Rivenc - Husserl, With and Against Frege

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Husserl, With and Against Frege* By Frangois Rivenc Translated from the French by Elizabeth Davist w H A T CAN WE LEARN FROM HUSSERL TODAY? WHAT CAN we learn, if we rehse t o endorse the theses which characterize transcendental phenomenology: the possibility of eidetic analysis and the appeal t o the evidence of essence, the indubitable character of immanent perception (and corelatively the absolute validity of the Cogito's retlection o n its cogitata, opening up t o a description, free of all
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  Husserl, With and Against Frege* By Frangois Rivenc Translated from the French by Elizabeth Davist w AT CAN WE LEARN FROM HUSSERL TODAY? WHAT CAN we learn, if we rehse to endorse the theses which characterize tran-scendental phenomenology: the possibility of eidetic analysis andthe appeal to the evidence of essence, the indubitable character ofimmanent perception (and corelatively the absolute validity of the Cogito's retlec-tion on its cogitata, opening up to a description, free of all theoretical freight, ofexperiences), and the possibility of bracketing the thesis of the world without absur-dity?One of the most widespread philosophical means of doing this today consists ofseeking in the Husserlian analysis of intentionality (actually in a certain tendentiousreading of this analysis) the proper concepts for founding a psychological theory ofmental states and psychic processes, conceived, according to the computationalistparadigm, as operations on these mental states. In this article I would like to instillsome doubts on this subject by protesting against an historico-philosophical opera-tion which seems to be an appropriation of an illegitimate legacy. To make ofHusserl the prescursor of the current interest in intentionality - he first in thephilosophy of language and the mind to have a general theory of the role of mental representa-tions, in the words of Hubert Dreyfusl is not~ossible xceDt at the cost of considerable dis- - tortion of Husserl's philosophy: the natural-ization of phenomenology, the decline of a R;~~~s ~+ of philosophy cut out to be ranked first in FphilasoPbatrhe univrrdtyd descriptive psychology. In order to dispel at Paris-N (Sorbonne) where he spe- the outset any misunderstanding of my posi-tion, I \vould like to make clear thatIan1 not cialiees in matbematical logic. arguing for a return to transcendental phenom- He is tbc editor of Logique et enology, a project in which I do not believe, fondements des mathematique but rather against a series of confusions which (1992) and tbc autbor of are of important in comprehending the very Recherch@ sur concept of intentionality. (By what strange l0gique: Russell et Carnap turn of thought does one feel obliged to (1993). assume Husserl's authority and passion tospeak about the transcendental subject, whileelsewhere one openly claims to draw from nat-uralism in the philosophy of the mind?)The influence of Frege, more or less  explicit or difhse, is considerable in this deforming re-reading of Husserl, and it isin part due to a very general Fregean vision of the world that one attributes toHusserl, in the end, a non-Husserlian concept of intentionality. As evinced by cer-tain recent speculations about the Husserlian theory of the noema, in which noe-matic senses would essentially be entities of the same nature as Fregean Sense[Sznn], the problematic of intentionality has become little by little a problematic ofmediation. Since meanings of the Fregean sort are, in a well-known manner quamodes of presentation, intermediaries through which the world gives itself to beknown to the knowing subject - he characteristic noematic structures of theintentionality of the mind, thus identified with the stratum of Sense, have become athird world, through which the subject enters into relation with intended objects(rather than intentional objects, since in general we are considering real objects - slight lexical shift wherein the subreptive movement from one philosophy toanother shows its face!). Opposed to this Fregeanized Husserl, I would like toassert that the authentic Husserlian problematic of intentionality is not a problemat-ic of mediation. I will try to show this in multiple ways, by underlining first of all the generaland radical incompati-bility of the perspec- I would like to assert that the authentic tive ' the authors, and then pre- Husse~lian roblematic of intentionality senting a rapid exige- is not a problematic of mediation. sis of Husserl's crucialtexts concerning con-cepts of 1in;uisticmeaning, of noematicsense, and likewise, the analysis of the relations between the stratum of particularintentionality of expression and intentional experiences in general. Insofar as thethesis according to which Husserl today helps us to construct a representationaltheory of the mind owes part of its seductive strength to the fact that it recon-structs and corrects a Husserl ''a la Frege, restoring the sharp edge of their differ-ences will perhaps permit us to restore to more just proportions the evaluation ofthe Husserlian legacy.There remains something curious in this Fregean alchemy in which one, so tospeak, recooks noemata. It is as if the Fregean theory of Sense were so assured thatto reinterpret intentionality in this conceptual framework would, ipso facto, make arespectable author of Husserl! I will try to show, against the grain of the generalinterpretive tendency, that Husserl, used advisedly, would permit the elucidationand perhaps the abolition of a difficulty in Frege's philosophy of logic closely linkedto the position of the intermediary sphere of Sense. We need to put the myth ofthe third realm out of our minds, and on this point Husserl can help us uprootour Fregean beliefs.The positive (though limited) response to the question posed at the outset - What can one learn from Husserl today? - ill thus take the form of a counter-proposition: to play Husserl, particularly the Husserl of Formale und trannenden-tale Logik, against Frege. I will conclude by showing that Husserl's profound analy-ses on the subject of what he calls the double character of logic, which realize  the illusion and the hypostasis of Sense which the logician of the Fregean sort suc-cumbs to, can shield us from the temptation of using the Fregean notion of Senseas a clarifying notion to which it would be illuminating to reduce or identify notionsreputed to be more problematic (such as the notion of the noema). More general-ly, these analyses deserve to be made present again today as so many warnings tothe logician: that he not confound conceptual constructions with a fantastic visionof linguistic meaning. I. Logic, Sense, and Reference in Frege I ILL BEGIN BY DESCRIBING AN INCERTITUDE WHICH CLEARLYemerges from Frege's texts concerning the determination of the object oflogic:What is distinctive about my conception of logic [wrote Frege in July 19191 is that I begin by giving pride of place to the content of the word true , and then immediately go on to introduce a thought as that towhich the question Is it true? is in principle applicable.. .. I come by theparts of a thought by analyzing the thought.2Frege was hlly conscious of the srcinal and revolutionary character of this (atleast methodological) primacy which is accorded to the unity of meaning expressedby a complete utterance. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Frege's great discoveries - he prodigious expansion to which he subjects the notion of con-cept, the thesis of the hnctional or unsaturated character of these same concepts,and even the generalization of the distinction between Sense and Bedeutung [refer-ence] to all parts of speech - roceeds from his foregrounding of propositionalmeanings, or Thoughts [Gedanken]. In effect, it is the reasoned analysis ofThoughts that reveals the necessity of establishing fundamental distinctions: a dis-tinction between the region of Sense, to which Thoughts belong, and the domainof things [Sachen] which, as references of our most ordinary discourse, are the Redeutungen of components of discourse; a distinction, within the region of Sense,between the different categories of meaning; and a distinction in the world itselfbetween objects and entities of the hnctional sort, that is, between the categories ofreference. In sum: the analysis of Thoughts leads at the same time to diverse cate-gories of meaning, to diverse categories of reference, and to the distinction betweencategories of meaning and categories of reference, between meaning and object-ness , in a non-Fregean, but rather Husserlian, sense of the word.3Hence the question: how does Frege determine the status of logic, relative tothis hndamental distinction? There are, manifestly, universal laws which govern thesphere of Sense and the domain of things, but these laws are different. Forinstance, a principle of composition applies to meanings (the senses of parts of anexpression are parts of the sense of the total expression), but does not apply to theworld of things. The expression the capital of Sweden , Frege observes, refers toan object of which Sweden is not part. The references of the parts of an utteranceare not part of the reference of the utterance, which is a simple object, a truth-value,etc. Are laws of logic, then, as morphological laws separating the endowed withsense from the devoid of sense , laws of Thought, or laws of the world, of object-  ness?The question persists with respect to logic as a theory of inference: are thelaws of logic [Grundgesetze] aws of consequence or laws of True Being [Gesetze desWahrseins]? n other words, is Frege's logic essentially a formal apophanty or a for-mal ontology? And, correlatively, is it a logic of consequence, or a logic of truth?*To my knowledge, there isn't any tidy response in Frege's work to this ques-tion, even though there is incontestably a dominant practical orientation toward thesecond determination. And at times it even seems that there are confusions inFrege's thought, as if the question itself wasn't clearly perceived. Taking quickstock of a few texts touching on this problem will establish this point. It would not be out of the question to say that the laws of logic are nothingother than the deployment of the content of the word 'true ', as Frege expressesthis view in one of the oldest versions (dated 1879-1891 by the editors of the Nachlafl of a text which he seems to have ceaselessly reworked, but never pub-lished. ut this remark only defines the limits, in the manner of a first approxima-tion, of the field of logic proper. Its sole goal is to lead us to isolate das Logische - the content or properly logical element - y separating it from the expressive array,pragmatic or rhetorical (the tone, the coloration, etc.), that is linked to the exigen-cies of communication, and by protecting it from all psychologizing interpretation.Now, the logical core at the heart of linguistic meaning is precisely the Thought,provided that one understands the term correctly - hat is to say, in an objectivesense. According to this line of thought, the intervention of the predicate oftruth has only one a heuristic or warning function, which asks us, via the question What are the bearers of truth? (response: Thoughts) to delimit more presciselythe domain [das Gebiet] of that which one can affirm as truth, and where truth canbe the general question. It is thus that Frege introduces his study of Thoughts in Der Gedanke.6 In this manner, one could cite many Fregean texts wherein logic's task is pre-sented as that of isolating, and then analyzing, the Thought into its elements. Letus think, briefly, of the Troisii.me Recherche logique of 1923, CompoundThoughts, which seems to present logic as a systematic study of the processes ofcompleting the work of constructing Thoughts [ Wie der Aufbau des Gedankensgesehieht]. These are processes in which the parts compose themselves in such away that the Whole is something more than the isolated parts. Likewise, in theunpublished work of 1923, it is a matter of analyzing this property of Thoughtswhich is logical generality. 7 And in the unpublished work of 1906, Einleitung indie Logik, the totality of semantic and ontological distinctions is progressivelydeployed, starting from the analysis of Thought in parts which are not themselvesThoughtsm8But the conclusions which one might draw from these texts must be contrastedwith others of Frege's curt statements which one finds in particular in the unpub-lished Ausfuhrungen iiber Sinn und Bedeutung. It is appropriate here to brieflysummarize the context in which Frege formulates the idea that logic is concernedessentially with the Bedeutungen of the parts of speech, in the form of a thesis ofextensionality.Just as an object is the Bedeutung of a proper name, Frege reminds us, so aconcept is the Bedeutung of a general term. But, as he recognizes, therein lies apossible objection. The Bedeutung of an expression is in effect determined accord-
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