Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First Philosophy

The book in which Aristotle carries out this first philosophy was entitled ta meta ta
physika by its editors. They called it the study of issues that are “beyond” the physical things. Going beyond the
physical things is often thought to be an effort to deal with separate, nonmaterial substances, but it does not just
mean that. In fact, the study of separate entities comprises only a small part of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. His first
philosophy spends most of its time examining things like predication, truth and falsity, contradiction, substances and
accidents, definition, form and substrate, and the potential and the actual. Metaphysics theorizes truth; it is the
theôria tçs alçtheias, and the human attainment of truth is an achievement that goes beyond any physical process.
See Iso Kern, “Die drei Wege zur transcendental-phänomenologischen 4 Reduktion in der Philosophie
Edmund Husserls”, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 24 (1962), pp. 303–349. John Drummond claims that one of the three
that Kern distinguishes should not be taken as an independent way to reduction; see his "Husserl on the Ways to the
Performance of the Transcendental Reduction", Man and World 8 (1975), pp. 47–69.
5 Edmund Husserl, Formale und transzendentale Logik, ed. by Paul Janssen, Husserliana XVII (Den Haag:
Nijhoff, 1974). Husserl distinguishes the apophantic domain from the ontological in chapters 2 and 4 of this book.
He explains the difference between these two domains by his treatment of apophantic reflection in §§42–46. He
admits that apophantic reflection is carried on in a prephilosophical manner; only in Part II of the book does he move
“from formal to transcendental logic,” a phrase that is the title of Part II. It is very clear that the turn to the
apophantic realm is different from the reduction to the transcendental domain.
Philosophy goes beyond physics because logic, truth, contradiction, and predication, for example, and the grasp of
definitions, are not among the motions, the kinçseis, that occur in simply material entities. They are beyond the
physicals, meta ta physika. They belong to being as being and not to being as material and mobile, and so when
Aristotle turns to the examination of being as being, he also turns to the study of intellect as intellect or mind as
This is also what Husserl does. We could define his phenomenology as the study of intellect as intellect,
mind as mind, or reason as reason. Perhaps it would be most appropriate to call it the study of truth as truth. In
order to venture out on this study, Husserl needs to differentiate his inquiry from something less ultimate, just as
Aristotle did. But Husserl does not distinguish his first philosophy from the study of physical things; in his day and
age he needs especially to distinguish it from psychology, so a book containing Husserl’s first philosophy could
appropriately have been entitled ta meta ta psychika or the “Metapsychics.” And just to round out this set of
comparisons, we might also observe that Plato too moves into a first philosophy by contrasting it against a less
ultimate science, and in his case it is mathematics. Plato’s first philosophy could appropriately have been called
something like ta meta ta mathçmatika or the Metamathematics.

--Robert Sokolowski, "Husserl on First Philosophy"

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