Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

Environing world is a concept that has its place exclusively in the spiritual sphere. That we live in our own particular environing world, to which all our concerns and efforts are directed, points to an event that takes place purely in the spiritual order. Our environing world is a spiritual structure in us and in our historical life.9 Here, then, there is no reason for one who makes his theme the spirit as spirit to demand for it any but a purely spiritual explanation. And this has general validity: to look upon environing nature as in itself alien to spirit, and consequently to desire to support humanistic science with natural science and thus presumably to make the former exact, is nonsense.

Obviously, too, it is forgotten that natural science (like all sciences as such) is a title for spiritual activities, those of natural scientists in cooperation with each other; as such these activities belong, as do all spiritual occurrences, to the realm of what should be explained by means of a science of the spirit.10 Is it not, then, nonsensical and circular, to desire to explain by means of natural science the historical event “natural science’’, to explain it by invoking natural science and its laws of nature, both of which, as produced by spirit,11 are themselves part of the problem?

Blinded by naturalism (no matter how much they themselves may verbally oppose it), the practitioners of humanistic science have completely neglected even to pose the problem of a universal and pure science of the spirit and to seek a theory of the essence of spirit as spirit, a theory that pursues what is unconditionally universal in the spiritual order with its own elements and its own laws. Yet this last should be done with a view to gaining thereby scientific explanations in an absolutely conclusive sense.

The preceding reflections proper to a science of the spirit provide us with the right attitude for grasping and handling our theme of spiritual Europe as a problem belonging purely to science of the spirit, first of all from the point of view of spirit’s history. As has already been stated in the introductory remarks, in following this path we should reveal an extraordinary teleology, which is, so to speak, innate only in our Europe. This, moreover, is most intimately connected with the eruption (or the invasion) of philosophy and of its ramifications, the sciences, in the ancient Greek spirit. We already suspect that there will be question of clarifying the profoundest reasons for the origin of fatal naturalism, or – and this is of equal importance – of modern dualism in interpreting the world. Ultimately the proper sense of European man’s crisis should thereby come to light.

We may ask, “How is the spiritual image of Europe to be characterized?’’ This does not mean Europe geographically, as it appears on maps, as though European man were to be in this way confined to the circle of those who live together in this territory. In the spiritual sense it is clear that to Europe belong the English dominions, the United States, etc., but not, however, the Eskimos or Indians of the country fairs, or the Gypsies, who are constantly wandering about Europe. Clearly the title Europe designates the unity of a spiritual life and a creative activity – with all its aims, interests, cares and troubles, with its plans, its establishments, its institutions. Therein individual human beings work in a variety of societies, on different levels, in families, races,12 nations, all intimately joined together in spirit and, as I said, in the unity of one spiritual image. This should stamp on persons, groups, and all their cultural accomplishments an all-unifying character.

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