Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

A further point to be taken into consideration here is that philosophy, having grown out of a critical attitude to each and every traditional predisposition, is limited in its spread by no national boundaries. All that must be present is the capacity for a universal critical attitude, which too, of course, presupposes a certain level of prescientific culture. Thus can the upheaval in the national culture propagate itself, first of all because the progressing universal science becomes a common possession of nations that were at first strangers to each other, and then because a unified community, both scientific and educational, extends to the majority of nations.

Still another important point must be adduced; it concerns philosophy’s position in regard to traditions. There are in fact two possibilities to observe here. Either the traditionally accepted is completely rejected, or its content is taken over philosophically, and thereby it too is reformed in the spirit of philosophical ideality. An outstanding case in point is that of religion – from which I should like to exclude the “polytheistic religions”. Gods in the plural, mythical powers of every kind, are objects belonging to the environing world, on the same level of reality as animal or man. In the concept of God, the singular is essential.39 Looking at this from the side of man, moreover, it is proper that the reality of God, both as being and as value, should be experienced as binding man interiorly. These results, then, an understandable blending of this absoluteness with that of philosophical ideality. In the overall process of idealization that philosophy undertakes, God is, so to speak, logicized and becomes even the bearer of the absolute logos. I should life, moreover, to see a logic in the very fact that theologically religion invokes faith itself as evidence and thus as a proper and most profound mode of grounding true being.40 National gods, however, are simply there as real facts of the environing world, without anyone confronting philosophy with questions stemming from a critique of cognition, with questions of evidence.

Substantially, though in a somewhat sketchy fashion, we have now described the historical movement that makes understandable how, beginning with a few Greek exceptions, a transformation of human existence and of man’s entire cultural life could be set in motion, beginning in Greece and its nearest neighbors. Moreover, now it is also discernible how, following upon this, a supernationality of a completely new kind could arise. I am referring, of course, to the spiritual form of Europe. It is now no longer a number of different nations bordering on each other, influencing each other only by commercial competition and war. Rather a new spirit stemming from philosophy and the sciences based on it, a spirit of free criticism providing norms for infinite tasks, dominates man, creating new, infinite ideals. These are ideals for individual men of each nation and for the nations themselves. Ultimately, however, the expanding synthesis of nations too has its infinite ideals, wherein each of these nations, by the very fact that it strives to accomplish its own ideal task in the spirit of infinity,41 contributes its best to the community of nations. In this give and take the supernational totality with its graded structure of societies grows apace, filled with the spirit of one all-inclusive task, infinite in the variety of its branches yet unique in its infinity. In this total society with its ideal orientation, philosophy itself retains the role of guide, which is its special infinite task.42 Philosophy has the role of a free and universal theoretical disposition that embraces at once all ideals and the one overall ideal – in short, the universe of all norms. Philosophy has constantly to exercise through European man its role of leadership for the whole of mankind.

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