Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

In the humanistic sciences the methodological situation (in the sense already quite intelligible to us) is unfortunately quite different, and this for internal reasons. Human spirituality7 is, it is true, based on the human physis, each individually human soul-life is founded on corporeality, and thus too each community on the bodies of the individual human beings who are its members. If, then, as is done in the sphere of nature, a really exact explanation and consequently a similarly extensive scientific practical application is to become possible for the phenomena belonging to the humanistic sciences, then must the practitioners of the humanistic sciences consider not only the spirit as spirit but must also go back to its bodily foundations, and by employing the exact sciences of physics and chemistry, carry through their explanations. The attempt to do this, however, has been unsuccessful (and in the foreseeable future there is no remedy to be had) due to the complexity of the exact psycho-physical research needed in the case of individual human beings, to say nothing of the great historical communities. If the world were constructed of two, so to speak, equal spheres of reality – nature and spirit – neither with a preferential position methodologically and factually, the situation would be different. But only nature can be handled as a self-contained world; only natural science can with complete consistency abstract from all that is spirit and consider nature purely as nature. On the other side such a consistent abstraction from nature does not, for the practitioner of humanistic science who is interested purely in the spiritual, lead to a self-contained “world’’, a world whose interrelationships are purely spiritual, that could be the theme of a pure and universal humanistic science, parallel to pure natural science. Animal spirituality,8 that of the human and animal “souls’’, to which all other spirituality is referred, is in each individual instance causally based on corporeality. It is thus understandable that the practitioner of humanistic science, interested solely in the spiritual as such, gets no further than the descriptive, than a historical record of spirit, and thus remains tied to intuitive finitudes. Every example manifests this. A historian, for example, cannot, after all, treat the history of ancient Greece without taking into consideration the physical geography of ancient Greece; he cannot treat its architecture without considering the materiality of its buildings, etc., etc. That seems clear enough.

What is to be said, then, if the whole mode of thought that reveals itself in this presentation rests on fatal prejudices and is in its results partly responsible for Europe’s sickness? I am convinced that this is the case, and in this way I hope to make understandable that herein lies an essential source for the conviction which the modern scientist has that the possibility of grounding a purely self-contained and universal science of the spirit is not even worth mentioning, with the result that he flatly rejects it.

It is in the interests of our Europe-problem to penetrate a bit more deeply into this question and to expose the above, at first glance lucidly clear, argumentation. The historian, the investigator of spirit, of culture, constantly has of course physical nature too among the phenomena with which he is concerned; in our example, nature in ancient Greece. But this is not nature in the sense understood by natural science; rather it is nature as it was for the ancient Greeks, natural reality present to their eyes in the world that surrounded them. To state it more fully; the historical environing world of the Greeks is not the objective world in our sense; rather it is their “representation of the world’’, i.e., their own subjective evaluation, with all the realities therein that were valid for them, for example the gods, the demons, etc.

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