Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

As philosophy spreads in the form of research and training, it produces a twofold effect. On the one hand, most essential to the theoretical attitude of philosophical man is the characteristic universality of the critical standpoint, which its determination not to accept without question any pregiven opinion, any tradition, and thus to seek out, with regard to the entire universe handed down in tradition, the true in itself – which is ideal. Yet this is not merely a new way of looking at knowledge. By virtue of the demand to subject the whole of experience to ideal norms, i.e., those of unconditional truth, these results at the same time an allembracing change in the practical order of human existence and thus of cultural life in its entirety. The practical must no longer take its norms from naÎne everyday experience and from tradition but from the objective truth. In this way ideal truth becomes an absolute value that in the movement of education and in its constant application in the training of children carries with it a universal revision of practice. If we consider somewhat more in detail the manner of this transformation, we shall immediately understand the inevitable: if the general idea of truth in itself becomes the universal norm of all the relative truths that play a role in human life – actual and conjectural situation truths – then this fact affects all traditional norms, those of right, of beauty, of purpose, of dominant values in persons, values having a personal character, etc.

Thus there grows up a special type of man and a special vocation in life correlative to the attainment of a new culture. Philosophical knowledge of the world produces not only these special types of result but also a human conduct that immediately influences the rest of practical living with all its demands and its aims, aims of the historical tradition according to which one is educated, thus giving these aims their own validity. A new and intimate community, we might say a community of ideal interests, is cultivated among men – men who life for philosophy, united in their dedication to ideas, which ideas are not only of use to all but are identically the property of all. Inevitably there develops a particular kind of cooperation whereby men work with each other and for each other, helping each other by mutual criticism, with the result that the pure and unconditioned validity of truth grows as a common possession. In addition there is the necessary tendency toward the promotion of interest, because others understand what is herein desired and accomplished; and this is a tendency to include more and more as yet unphilosophical persons in the community of those who philosophize. This occurs first of all among members of the same nation. Nor can this expansion be confined to professional scientific research; rather its success goes far beyond the professional circle, becoming an educational movement.

Now, if this educational movement spreads to ever wider circles of the people, and naturally to the superior, dominant types, to those who are less involved in the cares of life, the results are of what sort? Obviously it does not simply bring about a homogeneous change in the normal, on the whole satisfactory national life; rather in all probability it leads to great cleavages, wherein the national life and the entire national culture go into an upheaval. The conservatives, content with tradition, and the philosophical circle will struggle against each other, and without doubt the battle will carry over into the sphere of political power. At the very beginning of philosophy, persecution sets in. The men dedicated to those ideas are outlawed. And yet ideas are stronger than any forces rooted in experience.38

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