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The receptive transcendence of knowledge and the “Fourth Cogito”: towards a content-full notion of “Early Phenomenology”

There is a purely historical notion of “Early Phenomenology” (from the late 19th century to 1939), a period during which Husserl’s move towards transcendental phenomenology (1905 and 1913) has occurred that led to the break between him and almost the entire Göttingen and Munich circle of early phenomenologists. Evidence about the essence of knowledge, especially of a priori knowledge of essences and states of affairs grounded in them, but also of the phenomenological fourth cogito-argument (after Augustine’s, Descartes’ and Husserl’s) shows that the act of cognition is characterized by a transcendent receptive grasp of beings, essences, principles of ontology and logic, and other data that are autonomously existing “in themselves” and yet clearly given in intentional cognitive acts as being irreducible to noemata and purely intentional and constituted objects of conscious acts. The transcendence of the act of knowledge rejected by Husserl from his Beilagen to “The Idea of Phenomenology” (1905) on, and its strong defense by some phenomenologists, leads to a contentful concept of “early phenomenology” as an objectivist and realist phenomenology. Such a “phenomenology of cognitive transcendence” was ably defended in the Prolegomena of Husserl’s Logical investigations, various works of Scheler, Reinach , Hildebrand, and others, leading to a deep break within the phenomenological movement and to the birth of a phenomenological realism very much akin to Platonic, Augustinian, and medieval , Aristotle-inspired philosophy. Moreover, it will be argued that, far from constituting a “naïve realism,” a relapse to a Bilderbuchphänomenologie, and Weltanschauungsphilosophie opposed to rigorously “scientific phenomenology,” a phenomenology based on the discovery of the transcendence of man in knowledge constitutes the only properly critical phenomenology faithful to things themselves as given to the mind, and free of inner contradictions, and did not end in 1939 but continues to exist until today.

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