In psychology Husserl was interested primary in the pure descriptive type of investigation, “ Empirical” in Brentano’s sense.( Background of his philosophy.pg11) The important changes in his development are explained to a large extent of difficulties he encountered while integrating these elements. “ Husserl himself believed that his development displayed an inner consistency despite the occurrence of epoch-making changes, which occasioned so much difficulty for his followers in the various periods.”( pg12) In this sense he believed that all of his work to psychologism made sense to him, yet forgetting all the changes he had made, which has made some trouble for others to follow his work or even expand on his thoughts.

Psychologism has several factors to show that all of our cognitive activity (our private mental process) is “biologically determined.” (Notes from class) Some things such as logic do not necessarily describe anything that is real, and that they are not necessary true. These things are considered to be “interpretations imposed by the human mind on reality.” (Notes from class) We typically have to think this way because our minds are heavily influenced by others, and our surroundings. This is one way that our cognitive activity has been “biologically determined.” (Notes from class) This was just someone’s form or reality and not necessarily the true interpretation. “Our mental constitution is itself an accident of a natural process, such as Darwinian evolution.” (Notes from class) This is referring that our own mental capacity is a accident of our human process of growth and develop such as Darwin explained in his evolution theory. If the “conditions” were different in the human mind development then maybe we would think differently about reality and the logic we agree with thus far.

Husserl’s critique of psychologism, are thoughts of absurd conclusions. Husserl thought that psychologism “undermines itself by invalidating its own fundamental principles.” (Notes from class) Otherwise saying that the claims that it stands on contradict the fundamentals that it was developed on. Husserl thought that their were a connection between psychology and logic, but denied that logic could be “reduced to psychology”. (Notes from class) He thought that the difference between mental and meaning (logic) could been shown through math. Mental acts are referred to mental “events” (notes from class), taking place in time, and by “physiological”. (Notes from class) Meaning content he refers to as truth through math, he explains that numbers are not “produced” by the mental thought, so 2+3=5 because numbers are produced and not “depend on particular presentations.” (Notes from class)

During Husserl‘s life, “ It is possible to distinguish a number of different periods in his development with respect to the determining elements in his early training.”(pg.11) “Looking back upon his development near the close of his life, Husserl emphasized the importance of the “ correlative mode of procedure” that was illustrated in the Logical Investigations. This he traced back to the Philosophy of Arithmetic, with its “ peculiar doubling in psychological and logical analyses,” which were seen to have a inner relationship. ( pg 15)


The main person to criticize Husserl was Frege. He has been credited with changing Husserl’s views about psychologism (Fraber 12). It was Frege’s criticisms of the Philosophy of Arithmetic that caused Husserl to give up on the psychologistic approach and take up anti-psychologism (Hanna 252). He had a few good points but his most significant claim against Husserl’s views of psychologism was that Husserl did not maintain a difference between concepts and objects (Willard 47). In other words, Frege had a problem with the mysterious relation between the mind and its logical objects. Frege also had a problem with the representation part of Husserl’s view (Willard 47). To Frege, “representation” meant a non repeatable mental event or image that could be possessed or inspected only by the individual who happened to “have” it (Willard 48). Therefore, according to Frege, for Husserl everything is pushed off into the subjective which makes the boundary between the subjective and the objective blurred (Willard 48). The subjective also acquires the appearance of the objective (Willard 48). This means that you must have both. Frege states that if all of this were true, the effect would be confusion, if not an explicit identification, of the logical and psychological (Willard 48). Another critique the Frege had against Husserl’s views on psychologism is that “the devastation caused by the influx of psychology into logic” (Willard 49.) By this he meant to attack Husserl’s hope that psychology, the developing empirical science studying representations and their origins would be able to provide philosophical illumination of scientific knowledge and of the formal sciences (Willard 49). After hearing Frege’s criticisms about his views, Husserl began to change his mind and became an anti-psychologist. According to p. 66 of Herbert Spiegelberg’s book, Frege’s criticism of the Philosophy of Arithmetic “hit the nail on the head.” This is when Husserl comes up with his replies to Frege. It is interesting that his replies are much the same as Frege’s criticisms. While it is not known for sure if it was Frege who caused Husserl to change his mind, it is generally thought that he was.

There are a few ways that Husserl responded to Frege’s criticisms. For the most part Husserl did nothing more than agree with Frege and admit that his previous views of psychologism were wrong. According to Husserl’s own accounts it was his teacher Weierstrass who got him started. He believed that the field of mathematical analysis was a mixture of rational thinking with irrational instinct and tact. In response, he tried to transform analysis into a purely rational theory by exhibiting its ultimate grounds in elementary concepts and then deriving the entire system of analysis through intelligible methods. This is important because it was in all of this that he assumed that arithmetic was grounded in the concept of number alone (Willard 53). That view and the effort toward reform of mathematical analysis was adopted by Husserl (Willard 53). According to Husserl arithmetic is “nothing other than a sum of technical devices for overcoming the essential incompleteness of our intellect in determining numbers and relationships between numbers.” Husserl says that a theory of a number does not in itself provide us with a theory of arithmetic (Willard 59). By saying this he is disproving his earlier thoughts that complicated relations between numbers are discovered only through detailed calculations, for example, 2+3=5. So a theory of number does not in itself provide us with a theory of arithmetic (Willard 59). One tells us what the number is, while the other has to explain how we know what we can know about numbers (Willard 59). Next, he changes his view his earlier view of Weierstrass. He does not agree with the statement that mathematical analysis is based entirely upon the concept of number. Instead, he says the arithmetized concept of calculating is only to reject it (Willard 62). In other words, he rejects the dependence of calculation upon number, and, instead, describes calculation in terms of symbolic technique (Willard 62). What he means by symbolic technique is that any rule-governed manner of derivation of signs from signs within some algorithmic system of signs, according to the ‘laws’ characteristic of the system-or, better, according to the conventions for adjunction, separation, and transformation (Willard 62). Therefore, the division of 1236 by 12 utilizing in the common style, the numerals of the familiar decadal system provides a simple example of calculation (Willard 62). That is Husserl’s old way of thinking. Husserl now realizes that the relationship of arithmetic and calculational technique has changed. If we lose the number signs from their conceptual correlates, and develop all unencumbered by any conceptual application the technical methods of which the system admits, then we have set forth the pure calculation mechanism which underlies arithmetic and constitutes the technical side of its methodology (Willard 62). Husserl states that everything he once believed in dealing with the concept of the cardinal number forms the foundation of general arithmetic soon proved to be false (Willard 63). It was his analysis of the general number that led him to this (Willard 63). Husserl now says that one can derive negative, rational, irrational, and various sorts of complex numbers from the concept of the cardinal number (Willard 63). He also believes this to be true of the concept of the ordinal and the concept of magnitude (Willard 63). According to Husserl, “the fact is that general arithmetic (including analysis and theory of functions) finds application to the cardinals (in number theory), as well as to the ordinals, to continuous quantities, and to n-fold extentions like time, space, color, and force continua).”

As you can see, Frege was the main criticizer of Husserl’s views on psychologism. It can even be said that Frege was the person to turn Husserl to anti-psycholgism. After Husserl began reviewing his work and looking at Frege’s he realized that he was off base in his conclusions about psychologism. Because of this, he changed his views to be more like Frege’s views. By doing this he left his first teacher, Weierstrass, and some others to stand the ground on their theory alone.

Works Cited

1) Notes from class
2) Farber, Marvin. Edmund Husserl and The background of his Philosophy. International Phenomenological Research. Vol.1, Sept. 1940. Pages 1-20
3) Hanna, Robert. Logical Cognition: Husserl’s Prolegomena and the truth in Psychologism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Society. Vol.53, June 1993. Pages 251-275
4) Willard, Dallas. Husserl on a Logic that Failed. Duke University press on behalf of philosophy review. Vol. 89, January 1980. Pages 46-64