Russell and Husserl (1905–1918): The Not-So-Odd Couple

In Peter Stone (ed.), Bertrand Russell’s Life and Legacy. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press. pp. 73-96 (2017)
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Historians of philosophy commonly regard as antipodal Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, the founding fathers of analytic philosophy and phenomenology. This paper, however, establishes that during a formative phase in both of their careers Russell and Husserl shared a range of seminal ideas. In particular, the essay adduces clear cases of family resemblance between Husserl’s and Russell’s philosophy during their middle period, which spanned the years 1905 through 1918. The paper thus challenges the received view of Husserl’s relation to early analytic philosophy and this by pursuing two strategies of exposition. One involves comparing Husserl with Russell, and not, as has been the usual practice, with Frege. The other, which follows the first, foregrounds Husserl’s thinking vis-à-vis Russell’s from 1905 onward, a move that constitutes a break with what has become the standard approach of emphasising the relatedness of Husserl of the Logical Investigations (1900/1) to analytic philosophy. Moreover, this approach discloses two chief grounds of relatedness between the middle Husserl and the middle Russell. One is their shared interest in exploring philosophical “fundamentals”. The second consists of common elements shared by their epistemologies and philosophies of mind.


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