Donn Welton

Donn Welton, The Other Husserl: The Horizons of Transcendental Phenomenology. Studies in Continental Thought. Indiana University Press, 2002.

In this comprehensive study, Welton presents the main outlines of the systematic and chronological development of Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy. In doing so, he aims to counteract a prevalent, overly simplified interpretation, based upon Husserl’s earlier published works. Welton’s strategy is to show concretely that Husserl’s posthumously published works present the basis for elaborating a far superior system of transcendental phenomenology.

Sometimes Welton frames the question of Husserl’s development in terms of system, sometimes in terms of method. In general, he seems to take system and method (in a very broad sense) as virtually synonymous, system being the overall framework for comprehsnsively integrating various interrelated sub-fields of descriptive analysis and diverse findings.

Welton considers the passage from static to genetic phenomenology to be the decisive systematic development. But he also sketches systematic developments within static phenomenology, which, on his interpretation, begins as a pre-transcendental categorial phenomenology, is transformed into a transcendental categorial phenomenology, and finally becomes constitutive phenomenology. He describes each stage and each transition attentively and lucidly.

For Welton, the systematic culmination of Husserl’s philosophy is transcendental, constitutive, genetic phenomenology. Where static analysis, even of constitution, treats constituted objects as results already achieved and correlative lived experiences as events, genetic analysis traces the processes that achieve such results. It analyzes, not just constitution, but also the genesis of constitution. In doing so, genetic analysis attends to temporality, not merely as an invariant form of lived experience, but as a milieu of motivated, teleologically ordered, development, active or passive. In the process, genetic phenomenology develops a much more concrete view of the transcendental ego.

This is a fine book, well designed and well executed. It is written in clear language, probably as accessible as possible, given the difficulty of the topic. Welton’s mastery of Husserl’s phjilosophy is guite remarkable. The scholarship is top-notch. Footnotes abound, referring to Husserl’s published works, to many of his posthumously published writings, to enlightening passages in Husserl’s correspondence, and to pertinent secondary sources. The references are well integrated into Welton’s own analysis and discussion, which is lucid, thorough, penetrating, and provocative.

This outstanding work in phenomenology is a worthy recipient for the 2003 Ballard Prize.