Logical Investigations (Husserl)

Logical Investigations
Author Edmund Husserl
Original title Logische Untersuchungen
Translator J. N. Findlay
Country Germany
Language German
Subjects Logic, epistemology
  • 1900 and 1901 (first edition in German)
  • 1913 and 1921 (second edition in German)
  • 1970 (in English)
Media type Print
ISBN 978-0415241892 (vol. 1)
978-0415241908 (vol. 2)

Logical Investigations (German: Logische Untersuchungen) is a work of philosophy by Edmund Husserl, published in two volumes in 1900 and 1901, with a second edition in 1913 and 1921. In Logical Investigations, which resulted from a shift in Husserl's interests from mathematics to logic and epistemology, Husserl maintains that mathematical laws are not empirical laws that describe the workings of the mind, but ideal laws whose necessity is intuited a priori. Though Husserl abandoned psychologism, the doctrine according to which logical entities such as propositions, universals, and numbers can be reduced to mental states or activities, in Logical Investigations, some commentators have seen a revival of psychologism in its second volume. Logical Investigations helped to create phenomenology, and has been credited with making twentieth century continental philosophy possible. Martin Heidegger was among the philosophers influenced by the work. An English translation of the second edition, by the philosopher J. N. Findlay, was published in 1970.


Between 1890 and 1900, Husserl's philosophical interests expanded from mathematics to a concern with logic and epistemology. Logical Investigations was the culmination of this development.[1] In this work, Husserl gave a new account of mathematics, one opposed to his previous views, which had been influenced by the psychologism of the late 19th century. Husserl's view in Logical Investigations, which may have been influenced by Gottlob Frege's criticism of Husserl's Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891), was that mathematical laws are not empirical laws that describe the workings of the mind, but ideal laws whose necessity is intuited a priori.[2]


In first volume, Prolegomena to Pure Logic (Prolegomena zur reinen Logik), Husserl criticizes psychologism, the doctrine that logical entities such as propositions, universals, and numbers can be reduced to mental states or activities, insisting that such targets of consciousness are objective, and that the attempt to reduce them to activities of mind is incoherent.

The two-part second volume of the Logical Investigations, Investigations in Phenomenology and Knowledge (Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis), contains six investigations (the first five are contained in Part I and the sixth in Part II). The second volume of the Logical Investigations contains examinations of signs and words, abstraction, parts and wholes, logical grammar, the notion of presentation, truth, and evidence. Husserl here expands his earlier distinction between intuitive presentation and symbolic intention from awareness of numbers to awareness of all objects of consciousness. The contrast between empty intention and fulfillment and intuition is applied to perceptual objects, as well as to categorical objects, Husserl's term for things such as states of affairs, relationships and causal connections. Husserl argues in the work that it is possible to have an intellectual intuition of them, which occurs when an object is articulated as having certain features or relationships, and relates the formal structure of categorical objects to the grammatical parts of language.[1]

Husserl observes that simple material objects can be intended either emptily or intuitively, but that even when they are intuitively given, they retain sides that are absent and only cointended. Perception is thus seen by Husserl as a mixture of empty and filled intentions. "Intentionality" is a term Husserl uses to refer to both empty and filled intuitions. It names the relationship consciousness has toward things, whether they are directly given or meant only in their absence. According to Husserl, the identity of things is given when an object that was once intended emptily becomes the same as what is given at the present moment. Identities are given even in perceptual experience, where the various sides and aspects of things continue to present the same object, they are given more explicitly in categorical intuition, when the partial identity between a thing and its features is recognized, or when the identity a thing has with itself is focused upon. These phenomena are all described as forms of identity-synthesis.[1]

Influence and reception

Husserl's first major work,[3] Logical Investigations has been credited with making twentieth century continental philosophy possible. According to Donn Welton, Husserl introduced a novel conception of the relationships between language and experience, meaning and reference, and subject and object, and by attempting to integrate a theory of meaning with a theory of truth, and a theory of the subject with a theory of the object, helped create phenomenology, a new form of philosophy that went beyond systems such as psychologism, formalism, realism, idealism, objectivism and subjectivism.[4] Martin Heidegger studied Logical Investigations while a student at the Collegium Borromaeum (Freiburg im Breisgau), where they were so rarely requested from the university library that Heidegger was easily able to renew them.[5] Heidegger had expected that Logical Investigations would, like Carl Braig's On Being and other works Heidegger had already studied, shed light on the multiple meanings of being, but he was disappointed. Nevertheless, the work impressed Heidegger and convinced him to study philosophy. Especially important for Heidegger was the sixth of the Logical Investigations, in which Husserl distinguishes between "sensuous" and "categorical" intuition.[6] Heidegger, like Theodor W. Adorno, believed that the second volume of Logical Investigations marked an apparent revival of psychologism, which puzzled him.[7] In Being and Time (1927), Heidegger credited Husserl's Logical Investigations with making his work possible.[8]

The German philosopher Emil Lask was also influenced by Logical Investigations. Heidegger credited Lask with being the only person who had taken up Husserl's investigations "positively from outside the mainstream of phenomenological research", pointing to Lask's Die Logik der Philosophie und die Kategorienlehre (1911) and Die Lehre vom Urteil (1912).[9] Jacques Derrida, who studied Husserl's Logical Investigations as a student in the 1950s,[10] offered a critique of Husserl's work in Speech and Phenomena (1967).[11] Judith Butler, writing in the preface to the second edition of Subjects of Desire (1987; second edition 1999), commented that "a grammar that is preconceived to express logical relations" is the "conceit" of Logical Investigations, which she compared to the early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein.[12]

Robert Sokolowski, writing in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (1995), criticized the first edition of Logical Investigations for sharply distinguishing between things as they appear and the thing in itself, a view similar to that of Immanuel Kant. Sokolowski notes that between 1900 and 1910, Husserl abandoned the Kantian distinctions made in Logical Investigations. According to Sokolowski, when Husserl expressed a new position in Ideas (1913), he was misinterpreted as adopting a traditional idealism and "many thinkers who admired Husserl's earlier work distanced themselves from what he now taught."[1] Derrida's biographer Jason Powell described the analyses of signs and meaning in Logical Investigations as "rigorous and abstract", "scrupulous", but also "tedious".[10] The philosopher Ray Monk wrote that Logical Investigations is "made almost impenetrable by the obscurity of Husserl’s prose", adding that Bertrand Russell described trying to read the work as "very much like trying to swallow a whale".[13]


The A numbers used as standard references refer to the page numbers of the first edition of the Logische Untersuchungen (1900/01), while the B numbers refer to the page numbers of the second edition.[14]



  1. 1 2 3 4 Sokolowski 1999, p. 404.
  2. Mautner 2000, pp. 259–260.
  3. Wagner 1983, p. 215.
  4. Welton 1999, pp. ix, x.
  5. Ott 1994, p. 57.
  6. Krell 1993, pp. 7, 12–13.
  7. Inwood 2005, p. 409.
  8. Heidegger 2008, p. 62.
  9. Heidegger 2008, p. 494.
  10. 1 2 Powell 2006, p. 25.
  11. Derrida 1989, p. 3.
  12. Butler 1999, p. xi.
  13. Monk 2016.
  14. Smith 1989, pp. 29–67.



  • Butler, Judith (1999). Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-06451-9. 
  • Derrida, Jacques (1989). Speech and Phenomena: And Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0-8101-0590-X. 
  • Heidegger, Martin (2008). Being and Time. New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-157559-4. 
  • Inwood, M. J.; Honderich, Ted, Editor (2005). The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926479-1. 
  • Krell, David Farrell; Heidegger, Martin (1993). Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-063763-3. 
  • Mautner, Thomas (2000). Dictionary of Philosophy. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-140-51250-0. 
  • Ott, Hugo (1994). Martin Heidegger: A Political Life. London: Fontana Press. ISBN 0-00-686187-3. 
  • Powell, Jason (2006). Jacques Derrida: A Biography. London: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-9449-8. 
  • Smith, Barry; Mohanty, J. N., Editor; McKenna, William R., Editor (1989). Husserl's Phenomenology: A Textbook. Washington, D. C.: University Press of America. ISBN 0819175307. 
  • Sokolowski, Robert; Audi, Robert, Editor (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63722-8. 
  • Wagner, Helmut R. (1983). Phenomenology of Consciousness and Sociology of the Life-world: An Introductory Study. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. ISBN 0-88864-032-3. 
  • Welton, Donn; Husserl, Edmund (1999). The Essential Husserl. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-25321273-1. 
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