Edmund Husserl

This week in Mailbox we disclose the identity of the Prostějov-born founder of phenomenology from last month’s quiz and announce the names of the four winners who will receive prizes for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Jana Vaculik, Hans Verner Lollike, Elder S. J. Agboola, Colin Rose, Jurij Faltenfors, Charles Konecny, David Eldridge, Richard Chen, Robert B. Todd, Daniel Gutiérrez, Colin Law.

Hello and thanks for tuning in to Mailbox where we shall today disclose the identity of March’s mystery man and, of course, announce the names of the lucky winners who will be sent small gifts for their correct answers.

So who was the founder of phenomenology, born in Prostějov, from last month’s question?

Jana Vaculik from the United States was the first to answer:

“Edmund Husserl was born in Prostějov, into a Jewish family and spent most of his life teaching and studying in Vienna and cities in Germany. He is considered the founder of phenomenology and he influenced many philosophers and writers.”

Hans Verner Lollike writes from Denmark:

“This month your question is relatively easy for me. The person you are looking for is Edmund Husserl. He has had a strong influence on the protestant theology – even in my country. I remember him very well from philosophy lessons at university.”

Elder S. J. Agboola lives in Nigeria:

“He was the second child in a family of six. He was born in the Moravian community of Prossnitz [or Prostějov] to a milliner, Adolf Abraham Husserl and Julie Husserl. He was an apostle of a brand of philosophy known as phenomenology.”

Colin Rose from England visited Husserl’s home town:

“I went to Prostějov to see the Národní dům by Jan Kotěra, but it is full of other interesting buildings. It seems its other claim to fame these days is ‘The Championship of the Czech Republic and World Championship in Disco Dance Formation and Disco Show Formation and the European Championship in Break Dance!’ And also do not forget Edmund Husserl who was born there on April 8, 1859.”

Jurij Faltenfors from Sweden just sent one of Husserl’s quotes as his answer:

"Experience by itself is not science."

Charles Konecny from Ohio elaborates on the aspect of “experience”:

“I read that Husserl's ‘Phenomenology’ is the study of' ‘experience, and how things appear to us.’ Easy enough I thought, but by the end of the next sentence my head was swimming. Philosophers go very deep in applying their logic. You have to hand it to him though, since not only was he a philosopher, but he also had a Ph.D. in mathematics. He did his dissertation in the field of calculus which tells you even more about him. I would love to be sitting in a café having coffee with Kurt Gödel (last month's mystery person) and Husserl and listen to them philosophize. I know I would hardly understand a word of it, but I would just sit there in awe. So my hat is off to a very brilliant man.”

David Eldridge from England made this comment in his answer:

“To condense the ideas of Edmund Husserl and to show how they compared with other philosophers of his era would take more than just a few sentences. Trying to accomplish such a task would require such intense thought and could possibly result in courting insanity. For that reason I will not lightly pursue such an undertaking.”

Richard Chen listens to Radio Prague in Trinidad & Tobago:

“My answer for this month's mailbox quiz question on the founder of phenomenology is Edmund Husserl who was one of the seminal thinkers of the 20th century. Phenomenology can be looked upon in two ways; as a discipline field in philosophy or as a historical movement in philosophy.”

Robert B. Todd listens to our broadcasts in Canada:

“The philosopher who lived from 1859-1938 is Edmund Husserl. I enjoy listening to you at 3am in Toronto, Canada, or at least when I am awake at that time, which is (with no disrespect to you) thankfully not every night.”

Daniel Gutiérrez follows Radio Prague in Massachusetts:

“After my first visit to Prague I became an enthusiastic listener to your programmes to which I listen to in my iPod on a daily basis. Because of your contests I have learned many interesting details about the history and people of the Czech Republic that sometimes I even impress my Czech friends in America with details about your country. Kindly accept my research about Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl for the March Radio Prague Mailbox contest. I will look forward to hearing comments from the other participants and to learn more about Husserl’s life and work.”

Here is a brief quote from Daniel’s long and detailed answer:

“Husserl retired from Freiburg in 1928 and eventually became more and more humiliated and isolated because of his Jewish origins, although he converted to Protestantism in 1886. During the last five years of his life, Husserl suffered discrimination from the anti-Semitism of the rising Nazi party in Germany. In 1933 he was taken off the list of university professors and denied access to the university library.”

Colin Law from New Zealand found a few details about Husserl’s family life:

“He converted to Christianity in 1886, was baptized as a Lutheran and in 1887 married Malvine Steinschneider, who was also baptized before the wedding. They had three children, Elisabeth Franziska Carola (1892), Gerhart Adolf (1893), and Wolfgang (1895). Both sons were in military service at the front in 1914. Wolfgang was injured in action in 1915 and in 1916 he was killed in action at Verdun. Gerhart was injured in action in 1917.

“Gerhart Husserl emigrated to USA after he was removed from his position as a professor of law in 1933 for being a ‘non-Aryan.’ He taught at the National University Law School and was a founding member of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. He published several articles in English, but his most important work is in German. In the 1950s, Gerhart Husserl returned to Germany, continued his teaching and research in comparative and Anglo-American law, and also became very active in the reform of legal education. He died in 1973.”

Thank you once again for the time and effort dedicated to our little quiz, but as usual, only four of you can be rewarded with Radio Prague’s symbolic prizes. This time those four listeners are: Fru Glory Zii from Cameroon, Manish Kumar from India, Thomas Kuca from the USA, and Fares Alnsair from Jordan. Congratulations to all of you and you can expect parcels from Prague in the coming days.

And finally here is a brand new competition question for all of you who would like to give it a try in April.

This month we continue in the series of Moravian-born luminaries. Our April mystery man was born in 1856 in the town of Příbor and died in 1939 in London and his work revolutionised the field of psychology.

As usual, your answers need to reach us by the end of the month at or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. Thanks for listening and until next week, take care.