The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy

The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy

Jacques Derrida

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226143156

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In this book, originally written as a dissertation for his diplôme d'études supérieures in 1953 and 1954, Derrida reveals what he sees as an internal tension in Husserl's central notion of genesis, and gives us our first glimpse into the concerns and frustrations that would later lead Derrida to abandon phenomenology and develop his now famous method of deconstruction. For Derrida, the problem of genesis in Husserl's philosophy is that both temporality and meaning must be generated by prior acts of the transcendental subject, but transcendental subjectivity must itself be constituted by an act of genesis. Hence, the notion of genesis in the phenomenological sense underlies both temporality and atemporality, history and philosophy, resulting in a tension that is ultimately unresolvable yet central to the practice of phenomenology. Ten years later, Derrida moved away from phenomenology entirely, arguing in his introduction to Husserl's posthumously published Origin of Geometry and his own Speech and Phenomena that the phenomenological project has neither resolved this tension nor expressly worked with it. This book complements these other works, showing the development of Derrida's approach to phenomenology as well as documenting the state of phenomenological thought in France during a particularly fertile period, when Levinas, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, and Tran-Duc-Thao, as well as Derrida, were all working through it. But the book is most important in allowing us to follow Derrida's own development as a philosopher by tracing the roots of his later work in deconstruction to these early critical reflections on Husserl's phenomenology.