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The Vocabulary of Reality

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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 seeks to extricate and explicate the unique vocabulary that was consolidated by the realistic phenomenologist Hedwig Conrad-Martius (HCM) in her establishing book Realontologie (HCM, 1923). Among the concepts are: “Essence” (Wesenheit), “Bearer” (Träger), Selfness (Selbsthaftigkeit), Capability (Können), Tangentiality (Tangierbarkeit), Corporeality (Leibhaftigkeit), Internality, “Quiet”, Fullness (Fülle), Depth (Tiefe), divisibility (Teilbarkeit), Abyss (Abgrund; Ungrund), and others. HCM does not always coin them as distinguished concepts, but they function as philosophical concepts due to the meaning she pours into them and the way she uses them. The author suggests that these terms can inaugurate the realistic discourse on reality, which is noticeably almost absent in the modern philosophy that has been almost sweepingly conquered by the literal and advanced idealistic discourse. Moreover, this realistic vocabulary is one of the greatest contributions of HCM to modern philosophy.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The wording of the idea of primordial phenomenon that can only be intuited but not explained appears already in Goethe, see: Goethe (1921, 639; 1970). An affinity between Goethe’s theory of colors and HCM’s view of colors is noticeable in: HCM (1929). For further reading, see: Seifert (20042005, 133–137).

  2. 2.

    HCM shared the reliance on the Husserlian “essence intuition” (Wesensfassung) with the Munich Circle, see: HCM (1916, 355 n. 1; 1965a, 377; 1965b, 347). For further reading about this circle, see: Avé-Lallemant (1975), Reinach (1921), Pfänder (1913, 325–404), Pfeiffer (2005,1–13), Schmücker (1956, 1–33), Ebel (1965, 1–25), Avé-Lallemant (1959, 89–105), Walther (1955,190).

  3. 3.

    The term “bearer” has several appearances already in Doctrine of Appearance, usually as a character of the I (HCM, 1916, 482), of the spirit (HCM, 1916, 407, 514), of the senses (HCM, 1916, 497–498), or of the body (HCM, 1916, 525–526), and not as an ontological creature that accompanies the essence.

  4. 4.

    HCM clarifies that this observation should be understood as a “methodological illustration” rather than as an indication of a genetic and simultaneous becoming of the essence and the bearer (HCM, 1923, 172 n. 1).

  5. 5.

    HCM differentiated here between two fundamentals that are usually identified with each other: “self” and “autonomy”. She clarifies that the standing of a phenomenon on its essence is not equivalent to its objectivity, to its autonomy in its existence, or to its independency (HCM, 1923, 180). This clarification is important considering her discussion in Doctrine of Appearance, in which she posed the aspect of autonomy in existence as fundamental in the idea of reality (HCM, 1916, 392). However, in Realontologie this aspect is regarded as insufficient (HCM, 1923, 162) due to the insufficiency of objectivity and absoluteness that in her view lack the aspect of “corporeality” (Leibhaftigkeit), to be discussed later.

  6. 6.

    This argument continues HCM’s debate with positivism that marks the beginning her oeuvre, see: HCM (1916, 345–347, 352, 357–358, 361–365, 378, 382–386, 390–391, 398–400, 423, 425; 1920).

  7. 7.

    The aspect of the self appears already in Doctrine of Appearance, where HCM’s discussion aims at establishing the autonomy of the external world vis-à-vis the consciousness and the I in general, see: HCM (1916, 391–396).

  8. 8.

    See here also: HCM (1916aN, 6).

  9. 9.

    For further reading regarding about the affinities existing between HCM’s idea of reality and the scholastic thinking, see: Habbel (1959).

  10. 10.

    The term “primordial” (primär) is mentioned throughout Realontologie, see: HCM (1923, 174–175, 181, 235).

  11. 11.

    Ghigi (2008) counts five characteristics of the real: autonomy vis-à-vis relativity of the real, whatness, materiality, personal essence, and essential stratification. Yet, in the suggested interpretation, the aspect of layeredness (here “divisibility”, suggested as a translation of “Teilbarkeit”) is regarded as a dimension driven from that of fullness or depth that is more fundamental compared to it.

  12. 12.

    HCM’s discussion here falls in line with the idea of “surface” in Doctrine of Appearance that assumes this depth without referring to it as an explicit element, see: HCM (1923, 408, 425–247, 462–467, 476, 494, 526).

  13. 13.

    In Doctrine of Appearance, the expression stiffness is used comprehensively (although there it is denoted by “Härte” while in Realontologie she uses “Schwere”) to signify the material givenness-mode of the object (HCM, 1916, 426). She argues there that despite the fact that this characteristic brings about the feeling of the I, stiffness itself is not based on its influence on the I, but in its being an “experiential confirmation” of the reality of the material felt-thing (HCM, 1916, 514). Hence, stiffness belongs to the object and not to the subject (see: Miron, 2014). It appears that also in Realontologie the expression of stiffness characterizes the real being, but while HCM’s early efforts were addressed to purifying reality of “feeling givenness” (Empfindungsgegebenheit) from the experience of the I, here she concentrates on distinguishing reality from its concrete appearances.

  14. 14.

    HCM’s first essay explored a profound critique of positivism (HCM, 1920). The treatise won a prize of the faculty of philosophy at the University of Gӧttingen, and therefor is called “Preisschrift”. Although in the appendix to this essay that was written in 1920 she wrote that to a large extent she had left the issue of positivism behind her, the subtitle of her following book, Doctrine of Appearance—“associated with a critique of positivistic theories”—continues this path, and the later writings do as well.

  15. 15.

    This situation is crystalized by Husserl regarding the use of the phenomenological method, see: Husserl (1952a, §63/2012, §63).

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Miron, R. (2023). The Vocabulary of Reality. 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_6

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