Husserl on symbolic technologies and meaning-constitution

a critical inquiry

Peter Woelert

pp. 289-310

This paper reconstructs and critically analyzes Husserl's philosophical engagement with symbolic technologies—those material artifacts and cultural devices that serve to aid, structure and guide processes of thinking. Identifying and exploring a range of tensions in Husserl's conception of symbolic technologies, I argue that this conception is limited in several ways, and particularly with regard to the task of accounting for the more constructive role these technologies play in processes of meaning-constitution. At the same time, this paper shows that a critical examination of Husserl's account of symbolic technologies, particularly as developed in his mature, genetic phenomenology, can be enduringly fruitful—if some of the specific conceptual weakness of this account are identified and properly accounted for. My discussion will proceed as follows. In the first part I briefly analyze the early Husserl's account of the role the "method of sensible signs' plays in arithmetic cognition. In the second, main part I critically examine the bearing the genetic-phenomenological concepts of sedimentation and technization have on the conceptualization of symbolic technologies in Husserl's work. In the final part I summarize the major strengths and weaknesses of Husserl's account of symbolic technologies, and in the process make a case for the ongoing relevance of some of the crucial elements of this account.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-016-9408-y

Full citation:

Woelert, P. (2017). Husserl on symbolic technologies and meaning-constitution: a critical inquiry. Continental Philosophy Review 50 (3), pp. 289-310.

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