ABSTRACT. Husserl claimed that all theoretical scientific concepts originate in and are valid in reference to ‘life-world’ experience and that scientific traditions preserve the sense and validity of such concepts through unitary and cumulative change. Each of these claims will, in turn, be sympathetically laid out and assessed in comparison with more standard characterizations of scientific method and conceptual change as well as the history of physics, concerning particularly the challenge they may pose for scientific realism. The Husserlian phenomenological framework is accepted here without defense, and hence the present project is limited to the task of asking what can and cannot be accommodated within that framework on its own terms.


In The Crisis of European Sciences, including ‘The Origin of Geometry’, Husserl advances two important claims concerning scientific methodology. The first is a constraint on theory construction, specifically concerning the genesis and validity of theoretical scientific concepts; the second is a constraint on scientific progress through conceptual change. First, Husserl claims that a theoretical concept has its origin in and obtains its validity solely in reference to a founding meaning constituted in originary lifeworld experience. Second, Husserl views conceptual change in science as a unitary and cumulative historical progression of meaning modification that preserves the validity of all past meanings as a basis for future modification. Put succinctly, according to Husserl all valid and progressive construction of theoretical concepts in science must preserve through modification both founding meanings constituted in originary life-world experience and historically accumulated meanings acquired on the basis of such founding meanings and handed down through tradition.
Support provided by the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values, University of Notre Dame. The author wishes to thank Professors Fred Crosson and Gary Gutting for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this essay, Pat McDonald for several stimulating conversations on Husserl and philosophy of science, and two anonymous referees for their suggestions for improving this paper. Synthese 115: 71–98, 1998. © 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.



Husserl’s views have come under close scrutiny in the last two decades with critics charging principally that his claim concerning the genesis and validity of theoretical scientific concepts commits him to anti-realism, regarding especially the status of theoretical entities. I show where such charges either are founded upon a misunderstanding of Husserl’s claim or can be avoided by modifying Husserl’s position to accord with a realist point of view, as well as where Husserl’s framework is inadequate to comprehend certain aspects of scientific methodology. I then make the case that the incompatibility of his characterization of conceptual change with the history of science poses a further challenge for Husserl’s position from a realist point of view.


As is well known, Husserl claimed that “The concrete life-world . . . is the grounding soil of the ‘scientifically true’ world” (Husserl 1970, 131), that “objective theory . . . is rooted, grounded in the life-world, in the original self-evidence belonging to it” (Husserl 1970, 129–130), where the life-world is the ordinary, everyday surrounding world of immediate, prereflective, pre-theoretical experience. The consequence of this – that the scientific world and, hence, the meanings of all theoretical scientific concepts are founded upon the life-world and its meanings constituted in the self-evidence of originary (i.e., immediate, pre-reflective, pre-theoretical) experience – is that “objective science has a constant reference of meaning to the world in which we always live.. .a reference, that is, to the general life-world” (Husserl 1970, 130). And it is this “constant reference of meaning” to the life-world by every theoretical scientific concept that grounds the validity of the concept: “the pregiven world . . . is . . . the constant ground of validity” (Husserl 1970, 122); “the life-world constantly functions as subsoil . . . its manifold pre-logical validities act as grounds for the logical ones, for theoretical truths” (Husserl 1970, 124). This validity has two aspects. First, the theoretical scientific concept makes its appearance in consciousness as a distinctive modification of a founding life-world meaning constituted in originary intuition (or as the result of a series of such modifications). Second, theoretical scientific concepts motivate or pre-figure possible courses of experience within or directed towards the life-world horizon for the sake of their verification in confrontation with things themselves given in self-evidence. We will look at these in turn and discover that the latter is possible only insofar as the former is the case.

According to Husserl. is a direct confrontation with and a presenting or showing of things themselves (not sense data) to consciousness: “That which is self-evidently given is. 363). Originary intuition is the immediate (prereflective.). all modifying intuitions. all modifying intuitions present to consciousness the originally experienced thing itself but not as originally experienced. i. 127–128). the transformation of bodies given in life-world experience into ideal objects geometrically determinable in all their essential aspects through a series of modifications that reconstituted the perceptually given indefinite plena of sensible qualities as a manifold of sense objectively determinable in all its essential aspects according to the ideal objects (‘limit-shapes’) of geometry (Husserl 1970. 33f.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 73 First is the construction of theoretical scientific concepts through modification of originary intuition. Similarly.. in perception.. the aspect of the thing itself through which it is grasped or presented) constitutes (i. And such is the case with all theoretical scientific modifications of originary life-world intuitions.. i. in which founding life-world meanings are constituted.e. and that description (i. 356). of course) as accomplishing the mathematization of nature – i. “where self-evidence means nothing more than grasping the entity with the consciousness of its original being-itself-there” (Husserl 1970.g. present the thing itself to consciousness. geometric objects arose in consciousness through a series of modifications of originary intuition as a “stratified structure of idealities” (Husserl 1970. . every “manner of intuition [being] a presentification of the thing itself” (Husserl 1970... or modifications of originary intuitions. these being just a peculiar sort of modifying intuitions or re-presentings in general.e. pre-theoretical) conscious grasping or presenting to consciousness of the thing itself in the life-world as an object or under a specific description (e.. experienced as ‘the thing itself’ ”. forms the content of) the sense of the originary life-world meaning. Husserl emphasizes that such originary intuition. as the idealization of bodily shapes given in life-world experience whereby ideal objects (‘limitshapes’) were constituted in successive modifying intuitions or presentings of the original shapes (Husserl 1970. the modification of the originary intuition changes (or reconstitutes) the sense of the thing itself such that it is presented to consciousness through a different aspect or under a different description than that by which it was presented originally.e. Husserl casts Galileo (figuratively.e.e. albeit in a form modified from that of the originary intuition. Hence. Indeed. as a particular thing of a certain kind). Husserl’s well-known examples are the process of idealization in geometry and Galileo’s mathematization of nature. 32).

Therefore. beginning with a theoretical concept. the founding meaning becomes ‘sedimented’ with the originary intuition and is carried forward in each successive modifying intuition. Thus. one can. preserves a relation of significance to the life-world meaning constituted in originary intuition upon which the meaning of the theoretical concept is ultimately founded. of the founding meaning itself is guaranteed by the thing itself given in originary intuition: “Things. perform a series of ‘regressive’ or ‘de-constructive’ modifications that carry one back through the constitutive modifications to the originary intuition by which the founding meaning was constituted. are ‘given’ as being valid in each case” (Husserl 1970. Thus. hence.74 DARRIN W. 363). . 368). – in the unity of a propagative process of transferred meaning” (Husserl 1970. . that is. . 143).. Herein also lies the ultimate source of the validity of the theoretical concept. it is at least possible to exhibit a series of such modifying intuitions whereby the concept grew out of the soil of self-evidence given in originary intuition. that is. for preserved along with the founding life-world meaning is the original self-evidence that grounds the validity of all meanings founded thereon by modifying intuitions. The validity of any theoretical conceptual construction “is first only a claim which can be justified as an expression of the alleged truth-meaning only through the actual capacity for reactivation” (Husserl 1970. for any theoretical concept. the sense of modifying intuitions. . the new ones serve as the foundation for still others. objects . And thereby does the theoretical concept maintain a “constant reference of meaning” to the life-world. In this way.e. . etc. Note that this does not commit Husserl to anything like a pure ‘logic of discovery’ as a necessary condi- . i. any claim to the validity of a theoretical scientific concept (or system of such concepts) must be justified on the basis of the possibility of exhibiting the series of founding intuitions by which the meaning of that concept was constituted in its genesis out of the original self-evidence of the life-world. 361. This is possible because each intuition serves as the founding intuition for the succeeding modifying intuition: “scientific thinking attains new results on the basis of those already attained. BELOUSEK What is crucial about the genesis of constitution of concepts is that the founding life-world meanings constituted in originary intuition are preserved through the series of modifications by which the theoretical concepts are constituted. and the validity of that original self-evidence and. 363). the aspect through which or the description under which the thing itself is re-presented to consciousness and by which the theoretical concept is constituted in its genesis. one can ‘reactivate’ the original self-evidence that founded the originary intuition itself (Husserl 1970.

. things under specific descriptions. he thus maintains that “[Husserl’s] view resembles that of the logical empiricists. But. Gutting seems to take ‘founded upon’ to mean something akin to ‘logically derivable from or reducible to’. which would leave Husserl in a position somewhat akin to logical empiricism and surely opposed to scientific realism. 125). certainly does not intend to reduce the meaning of all scientific concepts to mere ‘sense data’. Husserl. or the working community. i. to be valid. as Gutting himself acknowledges. then such concepts would not articulate or categorially structure the life-world in any distinctively new sense. 49. then the only valid meanings could be those constituted directly in originary intuition in life-world experience. that all scientific concepts should be completely analyzable in terms of life-world meanings. who spent immense energy attempting to reduce the language of scientific theories to a purely empirical language” (Gutting 1978.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 75 tion for the validity of theoretical scientific concepts. then.e. 47). yet. a fundamental tenet of logical empiricism: “And above all – to dispose of an important point right away – one must not go straight back to the supposedly immediately given ‘sense data’. “[Husserl’s] phenomenological descriptions yield a much richer content for immediate experience than the Humean austerity of the positivists would ever have allowed” (Gutting 1978. was no positivist. 47). however. is what determines the genuine sense of all scientific concepts” (Husserl 1970. what is built is something . could be nothing more than mere shorthand for collections of life-world meanings. cf. if that were so. The latter is pregiven to the scientific worker. for. and Husserl would disagree sharply with that conclusion: “The knowledge of the objective-scientific world is ‘grounded’ in the self-evidence of the lifeworld. as if they were immediately characteristic of the purely intuitive data of the life-world” (Husserl 1970. 40). Husserl himself says that “discovery is really a mixture of instinct and method” (1970.. Now. Gutting takes Husserl’s claim that all theoretical scientific concepts are ultimately founded upon originary life-world experience to mean “that all scientific meanings are reducible to those of the life-world”. as they build upon this. As we have already emphasized. Gutting is perhaps misled by the passage he cites in support of his interpretation: “life-world experience . Theoretical scientific concepts. Apparently. . But neither does Husserl intend to claim. as ground. 125). as Gutting suggests. if that were correct. “that scientific concepts are wholly derivative from those of the life-world” (Gutting 1978. he rejected outright the notion that we are given ‘sense data’ immediately in perception. what is given to consciousness in originary life-world experience are objects. Gutting takes ‘genuine’ here to mean ‘legitimate’ or ‘true’. Husserl. 47. Now. Gutting 1974). Indeed.

if theoretical scientific concepts did not articulate the lifeworld in any distinctively new sense. something different” (Husserl 1970. Gutting.e. It is the validity. What. 49–50) for there would be no difference in sense or meaning between them. it is just this ‘something new. as Gutting’s interpretation would suggest. . does Husserl mean when he says that the sense of Galilean science is founded in lifeworld experience? It is not that the meaningstructures of science can be derived from the concepts of everyday life. . 125). not to conflate ‘derived from’ and ‘founded upon’. for this would trivialize Galileo’s accomplishment and obviate Husserl’s concern with it. there simply could be no “surreptitious substitution of idealized nature for prescientifically intuited nature” (Husserl 1970. We must be careful. 48–49). and such validity is transferred from originary lifeworld meanings to theoretical scientific concepts via the relations of reference from the latter to the former. a referring to the life-world under different names but in the same terms (i. such as Galileo’s mathematization of nature. The sense of such concepts is founded upon originary meanings constituted in life-world experience through successive modifying intuitions that transform those originary meanings by adding distinctively new “higher-level meaning-formations” (Husserl 1970. Indeed.. of theoretical scientific concepts that is derived from the original self-evidence of the life-world that validates all founding meanings. then. in the same sense as originally experienced). Rouse emphasizes this point: Husserl regards Galilean science as important and problematic precisely because it did result in the formation of new meanings (not just new notations) which were not available prior to its accomplishment . then not only would the significance of theoretical scientific constructions as accomplishments from the lifeworld be nullified. Indeed. BELOUSEK new. Moreover. 130.76 DARRIN W. that is ever experienced and experienceable – our everyday life-world” (Husserl 1970. the one that is actually given through perception. 226–227) That is. reading further along in the text shows clearly that by ‘genuine’ Husserl means ‘original’ – “actual experience. I conclude. if scientific concepts were merely shorthand for collections of life-world meanings. (Rouse 1987. not the sense. something different’ that gives theoretical scientific constructions. emphasis added). here. but there could be no making intelligible Husserl’s charge concerning Galileo’s “surreptitious substitution of the mathematically substructed world of idealities for the only real world. Thus. . misreads Husserl. then the ‘substitution’ of a theoretically constructed world for the life-world could be nothing more than a mere redenomination of the life-world. as determining sense quite originally” (Husserl 1970. their significance as accomplishments or buildings up from or out of the life-world. .

(Husserl 1970. Indeed. Thus the concept pre-figures. lies in these [founded] intuitions themselves as that which is actually. original emphasis). Note that it is the validity of the theoretical scientific concept that is verified. This brings us to the second aspect of the validity of theoretical scientific concepts. intersubjectively experienceable and verifiable” (Husserl 1970. . insofar as it preserves the founding meaning constituted in originary intuition. 43). for we might next ask what is the empirical content of the validity of such concepts. 140) and such validity implies that the concept will motivate possible courses of experience within the life-world horizon that if undertaken would verify or fulfill the concept through the intuition of things themselves given in selfevidence. The sense of the concept. makes verification possible but is not constituted thereby. . EXPLANATION . it is this “going beyond the sphere of immediately experiencing intuitions and the possible experiential knowledge of the prescientific life-world” by the hypothetically substructed idealities of mathematical theoretical science that is the ‘decisive accomplishment’ of scientific method (Husserl 1970. 128). and the new aspect through which or new description under which a thing is re-presented to consciousness in modifying intuition is related to – but not logically implied by or reducible to – the originary sense by which it was originally grasped in intuition. And such motivation is possible just because the founding meaning constituted in originary intuition of things themselves given in selfevidence is preserved as ‘sediment’ in the series of founded modifications through which the meaning of the concept is constituted: “All conceivable verification leads back to these modes of self-evidence because the ‘thing itself’ . delineates or outlines in advance of experience “what is to be expected with empirical certainty in the intuitively given world of concretely actual life” (Husserl 1970.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 77 140). Thus. 3. There is for Husserl nothing comparable to ‘confirmation’ whereby the successful projection of a theoretical construct in experience . AND SCIENTIFIC REALISM In assessing Husserl’s account of scientific concept formation and verification. not its sense. Theoretical scientific concepts founded upon originary life-world meanings have validity for or in reference to the life-world – “This reference is one of a founding of validity”. one crucial point needs to be emphasized here: such verification could in no way add to or strengthen the validity of a theoretical scientific concept. THEORETICAL ENTITIES . And it is the fulfillment (in originary intuition) of such experiences projected in advance on the basis of the concept that comprises the verification of the concept. Husserl is in no way committed to a verificationist semantics here. 43.

For whatever validity those consequences might have is already transferred to them by the theoretical construct from which they were deduced. with unconditionally general self-evidence. Accordingly it appears that.e. such validity being transferred through the chain of logical inference. productively advancing formation of meaning. they involve a lively. then the deductive consequences of that construct are already valid for the life-world. then their self-evident consequences can be also [reactivated back to the most original self-evidence]. however. logical ‘dealing’ can produce only other sentences of the same character. certain consequences are drawn logically from it acting as a premise (in conjunction with other constructs acting as premises).. both the theoretical construct and its logical consequences possess already whatever validity they might have in advance of any possible verificational experience: Now what about the possibility of complete and genuine reactivation in full originality. BELOUSEK constitutes part of its justification. in turn. and whatever validity the theoretical construct itself might possess is already derived via the original self-evidence that is the intuitive basis for the founding of its meaning. 365–366) That is. ? Here the fundamental law. Rather. is: if the premises can actually be reactivated back to the most original self-evidence. at its disposal in that it deals with it logically. beginning with the primal selfevidences. Hence. (Husserl 1970. . as a sediment of earlier production. . . The verification of these consequences as projections in advance of experience on the basis of the theoretical construct cannot. then. which implies that theoretical scientific concepts derive their validity solely via the possibility . through going back to the primal self-evidences. But out of sentences with sedimented signification. Why is this so? A theoretical construct is not itself verified directly in experience. Strictly speaking. . So. there is no confirmation of concepts. for Husserl. the original genuineness must propagate itself through the chain of logical inference. .78 DARRIN W. if the theoretical construct has been validly constituted out of the self-evidence of the life-world given in originary intuition – i. and it is these consequences that come into direct confrontation with things themselves given self-evidently in lifeworld experience. That all new [logically deduced] acquisitions express an actual geometrical truth is certain a priori under the presupposition that the foundations of the deductive structure have truly been produced and objectified in self evidence. no matter how long it is . confer additional validity upon the theoretical construct. validate those consequences and. or conferring of validity via successfully projected life-world experience. in the case of geometry and the socalled “deductive” sciences . the ‘finding out’ in life-world experience of the already possessed validity of such concepts rather than the constitution of such validity. if it is the case that such original self-evidence can be ‘reactivated’ through deconstructive modifications of the construct. which always has the documented. These sciences are not handed down ready-made in the form of documented sentences. the verification of theoretical scientific concepts is just that.

For Husserl. of course. no matter how exact. Everything objective demands to be understood. If the hypothesized cause is sufficient or adequate to explain the relevant phenomena. Husserl. McMullin 1984a). the truth and validity of those [intuitions] are already presupposed. not vice-versa. in virtue of the genesis of their constitution. 294) . is clearly at odds with the so-called ‘hypothetico-deductive method’ in science. Here. explanatory success is taken to carry epistemic weight. at least not in the sense of deductively accounting for phenomena on the basis of hypotheses. Thus. the empirical confirmation of the deductive consequences of a theoretical hypothesis is taken to constitute (at least) part of the warrant or justification of that hypothesis. where retroductive inference is the reasoning from observed effects to hypothesized causes.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 79 of reactivating the original self-evidence of the life-world that lies at the intuitive basis of the founding of their meaning. This. the latter thus serving as explanation for the former. is to beg the essential questions of epistemology. To deduce is not to explain. (Harvey 1986. Moreover. to construe the explanatory problem the other way around is to beg the question. for in Husserl’s view theoretical scientific concepts.. which. 189) It is the theoretical constructs of objective science that require explanation (in Husserl’s sense) via the original self-evidence of the life-world. i. as Gutting (1978) rightly points out.e. To predict. Wherever the results of natural or natural scientific thinking are appealed to in order to explain the truth or validity of our [intuitions]. just is to exhibit the self-evidence given in originary intuition upon which the concept is ultimately founded. Thus. deductive prediction of phenomena is no explanation of anything: no objective science. The only true way to explain is to make transcendentally understandable. is not interested in explanation vis á vis theoretical concepts. Indeed. such theoretical hypotheses are inferred retroductively from the original empirical evidence. (Husserl 1970. though. or to recognize the objective forms of the composition of physical or chemical bodies and to predict accordingly – all this explains nothing but is in need of explanation. presuppose the validity of the evidence given in originary life-world intuition and hence can in no way account for it. explains or can explain anything in a serious sense. then such explanatory success is taken to confer warrant upon the theoretical hypothesis. to explain is to exhibit phenomenologically the transcendental conditions of validity of a concept or theoretical construct. In Harvey’s words: To explain our [prescientific] understanding of the [life-]world by an appeal to the [objectivescientific] world that we (think we) understand. the explanatory success of a theoretical hypothesis is taken as evidence of its truth (cf.

a substitution that forgets the genuine or original basis of the sense and validity of the scientific image that is substituted for the manifest image. original emphasis) – and engenders the aim of theoretical science to supplant or replace the manifest image by an autonomous scientific image that is more adequate or complete with regard to explaining experience. original emphasis). 20. What Husserl would reject in the Sellarsian view is precisely the thesis that the scientific image of the world has primacy with regard to the legitimacy of concepts and the standard of what is real.. In particular. they are not definable within it” (Sellars 1963. and in this methodological sense pre-supposes the manifest image” (Sellars 1963. 20. like Husserl. and hence substitution for. any valid appeal to a scientific explanation of life-world experience is itself possible only because of the prior validity of the experience to be explained.80 DARRIN W. Thus. 17. by forbidding such a replacement of the manifest image by an explanatorily superior scientific image. original emphasis). Husserl’s claim is that any ‘scientific image’ (constituted within what Husserl calls the ‘theoretical attitude’) of the world is not simply posited or hypothesized out of nothing but rather is built upon the ‘manifest image’ (constituted within the ‘natural attitude’). the manifest image (cf. [E]ach theoretical image is a construction on a foundation provided by the manifest image. Sellars. Sellars says: “while conceptual structures of this framework [i. Also. Husserl and Sellars appear to be in agreement. Husserl would agree with Sellars that the scientific image articulates the world in distinctively new categories that surpass (i.e. then. .e. It is this reversal of priority (a reversal from Husserl’s perspective) that presents the scientific image as a rival to the manifest image – “Thus although methodologically a development within the manifest image. This tension between Husserl’s account and scientific realism can be drawn out from a Sellarsian perspective (cf. one might argue. Just such a replacement is what Husserl would call a “surreptitious substitution” of a scientifically constructed world for the one and only real world. the scientific image presents itself as a rival image” (Sellars 1963. each of which is supported by the manifest world . Sellars writes: the “scientific image is a construct from a number of images. In Sellarsian terminology. it is the explanatory success of the scientific image that confers independent warrant upon it and justifies its primacy over.. Gutting 1974 and 1978). Husserl . are not logically derivable from or reducible to) those of the manifest image. grants the ‘manifest image’ methodological priority over the scientific image. Gutting 1974 and 1978). . the scientific image] are built on the manifest image. Here. BELOUSEK That is. as emphasized in the previous section.

. perhaps because his chief example of a science is geometry..g. for such a modification would require one to admit an autonomous ground of explanatory success as an independent source of validity for theoretical scientific concepts.e.. But some scientific realists (e.e. But. simply fails to appreciate the role of retroductive inference in scientific methodology. I think) is an impoverished notion of scientific explanation. from Husserl’s point of view the motivation for such a substitution begs the epistemological question regarding explanation. Clearly. Husserl’s depiction of scientific method. i. he claims. one must argue further that the justification or validity of theoretical constructs must (at least in part) be grounded in explanatory success. explains nothing but rather is itself in need of explanation. The source of this tension is that Husserl has what some would argue (correctly. the problem of theoretical entities. Mc- . i. logical subsumption of phenomena under general laws). We’ll return to the issue of the epistemological relevance of explanation below.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 81 places himself at odds here with the scientific realist.. is clearly in serious tension with (at least some arguments for) scientific realism. that explanatory success is essential to a realist appraisal of scientific theory. In any case. Thus. then. his treatment of the status of the substructed idealities retroductively posited by theoretical hypotheses.e. Husserl. insofar as such realists take the causal explanatory success of a theoretical hypothesis (in addition to its empirical accuracy) as the primary warrant for the truth of the hypothesis. Can Husserl’s framework be modified to relieve this tension? I don’t think so. from the passages quoted above. for the causal explanatory success of theoretical hypotheses is taken by the scientific realist to also provide warrant for the existence of the theoretical entities posited in such hypotheses (cf. Husserl’s framework would seem incapable of accommodating this form of scientific realism.. This leads us to what is usually taken as the principal challenge that Husserl’s characterization of theoretical concept formation might pose to scientific realism – viz. and such ‘explanation’. Now. in which logical deduction is the paradigm of explanation. as pertains to the genesis and validity of theoretical scientific concepts. as noted above. he understands explanation in science to be solely deductive-nomological explanation (i. which would undercut Husserl’s fundamental commitment to the exclusive primacy of the self-evidence of the life-world itself as the original ground of all validities. McMullin 1984a) take causal explanation via retroductively inferred theoretical hypotheses and entities to be the characteristic mode of explanation in science (McMullin calls retroduction “the inference that makes science”). to make the claim that Husserl’s view fundamentally conflicts with scientific realism on this point.

is distinguished in all respects precisely by its being actually experienceable . this does not mean that they show themselves only in this way” (Husserl 1970. given that all realities belong to the life-world and are experienceable within its horizon and that theoretical scientific entities are in principle not experienceable within the life-world and hence do not belong to it. such showing-itself of something from itself as it is in itself is the primordial sense of ‘showing itself’. 50). One claim of Husserl’s that has often been taken (e. the argument would go. necessarily show themselves as physical bodies. Husserl’s claim would seem to require that this showing-itself of something real be a showingitself of something in its very own being. . 51). ‘phenomenon’ (Heidegger 1962. no geometrical space or mathematical time with all their shapes” (Husserl 1970. Now. 52). One such derivative mode of ‘showing itself’ founded upon ‘phenomenon’ is the ‘appearance’ of something. he does: “However. it [‘appearance’] means rather the announcing-itself by something which does not show itself. The objective is precisely never experienceable as itself. 50). indeed. a thing must be capable of showing itself within the lifeworld horizon. 108). an original. Thus. if they are to show their very own being. 129) The typical example of such in-principle unobservable substructed idealities are the ‘limit-shapes’ of geometry. I think Husserl’s view can be made to accord with scientific realism on this point. viz. . lies in the fact that the latter is a theoretical-logical substruction. in the life-world. no ‘limit-shapes’ are (or could be) ever intuitively given in life-world experience: “here we find nothing of geometric idealities. 127. self-evident or ‘in-person’ showing-itself of something. Husserl’s claim is that.. BELOUSEK Mullin 1984b). founded upon this primary sense ‘phenomenon’ are other positive senses of ‘showing itself’. i. Can Husserl allow for such derivative modes of ‘showing itself’? Indeed. . (Husserl 1970. i. But. i.. At first. Gutting 1978) to illustrate his supposed anti-realist stance toward theoretical entities is the following: The contrast between the subjectivity of the life-world and the ‘objective’. the theoretical entities of science cannot belong to the real. In Heidegger’s terminology. need Husserl be committed to such an anti-realist view regarding theoretical entities? I think not. which “does not mean showing itself.. The life-world does not show itself as geometrically determinate (or determinable). in principle not experienceable in its own proper being. but announces itself through something which does show itself” (Heidegger 1962.e.82 DARRIN W. whereas the subjective. the ‘true’ world.. the substruction of something that is in principle not perceivable. Now. must be capable of being given to consciousness in originary intuition in life-world experience. the life-world is “the world of all known and unknown realities” (Husserl 1970. to count as real.g.e..e. though the objects of the life-world. .

So. etc. finally. can have actual truth only by being related back to such self-evidences” (Husserl 1970. i. An example will help clarify matters. what is perceived originarily in this case are curved lines. is whether all grounding evidence must be on the basis of the primordial showing-itself of things themselves. whether all grounding evidence must be self-evidence. Rather.. we need not. for “appearing is possible only by reason of a showing-itself of something” (Heidegger 1962. Consider the ‘observation’ of elementary particles via a bubble chamber experiment. such curved lines appear first as ionization trails.e. such ionization trails appear second as elementary particle tracks. 127). founded upon this primary modified intuition and within the horizon of the world of elementary particle theory. protons. Husserl does claim as much: “a substruction.e. And the modification of this originary perception occurs against the background of or within the horizon of expectations conditioned by current (relevant) scientific theory. i.e. the . What one perceives originarily (typically in photographs) are not elementary particles (e. insofar as it makes claim to truth. electrons. 53.. original emphasis). from ‘phenomenon’ to ‘appearance’. Husserl’s claim requires only that whatever theoretical entities we do retroductively infer or posit must have as their evidential basis the selfevident showing-itself of something in originary intuition in life-world experience.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 83 The question. Against the background of the theory of the function of the experimental apparatus at hand.) themselves at all. This would allow ‘appearances’ to be the grounding evidence for retroductive inferences. i.. any appearance is founded upon a phenomenon. the elementary particle track appears as the track of an elementary particle of a certain kind. take this to necessarily imply that the grounding selfevidence must be the self-evident showing-itself of whatever theoretical entity is retroductively inferred or posited on the basis of such evidence. or even particle tracks or ionization trails. I think. founded upon this tertiary modified intuition. which guides the originary perception as well as the subsequent modification of its sense. and founded upon this secondary modified intuition through thematic reflection upon such particle tracks in terms of the conceptual categories and laws of elementary particle theory.g. Rather. The retroductive inference can now be described phenomenologically as a modifying intuition by which the sense of the thing given in originary intuition is modified from that of the self-evident showing-itself of something (original sense) to that of the announcing-itself of an entity that does not show itself self-evidently but announces itself through something that does show itself (modified sense). the retroductive inferences that posit theoretical scientific entities can be made valid (in Husserl’s sense) by being evidentially grounded in appearances (in Heidegger’s sense).. then. But.

immediately or self-given in intuition..84 DARRIN W. Of course. in this series of modifying intuition and retroductive inference. then the phenomenological condition of the possibility of any retroductive inference being valid is that it be founded upon appearance. Thus. Moreover.e. a house with a fire in the hearth in a village set in the landscape beyond the other side of the mountain in order to explain the smoke one perceives rising above the mountain’s peak. any hypothetically inferred entity incapable of showing itself in any mode. curved line) is carried forward with or sedimented into the modified senses constituted in the subsequent modifying intuitions leading to the retroductive inference. or the fulfillment of life-world experience projected on the basis of the theoretical concept of that entity. would take place via a founded intuition (i. in accordance with Husserl’s requirement that everything real be capable of showing itself in some positive mode within the . or even like seeing that there must be a landscape beyond the other side of the mountain. if a retroductive inference is one that leaps from the given of experience to what is not directly. BELOUSEK existence of such an elementary particle of that kind is inferred and its presence is posited to explain the observed phenomenon (i. original emphasis): “elementary-particle bubble-chamber track” signifies (but is not identical in meaning to) “curved trail of ionized molecules”. would on this view still not count as real. the perception of an appearance that is founded upon a phenomenon). i. 53.e. the curved line in the photograph). the sense of what was perceived originarily was modified from the showing-itself of a curved line to the appearing of an elementary particle of a certain kind.. hence. the original sense (i. as with all meaning modifications. the validity of the inference) and the verification of that entity in experience via the self-evidence of the lifeworld. but rather accords with their founded sense.e. but rather is akin to imagining a village or.. the verification of the theoretical scientific entity in life-world experience. I thus concur with Soffer that “the foundedness of the fulfillments of scientific entities and states of affairs cannot be taken to undermine their reality” (Soffer 1990. better yet. 88). either as phenomenon or as appearance. And this sedimentation of original sense makes possible both the reactivation of the self-evidence that ultimately grounds the retroductively inferred theoretical entity (and. Indeed.e.. In this way. for “ ‘appearance’ signifies the showing-itself ” (Heidegger 1962. an entity unobservable in principle (either directly or indirectly). To draw an analogy with everyday experience (bearing in mind the limitation of all analogies): to posit the presence of an elementary particle of a certain kind based on a retroductive inference from the evidence of a curved line in a bubble-chamber photograph is not like perceiving a mountain and seeing that it has an opposite side.

“things are given in each case as valid”. the retroductive inference posits the reality not of the phenomenon (i. whereas mere sense-modification of originary intuition of what is given self-evidently retains the original validity of self-evidence insofar as the modifying intuition maintains a constant meaning-reference to what is given. such a inference could not be validated via the reactivation of any grounding self-evidence. Thus. Nonetheless. In our example above. Retroductive inference involves more than a mere modification of the sense of what is given in originary intuition from ‘phenomenon’ to ‘appearance’. given that the latter is not possible. The retroductive inference posits novel reality that.. what is indicated by the phenomenon taken as a sign). its fallibility. but rather of what appears (i. but on the grounds that the postulation of such an entity has no empirical consequences and hence is ad hoc. hence. by the retroductive inference) would make possible its verification via the self-evidence of the life-world in some projectable course of experience. to the hypothetical theoretical entity).. for it fails to account for a crucial aspect of such inference..e. cannot be guaranteed by the self-evidence of the phenomena. what is given).. retroduction “enlarges the known world”. as Husserl says. Being founded upon appearance. the retroductive inference posits the reality of something that is not given.. Husserl’s characterization of scientific method can accommodate a realist view regarding the observational and existential status of retroductively inferred theoretical entities (cf. the reality of which is not self-evident. such validity is not necessarily transferred to the reality posited retroductively just because the retroductive inference does not maintain such a constant meaning-reference but rather shifts or extends meaningreference from what is given to what is posited (i. For if it were grounded in original self-evidence. then its original sense constituted in originary intuition on the basis of such self-evidence and carried forward by the modifying intuition (i. the substruction is therefore invalid. Harvey and Shelton 1992).e. radically exceeds what is given and.e. the primary and secondary modifying intuitions changed merely the sense of the originary intuition – from “curved line” to “ionization trail” to “elementary particle track” – with each subsequent meaning modification being founded upon the prior intuition and preserving a constant meaning-reference to what was perceived originarily.e. Indeed. Thus. How- .HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 85 life-world horizon. for even if. A scientific realist would also deny the reality of such an entity. viz. although indicated by. In McMullin’s apt phrase. I think Husserl’s notion of founded intuition as the source of all theoretical scientific conceptual construction is insufficient to comprehend fully the character of retroductive inference. for its reality is self-evident.

The upshot of such radical meaning modification. I think. cannot be identical in both sense and reference) to mere phenomenal meanings grasped in originary perception.e. in Husserl’s terms. the retroductive inference changed not only the sense of the prior modified intuition – from “elementary particle track” to “track of an elementary particle of a certain kind” – but also shifted or extended the reference of that meaning from what was perceived originarily to the posited novel reality – i. Moreover. So. hence.. Indeed. retroductive inference both extends the reference of theoretical scientific concepts beyond what is given in originary intuition and modifies the sense of such intuition on the basis of that reference-extension. is that retroductive inferences are fallible. and hence the empirical underdetermination of theoretical scientific concepts. i.. the validity of retroductive inference cannot be guaranteed by the original validity of the self-evidence of originary intuition precisely because such inference posits its own evidential basis that radically exceeds reference to original self-evidence. a problem Husserl himself did not countenance and which cannot.. Inference from effect to cause is never completely certain. from the curved line to the elementary particle itself.86 DARRIN W. such reference-extension posits the evidential basis of the excess meaning that the retroductive inference attaches to the originary intuition. confirmation (via secondary evidence) and (causal) explanatory success – which confers independent (though non-apodictic) warrant upon theoretical hypotheses and the entities they posit. Here.e. is the source of the underdetermination of theory by evidence in science.e.e. the intuition of the existence or presence of a theoretical entity cannot be reducible in meaning (i. Therefore. that retroductive inferences are possibly invalid implies that what is motivated in experience by retroductively inferred hypotheses and posited entities can not (as Husserl says) “be expected with empirical certainty” and. BELOUSEK ever. and because this excess meaning contains an implicit reference to the posited (rather than given) theoretical entity. be adequately addressed within his framework as it stands. thereby generating radical meaning change (i. retroductive inference never achieves apodicticity.. Thus enters the need in science for a ground of validity other than the original self-evidence of the life-world given in originary intuition – viz. possibly invalid. of both sense and reference) of a sort Husserl never envisioned and which his notion of “founded intuition” does not encompass. it is precisely because the phenomenological condition of the possibility of any retroductive inference being valid is that it be founded upon appearance that the validity of what is posited retroductively is underdetermined by the original self-evidence of the phenomena. then. to put this in another (somewhat ironic) way. presents the possibility that such hypotheses and ..

would on Husserl’s account merely reflect a concept’s lack of a valid sense-foundation and indicate only the impossibility of reactivating any originary life-world evidence at its basis (i. Husserl is unequivocal regarding the essential progressive and continuous character of scientific traditions: science progresses as “the unity of a propagative process of transferred meaning” (Husserl 1970. upon which the generations of scientists. Conceptual change in science is also a cumu- . 363). are unendingly at work” (Husserl 1970. Indeed. Husserl also overlooks the positive place of falsification in scientific methodology and its potential import for scientific realism. hence. such conceptual change can be motivated only by further discovery but never provoked and guided forward by disconfirming evidence (cf. Such ‘cancellation’.e. indicate that it was founded upon a ‘mistaken’ perception). Science would thus proceed in a way that is merely bounded negatively by disconfirming evidence. Popper 1948). CONCEPTUAL CHANGE AND THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE We consider next Husserl’s characterization of conceptual change in science. Yet. constituting a single progression: “The scientific world. it would lead one to simply reject the concept outright rather than to modify it in accord with the disconfirming evidence. within Husserl’s framework there can. 380). So.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 87 entities could be disconfirmed or go unfulfilled in experience and thereby need to be modified in confrontation with disconfirming evidence. Here. though. the scientists’ horizon of being. Husserl’s framework does not naturally accommodate this possibility. Now. be ‘cancellation’ of concepts via the failure of the phenomena to fulfill conceptually motivated categorial intuitions. theory modification can be guided positively by disconfirming evidence whereby the meaning of inadequate conceptual structures is transformed in a progressive way so that they remain “faithful to the phenomena” (Belousek 1998). 4. There are two key characteristics to this ‘propagative process’. he cannot give any positive place to disconfirmation in progressive theory modification and constructive conceptual change. has the character of a single work or edifice growing in infinitum. belonging to it correlatively. for as much as he does not provide a genuine epistemic role for confirmation to play in the construction and validation of theoretical-scientific concepts. because on his account all valid and progressive conceptual modification in science builds cumulatively upon theoretical constructs that are taken over or handed down as already valid (see next section). Conceptual change in science is a unitary process. for sure.. in failing to appreciate the central role and characteristic fallibility of retroductive inference in science.

adding themselves to its own composition and belonging to it even before that as a horizon of possible accomplishments for developing science. But.88 DARRIN W. is that so? Kuhn. “it is language which is the condition of the possibility for the retention and protention of meaning beyond the finite individual and for the tradition” (Kisiel 1970. it would seem. is surely contrary to viewing the history of a science as a single. the later of which always presuppose the results of the earlier. transitions between them being ‘revolutions’ (Kuhn 1970). according to Husserl. scientists belonging to different paradigms cannot even understand one another completely. is a unitary progression. 149). Such incompatibility. Indeed. the total acquisition is. That is. theories. (Husserl 1970. The same thing is true of every science. (Husserl 1970. to speak more exactly. I will consider each of these – unity and cumulativity – in turn and assess them against both other appraisals of scientific conceptual change as well as the history of physics. coherent progressing tradition. at every present stage. hence. coherent conceptual framework. what each says must appear (at least in part) unintelligible to the other: “Communication across the revolutionary divide is inevitably partial” (Kuhn 1970. 131) Again. so to speak. the whole edifice of doctrine in the objective sciences are structures attained through certain activities of scientists bound together in their collaborative work – or. a . all make up a totality such that. for the incommensurability of two paradigms implies just that they cannot be brought together within a single. . But. the propositions. between successive paradigms. BELOUSEK lative process whereby all past meanings laid down are carried forward as sediment and retain their validity for the present life-world: [geometry] is not only a mobile forward process from one set of acquisitions to another but a continuous synthesis in which all acquisitions maintain their validity. depicts science as developing through a noncumulative succession of competing and mutually incompatible traditions (or. attained through a continued building up of activities. the total premise for the acquisitions of the new level . it is precisely the unity of scientific language that preserves and ensures the unity of the progressive transference of meaning of theoretical scientific constructions and. 360). As Kisiel puts it. not as a likeness. 73). . . of the scientific tradition: “In the unity of the community of communication among several persons the repeatedly produced structure becomes an object of consciousness. paradigms). In short. scientists in competing paradigms (literally) speak different scientific languages. or incommensurability. First is the unitary character of scientific conceptual change. for Husserl. of course. Science. And we see further that all these theoretical results have the character of validities for the life-world. 355) Thus. taking place within a single “horizon of possible accomplishments for developing science”. but as the one structure common to all” (Husserl 1970.

then there would be no specific difference between the totality of human cultural activity in its unified historical movement within the life-world (Husserl 1970. even if science does develop through the revolutionary succession of incommensurable paradigms. . Now. one might respond on Husserl’s behalf that. then. A paradigm shift. A paradigm is constitutive of a scientist’s world-view. to undergo a paradigm shift is for a scientific tradition to already move within a different objective-scientific world. all such change is still bounded by a single horizon of possible scientific development toward which all research in every succeeding paradigm is directed. common scientific language is a condition for the very possibility of the progressive transmission of meaning within a single scientific tradition (cf. . is more than a change in scientific vocabulary that creates difficulties in communication between scientists in competing paradigms. 371) and the essential unity constituting the movement of any particular scientific tradition. . 51). everyday induction grew into induction according to scientific method. 150). if science does sometimes change through Kuhnian revolutions. Klein 1940). thus. and “the scientific world . 380). a revolution is a change in world-view. Therefore. itself ‘belongs’ to the life-world” (Husserl 1970. for all scientific theorizing in every epoch must take place within it: “To be sure. a change in worlds: “the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trade in different worlds” (Kuhn 1970. but that changes nothing of the essential meaning of the pregiven world as the horizon of all meaningful induction” (Husserl 1970. “a displacement of the conceptual network through which scientists view the world” (Kuhn 1970. The life-world is the single “horizon toward which all questions tend”. the incommensurability between successive paradigms is more serious than the lack of a common scientific language. find a horizon that is specifically scientific. more suggestively. Husserl’s claim requires more than this. it is in some sense the lack of a shared world. the mathematization of nature. for if the universality of the life-world as an ultimate horizon of meaning were sufficient to constitute the unity of a tradition directed in its activity toward it. to already be directed in its research activity toward a radically transformed horizon of meaning. So. might be considered as having opened an infinite horizon for the development of physics . Certainly the life-world horizon is such an horizon. then Husserl’s characterization of the development of scientific tradition as a unitary progression is untenable. But. though. One must. And that would nullify the significance of scientific theorizing as a decisive accomplishment arising out of the life-world. and here Galileo’s accomplishment. 102) – or. . In Husserl’s terms. like all other worlds .HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 89 single.

Indeed. I offer the development of the quantum-mechanical atom. if so. the Galilean research tradition has been replaced and the horizon within which it moved ruptured. that the electron and electromagnetic field still had spatio-temporally determinable properties (as. Husserl’s claim for the unitary character of scientific conceptual change is inconsonant with the history of physics. etc. the reduction of all aspects of material bodies to geometrically determinable (i. and the electromagnetic field was subsequently reborn as a substantial entity existing independently of a mechanical medium (with the special theory of relativity acting as midwife. I think. with Lorentz setting the leading example.. The result of this radical shift is that no longer is it the task of theoretical physics to reduce all aspects of matter to geometrically determinable mechanical properties. This project was eventually abandoned and. the quantum-mechanical particle property of ‘spin’. In response to this. Thus was conceived the notion of electric charge as an irreducibly non-mechanical property of matter. which has notoriously resisted a geometrical interpretation. determined per the Lorentz force law and Maxwell’s equations) such that the theoretical substruction of the electron and electromagnetic field still took place within and in reference to the Galilean horizon. Nineteenth-century mathematical physics (Maxwell. has not theoretical physics already outstripped this task? I offer two developments in the history of physics that indicate that the horizon of research opened by Galileo’s achievement has indeed been eclipsed. BELOUSEK by setting a task or program of research that cannot be outstripped – viz. of course). the Uncertainty Principle was taken to imply that it is impossible to determine all the classical-mechanical properties of matter simultaneously in a geometrically precise manner. Tait.. And.. Here. spatio-temporally quantifiable) properties and their mechanical relations. Thomson. though. e. the project of determining the atom in all its aspects as a fundamentally spatio-temporal. chap.90 DARRIN W. Indeed. It might be argued. Following upon this. 4). the prevalent use of group theory in contemporary elementary particle physics has opened up a new horizon for development within which the theoretician is handed the task of determining the properties of matter algebraically. mechanical entity was decisively abandoned (Serwer 1977).) had persisted in its attempt to explain electromagnetic phenomena by reducing all the properties of the electromagnetic field to the geometrically determinable stresses and strains in a mechanical ether (Harman 1982. But. .e. The first is the case of the postulation of the electron. has instead been understood primarily in terms of the non-spatio-temporal symmetries of the ‘wave-function’. For sure.g. supplanted by the program of introducing point sources for the electromagnetic field whose properties could not be reduced to the geometric properties of a mechanical ether.

If so. is the way in which early twentieth-century historiography of science reconstructed Galileo’s decisive accomplishment for mechanics (Cohen 1994. is whether this latter development can itself be reconstructed historiographically as a modification of or a building up out of the same geometric tradition out of and in relation to which Galileo opened up the horizon of research for classical mechanics. The second characteristic Husserl ascribes to scientific conceptual change is cumulativity: all meanings acquired in the history of a theoretical scientific concept are handed down through tradition as ‘sediment’. 26 and 28). part 2). and hence that both research programs belong to one and the same scientific tradition. then. second. for the abstract algebra from which contemporary physics derives its methods of formal representation was developed only in the nineteenth century (Boyer 1991. chaps. And. is not itself relative” (Husserl 1970. This general structure. in all its relative features.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 91 If one wants to maintain that the shift from the geometricization of nature (characteristic of classical mechanics and its research program) to the algebraicization of nature (characteristic of quantum mechanics and its research program) occurs within the horizon of the Galilean project. 2. the reduction of nature to the geometrically determinable is carried out in the extreme – the foundation of the real is a mathematical manifold and its precisely determinable metrical properties – and thus it fulfills rather than overtakes the Galilean project. First. This is clear for two reasons. “This . a general structure. then the significance of Galileo’s accomplishment must change from the geometricization of nature specifically to the mathematization of nature generally. then the claim that the respective projects of the geometricization and algebraicization of nature belong to one and the same scientific tradition may prove tenable. in general relativity. non-Euclidean geometry itself (including the Riemannian geometry of relativity theory) did arise as a modification within the Euclidean geometric tradition (Gray 1989. to which everything that exists is relatively bounded. outstrips the task of this essay. to characterize Galileo’s project in such general terms as to include the algebraicization of nature is (at least potentially) to do violence to history. But.3). sec. of course. The key aspect of this cumulativity is that such handing-down maintains the validity for the life-world of those concepts. The ground of the possibility of such retention of validity is the ahistorical essential character of the life-world itself: “the life-world does have. What must be inquired into. It should be noted here that the shift from Newtonian gravitational theory to the general theory of relativity does occur within the Galilean horizon even though the latter employs a non-Euclidean geometry. however. The latter. 139). Such an inquiry.

For practicing scientists. . essential structure: that character . Thus. in its own essential structure and its own concrete causal style. for instance. this much is certain as an invariant. which is our present as [a process of] traditionalizing itself in flowing-static vitality. we need not be familiar with the detailed particularities of the life-world of the Greeks. 51). 378). 373). it implies a continuity of pasts which imply one another. So.92 DARRIN W. In this sense. “a vital movement of the coexistence and the interweaving of original formations and sedimentations of meaning” (Husserl 1970. BELOUSEK actually intuited. understood as a totality. etc. that these pure bodies had spatio-temporal shapes and ‘material qualities’ (color. Husserl is thereby able to avoid the ‘embarrassment’ of historicism in that the life-world is a constant. that these pure bodies had spatio-temporal shapes and ‘material qualities’ it was a world of ‘things’ . And this whole continuity is a unity or traditionalization up to the present. warmth. when inquiring back to the self-evident origins of geometry. And the unity of history itself binds the totality of human cultural traditions into a continuous. To put it more precisely. . . ever-present ground of validity. . 375) Indeed. it lays claim to a strictly unconditioned and truly apodictic self-evidence extending beyond all historical facticities” (Husserl 1970.evident style upon which such validity was based originally. that all things necessarily had to have a bodily character . it is such constancy of the life-world that is the ground of the continuity of history itself as an internally unified acquisition and unfolding of meaning. ‘implies’ the whole of the cultural past in an undetermined but structurally determined generality. it remains always valid because the life-world never changes its self. 371) The conceptual cumulativity of scientific tradition has two crucial implications. the valid accumulation of . (Husserl 1970. whatever we may do with or without techniques” (Husserl 1970. weight.) related to them. one for scientific practice and one for phenomenological inquiry into scientific method. once a sedimented sense of a concept obtains validity (either originary or derivative) for the lifeworld. . . for It is now clear that even if we know almost nothing about the historical surrounding world of the first geometers. (Husserl 1970. actually experienced and experienceable world remains unchanged as what it is. which is to say that the whole of the cultural present. unified movement within the life-world. each in itself being a past cultural present. “as the expression ‘a priori’ indicates. and thus also in respect to what is relevant to primal establishment and lasting tradition” (Husserl 1970. hardness. all theoretical scientific concepts founded in every tradition have their validity in reference to a common source of self-evidence that persists identically as one and the same (in its essential structure) throughout all historical epochs: “the human surrounding world is the same today and always. 371). . the life-world is a priori such that.

HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 93 past. . Thus. the conceptually cumulative development of scientific tradition. Through a method of idealization and construction which historically has long since been worked out and can be practiced intersubjectively in a community. then “a science like our modern geometry would obviously not be possible at all” (Husserl 1970. the physicist will henceforth ‘see through’ (rather than repeat) the whole series of founding intuitions and retroductive inference by which the theoretical concept was constituted and the theoretical entity was posited in the first place and simply perceive the elementary particle as showing itself (rather than as merely appearing) in the bubble-chamber photograph.. then. 28). is a tradition’ (Husserl 1970. Rather. these limit-shapes have become acquired tools that can be used habitually and can always be applied to something new . 26) That is. sedimented meanings allows a theoretical conceptual structure to be taken over in the present from the past precisely as a tradition. Like all cultural acquisitions which arise out of human accomplishment.e.. Tradition. 354). does not ‘blind’ the practicing scientist to the phenomena. . “a science which is given as a tradition . i. but rather is the very mode of access through which the ‘things themselves’ (i. . . . already pregiven by tradition as a guide to his own thinking” (Husserl 1970. 57). already broadly applied not only to the earth but also to astronomy. theoretical-scientific entities) are encountered in scientific experience. . (Husserl 1970. Recalling our earlier example. just is what makes scientific practice itself possible in the first place (cf. they remain objectively knowable and available without requiring that the formulation of their meaning be repeatedly and explicitly renewed. once the successful retroductive inference of an elementary particle is verified in experiment and becomes established within scientific theory and practice it will form part of the background or horizon of ‘normal’ science. the scientific practitioner need not re-think the whole of his science back to its origins in order to validly employ its concepts in projecting and fulfilling experience in the life-world. . Regarding the phenomenological inquiry into scientific method. Even Galileo could have accomplished the mathematization of nature only on the basis of a ready-to-hand geometry taken over by him as already valid for the life-world: “The relatively advanced geometry known to Galileo. the cumulative character of conceptual change is what makes the de-constructive . accordingly. Klein 1940). in Husserl’s view. if one “must run through the whole immense chain of groundings back to the original premises and actually reactivate the whole thing”.e. the conceptual reference-extension achieved by the retroductive inference allowing the physicist to ‘see beyond’ the phenomena. “The geometry which is ready-made. Indeed. . 363). as a pregiven conceptual structure that is already valid for the life-world in advance of experience. was for him. has become a τ εχνη” (Husserl 1970. Thus. so to speak.

of course. then the phenomenological task of exhibiting the self-evident ground of validity for theoretical scientific concepts proves to be in vain. is at odds with the Kuhnian picture – paradigm shifts are non-cumulative. 56. (Kuhn 1970. the cumulativity of scientific conceptual change is a condition for the possibility of scientific realism. 9 . As Kisiel puts it. 354). it is clear that if scientific traditions do not change conceptually in a cumulative manner. Now. is a tradition” (Husserl 1970. etc. “It is because of this tightly woven network in the progression of scientific meaning that Husserl now insists that it is possible to regress to the most incipient meanings solely along essential lines” (Kisiel 1970. terms which referred to entities “out there in the world” are thought to not really refer at all or are taken to refer to different things. chaps. can only be and remain meaningful in a true and original sense if the scientist has developed in himself the ability to inquire back into the original meaning of all his meaning-structures and methods. 70–71). That is. Such non-cumulativity results in socalled ‘Kuhn loss’: the obvious questions of one paradigm are not even intelligible in a succeeding paradigm. and especially into the meaning of all the inherited meanings taken over unnoticed in this primal establishment. so to speak. . is. from which the regressive inquiry begins. in that Husserl claims that a scientific theoretical construction is valid only insofar as the originary intuitive genesis of that construction out of the self-evidence of the life-world can be exhibited phenomenologically. original emphasis) Thus.94 DARRIN W. original] meaning is not necessarily handed down [explicitly] with it. . problems to be solved or phenomena to be explained are no longer in need of solution or explanation. i. for Husserl.. to regress to the self-evident origins in which its originary sense was laid down or constituted. Husserl’s view here.. And the upshot for Husserl’s characterization of scientific method would be that no scientific tradition could uncover and exhibit the originary meaning of its concepts and thereby establish the validity of its theoretical structures for the life-world: The developed method. but its true [i. the progressive fulfillment of the task. as method.e. for it is only by appealing to the possibility of inquiring back through the tradition itself to the originary self-evidence of the ahistorical life-world that he avoids historicism in the first place. into the historical meaning of their primal establishment. And it is precisely for this reason that a theoretical task and achievement like that of a natural science . BELOUSEK inquiry back to self-evident origins possible – all de-construction must take as its point of departure a tradition: “The geometry which is ready-made. beginning with that concept as handed down by tradition.e. an art (τ εχνη) which is handed down. only insofar as the originary sense of a concept is preserved as sediment in the progressive modification of its meaning within a tradition is it even possible. (Husserl 1970. as well as those taken over later on.

Husserl’s claim must be incorrect. The defender of Husserl on this point has at least three options. in turn. I suggest considering the case of the theoretical concept ‘atom’. the atom became not only composite but also divisible. if it were valid. but. I think it would be more instructive here to contrast Husserl’s view with history directly rather than with just another reconstruction of that history. In its origin with the Greek atomists Democritus and Leucippus. then it must be possible to verify its meaning through the (perceptual) intuition of things themselves given in self-evidence. But. In order to assess this claim. hence. not possibly valid for the life-world. independent property of matter. this originary sense of ‘atom’ was the founding meaning for all atomic theorists of the modern period from Gassendi and Hobbes in the seventeenth century down to Dalton in the nineteenth century. if Husserl’s claim is correct. So. Following the postulation of electric charge as a non-mechanical. One could deny that the contemporary atom-concept is valid for the life-world. For. beginning with the late nineteenth century. being comprised of a positively charged core of some sort surrounded by a region of negative charge. that positively charged core or ‘nucleus’ being subject to radioactive decay and spontaneous fission. which is (metaphysically) impossible. either the contemporary atom-concept is invalid or Husserl’s claim is incorrect. logically incoherent and. is whether or not the history of science exhibits such cumulativity in its conceptual development as Husserl claims. then. Insofar as one takes the contemporary atom-concept to be valid for the life-world.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 95 and 10). For sure. If so. this originary sense should have been sedimented into and handed down (as valid for the life-world) along with the concept ‘atom’ as it was transmitted through the atomist tradition over the centuries. which. And with Bohr. But. would require that it be possible for something to show itself (either directly or indirectly) as both composite-divisible and incomposite-indivisible. such a move would be unwar- . the atom-concept was radically transformed beyond its originary sense. serving as the basis for the characteristics such as finite extension and impenetrability further ascribed to atoms in this period. Now. the atom of Thompson and Rutherford became composite. The question. strictly speaking. the originary meaning of ‘atom’ was (literally) ‘indivisible’ and ‘incomposite’. given the overwhelmingly successful confirmation of contemporary atomic theory over the past seventy years. then the contemporary atom-concept handed down from Bohr is. The question thus is whether or not through this transformation the atom-concept retained as valid for the life-world its original sense of ‘indivisible’ and ‘incomposite’.

and the leptons include electrons. cannot be easily fit into Husserl’s framework. although the term ‘atom’ itself no longer refers to what is indivisible. indivisible. there are theoretical entities in contemporary science that do satisfy such a description.) entities in our current physical theory. One could deny that the originary sense of‘atom’ was (and. incomposite. For it introduces a subtle shift in the notion of the ‘meaning’ of a theoretical-scientific concept..96 DARRIN W.e. Or. Thus. is) valid for the life-world. but this would disrupt the unity of the atomist tradition and result in the sort of ‘Kuhn loss’ mentioned above. it might be suggested on Husserl’s behalf that. but this would render invalid a fortiori all the theoretical constructions of the atomist tradition of the early modern period inasmuch as its atom-concept was founded upon the original Greek concept.. Such a semantics of theoretical terms was employed by Kuhn and Feyerabend in the argument for conceptual incommensurability across theory change: if there is no theory-independent (i. while compatible with both the history of science and contemporary usage. one could deny that the atom-concept of the Greek and early modern tradition and the contemporary atom-concept refer to the same kind of entity in the life-world.. one might claim that quarks and leptons play the same role in the standard model of elementary particles as did atoms in the physical theories of the l7th–l9th centuries. And it is ‘atom’ in this second sense that is the rightful inheritor of the atomist tradition stretching back unbroken to the Greeks and which has its proper reference in current physical theory to quarks and leptons. which refers to truly indivisible. incomposite. there are still genuinely atomic (i. however. incomposite. the quarks and leptons: quarks compose the hadrons. so that while what we now call ‘atoms’ are themselves no longer strictly atomic in the original sense of the term. viz. helium. etc. rather than originally by the self-evidence of the life-world as in Husserl’s view..e. which refers to the smallest units of matter having the chemical properties of a given element (represented in the periodic table). and the ‘physical atom’. This suggestion. not to units of hydrogen. fundamental entities of all matter (represented in a chart of elementary particles). etc. neutrinos and photons. BELOUSEK ranted. including baryons (three-quark entities) such as protons and neutrons as well as mesons (two-quark entities) such as the pions. pre-theoretical) meaning of scientific . etc. hence. We thus need to distinguish here between two notions of ‘atom’ (such a distinction was actually introduced in the 19th century to avoid terminological confusion): the ‘chemical atom’. Implicit in the suggestion is the claim that the meaning of a theoretical-scientific concept is constituted primarily by the semantical role it plays within a given theory. None of these responses appears tenable. etc. Still.

. when provoked and guided by disconfirming or falsifying evidence. for what would get ‘transferred’ from one theory to the next would be merely a semantical role. his description of scientific conceptual change as a unitary and cumulative progression appears incompatible with the actual history of science. And this. third. What is needed. poses yet another challenge to a phenomenological basis for scientific realism insofar as such cumulativity is. but further development awaits a future occasion. as indicated by the history of atomic theory and suggested in the previous section. is not that all scientific conceptual change must be non-cumulative as according to Kuhn. as emphasized above. is at odds with his view of scientific conceptual change as “the unity of a propagative process of transferred meaning”. a condition of the possibility of any scientific realism. his description of the formation and modification of theoretical scientific concepts in terms of ‘founded intuition’ is inadequate to encompass the characteristic conceptual reference-extension and epistemic fallibility or evidential underdetermination of retroductive inference. I think.. To sum up. but rather that such conceptual change need not be cumulative in the manner characterized by Husserl. then. Thus. From a realist point of view. then a single term used in succeeding theories has two disparate.HUSSERL ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE 97 concepts. the suggestion would require Husserl’s framework to allow for the possibility of incommensurability. We have already laid the basis for such an account (Belousek 1998). and such non-cumulative yet progressive meaning modification. Husserl’s phenomenological account of scientific method and conceptual change is inadequate for three chief reasons: First. does not countenance the possibility of falsification as playing a positive role in theory change.e. which. What has been shown with this case. unfulfilled and invalidated) senses. is a phenomenological account of scientific conceptual change that allows for the possibility of theory change through the non-cumulative meaning-modification of theoretical concepts in a way that need not be inimical to scientific realism. he accords no genuine epistemic weight to confirmation regarding the warrant of theoretical concepts and. not any originary life-world evidence that Husserl insists is at the founding of the meaning of all theoretical-scientific concepts. can preserve valid meaning-reference founded upon originary intuition and thereby allow theoretical concepts to “remain faithful to the phenomena” without carrying along disconfirmed or falsified (i. and. second. incommensurate meanings. on Husserl’s account at least. hence.

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