Volume 39, Issue 1/3, Spring/Summer/Fall 2009
James R. Mensch
The Phenomenological Status of the Ego
For phenomenology, the study of appearances and the ways they come together to present a world, the question of the ego presents special difficulties. The ego, itself, is not an appearance; it is the subject to whom appearances appear. As such, it cannot appear. As the neo-Kantian, Paul Natorp expresses this:
“The ego is the subjective center of relation for all contents in my consciousness. . . . It cannot itself be a content and resembles nothing that could be a content of
consciousness.” Husserl will wrestle throughout the whole of his career with the issue of how to handle phenomenologically an ego that cannot be considered as
a content of consciousness. In this article, I will outline the stages of his journey toward resolving this question.