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Husserlian interpretation of the New Trend in Sciences for Experiment and Certainty: Galileo Galilei and the Idealization of Nature

Chapter IV: Chapter IV: Phenomenological Quest for the Inter-subjective Dimensions of Transcendental Subjectivity

4.4. Transcendental Intersubjectivity and the Constitution of the World in Husserlian Phenomenology

4.5.2. Husserlian interpretation of the New Trend in Sciences for Experiment and Certainty: Galileo Galilei and the Idealization of Nature

Husserl in his Crisis begins the discussion of modern scientific technological revolution which he recognized as Galilean legacy with the following lines:

FOR PLATONISM, the real had a more or less perfect methexis in the ideal.

This afforded ancient geometry possibilities of a primitive application to reality. [But] through Galileo‘s mathematization of nature, nature itself is idealized under the guidance of the new mathematics; nature itself becomes—

to express it in a modern way—a mathematical manifold [Mannigfaltigkeit]

(Husserl, 1970a, p. 23, § 9).

Husserl credited Galileo (1564-1642) as the prosecutor of the scientific revolution because of his introduction of the modern experimental science and also for creating the a priori discipline later known as mathematical physics (Moran & Cohen, 2012)5. Husserl discusses about Galileo not only in his Crisis but Galileo occupied a prominent space in his various writings. The most important point should be noted here is that Husserl basically attempted to show the Greek origin of science which he considered as the historical roots and thus tried to reactivate the origin of geometry. As a result Husserl tried to give a very meditative and creative re-reading of Galilean achievements. But, one should not expect for a detail and accurate analysis of science from Husserl as Husserl was not a trained historian of sciences (Moran, 2012). Therefore, Husserl‘s main concern was to understand the meaning of Galileo‘s mathematization of nature which gave birth to the modern sciences.

5 Galileo by refuting the geocentric model specifically by refuting the Aristotelian physics defended and popularised Copernican Heliocentric system. In the early 17th century, he employed practical experiments to validate physical theories, which could be regarded as the key idea in the modern scientific method. Galileo‘s formulation of the law of inertia became the first law in Newton's laws of motion (Moran & Cohen, 2012).


Husserl alongwith the advocators of scientific revolution of that time like Pierre Duhem, Ernst Cassirer, Alexandre Koyré and Jacob Klein recognized Galileo as the precursor of modern science and modern philosophy. Husserl links both Galileo and Descartes as the forerunner of modern science and philosophy. Descartes by admiring Galilean heliocentric cosmology regarded Galilean scientific discoveries as the foundation of his own philosophy (Gaukroger, 1995). But, later on Descartes misinterpreted the sense of the Ego with the substantival self, detached from the world and as a result Husserl wrote how scientific minded philosophers forgot the life-world in philosophising their theories.

Therefore, Husserl portrays Galileo as the founder of modern philosophy as well.

In this regard Carr (1987) writes:

Husserl traces the origin of modern philosophical problems to the rise of modern science, whose decisive feature is its mathematical character. It is primarily to Galileo that we owe the transformation of the study of nature into a mathematical science, and as soon as this science ‗begins to move toward successful realization, the idea of philosophy in general ... is transformed‘. In order to understand the origin of the modern idea of philosophy, we must turn first to what made it possible: Galileo‘s ‗mathematization of nature‘ (Carr, p.


So, now it is necessary to explain what does mathematization of nature mean according to Husserl. Mathematization of nature for Husserl is that which attempts to transform the intuitive world into a mathematical manifold and considers the world as a manifold of measurable shapes (Garrison, 1986) Galileo‘s main objective was to overcome the subjective description of the world and to attain exactness and rational objectivity about the world which is intersubjectively supported (ibid). Thus, in the process of establishing the scientific objectivism the subjective standpoint along with all its human implications has been set aside (Pivčević, 2014). With the discovery of the a priori discipline like mathematical physics Galileo presented the physical science under the framework of mathematics through abstraction (Sinha, 1969). In this regard (Borràs, 2011) maintains that Galileo without questioning the origin of geometry grounded his discoveries on geometry. While on the one hand he tries to liberate science from mythical-religious principles but at the same time his


physics failed to question the primacy and foundation of the geometrical ideals and as a result the modern science grounded its ideals on mathematics under which both nature and human being are idealized. This leads the modern science to accept the whole world under the geometrical formulations and the world including everything under it become a geometrical design. So, the world of science is not the world as it is but only the impersonal formulas and the geometrical ideals gathered after the translation of the experience of the world (Pivčević, 2014). Thus, the aspects of experience which are measurable are taken to be objectively real in Galilean modern science and those which are not treated as subjective and therefore, secondary according to Galileo. ―‗To be,‘ for Galilean science means ‗to be measurable‘‖

(Garrison, 1986, p. 332). Here an opposition can be found between Galilean applications of geometry with Aristotelian uses of the geometrical space. This is important to note here that not only Husserl but very prominent Galilean scholar Alexandre Koyré, who was also a historian of science, had underlined this opposition. According to Koyré (1943)

Aristotelian physics does not admit the right, nor even the possibility, of identifying the concrete world-space of its well-ordered and finite Cosmos with the ―space‖ of geometry, any more than it admits the possibility of isolating a given body from its physical (and cosmical) environment (p. 335).

Moran (2012) forwarded the evidence of Husserlian influence upon Koyré and writes that Koyré himself admitted to Ludwig Landgrebe in 1937 about the influence of Husserl‘s Galilean interpretation upon him. Koyré maintains that as a result of the application of geometrical space in science, modern science started emphasizing abstract and ideal space as the real space of human experience. Unlike the Aristotelian physics Galileo maintains the necessity of a priority of physics. For him the truths of physics should not be probable but necessary truths and therefore, he talked about the essential application of mathematics in physics. Thus, Koyre maintains that mathematics can be regarded as the grammar of modern science, which gives a priory foundation to modern experimental science (Moran, 2012).

Thus, according to Koyré, Galileo not only overcame Aristotle but also went beyond Copernicus and Kepler.

` Thus it has been seen so far how Galilean science is characterized by the geometrical idealization of nature. Now in the next phase Husserl talked about the symbolic


idealization of nature by the use of the algebraic formalization. In this regard Husserl writes in his Crisis:

Mathematics and mathematical science, as a garb of ideas, or the garb of symbols of the symbolic mathematical theories, encompass everything which, for scientists and the educated generally, represents the life-world, dresses it up as ―objectively actual and true‖ nature (Husserl, 1970a, p. 51, § 9).

Husserl in his Crisis disclosed the outcomes of the application of modern symbolic intelligibility of numbers. Husserl throughout his writings never abandoned the intuitive character of an act and as a result his opposition can be noticed with Frege and others in his discovery of pure logic. The same is the issue in case of mathematics also. As Burt Hopkins points out though Husserl has not carried out any historical research in his Crisis on the origin of numbers but he influenced Jacob Klein indirectly in order to continue his research on the same issue. Klein, in his Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra for the first time tried to show the nature and historical (Greek) origin of modern symbolic mathematics (Hartimo, 2011). Hopkins maintains that both Husserl and Klein influenced each other in order to continue their own projects. Hopkins (2011) writes:

One would need only to show how the method and content of Husserl‘s path- breaking investigations influenced or otherwise provided the context for Klein‘s own research. However, Klein‘s work on the historical origination of the meaning of mathematical physics actually preceded Husserl‘s work on the same issue by a number of years (p. 16).

The intention of both Husserl and Klein was the same as they tried to show how the modern science lost its meaning and foundation and how the symbolic mathematical representation of nature changed the meaning of the life-world. Klein in his thought provoking writing on the Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra reveals the ‗symbolic unreality‘ of modern mathematics. As according to him, in Greek mathematical thinking a number is always regarded as a collection of definite and countable units of a specific kind (Hopkins, 2011). But, in modern mathematics since the time of Franciscus Vièta (1540-1603) a number is considered as a symbolic representation which is defined in a symbolic calculus by its


relationship with other numbers (Cosgrove, 2008). Viewing from the phenomenological point of view according to Husserl, symbolic numbers are ideal entities which raise questions of intuitive fulfilment. Cosgrove (2008) writes:

Mathematical physics consequently is led to construct a symbolic realm of meaning, transcending the life-world. Indeed, in some mysterious way, nature seems to make an appearance ―in person‖ through this symbolic realm, the latter accessible only to a mathematical-symbolic form of eidetic intuition and in principle hidden from sensuous experience in the life-world (―Concusion,‖

para. 4)

Thus, whether there is geometrical idealization or symbolic idealization the modern mathematical physics is based on the general principle of ‗scientific objectivism‘. As a result of this idealization a gradual elimination of the anthropocentric element took place within the natural sciences which has crusted the relation between man and science. Scientific knowledge is regarded as the true knowledge which also has been accepted by many philosophers and as a result the standpoint of subjectivity is totally ignored as misleading.

Husserl therefore, tries to re-address these issues by focusing his attention on the truths of the life-world (Pivčević, 2014). Thus, now it is necessary to explore Husserlian concept of the life-world in detail.