The Psychological Element in the Phenomenological Analysis of Human Subjectivity

Document Type : Research Paper


University of Tehran


The aim of this paper is to depict the psychological element in phenomenological analysis of the human subjectivity. This analysis should be considered within the philosophical context provided by philosophers of 18th and 19th centuries, and very specifically by Kant as his transcendental philosophy was a turning point for later debates on the human subjectivity. In this paper, I will consider some aspect of the issue first with Kant and then with phenomenology, concluding that the psychological element could not be ignored and omitted in such transcendental analyses.


One of the basic issues always hesitated the famous phenomenologists has been a psychological element hidden in the depth of the phenomenological description of the human subjectivity. Husserl, a hero of anti-psychologism, accepted phenomenology as a very specific kind of psychology and called it ‘descriptive psychology’, a name he used for phenomenology not only in his first work, Logical Investigation, (1973), but even in his last published work of his life Phenomenology (Britanica Article, 1994). “Descriptive psychology” was a phrase already used and defined by Brentano (1995a; 1995b) as “the science of mental phenomena” (1995b, 18) for explanation of consciousness; but his appraoach was criticized by some of his contemporary philosophers and disciples including Husserl. (1) It is commonly evident that the word “psychology” had been using as an epistemical word in the philosophical terminology of modern philosopher since 18th century till the last decades of 19th century. Historically, the positivistic debate on and

FALSAFEH   Vol. 37, No. 3,  Autumn  2009, pp. 125-144

approach to psychology as a science made the idealistic philosophers of the 19th century guard against this approach as
it would lead to an inclusively positivistic explanation of consciousness dominated by the natural scientific method.(2)

Noticeablely, in late 18th century, the psychological element handed over through the British empirical philosophy (very specifically in Hume’s philosophy) to Kant (3) who tried to evade it by suggesting a sophisticated transcendental system to reconciliate reason with senses in a critical way whose upshot was the synthetic a priori judgement; the synthetic a priori judgement was, as he concluded, a judgement of certainty; a rational knowledge within the empirical realm. Apparently this would resolve the problem of the certain knowledge without falling in the trap of Humean psychological empiricism. However, the psychological consideration was still unavoidable while the transcendent self and unitary consciousnes were to be in force for elaboration of the synthetic a priori judgement.  And this requires binding it up with psychological subjectivity. The psychological element hidden in the transcendental phenomenology is rooted here. To recapitulate this point, it is necessary to elucidate Kant’s analysis of human subjectivity.


Kant’s Analysis of Human Subjectivity

In order to establish simultaneously the nature and function of the transcendental aspect of human subjectivity, Kant prefers a reflective analysis which makes the transcendental subject appear and analy­sis which tends to psy­chologize it. The reflective analysis basing itself on synthetic judgements, shows that ''the highest principle of all synthetic judgements is therefore this:every object stands under the necessary conditions of the synthetic unity of the manifold intuition in a possible experience."(ibid., 194, A158) These conditions make the tran­scendental subjectivity appear. The mediumof synthetic judgements is the ''whole in which all our representations contained,'' that is, inner sense, whose transcendentalform is time. And the unity required in judgement rests on the unity of apperception. This unity, which tends to emphasis the "I" of the "I think," is, at least in the second edition of Critique, the keystone of the Kantian system. But we find even in the first edition that all empiricalconsciousness has a necessary relation to transcendental consciousness "namely, the consciousness of my self as original apperception." (ibid., 142,note a) For, we are conscious "ofthe complete identity of the self in respect of all representations whichcan ever belong to our knowledge." (ibid., 141, A116) It is therefore an absolutely primary principle, that the various empirical consciousnesses must be linked to one unique consciousness of self. This consciousness is the simple representation: ''I.'' Kant adds:

 "Whether this repre­sentation is clear (empirical consciousness) or obscure, or even whether it ever actually occurs, does not here concern us. But the possibility of the logical form of all knowledge is necessarily con­ditioned by relation to this apperception as a faculty."(ibid., 142, note a)

Nevertheless, this ''faculty'' does further enlighten us concerning the na­ture of subjectivity. Above all, it permits us to discern in the "I think," "this spontaneity" by means of which I can "entitle myself an intelligence" (ibid., 169, note a), the act of understanding: "the unity of ap­perception in relation to the synthesis of imagination is the under­standing." (ibid., 143, A119) From this point, the understanding will become an element in a system, one faculty among others, and the idea of structure of subjectivity will thus be introduced. For if the "I think," insofar as it is an "I can," is active, its activity must be described; and this activity is precisely the exercise of the transcendental's function. Yet such an enterprise cannot be easily accomplished. For the unity of ap­perception has been found to be a formal and non‑constitutive principles. Kant seems to identify possibility and capability, formal unity of representations and spontaneity of in­telligence, by saying that "the possibility of the logical form of all knowledge is necessarily conditioned by its relation to this apperception as faculty."  The difficulty appears to be that apperception is sometimes invoked as an absolutely primary principle and sometimes as one of the "three subjective sources of knowledge" (ibid., 141, A115) along with the senses and imagination, the latter being identifiable with the understanding. The same difficulty viewed from another angle culminates in the analysis of the relation of imagination to apperception--an analysis in which the two editions of Critique disagree as to the exact relation of the productive synthesis of imagination to synthetic unityas such. Kant writes:

"The principle of the necessary unity of pure (productive) synthesis of imagination is the ground of the possibility of all knowledge, especially of experience." (ibid., 143, A118)

Referring to this, Heidegger comments that in the first edition "Kant, in characteristic fashion, hesitates to determine with precision the structural relations which link [this] unity to the unifying synthe­sis.... But he confidently asserts that transcendental appercep­tion presupposes the synthesis." (Heidegger 1962, 84)

By contrast, the second edition, in refusing to dismember the 'I think' or toemasculate formal knowledge, reduces imagination to understanding:

"The under­standing, under the title of a transcendental synthesis of imagina­tion, performs this act upon the passive subject, whose faculty it is, and we are therefore justified in saying that inner sense is affected thereby." (Kant 1995, 166, B153-54)

At the same time, the second edition subordi­nates sensibility to understanding: the understanding determin­ing the inner sense which "contains the mere form of intuition, but without combination of the manifold in it." (ibid., B154) This hesitancy regarding the primacy of the imagination is rich with meaning, as Heidegger has seen. For our present purpose, it signifies that the 'I think" appears both as a principle and as an agent. Meanwhile, this hesitation results from the ambiguity of the transcendental element, for it can be understood both as the result of a formal analysis of the conditions of possibility and as the instrument of a real activity. In the first case, the cogito is a supreme requirement; in the second case, it serves as the locus for a constitutive activity.

However, if the transcendental is a condition of knowledge, it is essential to apply the condition and in this context, subsumption is inevitably consti­tution in the non‑ontological sense to which Kant limits him­self. This is why Kant must juxtapose the reflective analysis which discovers apperception as an inescapable requirement and phenomenological, more precisely, noetic, analysis which describes the transcendental activity as putting the transcendental into operation. The site for this activity, the seat of the "transcendental  acts'' is das Gemut, that is, the mind insofar as it contains a structure and can operate concretely. Thus knowledge is the prod­uct of the mind, the three sources of knowledge are its organs, and the three syntheses by which the objectivity of the object is elaborated are its operations. Through these structures, the subject takes on shape. No longer is the opposition only between a form and a matter; it is between the subject and the object. The forms of objectivity such as "the objective forms of our mode of intui­tion"--are also the structures of our "subjective constitution." Subjectivity is not only determining, but determined; it is a human subjectivity, or at least, assignable to "all finite, thinking beings." (ibid, 90, B72) the fundamental question becomes. Therefore, the transcendental seems to designate both a formal condition of experience and a condition issuing from the subjective nature of the mind, a law which the mind imposes on nature because it is assigned to its own nature. It expresses the nature of the subject. For example, if there is a principle which "holds a priori and maybe called the transcendental principle of the unity of all that is manifold in our representations," (ibid., 142, A116)this is because there is "a common function of the mind which combines that manifold in one representation." (ibid., 137, A109)The mind "is conscious of the identity of this function" by which it conceives "itsidentity in the manifoldness of its representations." (ibid., 137, A108) Therefore, the transcendentalrooted in a function of the mind. Similarly, time may appear as a transcendentalform of sensibility because "the mind distinguishes . . . time in the sequence of oneimpression upon another" (ibid., 131, A 99)and because the mind has a certain fashion of arrang­ing its representations, being "affected through its own activity (namely, through the positing of its representation) and so is affected by itself." (ibid., 87, B67) Thus it is as if receptivity were a result of activity, as if time were engendered by consciousness. Similarly, space may be referred to the activity of the mind; space is the very movement of consciousness towards something; it is thus the possibility of displaying, discriminating, pluralizing any impression whatsoever. Then, the transcendentalseen by Kant as pure knowledge condi­tions empirical knowledge, but it is the knowledge of a rule, and this rule is the expression of a method--i.e., of an activity manifested by the mind through its structure.

The transcendental is, therefore,a character impressed on what is known by the action of knowledge, the reflection in the object ofthe transcendental acts of the subject. Kant is justified in deducing to categories from thelogical form of judgements, since judgements are already "acts of the understanding" whose logical functions "yield an exhaustive inventory of its powers." (ibid., 113, A79)

It is, however, objected that the movement from the categories to the principles is illusory, because the categories imply a subjective and psycho­logical interpretation of consciousness: so, the bearers of the transcendental in the Kantian system--space; time, and the categories-- must be conceived as methods, not as norms of the mind. The transcendental results from the subject's nature which is given before experience and which orders experience. In particular, the theory of the transcendental, deduction is dependent upon the human duality of receptivity and spontaneity, the duality of a sensibility and an understanding unified by the imagination.

But independently of the orientation the transcendental carries on, suchan implicitly analysis of the constitution of objectivity forces Kant into a dilemma that will reappear in post‑Kantian thought. This dilemma stems from the necessity of distinguishing the transcendental from the psychological factor in the subject. With Kant, the difficulty assumes a precise form. If the mind whose acts constitute experience as objective represents a subject already concrete in the sense that it already has a structure manifested by the transcendentalit possesses, what will be the status of this subject? Can itbe constitutive if it is constituted?

Kant has posed the problem in such way that it ends in an insurmountable impasse. The subject of Kant's reflective analysis is in no way constituted: apperception is only a transcendental power,capable of exercising the function of unity. The self is only a "simple representation" concerning which"there is no even a question of reality": the "I" of the "I think" isnot yet the first person of the verb. One cannot say that the transcendentality related to it furnish it with a nature. A great part of Kant's analysis is conducted as if the "I think" were only formal and impersonal, and even non temporal, for "the subject, in which the representation of time has its origi­nal ground, cannot thereby determine its own existence in time."(Kant, 377, B422) In brief, it is as if the cogito were a cogitatum est. The tran­scendental consciousness can only be self‑consciousness, not self-knowledge, as Kant expressly says:

 "The Consciousness of self is thus far from being a knowledge of self" (ibid., 169, B158).

The knower cannot be known because that which is known is immediately reduced to the status of object. But consciousness is at least self‑consciousness, that is, consciousness ofa self. Herelies the obvious origin of the misun­derstanding that troubles any rational psychology. If it is neces­sary to say that "I exist as an intelligence conscious merely of my power of synthesis," at least there is an I who exists--i.e., possesses something more than the being of a mere logical condition. Existence could not serve here as the model category which would again submit the "I think" to the rules of objectivity. Kant strives to seize existence in the very act of thought; the 'I think' contains within itself the proposition "I exist". Although the self referred to here is still only a purely intellectual representation, "I think" is  an empirical proposition because it expresses 'an indeterminate empirical  intuition," (ibid., 378, note a) which Kant calls elsewhere the "feeling of an existence"--that is, an intuition occurring be­fore the moment when the categories determine it. Here exist­ence is not yet a category. Thus nothing can be known in such a manner. The sum does not in any way constitute an internal, thematizable experience. The form of apperception inherent in all experience does not by itself constitute an experience. It remains the case, however, that the "I think" is assured of itsexistence, even in the face of other existences. For, in order to apply its activity, the "I think" needs a matter; it is equivalent to "I think something," as Kant’s theorem of the refutation of idealism shows. Every exercise of apperception, since it is linked to an external intuition for the sake ofdetermination, is therefore consciousness of my existence as mine; and the "I' of "I exist" acquires its meaning and its existence simultaneously. Nevertheless, Kant refuses to naturalize the subject as energetically as, for example, Sartre, who makes a psychological reality out of self-­consciousness.

Kant always maintains the distinction of the tran­scendental from the psychological. Although he does not explicitly situate Gemut, he certainly does not authorize its identification with the objective self of psychology, and the functions or facul­ties he discerns in it are strictly transcendental. For him, the transcendental duplicates the psychological without ever mingling in it. This is the case with imagination:

"Insofar as imagination is spontaneity, I sometimes also entitle it the produc­tive imagination, whose synthesis is entirely subject to empirical laws, the laws namely of association." (ibid., 165, B152)

Similarly, there is a pure sensibility whose object is pure intuition, and which is merely sensibility viewed formally; for this formal sensibility, affection is self-affection  and intuition being here "nothing but the mode in which the mind is affected through its own activity". And there is an empirical sensibility that has "sensation in general [for] its matter." (ibid., 82, A42) Finally, the same duality is found in the under­standing. Thus Kant speaks of a pure understanding:

"The unity of apperception in relation to the synthesis of imagination is the understanding;andthis same unity, with reference to the tran­scendental synthesis of the imagination [is] the pure understand­ing." (ibid., 143, A119)

The categories reside in this pure understanding. If Kant does not explicitly oppose an empirical understanding to it, this is because the understanding as such is always the unity of ap­perception. But when the understanding is related to the empirical synthesis of the reproductive imagination, and therefore to a sen­sible matter, it may be termed empirical:

 "The empirical activity of knowledge in man must therefore contain an understand­ing which relates to all objects of the senses." (ibid.)

Hence the tran­scendental element in man acts as a "formal principle," (ibid.) while the psychological element performs.

Kant’s second analysis, which is juxtaposed with the reflective analysis, describes the operation of subjectivity in its constitutive power. Yet it tends to psychologize the subject transcendentalized by reflective analy­sis, which does not consider the transcendental in its actual func­tioning, but only in its role as a principle. Between these two possibilities offered by Kant, his successors have as a whole adopted the second. They have developed the theme of a tran­scendental philosophy and outdone themselves in trying to purify the transcendental and cleanse it of any taint of psychologism. Hence they have stressed the difficulties of a theory of subjec­tivity. Fichte restores a psychological interpretation here. For Fichte, the transcendental signifies self‑con­sciousness in all of its: psychological extensibility. The real problem is an epistemological problem, the prob­lem of the constitution of the rules of scientific experience, and metaphysics exists only to serve epistemology. Consciousness, like self-consciousness, derives its meaning from the knowledge it must promote, and its analysis is related to its place in the system of sciences. The supreme principle is always the principle of the possibility of experience; and the unity of apperception, far from being a subjective and personal unity serving as a psychological foundation, signifies the unity of the object of pos­sible experience. This is why the categories, even though deduced from the table of judgements, are understood only in terms of the principles which apply them, thus making the possibility of knowledge explicit. Self-consciousness is understood only through consciousness of the object; consciousness contains  the means to a necessary and universal knowledge--only by virtue of its necessary relation to this knowledge. Consciousness of the object is therefore the "supreme principle," the only one which can be unconditional. What makes the supreme prin­ciple possible? Nothing other than itself. There is no court of appeal above the supreme principle; there exists no necessity above thought. This implies that consciousness, interpreted as the principle of the possibility of experience, have to be real and thus impersonal: it is real as a principle or a systematic method, not as a fact. In this way transcendental philosophy is to be distinguished from positivism. The transcendental method does not and cannot presuppose science as a fact since it moves from the question of reality to that of possibility. The transcendental quest is established in the universe of the possible because it returns to the sources of knowledge.

The tran­scendental character designates a condition of possibility hav­ing two interpretations in no way incompatible with each other. Either it is a logical possibility which concerns the real in the form of thoughts already formulated, that is, as a science previously established: this is why Kant starts by accepting the existence of a pure science for its meaning; or the possibility is a power that acts by appealing to a reality which is the very activity of the mind: this is why Kant describes the action of Gemut. Byconverting the transcendental into the ontological, Heidegger will identify the possible and its silent force with Being. In either case, the possible evokes the real, the double reality of a thought already thought out and of a thought caught in the act of being thought through. The passage from the real to the possible‑‑from knowledge to the sources of knowledge ‑does not warrant a denial of the dual reality of constituted knowledge and of a constituting subject. In other words, the "I think" is the unity of consciousness and not the consciousness of a unity; its being is that of a formal condition, not that of a material reality. It founds the reality of experience, but it is not founded upon the experience of a reality. As supreme and unconditioned principle, it is an absolute possibility related to every reality without being subordinated to any particular one: Transcendental apperception is apperception considered asa transcendental condition and not as the transcendent state of a personal consciousness whose relation to experienceisabsolutely immediate.


Phenomenology on the Psychological Element of Subjectivity

Within the context provided by Kant’s and post-kantian debates on transcendental subjectivity, phenomenology encountered the same difficulty. Husserl’s anaysis of consciousness on the basis of noetic-noema relationship put forth a problem concerning the degree the noetic correlate of the noema is a pure act, and this launched phenomenology to be still at risk of being psychology. To solve this difficulty, phenomenologists deepen the transcendental purity, and make same effort as Kant did to distinguish the transcendental from the psychological to avoid psychologism. In fact, the whole phenomenological movement is unanimous in denouncing psychologism. But this condemnation can have two different senses, discernible already in Husserl, but especially evident in his disciples. In the first sense it does not necessarily imply the irreducibility of the transcendental subject that is de­manded in the second sense: to condemn psychologism is merely to condemn a psychological doctrine which, in misunderstanding the being of consciousness, reduces its acts to states or facts.

Sartre's criticism of the notion of "psyche' is an example. To the ego as a phenomenon he opposes the for-itselfas consciousness (of) object and (of) self; he does not oppose the ego to a transcendental consciousness which is anony­mous and free of all existential predicates.Sartre moved further away from Husserl. He refuses to characterize the for‑itself as an impersonal contemplation. Instead, it assigns to the for‑itself "a fundamental selfhood" and specifies that consciousness, from the moment that it appears and throughout the pure, nihilating movement of reflection, personalizes itself: ''what confers personal existence on a being is not the possession of an ego, which is only the sign of personality, but the fact of existing for oneself  as presence to oneself.'' (Sartre 1995, 103) We can see from such a statement that this theory of consciousness does not impugn all psychology: rather than a transcendental philosophy, it initiates the phenomenologi­cal psychology. This psychology grants consciousness its role without identifying it with the psy­che.

Another phenomenologist, Merleau‑Ponty,tends even further to identify phenomenology (at least genetic phenomenol­ogy) with a reflection on perception and to pursue this reflection as if it were itself a kind of psychology. Here phenomenology willingly admits to being psychological, though psychologism and the introspective method are disavowed. In his own way, Merleau-Ponty repeats Brentano's distinction between the kind of observation that objectifies psychological realities and the internal percep­tion that, always adequate to its object, seizes the experienced in an act of self‑coincidence. Far from justifying psychologism, the psychological thus defined includes the transcendental. The psychological and the transcendental are even identified in the notion of existence, since the transcendental for Merleau-Ponty is the body as body‑subject and as being‑in‑the‑world; and itis the critique of psychologism that allows the delineation of this notion.

Thus phenomenology is psychology in a certain sense: it is both a descriptive and a transcendental psychology, and in this manner it furnishes answer to the problem of the identity of the empirical and the transcendental selves. Constitutive activity does not consist in imposing a form on matter, in subsuming an intuition under a concept, or in ordering an event according to a rule. Constitutive activity consists ingrasping a meaning, offered in a concrete form having the status of objectivity only because it also signifies the vital pact linking subject and object. Hence constitutive activity does not belong to a formal object, but is the expression of this concrete form; it belongs toa being in theworld. The constitutive is constituting only because it is at the same time con­stituted. It is not only a movement of transcendence toward the world; it is immanent in theworld. Its finitude does not reside in its transcendence alone, that is, in the necessity, as­signed to it by receptivity, of being project and expectation; it resides above all in its embodiment and temporality: reflections on experience are themselves inserted into it. If transcendence is temporalization (Heidegger 1995, 401-18) this tem­poralization implies temporality, and temporality in  turn involves embodiment.

The condemnation of psychologism has a second sense: it may also signify a refusal on the part of phenomenology to compromise with any and all psychology in the desire to preserve the purity of the transcendental. With Husserl, this attitude is seen in the logical and epistemological character of his early work: here any reference to the psychological is felt to alter the purity of the essence and obscure Wesenschau. If evidence determines truth by being the basic more of intentionality, that is, evidence understood as the presence of an essence, this is because evidence is not a ''psychological index"; (Husserl 1958, 400)  it is independent of the subjective stream of representations or psychological conditions of its appearance. Thus the notion of evidence as the privileged moment of the constitutive act invites us to reconsider the problem of constitution and the transcendental subject. Now the interpretation of constitution suggested by a phenomenological psychology can be challenged and even abandoned for the more radical interpretation belonging to a transcendental idealism that frees subjectivity from all connection with the empirical ego and reproaches Kant for having located the "I think" at the level of the world.

This interpretation still found its most systematic expression with Fink who observes that constitution is often clarified by the notion of intentionality. (4) But one must surpass the psychological conception of intentionality against which Husserl defines subjectivity as regional consciousness and its relation to the object as intramundane. In this view, intentionality is only a property of consciousness viewed as given and not as giving. Even when defined by the correlation of noesis and noema, it retains a certain psychological immanence, for the noema can still be conceived psychologically. The noema endows the subject's intentional acts with a meaning of Erlebnis which is distinct from the being to which it is related and announces itself by this meaning as the termof an indefinite approximation, achieved through fulfillingidentifications. For Fink, the transcendental noema is ''the thing itself"orbetter, "the meant itself," which is no longer the correlate of a psychological act, but a value for transcendental subjectivity. Fink discusses this difficult theory in a later article. There he again uses the language of intentional analysis in taking over the notion of operative intentionality from Husserl; he opposes this to an intentionality already given, and defines it as ''the living function of a consciousness that bestows meaning," or as "the living creation of meaning." This definition precedes that given by Merleau-Ponty for  whom the operative intentionality manifests our being in the world  byrepresenting "our relation to the world such as it expresses itself indefatigably in us, . . and such as philosophy can only place under our regard." (Merleau-Ponty, 1995, xviii) But Fink later considers the transcendental intentionality as productive and creative.  This productivity is no longer a creation of meanings but a fundamental bestowal of it, and even a creation of the world, since the noema is here transcendent, and since the real theme of phenomenology is the becoming of the world through the con­stitution of transcendental subjectivity. It provides the transcendental subjectivity with an intuitis originarius in Kant's sense: with a mode of intuition "such as can itself give us the existence of its object," (Kant 1995, 90, B72) and not simply the form of objectivity. 

This last result is due to the phenomenological reduction which was unknown to Kant. Kant remains in the natural attitude, posing only the mundane problem of the possibility of knowledge, and maintaining a mundane status for the "I think". The reduction deepens the Kantian quest; it represents a movement of transcendence that loses the world, only to recover it later as an absolute. The belief in the world that is the essence and general thesis of the natural attitude finds itself bracketed. Yet to bracket is also to accentuate; the belief does not disappear but instead reappears in all its purity as an enigma: thus it is unsurpassable. Human being is surpassed insofar as this belief, experienced unconsciously, defines him and at the same time turns him into a kind of object, since he is himself included in the world he intends. Far from being the suppression of the belief in the world, the reduction brackets it "in the believing human,"; as a result, there appears the true subject of belief ,the transcendental ego forwhom the world is a universum oftranscendental value. The reduction therefore implies an extreme effort on man's part to "conquer himself"--yet an effort that is always unmotivated, because philosophy is gratuitous. This effort leads to the discovery of "the life of transcendental belief," stromendes Aktleben-- that is transcendental subjectivity. It is this leap to absolute that radically distinguishes the Kantian quest for the being‑for‑us of beings from the phenomenological search: for the being-for-transcendental subjectivity of the world. In other words, a distinction is drawn between epistemological constitution, which always possesses a moment of receptivity, and ontological constitution, which is total spontaneity.

However, the problematic of the transcenden­tal subjectivity still remains.It can no longer be understood in relation to the human self, which is an ontic phenomenon:

 The specific character of the transcendental ego cannot be understood as being based on the individuality of the human I.  The transcendental ego is no longer the Kantian "I think," which is only the form of unity of the mundane 'I,' and which is merely situated in the world instead of at its origin. The Kantian problem concerning the identity of the known and the knowing selves is thus complicated, instead of being solved. It is complicated first of all by the dawning awareness of the problem of the other,and by the development of the transcendental egology into a monadology: Fink affirms that the transcendental whole of the monads is not the ultimate concept of' absolute subjectivity. Then, the problem of self‑identity is further complicated by the introduction of a third ego side by side with the human ego and the transcendental ego: the theoretical spectator operating the reduction who, in thematizing the belief which founds the world, prevents himself from participating in it by stationing himself outside the world. The theoretical spectator escapes from a belief in the natural world, and by this move breaks free from the truly concrete life of the transcendental subject, his reflections still form part of life. Though a disinterested spectator, he is not a pure spectator; there is no unimpregnable position where he can avoid the risk of being compromised by the world or of compromising in turn the purity of the transcendental ego. This third ego risks reviving the third man argument: the threat of an infinite regression from subject to object. Thus the problem of the unity of the subject in view of the plurality of the ego remains intact; Fink believe that the phenomenological reduction transcends the indissoluble unity of the human ego, dividing it and yet reassem­bling it in a higher unity.

Therefore, it is at the price of encountering the most serious difficulties that phenomenology carries the distinction between the psychological and the transcendental to a point beyond even Kant's demands. Yet this distinction is one of the most characteristic features of contemporary phenomenology that, wishing to be transcendental by condemning psychologism, cre­ates still more difficulties.

Even with Heidegger whose reflection involves the movement of the transcendental element from the epistemo­logical to the ontological sphere, the problem still remains crucial. He speaks of "transcendence," but in such a way that it is no longer exactly clear who does the transcending or what constitutive subjectivity means.(Heidegger 1995, 401ff) This movement is initiated by meditating on the ground, where the transcendental possibility of the intentional relation becomes a problem. It appears that this relation is only possible by means of transcendence, the movement by which Dasein projects the bases of a world while feeling itself possessed by this world: Dasein is both source and passion. Transcendence is therefore not the attribute of a transcendental subjectivity, and it would seem that Heidegger has not effected the phenomenologi­cal reduction. But the problem is not so simple as this. Transcendence is also a kind of motivation. On the one hand, it can be motivation only if it is itself capable of ontological truth--of what Kant called knowledge a priori,that is, if Being is revealed to it sufficiently to allow the question "why?"; on the other hand, it can be motivation by virtue of the freedom in which it originates. But transcendence here represents an abyss. Later Heidegger says that motivation and freedom both involve a reference to Being; motivation implies an unveiling of Being, and freedom an initia­tive on Being's part. Freedom is not complete in man, and on this condition it is identified with transcendence, since it is the act of Being in man--the act by which Being calls to man in order to be revealed. There is a hierarchy of concepts here: the transcendental, far from being a storehouse of a priori knowledge, and still less a group of psychological faculties, has meaning only through transcendence in the phenomenological sense, the intentionality of meaning‑giving consciousness. This transcendence, in turn, has meaning only through transcendence in the ontological sense. The relation of man to Being that defines intentionality is the effect in man of the relation of Being to man that defines truth; for man is capable of truth only because Being is light and because it obliges man to remain in this light. For man, freedom is project only insofar as it is at the same time submission: freedom is essentially finite. The finitude of Dasein  and therefore of tran­scendence considered as the essence of Dasein, isthe counterpart of the infinitude of Being. By this manner, Heidegger interpretsKant to render this finitude explicit in terms of the conjunction of receptivity and spontaneity. Meanwhile, the theme of purity in Heidegger is distinguished from the purity of the abstract that Husserl opposes to the psychological concrete in an ambiguous fashion, even in Ideas, andallows the transcendental to be assigned finally to being. For Heidegger is much less preoccupied than Kant with discovering and tabulating  to provide a con­tent for pure knowledge is to risk sullying its purity. Thus, though he has shown that man's commerce with beings requires a pre‑conception of Being, instead of elucidating this pre‑conception or showing its historical modalities, he prefers to define it as the truth that is the ground of all truth and to identify it with Being.The transcendentalbecomes the manifestation in man of the movement bywhich Being is revealed and, in being revealed, is constituted as time. It therefore expresses the finitude of man, the central theme of Heidegger's existential analytic. (Heidegger 1962) This theme possesses undenia­ble theological echoes--not because the finitude of the creature is measured by the infinity of the creator, but because a) this fini­tude is the fact of Being in man, b) Being as transcendence achieves in man the act of transcending, and c.) man with his future is only the instrument or the witness of an adventure of Being. Nevertheless, Heidegger releases phenomenology from being psychology by eluding the problem of subsumption. He has extended the limits of the transcendental to the point of identify­ing it with Being; hence he has excluded the possibility of a transcendental deduction and cannot return from the ontological to the ontic. He can no longer consider the problems posed by the subject‑object relation: the subject has somehow evaporated into Being; being‑in‑the‑worldno longer suffices to define Dasein, for, by an inflation of meaning, the world has come to signify Being. And at the same time the object has lost the objectivity which transcendental reflection proposed to found. Objectification can no longer be understood as the activity of constitutive subject; the relation of truth to truths, of pure knowledge to empirical knowledge, is blurred. Heidegger underlines the theme of finitude in Kant. This is one of the keys to the Kantian system and the only means of avoiding the difficulties in which Husserl is involved. However,  Heideg­ger's interpretation of finitude is ontological whereas Kant’s is epistemological. Kant clarifies the nature of finitude by firmly maintaining the duality of mind and world: he avoids defining in idealistic terms the immanence of mind in the world.Since concepts without intuitions are empty, the transcendental gains meaning only in the empirical. Form does not reduce content, and synthetic judgement requires the mediation of intuition. Furthermore, if the mind makes the world appear, the world is precisely that which is not mind and does not proceed from it. The famous distinction of phenomenon from noumenon confirms this: the thing in itself is above all the affirmation of the in‑itself, the upholding of dualism, the assurance that the object is exterior and that sensibility is recep­tive. The thing in itself is therefore the affirmation of finitude, not only because transcendence is privation, as Heidegger says, but also because that towards which it transcends is something defi­nite. The affirmation of the in‑itself is both the refusal of idealism (against Husserl) and monism (against Hegel). Moreover, Kant makes the mind finite by giving it a nature. In order to manifest the receptivity of knowledge required by dual­ism, he combines sensibility and understanding in the mind, as a result, the transcendental is characterized and expressed through the forms of recep­tivity as well as the rules of intelligibility. In doing this, he refuses to cut up the mind of the concrete subject and tends to confuse the "I think" and das Gemut, which, ifuntreatable by empirical psychology, cannot be the object of reflective psychology either.

Instead, Heidegger’s ontological interpretation of the transcendental leads to a concrete subject and the ontological reflection by which he removes the transcendental knowledge and then dismisses the relation of subject and object, just because he thinks that this relation is ontic. Heidegger devalues the subject to the profit of Being and, underlining the theme of finitude in Kant, he ontologizes finitude and attributes to Being itself in order to avoid the psychological subjectivity and replace it with an ontological one. Although Heidegger is certainly right to rediscover the ontologicval reflection and the existential subjectivity, it remains however an open question whether this suffices to remove the psychological from subjectivity.



1) For a discussion on this issue see:  Huemer W.,(2004) “Husserl's Critique of Psychologism and His Relation to the Brentano School”, In Arkadiusz Chrudzimski & Wolfgang Huemer (eds.), (2006), Phenomenology and Analysis: Essays on Central European Philosophy. Ontos; also see: Burt C. Hopkins. “Husserl's Psychologism, and Critique of Psychologism, Revisited”. Husserl Studies 22. For Husserl’s phenomenological psychology see: James J., (2007) Transcendental Phenomenological Psychology: Introduction to Husserl's Psychology of Human Consciousness , Bloomington: Trafford Publishing; also see: Rawlins, F. I. G. (1963) “Husserl's Psychology”, Nature, Volume 197, Issue 4866, pp. 419-420.

2) On 19th century’s debates on psychology see: W. Woodward & M. Ash (Eds.), (1982), The problematic science: Psychology in 19th century thought. New York: Praeger .

3)  For a discussion on Kant’s contemprary debates on psychology see: Bell M., (2005) The German Tradition of Psychology in Literature and Thought, 1700-1840, Cambridge: CUP.

4) Fink’s interpretation is presented in Fink E., (1933) “Die Phenomenologische Philosophie E. Husserl,” Kantstudien, XXXVIII. For a historical discussion on his later relationship with Husserl see: Bruzina R., Edmund Husserl & Eugen Fink: Beginnings and Ends in Phenomenology, 1928-1938. Yale Studies in Hermeneutics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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