Author (Your Name)

Ellen S. Saslaw, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. English Dept.




The nature of this project had changed a good deal since it began. Since the changes in its form are largely reflections of the problem dealt with, it should be of some value to recount them here. In the beginning, the project was to be a comparison between phenomenology and existentialism, and contemporary analytic philosophy, The purpose of the comparison was to find common views between the two schools which have been thought to be conceptually opposite. The school of phenomenology, which is the philosophic theory used by the more literary existentialists. Research then, was centered on Husserl, who is the most important and influential phenomenologist. Other phenomenologists were dealt with insofar as they were important for the project. Work in contemporary analytic philosophy is based on the works of Wittgensteni, Anscombe and Geach, or the area of English philosophy concerned with conceptual analysis. Conceptual analysis is used as a methodology in the project. As well as the main point of comparison to analytic philosophy.] A major part of this project was given as lectures on phenomenology to the contemporary philosophy class. The first part of the project is the flesh of the bone of a lecture given on Husserl’s early work, with reference to Merleau-Ponty;s ideas. It is an attempt to analyze Husserl’s early statement of phenomenology so that I can be interpreted within the frame-work of analytic philosophy. In the project, as in the lectures, it was intended as a preliminary justification (in the sense of there being grounds for) of such an interpretation. Part two of the project is lectures on the Cartesian Meditations which were both explicative of phenomenology in the terms of English philosophy. There are three things which should be noted about this second section. The fourth lecture on the fifth meditation suggests two very extravagant claims primarily to invite disagreement with the lecture; the claims are not those that the author whishes to make in regard to the project. The second note, which should make this first point clear, is that the sections labeled “commentary on lecture---“ are the final view of the thesis of the project, which is a denial of the two claims in lecture four. Thirdly, the two pages preceding part two on the Paris Lectures are an overall view of the commentaries, as are the Paris Lectures and overall view of the Meditations. The chronological order of the project is in the order of the Lectures, but the commentaries were written in last. To the extent to which the first lecture only goes as far as preliminary parallels, it has become a part of the thesis of the project. What was attempted in this lecture was based largely on the fact that it would not be a criticism of Husserl’s ideas; it would merely be an attempt to make them work in terms of analytic philosophy, and this show that the two schools are not so far apart as is thought. By the time I wrote the commentaries, it was evident to me that such an uncritical approach was exactly that made such analogies possible. Automatically, I put Husserl’s concepts into terms of common language. It is indeed possible to do this, as the first lecture shows. But while we can make Husserl look like a common language philosopher (which might, indeed, be a surprise) we cannot make him into one. This is why the analogies remain superficial, and this is why I must end up seeing critical of Husserl’s system when I look at what happens as I try t extend these analogies in the commentaries. I did not know how this project would turnout when I began. It now might be summed up to indicate this while similarities might be cited between Husserl’s phenomenology and conceptual analysis. I do not think that they can be made to be meaningful. This is the sort of criticism I would have against such articles as the one by Paul Ricoeur, cited in the text. As such, the thesis of the project has become a kind of incompleteness theorem.


Analytic philosophy, phenomenology, Cartesian Meditations, Husserl, Edmund, 1859-1938

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