Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation is on Edmund Husserl's concept of personal community. I argue that Husserl's concept of community is based on his formal theory of parts and wholes. More specifically, it is argued that the terms Husserl uses to describe features of community in his later writings are already established early in his philosophical career. The first three chapters of the dissertation focus on Husserl's unique conception of community in general. The final two chapters turn to political communities from a Husserlian standpoint.

In the first chapter, I investigate how Husserl's account of the ontological structure of community is tied to his theory of parts and wholes. I position his concept of community in relation to two traditional theories found in the philosophy of the social sciences, namely, individualism and holism. On that basis, I argue that Husserl's concept of community is an attractive alternative to both traditional theories.

My second chapter demonstrates the criteria Husserl uses in his taxonomy of community types. Husserl makes distinctions between community types based on how loosely or tightly members are bound together. By appealing to Husserl's notion of "mereological proximity," I argue that anonymous and intimate forms of community organization are two poles that provide a spectrum of community organization. This allows me to show how conflicting accounts of Husserl's concept of some communities understood as "personalities of a higher order" can be disambiguated.

In chapter three, I provide a phenomenological analysis of the experience of community from the first-person perspective of membership. For Husserl, consciousness includes a blend of presence and absence for objects and their surrounding horizons, with this process occurring in a unique way in the context of the experience of community membership. Interactions are experienced differently for persons we know personally as opposed to unknown others, and Husserl's sophisticated account of the intentionality of consciousness provides the resources for understanding these experiences.

My fourth chapter provides an interpretation of political obligations from a Husserlian perspective. I argue that Husserl has an advantage over Margaret Gilbert in accounting for political obligations amidst unknown others in large communities having the features of impersonality and anonymity. I proceed by way of a comparative analysis with Gilbert's social ontology, and specifically her affirmative answer to the political "membership problem." Given a difficulty with Gilbert's account of membership in groups having the features of impersonality and anonymity, I supplement her argument in the form of a Husserlian-inspired answer to the "membership problem."

The fifth chapter provides an interpretation of trust and betrayal within political communities from the perspective of Husserl's concept of community. This task is accomplished by way of comparing Husserl's notion of "crisis" with the roles that trust and betrayal play in political life. I again proceed by way of comparing Husserl with Gilbert on these topics. In that way, a Husserlian approach to trust and crisis is put forth in the context of political communities. It thereby becomes possible to thematize trust not just as a positive notion that can then be betrayed, but elucidates features of the world that have been taken for granted which act as the condition of possibility of such crises occurring in the first place.

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