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The Duality of the I: A Commentary on Hedwig Conrad-Martius’s Realist Phenomenology

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Hedwig Conrad-Martius

Part of the book series: Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences ((WHPS,volume 8))

Abstract

This chapter deals with the duality that characterizes the idea of the I in the realist ontology of the phenomenologist Hedwig Conrad-Martius (HCM) (1880–1966). At the basis of the discussion is the uncovering of two dimensions of duality in HCM’s perception of the I: one, appearing in her early treatise On the Ontology and Doctrine of Appearance of the Real External World (HCM, 1916b), focuses on the phenomenological dimensions of the I, and in it, she lays the critical foundations for the more developed ontological duality in HCM’s later writings that addresses the ontological aspects of the I. The later phase in HCM’s thinking of the I focuses on the spiritual I and established the simultaneous operation of two elements in it: its “origin-like” nature (Ursprungshaftigkeit) and its spritualness (geistlichthafte), which is also referred to as “infrastasis” (Infrastase). The phenomenological interpretation of the idea of the I in HCM’s thinking commences with unveiling these two phases in her writing, proceeds to explicate the meaning of the I, explores them, and culminates in the illumination of the relations between them. Meanwhile, HCM’s radical response to Husserl’s turn towards transcendentalism transpires and the well-established criticisms of realistic phenomenology contemporary with Husserl regarding the lack of discussion of the issue of the ego or the I are refuted.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Munich Circle included a group of intellectuals and philosophers from Munich, the first generation of phenomenologists, whose prominent members were: Alexander Pfänder, Johannes Daubert, Moritz Geiger, Theodor Conrad, Adolf Reinach, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Maximilian Beck, Max Scheler, Jean Hering, Alexander Koyré, Roman Ingarden, Edith Stein, and Hedwig Conrad-Martius. For further reading about the circle, see: Avé-Lallemant (1975).

  2. 2.

    This appeal is first mentioned by Husserl in Logical Investigations (Husserl, 1970b, §4, 172, §6, 174–175) and on many other occasions. HCM admits the influence of Logical Investigations on her, see: HCM (1916b, 355). This appeal is widely discussed in the literature, see: Seifert (1995), Kuhn (1969), Walther (1955), Schmücker (1956, 31).

  3. 3.

    See: U. Avé-Lallemant (1965/1966, 207). Husserl’s method of essence intuition (Wesenserfassung) focused on searching for the most primordial characteristics of things, or alternatively the essential “what” thanks to which they became these specific objects, while putting aside any previous theories or assumptions regarding them. For further reading on this method in relation to the realistic school of phenomenology, see: Hart (1972, 39–40), Reinach (1951, 21–73), Pfänder (1913), Pfeiffer (2005, 1–13), Schmücker (1956, 1–33), Ebel (1965, 1–25). HCM mentioned this method in many contexts, see: HCM (1916b, 346–348, 355 n. 1; 1923, 159; 1965e, 377; 1965g, 347).

  4. 4.

    Husserl’s transcendental turn was revealed publicly in the lectures given at Göttingen University in 1906–1907 (posthumously published as Die Idee der Phänomenologie, see: Husserl, 1950/1964) and announced in print with the publication of his Ideas in 1913 (Husserl, 1952/2012). However, the change in his thinking had occurred already in 1905. Biemel testifies that Husserl experienced a crisis in 1906 regarding the importance of his work, see: (Biemel, 1950, vii).

  5. 5.

    The discussion of the complex relation between HCM’s idea of the I and Husserl’s view of the ego exceeds the scope of the present chapter. I have referred to this issue in: Miron (2017) (An earlier version of Chapter 9 in this volume).

  6. 6.

    HCM’s characteristic extremely loaded, vague, unsystematic, and unique style of thinking and writing, as well as her relative anonymity even to the phenomenological discourse, necessitates a detailed presentation. However, my consistent attempt to use HCM’s words throughout the exposition and discussion should not mislead readers about the exegetical work that underlies it.

  7. 7.

    For a comprehensive account of HCM’s philosophy of Being, see: Miron (2015) (Reprinted in this volume as Chapter 5); Miron (2014) (Reprinted in this volume as Chapter 4).

  8. 8.

    The duality of the I is explored also in the writings in which HCM deals with the mind-body dichotomy, in which she establishes that also “the soul has two dimensions of expansion (Ausweitung): outwards and inwards”, see: HCM (1949, 1960, 1965a, 1965f). However, despite some considerable affinities with aspects that are discussed in this chapter, the issue of mind-body dichotomy in HCM’s thinking deserves a separate study and exceeds the scope of the current chapter.

  9. 9.

    This book is an exploration of the first chapter of her first essay from 1912 Die erkenntnisstheoretischen Grundlagen des Positivismus (HCM, 1920a), which received an award from the department of philosophy at the University of Göttingen. In 1912, Alexander Pfänder accepted Doctrine of Appearance as a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Munich (U. Avé-Lallemant, 1965/1966, 212). In 1913, the expanded chapter was printed and submitted as a dissertation, in a version almost identical to Doctrine of Appearance.

  10. 10.

    However, this does not make the level of facticity the ultimate context in which reality might be explicated. HCM, like other realist phenomenologists, argues that there is a “fundamental fact” according to which “the existence of non-empirical givenness actually facilitated a priori study”; see: Hering (1921). Following Husserl, these early phenomenologists were convinced that the perceived objects and the modes of their perception follow essential principles that are independent of consciousness and the subject. The principles of the oriented observation of an object were presented by Hering (1921, 495–543). HCM declares her affinity with Hering in: HCM (1923, 162). For a detailed discussion of this observation in regard to the Munich Circle, see: Avé-Lallemant (1971, 89–105), Schmücker (1956, 3–8). For further reading, see: Ales Bello (2002, 2004, 2008a, 2008b).

  11. 11.

    Throughout the discussion, “felt-thing” is used to indicate what appears in the original as “quale” (mostly translated as “raw feel”) and signifies the subjective content’s experience of mental situations. This subjective aspect seems to resist any intra-subjective definition. Thomas Nagel characterizes “quale” as what “feeling itself in a certain way” (Nagel, 1974). This characterization cannot be considered as ultimately valid, because it assumes that the content of the subjective experience has already been understood. Unlike HCM, many philosophers deprived “quale” of reality. For example, see: Dennett (1993). Yet other philosophers as well as scientists regard the content of the subjective experience as undoubted. See: Beckermann (2001). For further reading, see: Lewis (1991).

  12. 12.

    In her later writings, HCM continued to deal with the affinity between the object’s suchness and its substantial being (HCM, 1957, 57). See Gerhard Ebel’s criticism of the realistic direction in phenomenology, including HCM’s, for not being able to produce a genuine realism, which instead turns reality into a sheer “phenomenon” of reality that is therefore not real (Ebel, 1965, 2). Ebel admits that HCM brought to the fore aspects unnoticed by the realistic school. Yet, in his opinion, these are insufficient (Ebel, 1965, 42). For a supportive evaluation of this school for suggesting the suchness-experience alternative, see: Seifert (1995). Like Seifert, Heinemann also values phenomenology’s focus on appearance, see: Heineman (1960, 183–192).

  13. 13.

    Regarding the idea of tangentiality (Tangierbarkeit), see: Miron (2015, 337–338).

  14. 14.

    Spiegelberg presents the probe-resistance of objects to our will as an indication, sometimes even a strong one, of their reality, see: Spiegelberg (1975, 148). Spiegelberg’s ideas in this essay closely resemble those of HCM in Doctrine of Appearance. Obviously, he was familiar with her work, but surprisingly none of HCM’s later writings are even mentioned in his essay. However, Spiegelberg’s discussion does refer to some aspects of phenomenological realism that might be explanatory also for HCM’s position.

  15. 15.

    HCM’s idea of the living body belonging to the I seems to communicate the current development of personal medicine. Pfeiffer noted that one might draw lines between her basic intuitions and our time, see: Pfeiffer (2005, 15).

  16. 16.

    Spiegelberg contends: “Ultimately, all these organs are themselves phenomena of reality and so are the causal links between them”. This statement illuminates the problem with which HCM deals here as follows: “Is there a way back […] from the retina via the cortex and the mental processes to the original object outside which supposedly started the whole chain of physical and physiological processes?” This problem “makes sense only on the assumption that the physical objects, as the ‘stimuli’ for our sense perception, our sense organs, and the physiological process within, are ascertained realities [… and] as long as it is possible to know some real objects themselves” (Spiegelberg, 1975, 150–151).

  17. 17.

    HCM determines that our accidental perception of the external world cannot define it, and the possibility of looking into the reality of space as such “exists above and beyond all obstacles” (HCM, 1916b, 393). Like HCM, Spiegelberg also argues that genuine phenomena are not influenced by theoretical or other interpretations, while untrue phenomena collapse as soon as their falsification is uncovered. See: Spiegelberg (1975, 164).

  18. 18.

    For further reading regarding the idea of “light” (Licht) in HCM’s thinking, see: (1965c), Pfeiffer (2005, 61–66).

  19. 19.

    HCM clarifies here the difference between her view of reality and the one prevalent in positivism, in which “‘reality’ can be reached only through acts of consciousness that somehow relate […] to objects” HCM (1916b, 390 n. 1). The subtitle “associated with a critique of positivistic theories”, as well as the debate with positivism throughout the text (HCM, 1916b, 345–347, 352, 357–358, 361–365, 378, 382–386, 390–391, 398–400, 423, 425), clearly indicates the roots of Doctrine of Appearance in the work that preceded it.

  20. 20.

    HCM (1930 N; 19301932aN; 19301932bN; 1932bN; 1954, 11–13; 1957, 118–141; 1963a, 1963c, 1963d).

  21. 21.

    HCM was one of the phenomenologists who proclaimed “the turn to the object” (Die Wende nach Objekt), which implied the reconsideration of the idea of “intention” as it appeared in Husserl’s Logische Untersuchungen. Moritz Geiger well characterized this orientation as seeking “what is in front of the I, the object” that underlies “the tension between the I and the object” (Geiger, 1933, 13). For further reading, see here also: Becker (1930), Vendrell Ferran (2008, 71–78).

  22. 22.

    HCM establishes that whatever “by itself cannot” is incapable of anything else, unlike the real, which is the only thing that “essentially can” (das einzig Könnende) (HCM, 1923, 177). Thus, reality is first fulfilled where the operation of being proclaims the power-stream of the being in concern (HCM, 1923, 223). See the discussion in: Miron (2015, 336–337) (The entire chapter is reprinted in this volume as Chapter 5).

  23. 23.

    In the epilogue added to the special print in 1920, HCM established her shift to ontology-oriented studies and seems to know that her original plan to develop the rest of the chapters in her essay on positivism will not be realized (HCM, 1920b, 130. See here also: Avé-Lallemant, 1971, 213).

  24. 24.

    For Karl Jaspers’ idea of “the encompassing”, see: Miron (2006, 2012, 185–225).

  25. 25.

    HCM refers to Husserl’s phrase “nulla ‘re’ indiget ad existendum” on several occasions, see: HCM (1916bN, I, 3; Parker, 2019, 217–218; 1963a, 195; 1963c, 229). In connection to the first mention in 1916, which is considered as an indication of HCM’s response to Husserl’s Ideas I (Husserl 1952/2012), Stein indicates (in a letter to Ingarden from 9 April 1917) that HCM’s “notes on the question of Idealism […] are however, not a refutation of Husserl’s position. In fact, the main argument seems to me to be based on a misunderstanding of his exposition” (Stein, 2001, 53; 2005, 58). However, this evaluation of Stein’s seems to communicate her general attitude to Husserl’s phenomenology than illuminated HCM’s view of the matter, which in this regard can be encapsulated in her fundamental “thesis of existence (Daseinsthesis)” that she discussed throughout the entire early manuscript (HCM, 1916aN, 5–8, 11–12). Moreover, HCM further elaborates this thesis in her subsequent writings that were established on the “unbridgeable and absolute opposition between real being and nothing” (HCM, 1923, 162; see here also: HCM, 1963e, 93–94) and on the postulate that “real existence is not one ‘form of existence’ (Daseinsform) among others but something plainly and absolutely new thing (Neues)” (HCM, 1923, 163). Finally, HCM’s explicit rejection of Husserl’s transcendental reduction in favor of her above-discussed idea of real reality (wirkich Wirklichkeit) clarifies her dismissal of the most essential foundation of his Idealism, which she depicts as “hypothetically bracketing the real Being and thereby seeing the world (in the reduction) stripped (enthoben) of the real reality (wirkich Wirklichkeit)” (HCM, 1965b, 397).

  26. 26.

    HCM, along with other realist phenomenologists, rejected Husserl’s phenomenological reduction. See: HCM (1963f, 19–24; 1963c, 228–230; 1963g, 43). See also: Pfeiffer (2005, 31–32).

  27. 27.

    Marvin Farber, too, regarded the reality of the external world as a basic fact, see: Farber (1967, 65). Yet, while HCM turns the acknowledgment of the facticity of the external world into the firm ground upon which her metaphysical thinking stands, for Farber “The philosophical problem of the existence of the external world resulted from an unsettling of a natural world belief, and has been complicated by underlying premises and theories” (Farber, 1967, 63).

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Miron, R. (2023). The Duality of the I: A Commentary on Hedwig Conrad-Martius’s Realist Phenomenology. In: Hedwig Conrad-Martius. Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences, vol 8. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-25416-1_10

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