Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

Speaking generally, attitude bespeaks a habitually, determined manner of vital willing, wherein the will’s directions or interests, its aims and its cultural accomplishments, are preindicated and thus the overall orientation determined. In this enduring orientation taken as a norm, the individual life is lived. The concrete cultural contents change in a relatively enclosed historicity. In its historical situation mankind (or the closed community, such as a nation, a race, etc.) always lives within the framework of some sort of attitude. Its life always has a normative orientation and within this a steady historicity or development.

Thus if the theoretical attitude in its newness is referred back to a previous, more primitive normative attitude, the theoretical is characterized as a transformed attitude.28 Looking at the historicity of human existence universally in all its communal forms and in its historical stages, we find, then, that essentially a certain style of human existence (taken in formal universality) points to a primary historicity, within which the actual normative style of culture-creating existence at any time, no matter what its rise or fall or stagnation, remains formally the same. In this regard we are speaking of the natural, the native attitude, of originally natural life, of the first primitively natural form of cultures – be they higher or lower, uninhibitedly developing or stagnating. All other attitudes, then, refer back to these natural ones as transformations of them.29 To put it more concretely, in an attitude natural to one of the actual human groups in history there must arise at a point in time motives that for the first time impel individual men and groups having this attitude to transform it.

How are we, then, to characterize the essentially primitive attitude, the fundamental historical mode of human existence?30 The answer: on the basis of generation men naturally live in communities – in a family, a race, a nation – and these communities are in themselves more or less abundantly subdivided into particular social units. Now, life on the level of nature is characterized as a naÎvely direct living immersed in the world, in the world that in a certain sense is constantly there consciously as a universal horizon but is not, merely by that fact, thematic. Thematic is that toward which man’s attention is turned. Being genuinely alive is always having one’s attention turned to this or that, turned to something as to an end or a means, as relevant or irrelevant, interesting or indifferent, private or public, to something that is in daily demand or to something that is startlingly new. All this belongs to the world horizon, but there is need of special motives if the one who is caught up in such a life in the world is to transform himself and is to come to the point where he somehow makes this world itself his theme, where he conceives an enduring interest in it.

But here more detailed explanations are needed. Individual human beings who change their attitudes as human beings belonging to their own general vital community (their nation), have their particular natural interests (each his own). These they can by no change in attitude simply lose; that would mean for each ceasing to be the individual he is, the one he has been since birth. No matter what the circumstances, then, the transformed attitude can only be a temporary one. It can take on a lasting character that will endure as a habit throughout an entire life only in the form of an unconditional determination of will to take up again the selfsame attitudes in a series of periods that are temporary but intimately bound together. It will mean that by virtue of a continuity that bridges intentionally the discreteness involved, men will hold on to the new type of interests as worth being realized and will embody them in corresponding cultural forms.31

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