The Origin of the Phenomenology of Instincts

Husserl Studies 39 (1):69-83 (2023)
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This essay accomplishes two goals. First, I explore Husserl’s study of “tension” from his 1893 manuscript, “Notes Towards a Theory of Attention and Interest,” to reveal that it comprises his de facto first analysis of instinct. Husserl there describes tension as the innate pull to execute ever new objectifications. He clarifies this pull of objectification by contrasting it to affective and volitional experiences. This analysis surprisingly prefigures a theory of drive-feelings and anticipates the idea that consciousness is both teleological and autotelic. Second, I show how Husserl’s de facto account of instincts from 1893 inspires his robust philosophy of instincts from Studies concerning the Structures of Consciousness and other late manuscripts. While Husserl maintains many 1893 insights, he now claims that the instinct towards objectification comprises affective and volitional moments. Finally, I demonstrate that Husserl’s analyses of instincts throughout his life are united by the idea that consciousness possesses an essential structural lack.

Author's Profile

Thomas Byrne
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


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