Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

At this point, however, it is important for our problem of the crisis to show how it is that the “modern age”, that has for centuries been so proud of its successes in theory and practice, has itself finally fallen into a growing dissatisfaction and must even look upon its own situation as distressful. Want has invaded all the sciences, most recently as a want of method. Moreover, the want that grips us Europeans, even though it is not understood, involves very many persons.51

There are all sorts of problems that stem from naÎvete, according to which objectivistic science holds what it calls the objective world to be the totality of what is, without paying any attention to the fact that no objective science can do justice to the subjectivity that achieves science. One who has been trained in the natural sciences finds it self-evident that whatever is merely subjective must be eliminated and that the method of natural science, formulated according to a subjective mode of representation, is objectively determined. In the same manner he seeks what is objectively true for the psychic too. By the same token, it is taken for granted that the subjective, eliminated by the physical scientist, is, precisely as psychic, to be investigated in psychology and of course in psychophysical psychology. The investigator of nature, however, does not make it clear to himself that the constant foundation of his admittedly subjective thinking activity is the environing world of life. This latter is constantly presupposed as the basic working area, in which alone his questions and his methodology make sense. Where, at the present time, is that powerful bit of method that leads from the intuitive environing world to the idealizing of mathematics and its interpretation as objective being, subjected to criticism and clarification? Einstein’s revolutionary changes concern the formulas wherein idealized and naÎvely objectivized nature (physis) is treated. But regarding the question of how formulas or mathematical objectification in general are given a sense based on life and the intuitive environing world, of this we hear nothing. Thus Einstein does nothing to reformulate the space and time in which our actual life takes place.

Mathematical science of nature is a technical marvel for the purpose of accomplishing inductrions whose fruitfulness, probability, exactitude, and calculability could previously not even be suspected. As an accomplishment it is a triumph of the human spirit. With regard to the rationality of its methods and theories, however, it is a thoroughly relative science. It presupposes as data principles that are themselves thoroughly lacking in actual rationality. In so far as the intuitive environing world, purely subjective as it is, is forgotten in the scientific thematic, the working subject is also forgotten, and the scientist is not studied.52 (Thus from this point of view the rationality of the exact sciences is on a level with the rationality of the Egyptian pyramids).

It is true, of course, that since Kant we have a special theory of knowledge, and on the other hand there is psychology, which with its claims to scientific exactitude wants to be the universal fundamental science of the spirit. Still, our hope for real rationality, i.e., for real insight,53 is disappointed here as elsewhere. The psychologists simply fail to see that they too study neither themselves nor the scientists who are doing the investigating nor their own vital environing world. They do not see that from the very beginning they necessarily presuppose themselves as a group of men belonging to their own environing world and historical period. By the same token, they do not see that in pursuing their aims they are seeking a truth in itself, universally valid for every-one. By its objectivism psychology simply cannot make a study of the sould in its properly essential sense, which is to say, the ego that acts and is acted upon. Though by determining the bodily function involved in an experience of evaluating or willing, it may objectify the experience and handle it inductively, can it do the same for purposes, values, norms? Can it study reason as some sort of “disposition”? Completely ignored is the fact that objectivism, as the genuine work of the investigator intent upon finding true norms, presupposes just such norms; that objectivism refuses to be inferred from facts, since in the process facts are already intended as truths and not as illusions. It is true, of course, that there exists a feeling for the difficulties present here, with the result that the dispute over psychologism is fanned into a flame. Nothing is accomplished, however, by rejecting a psychological grounding of norms, above all of norms for truth in itself. More and more perceptible becomes the overall need for a reform of modern psychology in its entirety. As yet, however, it is not understood that psychology through its objectivism has been found wanting; that it simply fails to get at the proper essence of spirit; that in isolating the soul and making it an object of thought, that in reinterpreting psychophysically being-in-community, it is being absurd. True, it has not labored in vain, and it has established many empirical rules, even practically worthwhile ones. Yet it is no more a real psychology than moral statistics with its no less worthwhile knowledge is a moral science.54

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