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(2016) Phenomenology and intercultural understanding, Dordrecht, Springer.

Husserl, buddhism and the crisis of european sciences

Kwok-Ying Lau

pp. 53-66

This chapter attempts at a reconstruction of Husserl's encounter with Buddhism. Basing on a short review article written by Husserl in 1925 on the German translation of some Buddhist Scriptures, we will show that the father of phenomenology manifested an initial enthusiasm toward Buddhism rarely seen in his other writings. Husserl praised the Buddhist attitude as a way of overcoming mundane world interests comparable to his own transcendental phenomenological attitude. Thus Husserl had projected the hope on the Buddhist Scriptures as an ethical-religious source of superlative quality for cultural renewal. In a later manuscript, Husserl expressed his further thoughts on Buddhism by comparing the Buddha to Socrates. To Husserl the Buddha advocates a supreme ethical practical ideal—liberation and bliss—by means of ruthless cognition in view of leading an accomplished moral life. This Buddhist attitude is no different from Socrates' pursuit of a coherent life of virtue guided by the Delphic maxim of "know thyself". Husserl seems to suggest that the Buddha is on a par with Socrates by introducing a kind of theoretical attitude which serves a supreme ethical telos. But on further analysis, it will be shown that in Husserl's final judgment on Buddhism, the latter does not satisfy the requirements of a genuine universal philosophy because it does not embrace Husserl's own idea of a universal science. This betrays once again Husserl's fundamental cognitivist conception of philosophy. The last part of the chapter will be devoted to an analysis of the influence of Husserl's brief encounter with Buddhism on the subsequent development of his thought.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-44764-3_4

Full citation:

Lau, K.-Y. (2016). Husserl, buddhism and the crisis of european sciences, in Phenomenology and intercultural understanding, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 53-66.

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