Nature, Subjectivity and the Life-World

  • Konrad Rokstad
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 77)


In 1913 Edmund Husserl published Ideas I,1 which, as the subtitle tells us, is a “General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology.” Closely connected with this he was working on issues which were meant to “materialise” (or “substantialise”) that “pure” philosophy which Ideas I develops, by conducting analyses in the phenomena-regions of material and animal nature and the spiritual world. Those were to be published too, as the direct continuation of what had already been published, but they never were—not by Husserl himself. Nevertheless, “he worked on the pertinent manuscripts with some interruptions until 1928,” to take Alfred Schütz’s word for it.2 Then in 1952, they were published from those manuscripts, as Ideas II and Ideas III,3 fourteen years after Husserl’s death.


Animal Nature Theoretical Attitude Surrounding World Transcendental Phenomenology Spiritual World 
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  1. 1.
    Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Erstes Buch. Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), first published by Max Niemeyer (Halle: 1913). Hereafter Ideen I, English version Ideas I.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alfred Schütz, “Husserl’s Ideas, Volume II,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 13 (1952-53), p. 394. Schütz has here given an interesting discussion on the Ideas II, but there are, of course, other interesting interpreters too, and I will mention two of them, Paul Ricoeur, with his Husserl’s Ideas II: Analyses and Problems (in Husserl. An Analysis of His Phenomenology (Evanston: 1967) Northwestern University Press, pp. 35-81) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, with his “Le Philosophe et son ombre” (I will refer to the German version in Das Auge und der Geist, Philosophische Essays (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1967), pp. 45-67: I will not, however, go into any substantial analysis of their views.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Zweites Buch: Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution. Husserliana Band IV (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952). We will refer to the 1969 version as Ideen II, and to the English version translated by R. Rojcwicz and A. Schuwer (Dordrecht:Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989) as Ideas II. Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Drittes Buch: Die Phänomenologie und die Fundamente der Wissenschaften. Husserliana Band V (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952). (Here referred to as Ideas III.)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    You might read more about this in Marly Biemel’s “Einleitung des Herausgebers, Ideen II,” pp. xiii-xx.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    I am referring to the Beilage XIII, Ideen II, pp. 372–377, and in the Textkritische Anmerkungen, p. 423, you find the grounding for what I am saying.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Edmund Husserl, Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die Phänomenologische Philosophie (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962), (Krisis). I will in this context refer to the English version translated by David Carr, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), hereafter Crisis. More specifically, I will elaborate a perspective with a foundation in the Crisis, which then will not be restricted to or mainly be dealing with that context, but substantially rather takes into consideration aspects of the Ideas II, from the period which is considered to be decisive to the grounding of the Transcendental (“pure”) Phenomenology as such. My intention then, is to explicate at least some elements for conducting an analysis, which may make it reasonable to ask if Husserl already in the period of the Ideas made substantial investigations not only fitting in with the Crisis, but also representing even more concrete and developed analyses into that same soil (the historical Life-world with both material nature, psyche/soul and spirit) which, of course, also the Crisis is nourishing its reflections from. This might then, if such a comparison succeeds the way I think it will, contribute to the ongoing renewal of Phenomenology’s potentiality for contributing to present philosophy, and maybe even more generally, for contributing to the understanding of the human condition of our time.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    See for example, Crisis § 68, in which Husserl is comparing what he is doing in the Crisis with what he looks upon as the main achievement of Logische Untersuchungen.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Schütz, op.cit., p. 395. This is how Husserl develops the concept of “constitution” in Ideas I, in § 150, which is the grounding for Schütz’s exposition.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    M. Merleau-Ponty. “Der Philosoph und sein Schattern” op.cit., n.1, p. 50 and p. 48, paraphrased in my translation. Of course, M-P’s perspective is already impregnated with the perspective of the Crisis and historicity, but he is saying this in his analysis of Ideas II.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    This again, of course, calls for more questions, such as, “What really is the Crisis-conception of the life-world?” “How about the connection between Ideas I and Ideas II?”—the problem of The Transcendental Ego, reduction and constitution etc., which we, however cannot go further into in this context. (See also notes 6 and 7.)Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Ideen II, p. 91. The English version: “The task is ‘to draw out of experience’ the authentic concept of the soul.”; Ideas II, p. 97. This has, of course, its continuation: “But obviously here, as elsewhere in phenomenology, this does not mean to engage straightforwardly in actual experience, i.e., to proceed empirically […] rather to examine, in eidetic intuition, the essence of the experienced in general and as such, ….”Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Ideas II, pp. 382–386.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Ideas II, pp. 382–3.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Ibid., p. 383.Google Scholar
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  18. 21.
    Ibid., pp. 383–4Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    Ibid., p. 384Google Scholar
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  25. 29.
    In other words, is “the life-world” something that was functioning in Husserl’s genuine phenomenological analyses even a long time before the Crisis? Of course, the answer to this would necessarily determine the impact of this small section of text (written in 1917) on the main text, to which it is (only) a supplement (written in retrospect). And then also what exactly is the concept of the “life-world” in the Crisis, something which might well still appear highly questionable and a matter for investigation and discussion. This fact, i.e., that the Crisis does not have such a clear-cut and completed conception of the “life-world,” does not, however, annul the importance of those questions just posed; on the contrary, it increases their importance, not least because one now has got this somehow undecided concept explicitly coupled with very concrete constitutional analyses, which I would suggest might very well be similar to—if not identical with—those analyses we are missing in the Crisis. This, however, I would say while keeping in mind the perspective of historicity, which is grounded in the context of the Crisis. Husserl continues what we last quoted by saying: “The subject of life has things over against himself; that is, to his own life there necessarily belongs an intuitive life-horizon, and to this life as a human life there belongs a horizon of things which are not mere bodies but are instead Objects of value, goods, etc.—that is, everything experienced by the person in apperception, or objects consciously posited in some other way which are his property as lying within the compass of his subjectivity and as affecting—his thinking, valuing, desiring, acting.” (Ideas II, p. 384).Google Scholar
  26. 30.
    Ibid. pp. 384–85.Google Scholar
  27. 31.
    I will give some further clues from the text indicating the manner in which Husserl is thinking: “The same holds for the experience of communication with others, interchange with them. If we see one another with our eyes, then subject is confronting subject in an immediate contact. […] The life-world is the natural world—in the attitude of natural life we are living functioning subjects together in an open circle of other functioning subjects. […] How then will life, subjects, and their possessions become scientific themes? They will to the extent that we take them precisely as they are and ask what belongs to them as subjects, as affected by their environment, as passive and active, and ask, further, what they accomplish and create in their surrounding world and how their surrounding world arises, grows and develops through their individual accomplishments and in reciprocal motivation as a common accomplishment. Science is a function of a theoretical interest, which itself belongs in the subjective sphere. “(Ideas II, p. 385). I would say that this, especially the last quoted words, appears pretty similar to what the Husserl of the Crisis would characterise as “historicity.”Google Scholar
  28. 32.
    There are, of course, legion perspectives and positions to which what I am saying could be related, both in agreement and disagreement. I will mention some to whom I will feel related. Gerd Brand in his paper “The Material Apriori and the Foundation for Its Analysis in Husserl” in Analecta Husserliana, The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research, Vol. II: The Later Husserl and the Idea of Phenomenology, ed. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publisher Company, 1972) develops a perspective in which I find interesting analysis. For a more up-to-date discussion I will mention the Danish philosopher Dan Zahavi, who in his book Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivität (Dordrecht:Kluwer Academic Publisher, 1996), develops an interesting perspective for analysis of the problem of intersubjectivity, making the concept of the “world” essential and, at the same time defending the transcendental character of this issue in Husserl. But first and foremost I will mention Ludwig Landgrebe, who in his “Life-world and the Historicity of Human Existence” Research in Phenomenology XI (1981) argues “for a transcendental theory of the Life-world and of historicity, and […] do[es] so by suggesting that a phenomenological reflection upon the transcendental ego—once correctly understood—is the proper procedure for constructing such a theory” (p. 112). Both Zahavi and Landgrebe are much concerned with those analyses Husserl conducts in his investigations on intersubjectivity, most especially perhaps in Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität, Husserliana XV. Landgrebe is, of course, also concerned with the Crisis and Ideas I, and this makes a connection that as we have just indicated is of essential significance, though not one focused on explicitly in our paper. I would say the perspective on Ideas II developed in the present paper fits very well in to that context. And not to be forgotten, Merleau-Ponty would be of great interest in this context.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Konrad Rokstad
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of BergenNorway

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