Articles authored by J.P.

Nominalism and Husserlian Moments
by J.P. Moreland


There are several fruitful entry points for getting at Edmund Husserl's philosophy.

Some of my own interest in Husserl's phenomenology lies in his ontology, specifically, the debate about the proper assay of Husserlian "moments" and the bearing of this assay on the broader question of whether or not Husserl was a nominalist.

To be sure, the question of Husserl's nominal is not merely a matter of proper Husserlian exegesis. Among other things, his commitment to universals was a crucial part of his career-long criticism of naturalism. Nonetheless, some have tried to argue for this type of claim:

The Logical Investigations are either explicitly nominalistic or else they contain the seeds of nominalism. Some claim that this early nominalism justifies the assertion either that Husserl remained a nominalist throughout his career or that these early nominalistic seeds came to full flower with the development of the doctrine of the noemata. On this view, "universals" come to be treated like noemata, viz., as dependent particulars produced by the mind and Husserl comes to accept a conceptualist form of nominalism.

Now, I must say, that it seems odd that a philosopher of Husserl's stature would change his mind on such an important topic without ever explicitly saying so. Moreover, given the centrality of Husserlian realism for his ongoing critique of naturalism, the burden of proof would seem to rest with those who claim that Husserl always accepted or came to accept nominalism.

In my article, I try to rebut the assertion that Husserl's "moments" are an indication that he was a nominalist. After clarifying some preliminary issues, I evaluate two different assays of Husserlian moments and relate them to the realist/nominalist dialog in order to show that Husserl was a realist. In the preliminary issues that follow, I clarify three schools of thought regarding the ontological status of properties; second, I provide a precis of the connection between naturalism and nominalism that is widely, though not universally accepted in most of the contemporary literature, especially those aspects of the connection explicitly affirmed by Husserl; third, clarify the central issues of contention between realist and nominalist construals of properties and their instances. To get at these issues and avoid begging the question, I focus on the early and late views of perhaps the most important nominalist at the time of writing and in light of the last half of the twentieth century, Keith Campbell.

Related Content: If this article interests you, you might also want to consider the following:


  • A helpful discussion on Husserl's "moments" and how it is not an indication of nominalism.
  • An example of how a realist view of the ontology of properties can do work in Husserlian discussions.
  • A defense of a traditional realist views of properties.

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