Volume 30, Issue 1, 2020
Philosophy in an Age of Crisis, Part IV
Robert Elliott Allinson
The Problem of the External World in René Descartes, Edmund Husserl, Immanuel Kant and the Evil Genius
A Perennial Problem for Philosophers?
The need to prove the existence of the external world has been a subject that has concerned the rationalist philosophers, particularly Descartes and the empiricist philosophers such as John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. Taking the epoché as the key mark of the phenomenologist—the suspension of the question of the existence of the external world—the issue of the external world should not come under the domain of the phenomenologist. Ironically, however, I would like to suggest that it could be argued that the founder of the phenomenological school of thought, Edmund Husserl, also did not avoid the question of the existence of the external world. What I would like to suggest further is that Immanuel Kant grants himself illicit access to the external world and thus illustrates that the question of the external world is vital to the argument structure of the first Critique.