A Brief Reflection on Love and the Constitution of the Other

  • Konrad Rokstad
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 54)


In his last great work, the Crisis,1 Husserl develops the life-world as a fundamental concept in his, in some way new2 reflection on the whole project of transcendental phenomenology. In the years before he had made extensive investigations into the question of intersubjectivity, which was established as a fundamental3 issue at least from the time of his Cartesian Meditations. In this rather brief reflection it is my intention to give some indications4 as to how this may constitute an interesting opening for reflecting on life-worldly experiences related to the concept of Love, given Husserl’s analysis of intersubjectivity in the Cartesian Meditations. However I will not be proposing any clear-cut thesis.


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  1. 1.
    Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and the Transcendental Phenomenology, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970). In this context I will be referring to the English versions of both the Crisis and the Cartesian Meditations, trans. Dorion Cairns (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    At the international phenomenological conference held in Canada in 1969, R. Ingarden asked the question, “What is new in Husserl’s ‘Crisis’?”, and he didn’t find so much “newness” of real importance to phenomenology. (See Analecta Husserliana, The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research, Vol. II, ed. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka [Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1972], pp. 23–48.) In my mind Ingarden is very much underestimating the importance of the Crisis, but this is not the issue in this paper. Our reflection will be based on the assumption that there really is something importantly “new” — especially when it comes to reflecting back into the earlier phenomenology of Husserl itself. (See also footnote 14 in this paper.)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    What exactly “fundamental” is meant to designate in this context, is a matter of discussion, and so is, of course, the question as to exactly at which point in Husserl’s development the issue of intersubjectivity took on such a character. As might be seen from the “Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität” (Texte aus dem Nachlass, heraussgegeben von Iso Kern [The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1973]), Husserl had been working on such issues already from 1905, and in the Winter semester 1910/11 he lectured on “Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie” substantially including the subject of intersubjectivity or subjects related to it. But the whole matter is rather complex, interrelating many different subjects that are also “fundamental”. As this also took place before his true transcendental period, the question of what exactly “fundamental” designates is in a way open — and did not get its answer till some years later, in the Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologische Philosophie (1913). And in that work other questions and subjects might seem to be more prominent, but in the Cartesian Meditations the problem seems to have been decided: intersubjectivity really is a phenomenological fundamental (transcendental) issue — if not the fundamental issue. Reflections of a similar kind can be made related to the concept of the Life-world also — and to the concept of historicity-both explicitly made fundamental first in the Crisis. In my mind (and I think also in Husserl’s) all these issues really (did) interconnect in the most fundamental way, and this constitutes a very interesting field of problems as to how they might have been working in the “underground” of what Husserl actually did in the times before the works we relate to in our reflection — it might just be mentioned in this context that Husserl (in 1921 and in 1933) made some reflections explicitly on the subject of love as a part of investigations on intersubjectivity (Kern, op. cit., 1973, Zweiter Teil, pp. 165–184; Dritter Teil, pp. 597–602).Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    This very brief consideration that leaves more questions than it answers, might be explicitly related to and extended in texts of both M. Merleau-Ponty and, of course, Husserl himself. I will especially mention Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1962), pp. 154–174 and the Crisis, pp. 106–111. Then the whole field might be laid open.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    In this connection, of course, the name of Plato goes without saying, but I would say that the life-world has also had quite a decisive impact on the development of philosophical concepts and the whole of the Western scientific culture that they have been integrated with and interrelated to. The soil of growth and development has not solely been culture in the strict sense, and it should therefore be of no surprise to anyone that a concept really taking hold of the concrete historical, factual conditions for human life and understanding is made a fundamental philosophical concept. On the contrary, maybe the “big surprise” should rather be the fact that great philosophical systems and fundamental concepts have been developed without some — systematic or otherwise — reflection on this soil! That being, of course, if it really is a historical fact. As Husserl in his later years develops both the concepts of the life-world and historicity together, as intimately integrated into each other, he rightly seems to doubt this. The main tradition of Western thought has — and not only incidentally — had the life-world as a meaning-fundament, but this has at the same time been a forgotten theme. Even Kant, reflecting “transcen-dentally” on the most profound preconditions of science and understanding, had unexpressed “presuppositions” in taking the surrounding world of life for granted as valid. And as Husserl in his Crisis period understands the whole situation, it is both highly necessary and possible to do otherwise — making the life-world (also) an explicitly essential dimension of the transcendental. But of course this constitutes new problems in the analysis and understanding of transcendental phenomenology itself; reflected on in this manner, this also calls for analyses of transcendental intersubjectivity. Husserl explicitly goes into such analysis in only one paragraph (54) of the Crisis, but the whole issue is obviously and quite concretely working in the background of his undertaking. As to the subject of love, I do not think it is present, but according to K. Schuhmann’s Husserl-Chronik (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1977), p. 456, Husserl in 1935 made some brief reflections on “Philosophie, Teleologie und Liebe, Liebe als Problem” — which however I don’t know the content of.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

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

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