Seebohm and Husserl on the Humanities


This essay discusses Husserl’s brief and Seebohm’s much more extensive comments on the grounding of several disciplines commonly described under the heading of “the humanities” as sciences in his History as a Science and the System of the Sciences. It asks not just what Husserl and Seebohm say about the grounding of these disciplines as empirical sciences, but also whether we can understand what they have to say by applying what they have to say to the actual practice of these disciplines, thereby extending and refining some of the rather general claims they make about the way they should and do proceed as genuine sciences in the sense indicated above. It does not attempt to do this with all of the humanities but with a few paradigmatic examples, all of which, as academic disciplines, typically take texts and the matters these texts are directed to as the objects of their studies. It thereby becomes clear in the summary of Husserl’s and Seebohm’s positions on the grounding of the Geisteswissenschaften (Husserl’s term, not Seebohm’s) why the notion of interpretation is so important, in particular for literary studies and history, but not so much for applied disciplines such as composition studies or foreign language instruction that are part of humanities departments but do not fit the classic model of the Geisteswissenschaften as theoretical, interpretive disciplines.

Publication Title

Contributions To Phenomenology