science’s ideality

In science the ideality of what is produced in any particular instance means more than the mere capacity for repetition based on a sense that has been guaranteed as identical; the idea of truth in the scientific sense is set apart (and of this we have still to speak) from the truth proper to pre-scientific life. Scientific truth claims to be unconditioned truth, which involves infinity, giving to each factually guaranteed truth a merely relative character, making it only an approach oriented, in fact, toward the infinite horizon, wherein the truth in itself is, so to speak, looked on as an infinitely distant point. By the same token this infinity belongs also to what in the scientific sense ‘really is’. A fortiori, there is infinity involved in ‘universal’ validity for ‘everyone’, as the subject of whatever rational foundations are to be secured; nor is this any longer everyone in the finite sense the term has in prescientific life.

Having thus characterized the ideality peculiar to science, with the ideal infinities variously implied in the very sense of science, we are faced, as we survey the historical situation, with a contrast that we express in the following proposition: no other cultural form in the pre-philosophical historical horizon is a culture of ideas in the above-mentioned sense; none knows any infinite tasks – none knows of such universes of idealities that as wholes and in all their details, as also in their methods of production, bear within themselves an essential infinity.

Extra-scientific culture, not yet touched by science, is a task accomplished by man in finitude. The openly endless horizon around him is not made available to him. His aims and activities, his commerce and his travel, his personal, social, national, mythical motivation – all this moves about in an environing world whose finite dimensions can be viewed. Here there are no infinite tasks, no ideal attainments whose very infinity is man’s field of endeavor – a field of endeavor such that those who work in it are conscious that it has the mode of being proper to such an infinite sphere of tasks.

EDMUND HUSSERL: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man


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