The Problem of the Non-Empirical Ego: Husserl and Kant

  • David Carr
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 106)


I shall deal in this essay with a subject that has a long and contentious history in the tradition of transcendental philosophy. This is the distinction between the empirical and the pure or transcendental ego. To avoid terminological disputes I shall refer to the latter simply as the non-empirical ego. Insofar as I deal here with textual formulations of the distinction I shall refer to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, where the distinction originates historically; and to Husserl’s phenomenology, in which, among recent versions of transcendental philosophy, this distinction plays the greatest role. But my purpose is less to interpret texts than to get at ‘the thing itself’, to use Husserl’s expression. Like others I felt the correctness of the distinction when I first read these texts; so I began to take it for granted, make use of it, speak of it and draw consequences from it without directly testing it. But when I began to reflect, I slowly realized that I hardly understood what was meant by it. Then I encountered more recent forms of transcendental argumentation, such as those of analytic philosophers, who either explicitly reject the distinction or get along perfectly well without it. All this prompts me to attempt the following critical examination.


Natural Attitude Intentional Relation Bodily Property Pure Reason Transcendental Phenomenology 
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    Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: MacMillan, 1963), B 132.Google Scholar
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    Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, trans. F. Kersten (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1983), p. 64.Google Scholar
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    Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, trans. D. Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), pp. 97-98.Google Scholar
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    Edmund Husserl, Erste Philosophie, vol.II. ed. R. Boehm (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1959), p. 121.Google Scholar
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    Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie, etc. vol. II, ed. M. Blemel (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1952), p. 180.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Carr
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of OttawaCanada

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