priori foundations of geometry. In Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik (Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values) (1913, 1916) Scheler objected to Kant’s ethical formalism and advocated a value-realism in ethics. Reinach analysed accusing, commanding, promising, questioning and other social speech acts in ‘Die apriorischen Grundlagen des bürgerlichen Rechts’ (‘The Apriori Foundation of the Civil Law’) (1913), thereby contributing to the philosophy of law as well as the human sciences. Conrad-Martius and Stavenhagen contributed to the philosophy of religion, and Stein is now recognized not only for reflections on empathy and the human sciences, but also, through lectures from around 1930 collected posthumously under the title Die Frau (1959), for contributions to feminism. Hartmann showed the influence of Husserl and Scheler in his rejection of Neo-Kantianism and his central reliance on eidetic method in Grundzüge einer Metaphysik der Erkenntnis (Outline of a Metaphysics of Knowledge) (1921) and Ethik (1925). Ingarden, chiefly known for Das literarische Kunstwerk (The Literary Work of Art) (1931), carried realistic phenomenology to Poland. Gustav Shpet introduced phenomenology into Russia.

Herbert Spiegelberg, a student of Pfänder, later wrote the monumental The Phenomenological Movement (1960) as well as descriptively oriented studies; more recently, Karl Schuhmann has functioned as the historian of realistic phenomenology. Barry Smith and David Woodruff Smith lead the efforts to connect current Anglo-American analytical philosophy not only with Brentano and related Austrian philosophy, but also with realistic phenomenology.

Citing this article:
Embree, Lester. Realistic phenomenology. Phenomenological movement, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD075-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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