Husserl’s Transcendental Idealism and Its Way Out of the Internalism-Externalism Debate


This paper argues that through the conceptual distinctions between ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence’ in The Idea of Phenomenology and The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, a proper understanding of transcendental idealism and ‘transcendence in immanence’ can avoid any metaphysical commitments of internalism or externalism, and reconfigure the debate on internalism and externalism by providing an alternative option. There are two interpretations towards whether Husserl is an internalist. The first one is that Husserl is an internalist as he employs the reduction method in order to ‘returns to the inner mind’. The second interpretation, which is most welcomed by Husserlians, refutes the internalistic interpretation of Husserl and argues that neither internalism nor externalism can faithfully understand Husserl’s phenomenology because Husserl’s phenomenology does not tie to any tradition metaphysical commitment. Although I share this view, but an important text, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology is neglected by the previous debates. In the text, it does not only reexamine the two levels of ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence’ in The Idea of Phenomenology, but also introduces one more level of ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence’. I shall argue that by the reconsideration of the three levels of immanence and transcendence, Husserl does not disconnect ‘transcendence’, so he cannot simply be employed into internalism, on the one hand; his phenomenology provides an alternative option rather than internalism or externalism.

Keywords: Phenomenology, Husserl, Internalism, Externalism, Immanence, Transcendence, Transcendental Idealism, Transcendence in immanence

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