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HomeEdmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry and its legacy

Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry and its legacy

« L’origine de la géométrie » d’Edmund Husserl et son héritage

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Published on Friday, July 22, 2022 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

Made famous by the publication of Jacques Derrida’s Introduction, which was the first and only translation into French, the third appendix to The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, better known as The Origin of Geometry, constitutes a crucial moment for understanding Edmund Husserl’s thought and legacy. Originally an untitled manuscript from 1936, the few pages that make up The Origin of Geometry were first published in 1939 in the Revue international de philosophie thanks to Eugen Fink, before being included in the first edition of the sixth volume of the Husserliana series in 1954. However, this text has progressively acquired a considerable influence mainly in the French-speaking world during the last seventy years, giving rise to a proliferation of remarkable interpretations, which have not ceased to influence philosophers, anthropologists and scientists who engage with them, thus paving the way to a conceptual fecundity on which we intend to concentrate.

Announcement

Seminar for Ph.D. students and young researchers in phenomenology, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University · Sorbonne University · École normale supérieure

Academic year 2022–2023

Argument

Made famous by the publication of Jacques Derrida’s Introduction, which was the first and only translation into French, the third appendix to The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, better known as The Origin of Geometry, constitutes a crucial moment for understanding Edmund Husserl’s thought and legacy. Originally an untitled manuscript from 1936, the few pages that make up The Origin of Geometry were first published in 1939 in the Revue international de philosophie thanks to Eugen Fink, before being included in the first edition of the sixth volume of the Husserliana series in 1954. However, this text has progressively acquired a considerable influence mainly in the French-speaking world during the last seventy years, giving rise to a proliferation of remarkable interpretations, which have not ceased to influence philosophers, anthropologists and scientists who engage with them, thus paving the way to a conceptual fecundity on which we intend to concentrate.

First of all, in this text several fundamental Husserlian concepts find formulations that are undoubtedly worthy of consideration. The idea of an original meaning and its founding establishment constitute the starting point for a meditation on the meaning of science and its history, which acquires an exemplary value concerning the general problem of historicity. By questioning himself on the constitution of ideal objects, Husserl aims towards a whole plurality of products of the cultural world and thus does not limit himself to mathematical objects, even if the latter remain the fundamental model for thinking ideality. Through writing, the ideal objectivity can only be constituted within an intersubjective community which makes the historicity of sciences take on the shape of a sedimented tradition. If, on the one hand, intersubjectivity becomes the fundamental horizon allowing the passage from subjective formations to ideal formations, on the other hand, starting from the thematization of history as a structural a priori, phenomenology goes as far as to prescribe an archaeological task in order to bring us back to a reactivation of the original meaning. Now, does Husserl’s late thought – with particular reference to the theoretical suggestions that emerge from The Origin of Geometry – consist in an extension or a revision of the earlier stages of his conceptual itinerary? Can we argue that the deepening of notions such as historicity, writing and intersubjectivity implies the necessity to rethink the canonical Husserlian positions concerning the genesis of idealities, the concept of the transcendental and the very idea of Wissenschaft?

Then, one can say that, in the French context, The Origin of Geometry has historically constituted a fundamental stage of the reception of Husserlian phenomenology (notably retraced by Waldenfels 1983). Can the third Beilage to the Krisis be identified as a trait d’union capable of explaining the theoretical course of an original and radically innovative phenomenological scene? This text has indeed continued to play a central role, from what Paul Ricœur called the phenomenological “heresies” (Ricoeur 1986) to the specifics of the Nouvelle phénoménologie française (Gondek-Tengelyi 2011, Sommer 2014). What key episodes, such as Thảo 1951, Derrida 1962, Richir 1990 or Merleau-Ponty 1998, can be identified in this Wirkungsgeschichte of the Husserlian text? Moreover, still within French philosophy, the proponents of the “philosophy of the concept” have criticized the phenomenological approach and its model of historicity: by proposing a conception of history that emphasizes discontinuities and moments of rupture, they have denounced a “myth of return to the past” (Cavaillès 1947) and a primacy of the founding subject (Foucault 1969). Can we see a privileged reading key in The Origin of Geometry to orient ourselves in such a debate? Can this text offer us phenomenological tools to answer such criticisms?

Finally, the aforementioned richness of this text has given rise, in more recent times, to a real theoretical effervescence that goes well beyond the strictly philosophical domain, by crossing other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology. It is mainly on writing as a technical tool and on the intersubjective constitution of knowledge that those contemporary readers of The Origin of Geometry have focused their attention. How do humans manage to form groups and act as one? How can they form and consolidate their knowledge through time? What is innate and what is acquired in the development of such abilities?

From these brief indications, by no means exhaustive, we propose to meditate on the following axes:

  1. The novelty of the late Husserlian conceptuality.

The Origin of Geometry can be interpreted as a privileged point of access to concepts that seem to remain on the edge of a mainstream reading of Husserl, the emphasis having been placed for too long on texts and notions that can generally be traced back to a phase prior to the 1920s and 1930s. We therefore propose to reflect on the notions on which Husserl focuses especially during the last phase of his philosophical elaboration, such as the Rückfrage of genetic phenomenology, the historical a priori, the Lebenswelt, the self-structuring of experience, a nonamorphous passivity endowed with meaning, the stratification of synthesis, the paradox of subjectivity, the role of language in the redefinition of the entanglement of the empirical and the transcendental. Can we, in the light of these notions, talk about a “renewal” of Husserlian thought?

  1. The reception of The Origin of Geometry.

From the flesh (Merleau-Ponty 1964) to différance (Derrida 1972), to the essences “vagabond or nomadic” in A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze-Guattari 1980), we witness, notably in Frenchspeaking philosophy, a multiplicity of conceptual creations that owe their meaning at least in part to the heritage of The Origin of Geometry. We therefore propose to question the fruitfulness of this quite singular reception, by reconstructing the debt of contemporary French thought to the Husserlian text, a sort of hidden “leitmotif” that has marked several generations of thinkers.

  1. History and historicity of sciences.

History, perhaps more than any other, constitutes a fundamental subject of investigation for the last Husserl and a decisive point of articulation of phenomenological analyses. The theme of the meaning of scientific knowledge is posed from a reflection on the history of sciences and their constitution: from the formation of modern science to the modes of constitution of the idealities, from the theme of loss of meaning in contemporary science, with the possibility of its reactivation, to the reflections on symbolic writings. To what extent, as an appendix to § 9a of the Krisis, does The Origin of Geometry take up these questions and develop them further? Which paths are offered to us in order to think of a phenomenological epistemology that takes the historical dimension of scientific knowledge into account?

  1. Intersubjectivity.

The phenomenological analyses outlined here intersect with one of Husserl’s most problematic themes: the notion of intersubjectivity. The scope of this question within Husserl’s work, which would allow us to respond to the accusation of solipsism, leads us to ask the following questions: is it not the case that, in The Origin of Geometry, through language and writing, we have to deal with an “other”? To what extent does the reflection that Husserl develops here operate a kind of “decentering” with respect to the position of the Ego? How can this text be contextualized in the whole of Husserlian philosophical production, taking on the opening of the transcendental subject to otherness as a common thread?

  1. From the technical question to the community of geometers today.

Writing allows us to maintain the permanence of the ideal outside of any conversation, of any presentiality. However, writing is not only the vehicle through which meaning can be awakened from its sedimentation, from its acquired passivity. As a linguistic inscription of the world, writing is the only means to establish an omni-temporal and second-order meaning within the same sensible world of which we take part. This result can only be reached through the cooperation of individuals, namely the idea of a “community of geometers”, and through technical commitment (Stiegler 1994). These reflections are an invitation to a contemporary and multidisciplinary rereading of the themes contained in The Origin of Geometry, of which the so-called orthographical writing, the sociogenesis of knowledge, the constitution, or even the discovery of collective intentionality (Tomasello 1999) are only the first of many possible initiations.

Submission guidelines

The abstracts of the proposed contributions should not exceed 350 words. They should be sent by e-mail in a PDF document including the title, the summary of the proposal, and a brief bibliography. We ask you not to include your personal information in the PDF, but to limit yourself to indicating your name, surname, institutional affiliation, and degree obtained (or in preparation) in the body of the e-mail. Contributions will be written in French or English. Particular attention will be paid to the diversity of the profiles. Finally, subject to the obtaining of funding, the contributions that will be presented are planned to be published.

Abstracts should be sent to doctorants.phenomenologie@gmail.com. The following table shows the deadlines:

  • Deadline for submission: September 10, 2022

  • Responses: September 30, 2022
  • Publication of the seminar program: October 10, 2022
  • Seminar dates: November 2022 – June 2023

Location: In presence.     

Sorbonne (17 rue de la Sorbonne, 75005 Paris) or École normale supérieure (45 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris)

The exact schedule will be established considering the number of contributors who will respond to this call and their availability to present on the days indicated: for the moment, one seminar session per month will be organized, with also the possibility to take part, only as auditor, via Zoom.

If sufficient funding is obtained, the seminar for Ph.D. students will be followed by a final twoday colloquium in which invited professors will participate and in which an attempt will be made to further develop the theme of the seminar.

Organization

  • Andrea Ariotto (Sorbonne University / University of Turin)
  • Baris Dirican (École normale supérieure – Husserl Archives in Paris)
  • Eleonora Degli Esposti (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University)
  • Davide Pilotto (Sorbonne University / University of Salento)
  • Riccardo Valenti (Paris 1 Panthéon–Sorbonne University / Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)

Bibliography

Primary source

  • Husserl, Edmund (1962). L’origine de la géométrie. Translated into French by Jacques Derrida. Paris: PUF.
  • English translation: Husserl, Edmund (1970). Appendix VI. The Origin of Geometry. In The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Philosophy. An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy (pp. 353– 378). Translated by David Carr. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
  • Publication in the Husserliana series: Husserl, Edmund (1976). Beilage III, zu § 9a. In Husserliana: Gesammelte Werke. Band 6. Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophie (2nd ed., pp. 365–386). Edited by Walter Biemel. The Hague: Nijhoff.
  • First publication: Husserl, Edmund (1939). Die Frage nach dem Ursprung der Geometrie als Intentional-Historisches Problem. Edited by Eugen Fink. Revue internationale de philosophie, 1 (2), pp. 203–225.

Essential indicative bibliography

  • Alloa, Emmanuel (2014). Writing, Embodiment, Deferral. Merleau-Ponty and Derrida on The Origin of Geometry. Philosophy Today, 58 (2), pp. 219–239.
  • Cavaillès, Jean (1947). Sur la logique et théorie de la science. Paris: PUF.
  • Courtine, Jean-François (2007). Foucault lecteur de Husserl. L’a priori historique et le quasi transcendantal. Giornale di Metafisica (new series), 29 (1), pp. 211–232.
  • Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (1980). Traité de nomadologie : la machine de guerre. In Mille plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2 (pp. 434–527). Paris: Minuit.
  • Derrida, Jacques (1962). Introduction. In Edmund Husserl, L’origine de la géométrie (pp. 3–171). Translated into French by Jacques Derrida. Paris: PUF.
  • Derrida, Jacques (1972). La différance. In Marges de la philosophie (pp. 1–29). Paris: Minuit (Critique series).
  • Desanti, Jean-Toussaint (1968). Les Idéalités mathématiques. Recherches épistémologiques sur le développement de la théorie des fonctions de variables réelles. Paris: Seuil.
  • Dodd, James (2004). The Origin of Geometry. In Crisis and Reflection. An Essay on Husserl’s “Crisis of the European Sciences (pp. 109–147). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
  • Gondek, Hans-Dieter & Tengelyi, László (2011). Neue Phänomenologie in Frankreich. Berlin: Suhrkamp.
  • Foucault, Michel (1969). L’archéologie du savoir. Paris: Gallimard.
  • Klein, Jacob (1940). Phenomenology and the History of Science. In Marvin Farber (ed.), Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl (pp. 143–163). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Hass, Marjorie & Hass, Lawrence (2000). Merleau-Ponty and the Origin of Geometry. In Fred Evans & Leonard Lawlor (ed.), Merleau-Ponty’s Notion of Flesh (pp. 177–187). Albany: SUNY Press.
  • Hermberg, Kevin (2006). The Crisis of European Sciences: Intersubjective and Empathetic Underpinnings. In Husserl’s Phenomenology (pp. 71–94). New York: Continuum.
  • Husserl, Edmund (1960). Cartesian Meditations. An Introduction to Phenomenology. Translated by Dorion Cairns. The Hague: Nijhoff.
  • Husserl, Edmund (1969). Formal and Transcendental Logic. Translated by Dorion Cairns. The Hague: Nijhoff.
  • Husserl, Edmund (1970). The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Philosophy. An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated by David Carr. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
  • Husserl, Edmund (1973). Experience and Judgement. Investigations in a Genealogy of Logic. Edited by Ludwig Landgrebe. Translated by James S. Churchill & Karl Ameriks. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
  • Husserl, Edmund (2001). Husserliana: Collected Works. Volume 9. Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis: Lectures on Transcendental Logic. Translated by Anthony J. Steinbock. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Hyder, David (2003). Foucault, Cavaillès and Husserl on the Historical Epistemology of the Sciences. Perspectives on Science, 11 (1), pp. 107–129.
  • Lawlor, Leonard (2002), The Legacy of Husserl’s Ursprung der Geometrie. The Limits of Phenomenology in Merleau-Ponty and Derrida. In Ted Toadvine & Lester Embree (ed.), Merleau-Ponty’s Reading of Husserl (pp. 201–223). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Lawlor, Leonard (2002). The Root, That Is Necessarily One, of Every Dilemma: An Investigation of the Introduction to Husserl’s “The Origin of Geometry”. In Derrida and Husserl. The Basic Problem of Phenomenology (pp. 88–142). Bloomington–Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1964). Le visible et l’invisible, suivi de notes de travail. Edited by Claude Lefort. Paris: Gallimard.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1998). Notes de cours sur L’origine de la géométrie de Husserl. In Notes de cours sur L’origine de la géométrie de Husserl, suivi de recherches sur la phénoménologie de Merleau-Ponty (pp. 3–92).
  • Edited by Renaud Barbaras. Paris: PUF.
  • Richir, Marc (1990). Commentaire de L’origine de la géométrie de Husserl. In La crise du sens et la phénoménologie. Autour de la Krisis de Husserl, suivi de commentaire de L’origine de la géométrie (pp. 272–360). Grenoble: Millon.
  • Ricœur, Paul (1986). À l’école de la phénoménologie. Paris: Vrin.
  • Salanskis, Jean-Michel (2008). Philosophie des mathématiques. Paris: Vrin.
  • Stiegler, Bernard (1994). La technique et le temps 1. La faute d’Épiméthée. Paris: Galilée.
  • Sommer, Christian (ed.) (2014). Nouvelles phénoménologies en France. Paris: Hermann.
  • Spinicci, Paolo (2008). Formes géométriques et formes intuitives : considérations sur L’origine de la géométrie de Husserl. In Jocelyn Benoist (ed.), Husserl (pp. 149–162). Paris: Cerf.
  • Tomasello, Michael (1999). The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Cambridge–London: Harvard University Press.
  • Thảo, Trần-Ðúc̛ (1951). Phénoménologie et matérialisme dialectique. Paris: Minh-Tân.
  • Waldenfels, Bernhard (1983). Phänomenologie in Frankreich. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Subjects

Places

  • Bâtiment de la Sorbonne - 1 rue Victor Cousin
    Paris, France (75005)

Event format

Full on-site event


Date(s)

  • Saturday, September 10, 2022

Keywords

  • Husserl, phénoménologie, transcendantal, historicité, géométrie

Contact(s)

  • Davide Pilotto
    courriel : doctorants [dot] phenomenologie [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Davide Pilotto
    courriel : doctorants [dot] phenomenologie [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry and its legacy », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, July 22, 2022, https://calenda.org/1009167

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