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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: November 2012

Chapter 1 - Husserl’s life and writings


I seek not to instruct but only to lead [zu führen], to point out and to describe what I see. I claim no other right than that of speaking according to my best lights, principally before myself but in the same manner also before others, as one who has lived in all its seriousness the fate of a philosophical existence.

(C 18; K 17)

Edmund Husserl (1859–1938): The Early Years

Edmund Husserl’s life straddles the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His more or less exact contemporaries included Henri Bergson (1859–1941), Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), John Dewey (1859–1952), Heinrich Rickert (1863–1936), Josiah Royce (1855–1916), Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (1857–1939) and J. G. Frazer (1854–1941). He was born of middle-class assimilated Jews on 8 April 1859 in Prossnitz, Moravia (now Prostejov, Czech Republic), then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He studied in Gymnasium schools in Vienna and in Olmütz (Olomouc, Czech Republic). In 1876 he entered the University of Leipzig, where he studied mathematics, physics and astronomy, and attended (but got little from) the philosophy lectures of Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920). However, his friend Thomas Masaryk (1850–1937) introduced him to the British empiricists. In 1878 he transferred to Berlin, where he studied mathematics with Karl Weierstrass (1815–97) and Leopold Kronecker (1823–91). Weierstrass had a formative influence on the young Husserl, awakening in him the ‘ethos for scientific striving’, as he would later put it.

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