This rough sketch will gain in completeness and intelligibility as we examine more closely the historical origin of philosophical and scientific man and thereby clarify the sense of Europe and, consequently, the new type of historicity that through this sort of development distinguishes itself from history in general.23
First, let us elucidate the remarkable character of philosophy as it unfolds in ever-new special sciences. Let us contrast it with other forms of culture already present in prescientific man, in his artefacts, his agriculture, his architecture, etc. All manifest classes of cultural products along with the proper methods for insuring their successful production. Still, they have a transitory existence in their environing world. Scientific achievements, on the other hand, once the method of insuring their successful creation has been attained, have an entirely different mode of being, an entirely different temporality. They do not wear out, they are imperishable. Repeated creation does not produce something similar, at best something similarly useful. Rather, no matter how many times the same person or any number of persons repeat these achievements, they remain exactly identical, identical in sense and in value. Persons united together in actual mutual understanding can only experience what their respective fellows have produced in the same manner as identical with what they have produced themselves.24 In a word, what scientific activity achieves is not real but ideal.
What is more, however, whatever validity or truth has been gained in this way serves as material for the production of higher-level idealities; and this goes on and on. Now, in the developed theoretical interest, each interest receives ahead of time the sense of a merely relative goal; it becomes a transition to constantly new, higher-level goals in an infinity preindicated as science’s universal field of endeavor, its “domain’’. Thus science designates the idea of an infinity of tasks, of which at any time a finite number have already been accomplished and are retained in their enduring validity. These constitute at the same time the fund of premises for an endless horizon of tasks united into one all-embracing task.
Here, however, an important supplementary remark should be made. In science the ideality of what is produced in any particular instance means more than the mere capacity for repetition based on a sense that has been guaranteed as identical; the idea of truth in the scientific sense is set apart (and of this we have still to speak) from the truth proper to pre-scientific life. Scientific truth claims to be unconditioned truth, which involves infinity, giving to each factually guaranteed truth a merely relative character, making it only an approach oriented, in fact, toward the infinite horizon, wherein the truth in itself is, so to speak, looked on as an infinitely distant point.25 By the same token this infinity belongs also to what in the scientific sense “really is’’. A fortiori, there is infinity involved in “universal’’ validity for “everyone’’, as the subject of whatever rational foundations are to be secured; nor is this any longer everyone in the finite sense the term has in prescientific life.26
Having thus characterized the ideality peculiar to science, with the ideal infinities variously implied in the very sense of science, we are faced, as we survey the historical situation, with a contrast that we express in the following proposition: no other cultural form in the pre-philosophical historical horizon is a culture of ideas in the above-mentioned sense; none knows any infinite tasks – none knows of such universes of idealities that as wholes and in all their details, as also in their methods of production, bear within themselves an essential infinity.