Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

All of this, however, is not intended as a speculative interpretation of our historicity but rather as the expression of a vital anticipation arising out of unprejudiced reflection. But this anticipation serves as intentional guidance17 toward seeing in European history extraordinarily significant connections, in the pursuit of which the anticipated becomes for us guaranteed certainty. Anticipation is the emotional guide to all discoveries.

Let us develop this. Spiritually Europe has a birthplace. By this I do not mean a geographical place, in some one land, though this too is true. I refer, rather, to a spiritual birthplace in a nation or in certain men or groups of men belonging to this nation. It is the ancient Greek nation18 in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. In it there grows up a new kind of attitude19 of individuals toward their environing world. Consequent upon this emerges a completely new type of spiritual structure, rapidly growing into a systematically rounded (geschlossen) cultural form that the Greeks called philosophy. Correctly translated, in its original sense, this bespeaks nothing but universal science, science of the world as a whole, of the universal unity of all being. Very soon the interest in the totality and, by the same token, the question regarding the all-embracing becoming and the resulting being begin to particularize themselves in accord with the general forms and regions of being.20 Thus philosophy, the one science, is ramified into the various particular sciences.

In the emergence of philosophy in this sense, a sense, that is, which includes all sciences, I see – no matter how paradoxical this may seem – the original phenomenon of spiritual Europe. The elucidations that follow, however brief they must be kept, will soon eliminate the seeming paradox.

Philosophy-science21 is the title for a special class of cultural structures. The historical movement that has taken on the form of European supernationality goes back to an ideal image whose dimension is the infinite; not, however, to an image that could be recognized in a merely external morphological examination of changing forms. To have a norm constantly in view is something intimately a part of the intentional life of individual persons and consequently of nations and of particular societies within the latter, and ultimately of the organism formed by the nations united together as Europe. This, of course, is not true of all persons and, therefore, is not fully developed in the higher-level personalities constituted by intersubjective acts. Still, it is present in them in the form of a necessary progressive development and extension in the spirit of universally valid norms. This spirit, however, signifies at the same time the progressive transformations of collective humanity beginning with the effective formation of ideas in small and even in the smallest circles. Ideas, conceived within individual persons as sense-structures that in a wonderfully new manner secrete within themselves intentional infinities, are not in space like real things, which latter, entering as they do into the field of human experiences, do not by that very fact as yet signify anything for the human being as a person. With the first conception of ideas man gradually becomes a new man. His spiritual being enters into the movement of a progressive reformation. This movement from the very beginning involves communication and awakens a new style of personal existence in its vital circle by a better understanding of a correspondingly new becoming. In this movement first of all (and subsequently even beyond it) a special type of humanity spreads out, living in finitude but oriented toward poles of infinity. By the very same token there grows up a new mode of sociality and a new form of enduring society, whose spiritual life, cemented together by a common love of and creation of ideas and by the setting of ideal norms for life, carries within itself a horizon of infinity for the future – an infinity of generations finding constant spiritual renewal in ideas. This takes place first of all in the spiritual territory of a single nation, the Greeks, as a development of philosophy and of philosophical communities. Along with this there grows, first in this nation, a general cultural spirit that draws the whole of mankind under its sway and is therefore a progressive transformation in the shape of a new historicity.22

Read Previous

Huizinga, Johan: Art in Life

Read Next

Ivanova-Scriabina, Alina: Russian Britten: A bond of friendship through the language of music