The Crisis: Genesis and Structure
Husserl’s Crisis is not easy to summarize. Its themes and philosophical analyses are deceptively difficult. Due to the unique circumstances of its composition – written, as we have seen, during Husserl’s last years and during the rise to power of the Nazi regime, under which, as a Jew, he personally suffered victimization – the Crisis cannot be seen as a unified book in the usual sense. It is, rather, a ‘projected’ book. In fact, it consists of a number of systematic parts – two were published in 1936 and a third exists as a typescript, collected with a loose assembly of partial segments and sketches for further parts, along with essays, reflections and public lectures – written over a period of years, more or less from 1934 to 1937, around a central theme, namely the crises of the mathematical and the human sciences, the consequences of these crises for Western culture and the role of phenomenological philosophy in addressing these crises.
The Crisis, especially in the Husserliana version (1954) edited by Walter Biemel, introduced the philosophical public to a hitherto unknown Husserl – the Husserl who had been lecturing in Freiburg in the 1920s, without significant publications. New themes included embodiment, empathy, the intuitively experienced life-world, normality, the experience of otherness, the encounter with the stranger, transcendental intersubjectivity and so on, all topics that would become prominent in post-Husserlian phenomenology. In part, Husserl is attempting to answer critics – including the Neo-Kantians and the life-philosophers – who maintained that his phenomenology of consciousness was outmoded. Thus, in his ‘Foreword to the Continuation of the Crisis’ (K 435–45, not translated in Carr), dating from early 1937, Husserl expresses regret that many of his readers have taken him to be an old conservative, sclerotically stuck in his ways, and merely regurgitating his old themes rather than facing up to the new criticisms (K 439–40). The reverse is true, he insists: he is thinking through the meaning of philosophy and phenomenology with renewed radicality.