“In his work Formale und Transzendentale Logik with its significant subheading “An Attempted Critique of the Logic Reason”, Husserl formulates his final conception of logic.

We shall deal here only with the principal theses set forth in this work which, we feel, may introduce us into the core of Husserl’s conception.

The formal character of logic. What specifically characterizes logic is the generality of its principles (its applicability to all the fields) an aprioristic or essential generality which is formal in nature. Moreover, according to Husserl, the mind itself is a formal concept. In order to define the most general of all concepts, i.e. that of form, which is extremely important in his system, he makes the following remarks: in a certain sense, any essential knowledge is a formation of “pure” reason, i.e. free from any empirical process, but in a second sense, that of principle form, any principle knowledge is not pure. An aprioristic sentence about sounds in general, thought of, hence, in “pure” generality, is pure in the first sense but it is an a priori contingent (Formale und Transzendentale Logik, p. 26). This sentence has in the eidos “sound” its concrete kernel, which transcends the realm of principle generalities and connects the sentence with the “contingent field of ideally possible sounds”.

“Pure” reason exceeds not only what is empirical fact, but also any essential sphere related to hylé (the matter), to the concrete. Pure reason – writes Husserl – designates the system of pure principles closed in itself, which principles precede any a priori relating to the hylé (ibidem).

These two aspects of the general induce Husserl to accept two notions of formal: (1) the a priori formal, analytical in nature; (2) the a priori formal, material and contingent in nature.

Summing up, logic is formal for it is but the development of pure reason, which is a formal concept. Logic is thus the self-interpretation of pure reason (die Selbstauslegung der reinen Vernunft) which is a formal activity.

Formal logic is conceived as apophantic analytics. According to Husserl, Aristotle’s logic was a formal logic in the above sense, but this was a specific sense. Aristotle was the first, he writes, to have fully brought out the concept of form meant to determine the fundamental sense of a “formal logic”, such as we understand it at present and such as Leibniz understood in his synthesis of formal logic (as apophantic logic) and in his formal analysis of a unique mathesis universalis.


Formal logic, conceived in this way, will have a triple “stratification”. Although Aristotle, says Husserl, foresaw this formal logic as an apophantic analytics, he still failed to discriminate all its strata or levels. Here are the three formal levels as conceived by Husserl:(a) Pure morphology of judgements, which is the first logical-formal discipline or the first formal level. It is concerned with the simple possibility of judgements as such without questioning their truth or falsehood. It deals with the generality of judgement forms, the fundamental forms and their variants.

Morphology will also be concerned with the concept of operation as the directing idea in the search for forms.

(b) Logic of consequences (logic of non-contradiction) is the second level of formal logic… This new level, which is one step higher than the first, is the science of the possible forms of true judgements. About these forms Husserl writes: “Particularly as regards the forms of deduction (complex forms of sentences in which correct as well as false deductions are to be found), it is clear that they are not arbitrary forms of sentences which may be associated in order to constitute forms of authentical deductions, of effectively consistent deductions” (op. cit., p. 47).

Thus it is obvious that some forms of deduction have at the same time the value of essential formal laws, especially of general truths relating to judgement consequences.

(c) Formal logic of truth. The third level of formal logic, superior to the other two, is the research of the formal laws of possible truth and its modalities.

Let us now see how logic proceeds from simple forms of the meaning of enunciations, i.e. from the forms of judgement, to become a logic of truth. It is clear that non-contradiction is the essential condition of possible truth. But it is equally obvious, that only by connecting concepts different in themselves can analytics become a logic of truth (op. cit., 49). “This stratification, writes Husserl, has remained alien to the usage of logic so far. It stands to reason that the separation of the formal logic of non-contradiction from the formal logic of truth is something essentially and fundamentally new, no matter how well this separation might have been known, if we only refer to words. For these expressions were themselves aiming at something else, namely at the distinction between the problems of formal logic, taken generally, and in this way leaving out all the material contents of knowledge, and those problems which have to he posed in a wider sense through a logic which, however, is such that it brings into play this material content. This last logic raises questions relating to the possibility of knowing natural reality and to the configuration of truths concerning the real world” (op. cit., p. 63). (…)

Formal apophantic and formal ontology. Examining the relation between formal apophantics (which is concerned with true or false judgements) and formal ontology, Husserl makes an essential distinction. In formal analytics the object is regarded solely as an object of possible judgements, as an object of the forms of judgement attributed to it by analytics. This may also be the case in mathematics. In other words, a formal analytics, as well as a formal mathematics, may be conceived of as a game in itself, with an autonomous aim which does not consider any field whatever where it might be applied. This is formal analytics as a pure play of thought. “Consequently, writes Husserl, mathematics (formal) may remain indifferent to the fact that all these formations are intended to appear within any sort of judgement aimed at knowledge (remaining undetermined in their substance).


It is therefore necessary to make a clear distinction between these two formal ways of conceiving logic: one aimed at the possibility of sentences being true or false – a domain of apophantics – and another, the domain of formal ontology, which includes knowledge. The first distinction Husserl’s makes is the following: formal apophantics is thematically directed towards judgement (which also implies a tendency toward syntactic configurations which appear as constituents in the judgement which has become a theme; formal ontology is directed towards objects and their syntactic forms which are taken as themes in the activity of the judgement, though they are taken in such a way that the judgements and their elements are not themes. The solution of this problem is given by Husserl in this way: the judging act is not directed towards judgement but towards the thematic object. However, when we are considering our own judgements, their constitutive elements, their connections and their relations, this takes place within a new to-judge-act, of a second degree, a judgement about judgements, in which judgements become thematic objects.

Analytics as formal ontology. Since every science has its own field, scientific knowledge is directed towards a thematic object and in this case analytics, being a formal doctrine of science, has, as all sciences have, a real direction, and because of its a priori generality, it may be said to have an ontological direction. It is a formal ontology (op. cit., p. 107). Its a priori truths enunciate what is valid and therefore endowed with formal generality for objects-in-general, for domains of objects in general. They enunciate in what form these objects in general exist or may exist; these enunciations are themselves judgements, for it is in judgements alone that objects-in-general “exist” in the form of categories.

From: Anton Dumitriu, History of Logic, Volume III, Tunbridge Wells: Abacus Press, 1977, pp. 362-366.


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