Phenomenology Is a Humanism: Husserl’s Hermeneutical-Historical Struggle to Determine the Genuine Meaning of Human Existence in The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology
In The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1936), Husserl expands his philosophical horizon to include the question about the genuine meaning of human existence. Understanding the crisis of the European sciences as a symptom of the crisis of European philosophy and as an expression of the life-crisis of European humanity, and interpreting European science, philosophy, and humanity as representative of their global-historical counterparts, Husserl argues that the life-crisis of European humanity is reflective of the critical condition of global-historical humanity. The crisis of “European” life emerges as a crisis of human existence, and Husserl’s phenomenology unfolds as a search for an answer to the question not only about the sense of the life-world but also about the meaning of human life. Thus phenomenology, as care for humanity, shares with existentialism, as a humanism in the broadest sense, the conviction that human beings live in a world not in which life makes sense, but in which they must make sense of life. Accordingly, the genuine essence of human existence is not passively “given” but actively “taken”, since it involves an entelechy that constitutes itself in an evolutionary achievement, and it is the evidentiary result of an existential struggle for meaning against annihilating forms of meaninglessness, namely, irrationalism, positivism, and skepticism. This paper examines Husserl’s hermeneutical-historical approach to the question about the meaning of human existence and suggests an understanding of phenomenology as a form of humanism, and perhaps even as a unique kind of “existentialism”, that is, an ethical philosophy that takes absolute moral responsibility for the presuppositionless application of reason to life.