Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

“The spiritual image of Europe’’ – what is it? It is exhibiting the philosophical idea immanent in the history of Europe (of spiritual Europe). To put it another way, it is its immanent teleology, which, if we consider mankind in general, manifests itself as a new human epoch emerging and beginning to grow, the epoch of a humanity that from now on will and can live only in the free fashioning of its being and its historical life out of rational ideas and infinite tasks.13

Every spiritual image has its place essentially in a universal historical space or in a particular unity of historical time in terms of coexistence or succession – it has its history. If, then, we follow historical connections, beginning as we must with ourselves and our own nation, historical continuity leads us ever further away from our own to neighboring nations, and so from nation to nation, from age to age. Ultimately we come to ancient times and go from the Romans to the Greeks, to the Egyptians, the Persians, etc., in this there is clearly no end. We go back to primeval times, and we must perforce turn to Menghin’s significant and genial work The History of the Stone Age.14 To an investigation of this type mankind manifests itself as a single life of men and of peoples, bound together by spiritual relationships alone, filled with all types of human beings and of cultures, but constantly flowing each into the other. It is like a sea in which human beings, peoples, are the waves constantly forming, changing, and disappearing, some more richly, more complexly involved, others more simply.

In this process consistent, penetrating observation reveals new, characteristic compositions and distinctions. No matter how inimical the European nations may be toward each other, still they have a special inner affinity of spirit that permeates all of them and transcends their national differences. It is a sort of fraternal relationship that gives us the consciousness of being at home in this circle. This becomes immediately evident as soon as, for example, we penetrate sympathetically into the historical process of India, with its many peoples and cultural forms. In this circle there is again the unity of a family-like relationship, but one that is strange to us. On the other hand, Indians find us strangers and find only in each other their fellows. Still, this essential distinction between fellowship and strangeness, which is relativized on many levels and is a basic category of all historicity, cannot suffice. Historical humanity does not always divide itself in the same way according to this category. We get a hint of that right in our own Europe. Therein lies something unique, which all other human groups, too, feel with regard to us, something that apart from all considerations of expediency, becomes a motivation for them – despite their determination to retain their spiritual autonomy – constantly to Europeanize themselves, whereas we, if we understand ourselves properly, will never, for example, Indianize ourselves.15 I mean we feel (and with all its vagueness this feeling is correct) that in our European humanity there is an innate entelechy that thoroughly controls the changes in the European image and gives to it the sense of a development in the direction of an ideal image of life and of being, as moving toward an eternal pole. It is not as though there were question here of one of those known orientations that give to the physical realm of organic beings its character – not a question, therefore, of something like biological development in stages from seminal form up to maturity followed by ageing and dying out. There is essentially no zoology of peoples. They are spiritual unities. They have not, and above all the supernationality Europe has not, a mature from that has been or can be reached, no form of regular repetition. From the point of view of soul, humanity has never been a finished product, nor will it be, nor can it ever repeat itself.16 The spiritual telos of European Man, in which is included the particular telos of separate nations and of individual human beings, lies in infinity; it is an infinite idea, toward which in secret the collective spiritual becoming, so to speak, strives. Just as in the development it becomes a conscious telos, so too it becomes necessarily practical as a goal of the will, and thereby is introduced a new, a higher stage of development that is guided by norms, by normative ideas.

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