the universe is pre-given as a universe of “things”

First we consider what is most general here: that the universe is pre-given as a universe of “things.” In this broadest sense “thing” is an expression for what ultimately exists and what “has” ultimate properties, relations, interconnections (through which its being is explicated); the thing itself is not what is “had” in this manner but precisely what ultimately “has” – in short (but understood quite unmetaphysically), it is the ultimate substrate. Things have their concrete set of types, finding their expression in the “substantives” of a given language. But all particular sets of types come under the most general of all, the set of “regional” types. In life it is the latter that determines praxis, in constant factual generality; and it first becomes explicit with essential necessity through a method of inquiry into essences. Here I mention distinctions such as living vs. lifeless things land, within the sphere of living things, the animals, i.e., those living not merely according to drives but also constantly through ego-acts, as opposed to those living only according to drives (such as plants). Among animals, human beings stand out, so much so, in fact, that mere animals have ontic meaning as such only by comparison to them, as variations of them. Among lifeless things, humanised things are distinguished, things that have signification (e.g., cultural meaning) through human beings. Further, as a variation on this, there are things which refer meaningfully in a similar way to animal existence, as opposed to things that are without signification in this sense. It is clear that these very general separations and groupings derived from the life-world, or the world of original experience, determine the separation of scientific areas, just as they also determine the internal interconnections between the sciences in virtue of the internal interconnection and overlapping of the regions. On the other hand, universal abstractions, which encompass all concretions, at the same time also determine subjects for possible sciences. It is only in the modem period that this latter path has been followed; and it is precisely this path that is relevant for us here. The natural science of the modem period, establishing itself as physics, has its roots in the consistent abstraction through which it wants to see, in the life-world, only corporeity. Each “thing” “has” corporeity even though, if it is (say) a human being or a work of art, it is not merely bodily but is only “embodied,” like everything real. Through such an abstraction, carried out with universal consistency, the world is reduced to abstract-universal nature, the subject matter of pure natural science. It is here alone that geometrical idealisation, first of all, and then all further mathematising theorisation, has found its possible meaning. It is based on the self-evidence of “outer experience,” which is thus in fact an abstracting type of experience. But within the abstraction it has its essential forms of explication, it relativities, its ways of motivating idealisations, etc.

Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology


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