Intentional Transaction as a Primary Structure of Mind

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 194)


Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology addresses itself to issues that are integral to the study of mental experience. [1] In this respect, it would not be inappropriate to refer to Husserl’s philosophy as cognitive phenomenology. In fact, given Husserl’s emphasis on the importance of establishing the strictly scientific character of the philosophical enterprise, one can extend this claim even further: cognitive phenomenology is, if Husserl is correct, the only truly rigorous foundation for the enterprise of cognitive science. We will investigate this claim at the conclusion of this essay. But first, we need to understand Hussei’s position with respect to the nature and function of minds. Since Husserl’s reflections on the structure of mental experience developed in large part out of an attempt to resolve the enigma of objective reference, I will present a capsule view of his proposed resolution to this problem. In the process, I will attempt to show that Husserl viewed mental operations as transactions—specifically, intentional transactions—between the life of conscious subjectivity and all that stands over and against consciousness as an object or objective state of affairs. In the end, it may be possible to show that Husserl’s theory of intentionality should be a crucial ingredient in any attempt to model or comprehend the functional nature of the human mind.


Objective Reference Conscious Experience Operative Prescription Perfect Correspondence Transcendent Reality 
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  1. Husserl’s interest in mental experience can be traced to his earliest publications, written under influence of Franz Brentano and Kasimir Twardowski. Many of these writings have been collected together in Aufsatze and Rezensionen (1890–1910) edited by Bernhard Rang, Husserliana 22 (Nijhoff: The Hague, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. See also Klaus Hedwig, “Intention: Outlines for the History of a Phenomenological Concept,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 39, pp. 326–340.Google Scholar
  3. Husserl calls this the “natural attitude,” and discusses its relation to phenomenology in Ideas I (1913).Google Scholar
  4. Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (Harvard University Press, 1957), pp. 26ff.Google Scholar
  5. Cf. a similar discussion by Husserl in Erste Philosophie (1923/24), Zweiter Teil: Theorie der Phänomenologischen Reduktion, Husserliana 8, edited by R. Boehn (Nijhoff, 1959) pp. 47ff.Google Scholar
  6. As Husserl puts the matter in his Lectures on Passive Synthesis (1918–26), the conception under which a given object is intended can never be known to have exhausted the possible determinations of a given object. But our prescriptions may nevertheless “suffice” for our pragmatic or practical interests. See his discussion in Analysen zur Passiven Synthesis (1918–26), Husserliana II, edited by Margon Fleischer (Nijhoff, 1966), pp. 23ff.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1988

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