Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

In this way, of course, one-sided rationality can become an evil. It can also be said that it belongs to the very essence of reason that philosophers can at first understand and accomplish their infinite task only on the basis of an absolutely necessary onesidedness.45 In itself there is no absurdity here, no error. Rather, as has been remarked, the direct and necessary path for reason allows it initially to grasp only one aspect of the task, at first without recognizing that a thorough knowledge of the entire infinite task, the totality of being, involves still other aspects. When inadequacy reveals itself in obscurities and contradiction, then this becomes a motive to engage in a universal reflection. Thus the philosopher must always have as his purpose to master the true and full sense of philosophy, the totality of its infinite horizons. No one line of knowledge, no individual truth must be absolutized. Only in such a supreme consciousness of self, which itself becomes a branch of the infinite task, can philosophy fulfill its function of putting itself, and therewith a genuine humanity, on the right track. To know that this is the case, however, also involves once more entering the field of knowledge proper to philosophy on the highest level of reflection upon itself. Only on the basis of this constant reflectiveness is a philosophy a universal knowledge.

I have said that the course of philosophy goes through a period of naÎvete. This, then, is the place for a critique of the so renowned irrationalism, or it is the place to uncover the naÎvete of that rationalism that passes as genuine philosophical rationality, and that admittedly is characteristic of philosophy in the whole modern period since the Renaissance, looking upon itself as the real and hence universal rationalism. Now, as they begin, all the sciences, even those whose beginnings go back to ancient times, are unavoidably caught up in this naÎvete. To put it more exactly, the most general title for this naÎvete is objectivism, which is given a structure in the various types of naturalism, wherein the spirit is naturalized.46 Old and new philosophies were and remain naÎvely objectivistic. It is only right, however, to add that German idealism, beginning with Kant, was passionately concerned with overcoming the naÎvete that had already become very sensitive. Still, it was incapable of really attaining to the level of superior reflectiveness that is decisive for the new image of philosophy and of European man.

What I have just said I can make intelligible only by a few sketchy indications. Natural man (let us assume, in the pre-philosophical period) is oriented toward the world in all his concerns and activities. The area in which he lives and works is the environing world which in its spatiotemporal dimensions surrounds him and of which he considers himself a part. This continues to be true in the theoretical attitude, which at first can be nothing but that of the disinterested spectator of a world that is demythologized before his eyes. Philosophy sees in the world the universe of what is, and world becomes objective world over against representations of the world – which latter change subjectively, whether on a national or an individual scale – and thus truth becomes objective truth. Thus philosophy begins as cosmology. At first, as is self-evident, it is oriented in its theoretical interest to corporeal nature, since in fact all spatiotemporal data do have, at least basically, the form of corporeality. Men and beasts are not merely bodies, but to the view oriented to the environing world they appear as some sort of corporeal being and thus as realities included in the universal spatiotemporality. In this way all psychic events, those of this or that ego, such as experience, thinking, willing, have a certain objectivity. Community life, that of families, of peoples, and the like, seems then to resolve itself into the life of particular individuals, who are psychophysical objects. In the light of psychophysical causality there is no purely spiritual continuity in spiritual grouping; physical nature envelops everything.

Read Previous

Huizinga, Johan: Art in Life

Read Next

Ivanova-Scriabina, Alina: Russian Britten: A bond of friendship through the language of music