A Gurwitschean Model for Explaining Culture or How to Use an Atlatl

  • Lester Embree
Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 25)


Aron Gurwitsch’s general account of conscious life and its field has three specifications. It can be specified for ideal objects, it can be specified for natural objects, and it can be specified for cultural objects. Objects of the latter two sorts are real, i.e., in temporal and, in a broad signification that includes motivation, causal relations with one another. In the sort of consciousness necessary for the natural sciences, which appears best called ‘naturalistic,’ the values and purposes of objects, i.e., their cultural characteristics, are abstracted from and what are best called ‘naturalistic objects’ result and are then subdivisible into physical (astronomical, chemical, geological, etc.) and biological (botanical, zoological, ecological, etc.) objects. In the third sort fall what are often called ‘functional objects’ but are best called ‘cultural objects’. These objects retain their cultural characteristics and are constituted in the type of concrete life in which strata of valuing and willing are not abstracted from and which is best called ‘cultural life’. Cultural life takes many forms and provides the subject matters of what are best called ‘the cultural sciences’.


Naturalistic Object Cultural Life Cultural World Functional Character Thematic Field 
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  1. 1a.
    Aron Gurwitsch, The Field of Consciousness (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1964, pp. 338). Hereafter this source will be cited as ‘FC’.Google Scholar
  2. 1b.
    Aron Gurwitsch, The Field of Consciousness (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1964, pp. 382). Hereafter this source will be cited as ‘FC’.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Cf. Lester Embree, “Some Noetico-Noematic Analyses of Action and Practical Life,” Part II, “Gurwitsch on Practical Life,” in John Drummond & Lester Embree (Eds.), The Phenomenology of the Noema (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cf. Lester Embree, “The Phenomenology of Representational Awareness,” Human Studies, Vol. 15, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gurwitsch’s Note: See Heidegger, Being and Time, John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson (Trans.) (London: SCM Press, 1962), §15, about “Zeug,” in contradistinction to “Ding,” and “Zuhandenheit” as distinguished from “Vorhandenheit.” On entirely different grounds, the connection between perception and action has been emphasized by Bergson in Matter and Memory, chap. 1, Nancy Margaret Paul & W. Scott Palmer (Trans.) (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1911). [On other occasions Gurwitsch traces the notion of use or functional object back to Wolfgang Köhler’s “Intelligenzprüfungen an Anthropoiden’ (1917), from which he took the expression “Funktionsobjekt,” ([see note 6] PTS, p. 171, n. 23).]Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Aron Gurwitsch, Phenomenology and the Theory of Science, Lester Embree (Ed.) (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974, p. 143, cf. 92). Hereafter this source will be cited as ‘PTS’. That the cultural world and the lifeworld are the same, at least for Gurwitsch, cf. Aron Gurwitsch, Studies in Phenomenology and Psychology (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1966, p. 418f). Hereafter this source will be cited as ‘SPP’.Google Scholar
  7. 7a.
    Regarding the social dimension, cf. (1) Aron Gurwitsch, Human Encounters in the Social World, Alexandre Métraux (Ed.) and Fred Kersten (Trans.) (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1979), hereafter cited as ‘HESW’Google Scholar
  8. 7b.
    (2) the Editor’s Introduction to Aron Gurwitsch, Marginal Consciousness, Lester Embree (Ed.) (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1985), which will hereafter be cited as ‘MC’.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cf. Lester Embree, “Archaeology: The Most Basic Science of All,” Antiquity, Vol 61, 1987.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For example: “If—and this is the case in certain societies — men, animals, demons, etc., including the dead, constitute a society, then all of that belongs to the world of daily existence or to reality.” Aron Gurwitsch and Alfred Schutz, Philosophers in Exile: The Correspondence of Alfred Schutz and Aron Gurwitsch, 1939–1959, Richard Grathoff (Ed.) J. Claude Evans (Trans.) (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989, p. 233). Hereafter this source will be referred to as “PE.” The same point is made at SPP, p. 403.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Cf. Embree, “Some Noetico-Noematic Analyses.”Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Cf. FC, p. 325f on “Context in Logic.”Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    FC, p. 92. This position is more elaborately presented in SPP, p. 23f.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    For more elaborate uses of representational awareness than that cited in n.4 above, cf. Lester Embree, “Phenomenology of a Change in Archaeological Observation,” in Metaarchaeology, Lester Embree (Ed.) (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992). “An Excavation of Archaeological Cognition or How to Hunt Mammoth,” in The Question of Hermeneutics, Timothy J. Stapleton (Ed.) (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994) and “Representation and Historical Science,” in Phenomenology East and West: Essays in Honor of J. N. Mohanty, D. P. Chattopadhyaya and Frank Kirkland (Eds.) (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 18.
    Cf. “Some Noetico-Noematic Analyses,” p. 189f.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    Cf. Lester Embree, “A Perspective on the Rationality of Scientific Technology or How to Buy a Car,” in Timothy Casey & Lester Embree (Eds.), Lifeworld and Technology (Washington, D.C., Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology and University Press of America, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lester Embree
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida Atlantic UniversityUSA

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