Prof. Philip Buckley: “Phenomenology as Soteriology: Husserl and the Call for ‘Erneuerung’ in the 1920’s”

Hegel claims famously in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion that “Philosophy is itself, worship; it is religion.” In this paper, I want to suggest that such a claim could also have been uttered by Husserl – with of course an expanded sense that authentic philosophy is equivalent with phenomenology. It is especially present in what might be called Husserl’s “proto-Crisis” texts of the early 1920’s and his call for “renewal” not only of philosophy and science, but culture in general, that we see this entanglement of philosophy and religion. In the first part of the paper, I approach this statement by understanding Husserl’s negative critique of religious tradition as parallel to his critique of the “garbs of ideas” that forms the incomplete “rationality” of the natural sciences. In the second part of the paper, I turn to Husserl’s more positive description of the core rationality that can be found in the religious “lifeworld”, and how this allows him to see phenomenology itself as analogous to religious life. In the conclusion, I outline some of the positive aspects, and also some of the dangers, of Husserl’s analogy between phenomenology and religion that is captured in his equally ambiguous description of phenomenological life as “Venunftglauben.”