In our time we everywhere meet the burning need for an understanding of spirit, while the unclarity of the methodological and factual connection between the natural sciences and the sciences of the spirit has become almost unbearable. Dilthey, one of the greatest scientists of the spirit, has directed his whole vital energy to clarifying the connection between nature and spirit, to clarifying the role of psychophysical psychology, which he thinks is to be complemented by a new, descriptive and analytic psychology. Efforts by Windelband and Rickert have likewise, unfortunately, not brought the desired insight. Like everyone else, these men are still committed to objectivism. Worst of all are the new psychological reformers, who are of the opinion that the entire fault lies in the long-dominant atomistic prejudice, that a new era has been introduced with wholistic psychology (Ganzheitspsychologie). There can, however, never be any improvement so long as an objectivism based on a naturalistic focusing on the environing world is not seen in all its naïveté, until men recognize thoroughly the absurdity of the dualistic interpretation of the world, according to which nature and spirit are to be looked upon as realities (Realitäten) in the same sense. In all seriousness my opinion is this: there never has nor ever will be an objective science of spirit, an objective theory of the soul, objective in the sense that it permits the attribution of an existence under the forms of spatio-temporality to souls or to communities of persons.
The spirit and in fact only the spirit is a being in itself and for itself; it is autonomous and is capable of being handled in a genuinely rational, genuinely and thoroughly scientific way only in this autonomy55. In regard to nature and scientific truth concerning it, however, the natural sciences give merely the appearance of having brought nature to a point where for itself it is rationally known. For true nature in its proper scientific sense is a product of the spirit that investigates nature, and thus the science of nature presupposes the science of the spirit. The spirit is essentially qualified to exercise self-knowledge, and as scientific spirit to exercise scientific self-knowledge, and over and over again. Only in the kind of pure knowledge proper to science of the spirit is the scientist unaffected by objection that his accomplishment is delf-concealing56. As s consequence, it is absurd for the sciences of the spirit to dispute with the sciences of nature for equal rights. To the extent that the former concede to the latter that their objectivity is an autonomy, they are themselves victims of objectivism. Moreover, in the way the sciences of the spirit are at present developed, with their manifold disciplines, they forfeit the unlimate, actual rationality which the spiritual Weltanschauung makes possible. Precisely this lack of genuine rationality on all sides is the source of what has become for man an unbearable unclarity regarding his own existence and his infinite tasks. These last are inseparably united in one task: only if the spirit returns to itself from its naïve exteriorization, clinging to itself and purely to itself, can it be adequate to itself57.
Now, how did the beginning of such a self-examination come about? A beginning was impossible so long as sensualism, or better, a psychology of data, a tabula rasa psychology, held the field. Only when Brentano promoted psychology to being a science of vital intentional experiences was an impulse given that could lead further – though Brentano himself had not yet overcome objectivism and psychological naturalism58. The development of a real method of grasping the fundamental essence of spirit in its intentionalities and consequently of instituting an analysis of spirit with a consistency reaching to the infinite, led to transcendental phenomenology. It was this that overcame naturalistic objectivism, and for that matter any form of objectivism, in the only possible way, by beginning one’s philosophizing from one’s own ego; and that purely as the author of all one accepts, becoming in this regard a purely theoretical spectator. This attitude brings about the successful institution of an absolutely autonomous science of spirit in the form of a consistent understanding of self and of the world as a spiritual accomplishment. Spirit is not looked upon here as part of nature or parallel to it; rather nature belongs to the sphere of spirit. Then, too, the ego is no longer an isolated thing alongside other such things in a pregiven world. The serious problem of personal egos external to or alongside of each other comes to an end in favor of an intimate relation of beings in each other and for each other.