spirit’s autonomy

The spirit and in fact only the spirit is a being in itself and for itself; it is autonomous and is capable of being handled in a genuinely rational, genuinely and thoroughly scientific way only in this autonomy. In regard to nature and scientific truth concerning it, however, the natural sciences give merely the appearance of having brought nature to a point where for itself it is rationally known. For true nature in its proper scientific sense is a product of the spirit that investigates nature, and thus the science of nature presupposes the science of the spirit. The spirit is essentially qualified to exercise self-knowledge, and as scientific spirit to exercise scientific self-knowledge, and over and over again. Only in the kind of pure knowledge proper to science of the spirit is the scientist unaffected by objection that his accomplishment is self-concealing*. As s consequence, it is absurd for the sciences of the spirit to dispute with the sciences of nature for equal rights. To the extent that the former concede to the latter that their objectivity is an autonomy, they are themselves victims of objectivism. Moreover, in the way the sciences of the spirit are at present developed, with their manifold disciplines, they forfeit the unlimate, actual rationality which the spiritual Weltanschauung makes possible. Precisely this lack of genuine rationality on all sides is the source of what has become for man an unbearable unclarity regarding his own existence and his infinite tasks. These last are inseparably united in one task: only if the spirit returns to itself from its naïve exteriorization, clinging to itself and purely to itself, can it be adequate to itself**.

note *: If the proper function of true science is to know ‘essences’, there seems little question that the sciences of nature neither perform nor pretend to perform this function. If, in addition, essences are, only insofar as they are ‘constituted’ in consciousness (ultimately spirit), then only a science of spirit can legitimately lay claim to the title.

note **: One is reminded of Hegel’s dictum that when reason is conscious to itself of being all reality, it is spirit. The difference in the paths by which Hegel and Husserl arrive at this conclusion should be obvious.

EDMUND HUSSERL: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

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