“For Ingarden, as for the other earlier phenomenologists, the decisive characteristic of phenomenology consisted in its program of an intuitive study of essences; as a matter of fact he devoted his habilitation thesis, Essentiale Fragen, to a careful analysis of the questions concerning the essence of a thing. To the resulting theory of ‘aprioric’ necessary truths he gave the name ‘ontology.’ Husserl himself had been talking in a similar vein of the different regional ontologies (i.e., of the apriori theories of different domains or regions of objects) and of a general formal ontology (i.e., of the apriori theory of the formal structure of any object whatsoever). But Ingarden admitted that he used the term ‘ontology’ in a somewhat wider sense, because for him ontology included the study of the essence of pure consciousness (die Wesensanalyse des reinen Bewusstseins). Husserl had once defined phenomenology as the study of the essence of pure consciousness, but he had never thought to call this investigation ‘ontological.’ For him phenomenology could not be a proper part of ontology, since on the contrary he conceived of ontology, the study of the objects of consciousness, as a proper part of phenomenology, the study of consciousness.

There was thus more than merely a terminological disagreement between them. What was at issue was the question whether ontology or phenomenology, namely the transcendental phenomenology of the process of constitution, had to come first. Ingarden was of the opinion that an analysis and evaluation of the constitutive processes involved in our knowledge of things presupposed as a ‘guiding thread’ the prior possession of a clarified notion of those things, while Husserl maintained that a clarified notion of the things could only be obtained on the basis of a prior understanding of the process of constitution .This difference between Ingarden and Husserl is, in fact, the one which separates the realistic from an idealistic approach to this problem.

However, Ingarden did not reject the program of a transcendental phenomenology as such. Already in his account of 1919 he had devoted a special section to the presentation of the phenomenological reduction and the immanent self-knowledge of pure consciousness, and, unlike most other members of the Göttingen and Munich groups, Ingarden had always accepted the transcendental reduction as meaningful and even necessary, namely necessary for the development of epistemology. To understand Ingarden’s position one most know that in his Ph.D. dissertation, in his efforts to criticize the relativist and subjectivist claims made by Bergson, and in his struggle to clarify the issues involved in the idealism-realism controversy, he had been led to make a sharp distinction between epistemological and metaphysical assertions, which, together with his conception of ontology, resulted in a three-fold division of all systematic philosophy. The tasks of the three divisions are as follows: ontology investigates the necessary truths, i.e., delimits the bounds of sense, namely the range of the apriori possible (it covers what in Analytic Philosophy is the realm of conceptual analysis); metaphysics makes existence claims, i.e., it tries to decide what is the nature of that which in fact is the case;’* finally epistemology, which for Ingarden emphatically is not first philosophy, has the task of certifying the validity of the results already obtained by scientific and philosophical investigations. Ingarden’s conception of transcendental phenomenology can now be understood. For him the raison d’être of the transcendental reduction is epistemological, it has its rightful place in the program of a non-circular certification of all knowledge. And once the reduction is performed, then a new realm for ontological analysis is opened up (cf. the above mentioned study of the essence of pure consciousness). Furthermore, there are the facts of transcendental consciousness and other facts which might be inferred from them, all of which are part of the domain of metaphysics. Thus transcendental phenomenology is for Ingarden a mixture of epistemological, ontological and metaphysical questions.”

From: Guido Küng – Roman Ingarden (1893-1970): Ontological Phenomenology – in: Herbert Spiegelberg – The Phenomenological Movement. A historical introduction – Martinus Nijhoff – The Hague, 1963 (third edition). pp. 1224-226.


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