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The Ontological Exclusivity of the I

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Hedwig Conrad-Martius

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

Abstract

The pivotal insight that paved Hedwig Conrad-Martius’ (1880–1966) (HCM) way in elucidating the ontological exclusivity of the I, often referred to as “I-being” (Ichhaftes Sein), is that despite its peculiarity and incomparability to any other mode of being, only by coming to terms with “ontological foundations” can “a true ‘comprehension’ (Begreifung) of the I be enabled” (HCM, 1931, 6). The phenomenological interpretation suggested in this chapter presents HCM’s ontological understanding of the I vis-a-vis her philosophy of Being, in particular in regard to three of its general characteristics—existence, intelligibility, and “selfness” (Selbsthaftigkeit/Sichheit/Selberkeit)—which provide the critical approach to the ontological study of the I. Finally, the ontological exclusivity of the “I-being” is illuminated by means of explication of the joining together of its typical affinities and discrepancies in regard to Being in general.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Despite HCM’s explicit distinguishing herself from existentialism (see: HCM, 1930, 1954, 11–13; 1963a) due to what she regarded as existentialism’s continuing focus on the idealist emphasis on the conscious experience, here and in other places in the discussion the affinities to existential thinking are rather apparent (mainly to early Heidegger and Sartre in regard to the issue of nothingness). This is no wonder given their realistic phenomenological orientation. This issue demands a separate discussion that exceeds the scope of the present chapter. For further reading, see: Behler (1956).

  2. 2.

    Husserl’s search in Logical Investigations for the pure principle that regulates both the objective and subjective conditions for knowledge (Husserl, 1970, §65 147–150/1975, §65 238–241) continues in his later discussion of the “nucleus” as relating to the “noema” (Husserl, 1952, §129 297–299/2012, §129 269–271) and “Noesis” (Husserl, 1952, §131 301–304/2012, §131 272–275) as well.

  3. 3.

    For further reading about HCM’s characteristics of Being, see: Miron (2015, Reprinted in this volume as Chapter 6).

  4. 4.

    HCM expresses her commitment to the “Existence thesis” also in: HCM (1916b, 396; 1963a, 233).

  5. 5.

    Husserl (1952, §3 13–16/2012, §3 11–14), 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 (HCM, 1965d, 398). However, unlike Husserl, HCM does not see any problem with the empirical experience (HCM, 1965b, 351) and even regards the then new natural sciences as elucidating the real foundations of such experience (HCM, 1965d, 401).

  6. 6.

    Schmücker establishes that in HCM’s philosophy “for the first time the subject is released from Kant’s prison” (Schmücker, 1956, 39). This position points to a fundamental aspect of her approach to the I, i.e., it is not restricted to the boundaries of consciousness and was not based on an epistemological study. Indeed, this is true also of HCM’s philosophy of Being.

  7. 7.

    HCM refers to Husserl’s phrase “nullareindiget ad existendum” on several occasions, see: HCM (1916aN, I, 3; Parker, 2019, 217–218; 1963a, 229; 1963c, 21; 1963e, 195; 1965a, 370; 1965b, 353). In connection to the first mention in 1916, that 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 seems to communicate her general attitude to Husserl’s phenomenology than illuminating HCM’s view of the matter that in this regard can be encapsulated in her fundamental “thesis of existence (Daseinsthesis)” that she discussed throughout the entire early manuscript (HCM, 1916a, 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, 1963f, 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 transcendental reduction in favor her idea of “real reality” (wirkich Wirklichkeit) clarifies her dismissal of the most essential foundation of his Idealism that she depict as “hypothetically bracketing the real Being and thereby seeing the world (in the reduction) stripped (enthoben) of the real reality” (HCM, 1965d, 397).

  8. 8.

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

  9. 9.

    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).

  10. 10.

    The argument that the epistemological emphasis is bound with pushing the ontological is typical of the Munich-Gӧttingen School. See, for example, Hildebrand (1976, 141).

  11. 11.

    In fact, the Greek verb for “to begin” is in the transitive archo (ἄρχω), and in the intransitive archomai (ἄρχομαι).

  12. 12.

    For further reading, see: Miron (2014b, Reprinted in this volume as Chapter 3).

  13. 13.

    See: HCM (1957, 120 n. 1, 91–97).

  14. 14.

    Miron (2014a, 66–72).

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Miron, R. (2023). The Ontological Exclusivity of the I. 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_9

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