Husserl, Edmund: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

We are familiar with this sort of thing in the occupations that make their appearance even in a naturally primitive form of cultural life, where there are temporary periods devoted to the occupation, periods that interrupt the rest of life with its concrete temporality (e.g., the working hours of a functionary, etc.).

Now, there are two possibilities. On the one hand, the interests of the new attitude will be made subservient to the natural interests of life, or what is essentially the same, to natural practicality. In this case the new attitude is itself a practical one. This, then, can have a sense similar to the practical attitude of the politician, who as a state functionary is attentive to the common good and whose attitude, therefore, is to serve the practical interests of all (and incidentally his own). This sort of thing admittedly still belongs to the domain of the natural attitude, which is, of course, different for different types of community members and is in fact one thing for the leaders of the community and another for the “citizens’’ – both obviously understood in the broadest sense. In any event, the analogy makes it clear that the universality of a practical attitude, in this case one that embraces a whole world, need in no way signify being interested in and occupied with all the details and particularities of that world – it would obviously be unthinkable.

In contrast to the higher-level practical attitude there exists, however, still another essential possibility of a change in the universal natural attitude (with which we shall soon become acquainted in its type, the mythical-religious attitude), which is to say, the theoretical attitude – a name being given to it, of course, only provisionally, because in this attitude philosophical theoria must undergo a development and so become its proper aim or field of interest. The theoretical attitude, even though it too is a professional attitude, is thoroughly unpractical. Thus it is based on a deliberate epoche from all practical interests,32 and consequently even those of a higher level, that serve natural needs within the framework of a life’s occupation governed by such practical interests.

Still, it must at the same time be said that there is no question here of a definitive “cutting off’’ of the theoretical life from the practical. We are not saying that the concrete life of the theoretical thinker falls into two disconnected vital continuities partitioned off from each other, which would mean, socially speaking, that two spiritually unconnected spheres would come into existence. For there is still a third form of universal attitude possible (in contrast both to the mythical-religious, which is based on the natural, and to the theoretical attitudes). It is the synthesis of opposing interests that occurs in the transition from the theoretical to the practical attitude. In this way thoeria (the universal science), whose growth has manifested a tight unity through an epoche from all practical considerations, is called upon (and even proves in a theoretical insight33 that it is called upon) to serve humanity in a new way, first of all in its concrete existence as it continues to live naturally. This takes place in the form of a new kind of practical outlook, a universal critique of all life and of its goals, of all the forms and systems of culture that have already grown up in the life of mankind. This brings with it a critique of mankind itself and of those values that explicitly or implicitly guide it. Carrying it to a further consequence, it is a practical outlook whose aim is to elevate mankind through universal scientific reason in accord with norms of truth in every form, and thus to transform it into a radically new humanity made capable of an absolute responsibility to itself on the basis of absolute theoretical insights.34 Still, prior to this synthesis of theoretical universality and a practical outlook with universal interests, there is obviously another synthesis of theory and practice – the utilization of the limited results of theory, of those special sciences that are limited to the practical aspects of natural life, having relinquished by their very specialization the universality of theoretical interest. Here the primitively natural attitude and the theoretical are joined together in an orientation toward finite goals.

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