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The External World—“Whole” and “Parts”: A Husserlian Hermeneutics of the Early Ontology of Hedwig Conrad-Martius

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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 proposes an analysis of Hedwig Conrad-Martius’s (1888–1966) On the Ontology and Doctrine of Appearance of the Real External World (Conrad-Martius in Jahrbuch für Phänomenologie und philosophische Forschung III. Max Niemeyer, Halle, pp. 345–542) from the perspective of Husserl’s theory, of whole and parts in Logical Investigations. The author identifies the “whole (Ganz)” with “sensory givenness” and “parts (Teile)” with “feeling givenness (Empfindungsgegebenheit)” and “appearance givenness (Erscheinungsgegebenheit)”. The dependent-independent relations and laws that prescribe unity of objects at the center of Husserl’s theory of whole and parts are also foundational in HCM’s early ontology. This is torn between two forces. On the one hand, she searches for an essential and unified whole, viewed as independent of the senses, of consciousness, and of the human subject in general. This search is expected to provide a grip on the problem of “reality as such”. On the other hand, while searching for access to this whole, HCM encounters the involvement of the senses and consciousness in its appearances, that is, in the appearing of the external world.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Like the early phenomenologists, Farber regarded Logical Investigations as the most important part of Husserl’s oeuvre and criticized his idealistic turn. See: Farber (1943).

  2. 2.

    See also: Mohanty (1977, 3–9). HCM later established that Husserl never rejected or doubted the reality of the world but regarded it as a hypothetical being, see: HCM (1965c, 398). However, unlike him she does not see any problem with the empirical experience (HCM, 1965c, 351) and even regards the then new natural sciences as elucidating the real foundations of such experience (HCM, 1965a, 401).

  3. 3.

    HCM refers to Husserl’s phrase “nulla ‘re’ indiget ad existendum” on several occasions, see: HCM (1916b, 1, 3; in Parker, 2019, 217–218; 1963a, 195; 1963b, 21, 229; 1965b, 370; 1965c, 353). In connection to the first mention in 1916, that is considered as 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 seems to communicate more her general attitude to Husserl’s phenomenology than illuminate HCM’s view of the matter.

  4. 4.

    See here also: HCM (1963c, 93–94).

  5. 5.

    HCM along with the realist phenomenologists rejected Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, see: Pfeiffer (2005, 31–32). HCM explicitly rejects the phenomenological reduction. See: HCM (1965a, 394–402).

  6. 6.

    This is unlike Farber’s determination: “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).

  7. 7.

    Already in Philosophie der Arithmetik (1891), Husserl discussed diverse kinds of relations among parts, and after Logical Investigations the issue continued to occupy his thinking, see: Husserl (1939; 1952, §12–§15, §51/2012, §12–§15, §51).

  8. 8.

    In the literature, there is usually an emphasis upon the influence of Husserl’s criticism of psychologism on the Munich circle, apparent in their adoption of his method of “essence intuition” and orientation toward the object independently of the thinking subject (Hart, 1972, 39–40; Schmücker, 1956, 3–8, 31; Reinach, 1951, 21–73; Hering, 1921, 495–543; HCM, 1923, 162). Regarding the circle, see: Avé-Lallemant (1975a, 19–38).

  9. 9.

    This methodological awareness is implicit in Husserl’s discussion of the peculiar difficulties of pure phenomenological analysis (Husserl, 1970a, 179–172, 175/1984a, 13–17, 22). Later on, this issue will be consolidated as “the problem of beginning” (Husserl, 1952, §63/2012, §63).

  10. 10.

    The German term Sachverhalt (state of affairs) is central in the theoretical studies of the object in early phenomenology, signifying the specific correlate of judgments that is independent of acts of consciousness and any psychological aspect (yet not always identical with the object), see: (Husserl, 1970a, §28–§29 64–69, §44 108/1975, §28–§29 101–109, §44 170–171; 1952, §148 342–343/2012, §148 309–311; HCM, 1957, 19–36). See also: Habbel (1959, 55–87).

  11. 11.

    Husserl argued that distinctions that relate to the being of particular individuals are applicable also to the ideas themselves (Husserl, 1970b, III, §7a 13/1984a, III, §7a 245).

  12. 12.

    The notion of “world” (die Welt) appears in the Prolegomena and lies outside the realm of Husserl’s investigations (Husserl, 1970a, 81/1975, 128). Only later will the “world” become central to Husserl’s thinking.

  13. 13.

    See also: HCM (1916aN, 11). The term “transcendence” that HCM uses in her characterization of the external world is not equivalent to lack of relation to human consciousness that is inherent in Doctrine of Appearance, see: Miron (2014a, 341–344; 2014b) (Reprinted in this volume as Chapter 2). The understanding of the “whole” as independent is implicit also in HCM’s idea of the spiritual being, see: HCM (1916b, 407).

  14. 14.

    See also: “the I as a whole” (HCM, 1916b, 533), “the spiritual realm as a whole” (HCM, 1916b, 491), “consciousness as a whole” (HCM, 1916b, 480, 500, 506, 510, 521), “the realm of observation as a whole” (HCM, 1916b, 394).

  15. 15.

    See here: Husserl (1964, §77 368–371/1973, §77 305–307; 1952, §30/2012, §30; 1991, §44/99, §44). HCM often uses the word “belief” (Glauben), see: HCM (1916b, 355, 370, 398, 407, 413, 418, 423, 446, 496, 500, 513).

  16. 16.

    Krings, who is admittedly influenced by HCM, explains that the focus on the object as a real existing being is not simply equivalent to the inversion of the Kantian beginning in which the I directs itself to consciousness. Here, we assume that there is a real relation between the existent and the essence referring to it, yet without arguing for the possibility of knowing this existent. See: Krings (1960, 193–195).

  17. 17.

    Like HCM, Herbert Spiegelberg also provides a justification for relying on sensory givenness within a realistic approach. He argues that a critical, phenomenological inspection of the immediate phenomena of reality will remove the most frequent objections about the reliability of perceiving that is mediated by the senses. See: Spiegelberg (1975, 153).

  18. 18.

    The early phenomenologists understood Husserl’s appeal “go back to the ‘things themselves’” (Husserl, 1970a, 168/1984a, 10) as indifference toward epistemological questions. See: U. Avé-Lallemant (1965 [1966], 207). HCM characterized the epistemological approach as dogmatic (HCM, 1916b, 351) and Spiegelberg criticized it for omitting the obligation to be critical (Spiegelberg, 1960, 130–131, 152/1984, 115–116, 134–135).

  19. 19.

    Husserl (1970b, III, §17 28–29/1984a, III, §17 272–274). In the third investigation, Husserl is ambivalent regarding the notion of “content”. Sometimes it signifies an abstract and less limited aspect of the object. Therefore, the object of presentation can be called an object or “content”. Yet, Husserl was also cautious about the psychological connotations of this notion as denoting the experience of the subject: “But talk of ‘contents’ tends to move in a purely psychological sphere, a limitation with which we may start investigating our distinction, but which must be dropped as we proceed” (Husserl, 1970b, III, §2 5/1984a, III, §2 232).

  20. 20.

    Fritz Heinemann wrote about the affinity of phenomenology to the concrete being. See: Heinemann (1960, 185). He mentioned another essay by her (HCM, 1965b), but surprisingly not Doctrine of Appearance, which is the fundamental work regarding the issue and which was undoubtedly known to him.

  21. 21.

    In the literature, the “quale” denotes the contents of the subjective experience of mental states, usually excludes any intersubjective aspect. Thomas Nagel characterized the quale as “feeling itself in a certain way” (see: Nagel, 1974). Unlike HCM, many philosophers deprive “qualia” of reality (see: Dennett, 1993). Yet other philosophers as well as scientists regard the content of the subjective experience as certain (see: Beckermann, 2001).

  22. 22.

    Spiegelberg presents the probe-resistance of objects to our will as an indication, sometimes even a strong one, of their reality. See: Spiegelberg (1960, 148/1984, 131).

  23. 23.

    Heinemann’s words remind us of HCM’s. In his opinion, the primordial phenomenon of man is not consciousness but appearance, namely, entering into the appearance and changing within it. In contrast, consciousness is an epiphenomenon or ex-post-facto phenomenon, a reflective act that exists only after appearances collapse. Therefore, exactly like HCM, he referred to phenomenology as a “doctrine of appearance”. See: Heinemann (1960, 186–187).

  24. 24.

    Regarding the appearance on the “periphery of consciousness” see also: HCM (1916b, 429, 446, 451, 498–499, 510).

  25. 25.

    Spiegelberg characterized the peripheral field of our perception as “marginal openness”, meaning that this field is never cut as sharply as its borders. However, he emphasized that peripherality does not mean non-reality, but mostly well-defined structures that are presented in decreased clarity. More important, we can still see via these modifications the phenomenon itself in its uninfluenced structure, rather than the structural openness of what is given in our perception field. This implies that reality does not culminate at the borders of our perception, but continues beyond that. Openness teaches that the phenomena of reality stand on their own feet (Spiegelberg, 1960, 147/1984, 130).

  26. 26.

    One of the arguments typical of the realistic approach in phenomenology deals with the difference in time between Being and being perceived. See: Geiger (1930, 170). Spiegelberg contended that “sense-perception […] can never give what is present, but only what has just passed. And since the past no longer exists, we can never see the original object itself but only its ‘trace’ which means its cast or likeness” (Spiegelberg, 1960, 156–157).

  27. 27.

    The objective closedness can also describe a real moment that is not self-standing but needs to be filled inside another being in order to be able to appear concretely. This is the wide idea of objectivity. However, the narrower one, which according to HCM is genuine, refers to a self-standing object. In other words, every object has an objectness, but not everything that has such a being is purely for this reason an object in the narrow sense (HCM, 1916b, 475–476).

  28. 28.

    The illumination of HCM’s thinking here might be aided by Spiegelberg’s position, according to which “ultimately, all these organs are themselves phenomena of reality and so are the causal links between them”. He then asks: “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?”. However, he maintains that 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, 1960, 150–151/1984, 132–134). See here also: HCM’s references to “an appropriate ‘receptacle’ (Gefäβ)” of the real thing (HCM, 1923, 215, 217, 219).

  29. 29.

    See here: HCM (1916b, 479).

  30. 30.

    The overlap between the two philosophers’ ideas of distance and proximity is not complete. Husserl regarded them as initial and alluded to their metaphysical horizon: “Our analyses show, however, that anything that holds water in this descriptive situation is mixed up with other quite alien matters, and in any case unfitted to illuminate our ontological distinction” (Husserl, 1970b, III §9 17/1984a, III 252). For HCM, these are descriptive notions and none can have precedence over the other. HCM overcomes the descriptive view of ontology in her next book and grasps Being in terms of divisibility (Teilbarkeit) (HCM, 1923, 207). See also: Smith and Mulligan (1982, 39).

  31. 31.

    Husserl’s departure from Stump’s psychological stance is indeed also the fulcrum for the realist phenomenologists, see: Ingarden (1925, 125–304).

  32. 32.

    See here: Findlay’s note regarding the occurrence in one sentence by Husserl of “real” (what is actually there in the time-space world) and “reell” (what is actually immanent in the experience and not merely “meant” by it), see: Husserl (1970b, 349 n. 1).

  33. 33.

    Later in HCM’s writings, the accessibility to nothingness will become an indispensable element in her understanding of real being as “at first positively elevated by itself from nothingness” and thus “becomes entirely its own” (HCM, 1923, 181). See here also: HCM (1963c).

  34. 34.

    Sokolowski establishes that “a phenomenological analysis is concerned with eidetic necessities, and so deals in the currency of moments, not pieces”. See: Sokolowski (1974, 16).

  35. 35.

    The subtitle of Doctrine of Appearance—“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 its roots in her first essay (HCM, 1920).

  36. 36.

    Indeed, Husserl’s insight that Logical Investigations leads outsides the realm of logic is not confined to his theory of whole and parts (Husserl, 1970b, Introduction, §2 166–167/1984a; Einleitung, §2 13). The members of the Munich-Göttingen circle believed in applied phenomenology and applied Husserl’s principles to different areas such as science, law, and literature. See: Seifert (1971, 98).

  37. 37.

    Yet, HCM identifies Husserl’s descriptive theory with his interest in immanent consciousness and thus confesses that it is “abstruse (fernliegend)” for her (HCM, 1916b, 355 n. 1).

  38. 38.

    See: Miron (2014a, 2014b) (Reprinted in this volume as Chapter 2).

  39. 39.

    Sokolowski argues that “the doctrine of parts and wholes at least partially justifies Husserl’s philosophical language”, See: Sokolowski (1977, 95).

  40. 40.

    Despite the tremendous work of Eberhard Avé-Lallemant, HCM’s assistant, estate curator, collector, and editor of her published writings, many of her manuscripts are still in the archive of Munich (BSM), See: Avé-Lallemant (1975b, ix–xvii, 191–256).

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Miron, R. (2023). The External World—“Whole” and “Parts”: A Husserlian Hermeneutics of the Early Ontology of Hedwig Conrad-Martius. 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_4

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