The spirit of Europe. The Euro symbol.

Edmund Husserl: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity ("Vienna Lecture")

(Lecture delivered by Edmund Husserl, Vienna, 10 May 1935; therefore often referred to as: "The Vienna Lecture".)

[From: Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, Translated with Notes and an Introduction by Quentin Lauer, Harper Torchbooks, ©1965 by Quentin Lauer. This page originally copied from PRO EUROPA website, where you will find much other good material, including (e.g.) Thomas Mann's response (1937) to the Third Reich stripping him of his honorary doctorate degree from the Frederick-William University at Bonn. PRO EUROPA's epigraph to the section of their website containing these texts is also fitting to quote here:

"The struggle against everything whose only claim to dignity is its materiality, to refuse to be merely a passive and determined element in the order of Creation this seems to me the primordial virtue which transformed an Asian peninsula into Europe" - Carlo Schmid

"The lights are going out all over Europe. We at least shall try to relight them." (--"Daniel Corbett, Christian Filips 7D", apparently from a German/Belgian student's 2000 online yearbook webpage which no longer exists)


In this lecture I will venture an attempt to awaken new interest in the oft-treated theme of the European crisis by developing the philosophico-historical idea (or the teleological sense) of European man.[1] In so far as in thus developing the topic I bring out the essential function that philosophy and its ramifications in our sciences have to perform in this process, the European crisis will also be given added clarification.

We can illustrate this in terms of the well-known distinction between scientific medicine and 'naturopathy'. Just as in the common life of peoples the latter derives from naïve experience and tradition, so scientific medicine results from the utilization of insights belonging to purely theoretical sciences concerned with the human body, primarily anatomy and physiology. These in turn are based on those fundamental sciences that seek a universal explanation of nature as such, physics and chemistry.

Now let us turn our gaze from man's body to his spirit, the theme of the so-called humanistic sciences.[2] In these sciences theoretical interest is directed exclusively to human beings as persons, to their personal life and activity, as also correlatively to the concrete results of this activity. To live as a person is to live in a social framework, wherein I and we live together in community and have the community as a horizon.[3] Now, communities are structured in various simple or complex forms, such as family, nation, or international community. Here the world 'live' is not to be taken in a physiological sense but rather as signifying purposeful living, manifesting spiritual creativity - in the broadest sense, creating culture within historical continuity. It is this that forms the theme of various humanistic sciences. Now, there is an obvious difference between healthy growth and decline, or to put it another way, between health and sickness, even for societies, for peoples, for states. In consequence there arises the not so farfetched question: how is it that in this connection there has never arisen a medical science concerned with nations and with international communities? The European nations are sick; Europe itself, they say, is in critical condition. Nor in this situation are there lacking all sorts of nature therapies. We are, in fact, quite overwhelmed with a torrent of naïve and extravagant suggestions for reform. But why is it that so luxuriantly developed humanistic sciences here fail to perform the service that in their own sphere the natural sciences perform so competently?

Those who are familiar with the spirit of modern science will not be embarrassed for an answer. The greatness of the natural sciences consists in their refusal to be content with an observational empiricism, since for them all descriptions of nature are but methodical procedures for arriving at exact explanations, ultimately physico-chemical explanations. They are of the opinion that 'merely descriptive' sciences tie us to the finitudes of our earthly environing world.[4] Mathematically exact natural science, however, embraces with its method the infinites contained in its actualities and real possibilities. It sees in the intuitively given a merely subjective appearance, and it teaches how to investigate intersubjective ('objective')[5] nature itself with systematic approximation on the basis of elements and laws that are unconditionally universal. At the same time, such exact science teaches how to explain all intuitively pre-given concretions, whether men, or animals, or heavenly bodies, by an appeal to what is ultimate, i.e., how to induce from the appearances, which are the data in any factual case, future possibilities and probabilities, and to do this with a universality and exactitude that surpasses any empiricism limited to intuition.[6] The consistent development of exact sciences in modern times has been a true revolution in the technical mastery of nature.

In the humanistic sciences the methodological situation (in the sense already quite intelligible to us) is unfortunately quite different, and this for internal reasons. Human spirituality[7] is, it is true, based on the human physis, each individually human soul-life is founded on corporeality, and thus too each community on the bodies of the individual human beings who are its members. If, then, as is done in the sphere of nature, a really exact explanation and consequently a similarly extensive scientific practical application is to become possible for the phenomena belonging to the humanistic sciences, then must the practitioners of the humanistic sciences consider not only the spirit as spirit but must also go back to its bodily foundations, and by employing the exact sciences of physics and chemistry, carry through their explanations. The attempt to do this, however, has been unsuccessful (and in the foreseeable future there is no remedy to be had) due to the complexity of the exact psycho-physical research needed in the case of individual human beings, to say nothing of the great historical communities. If the world were constructed of two, so to speak, equal spheres of reality - nature and spirit - neither with a preferential position methodologically and factually, the situation would be different. But only nature can be handled as a self-contained world; only natural science can with complete consistency abstract from all that is spirit and consider nature purely as nature. On the other side such a consistent abstraction from nature does not, for the practitioner of humanistic science who is interested purely in the spiritual, lead to a self-contained 'world', a world whose interrelationships are purely spiritual, that could be the theme of a pure and universal humanistic science, parallel to pure natural science. Animal spirituality,[8] that of the human and animal 'souls', to which all other spirituality is referred, is in each individual instance causally based on corporeality. It is thus understandable that the practitioner of humanistic science, interested solely in the spiritual as such, gets no further than the descriptive, than a historical record of spirit, and thus remains tied to intuitive finitudes. Every example manifests this. A historian, for example, cannot, after all, treat the history of ancient Greece without taking into consideration the physical geography of ancient Greece; he cannot treat its architecture without considering the materiality of its buildings, etc., etc. That seems clear enough.

What is to be said, then, if the whole mode of thought that reveals itself in this presentation rests on fatal prejudices and is in its results partly responsible for Europe's sickness? I am convinced that this is the case, and in this way I hope to make understandable that herein lies an essential source for the conviction which the modern scientist has that the possibility of grounding a purely self-contained and universal science of the spirit is not even worth mentioning, with the result that he flatly rejects it.

It is in the interests of our Europe-problem to penetrate a bit more deeply into this question and to expose the above, at first glance lucidly clear, argumentation. The historian, the investigator of spirit, of culture, constantly has of course physical nature too among the phenomena with which he is concerned; in our example, nature in ancient Greece. But this is not nature in the sense understood by natural science; rather it is nature as it was for the ancient Greeks, natural reality present to their eyes in the world that surrounded them. To state it more fully; the historical environing world of the Greeks is not the objective world in our sense; rather it is their 'representation of the world', i.e., their own subjective evaluation, with all the realities therein that were valid for them, for example the gods, the demons, etc.

Environing world is a concept that has its place exclusively in the spiritual sphere. That we live in our own particular environing world, to which all our concerns and efforts are directed, points to an event that takes place purely in the spiritual order. Our environing world is a spiritual structure in us and in our historical life.[9] Here, then, there is no reason for one who makes his theme the spirit as spirit to demand for it any but a purely spiritual explanation. And this has general validity: to look upon environing nature as in itself alien to spirit, and consequently to desire to support humanistic science with natural science and thus presumably to make the former exact, is nonsense.

Obviously, too, it is forgotten that natural science (like all sciences as such) is a title for spiritual activities, those of natural scientists in cooperation with each other; as such these activities belong, as do all spiritual occurrences, to the realm of what should be explained by means of a science of the spirit.[10] Is it not, then, nonsensical and circular, to desire to explain by means of natural science the historical event 'natural science', to explain it by invoking natural science and its laws of nature, both of which, as produced by spirit,[11] are themselves part of the problem?

Blinded by naturalism (no matter how much they themselves may verbally oppose it), the practitioners of humanistic science have completely neglected even to pose the problem of a universal and pure science of the spirit and to seek a theory of the essence of spirit as spirit, a theory that pursues what is unconditionally universal in the spiritual order with its own elements and its own laws. Yet this last should be done with a view to gaining thereby scientific explanations in an absolutely conclusive sense.

The preceding reflections proper to a science of the spirit provide us with the right attitude for grasping and handling our theme of spiritual Europe as a problem belonging purely to science of the spirit, first of all from the point of view of spirit's history. As has already been stated in the introductory remarks, in following this path we should reveal an extraordinary teleology, which is, so to speak, innate only in our Europe. This, moreover, is most intimately connected with the eruption (or the invasion) of philosophy and of its ramifications, the sciences, in the ancient Greek spirit. We already suspect that there will be question of clarifying the profoundest reasons for the origin of fatal naturalism, or - and this is of equal importance - of modern dualism in interpreting the world. Ultimately the proper sense of European man's crisis should thereby come to light.

We may ask, 'How is the spiritual image of Europe to be characterized?' This does not mean Europe geographically, as it appears on maps, as though European man were to be in this way confined to the circle of those who live together in this territory. In the spiritual sense it is clear that to Europe belong the English dominions, the United States, etc., but not, however, the Eskimos or Indians of the country fairs, or the Gypsies, who are constantly wandering about Europe. Clearly the title Europe designates the unity of a spiritual life and a creative activity - with all its aims, interests, cares and troubles, with its plans, its establishments, its institutions. Therein individual human beings work in a variety of societies, on different levels, in families, races,[12] nations, all intimately joined together in spirit and, as I said, in the unity of one spiritual image. This should stamp on persons, groups, and all their cultural accomplishments an all-unifying character.

'The spiritual image of Europe' - what is it? It is exhibiting the philosophical idea immanent in the history of Europe (of spiritual Europe). To put it another way, it is its immanent teleology, which, if we consider mankind in general, manifests itself as a new human epoch emerging and beginning to grow, the epoch of a humanity that from now on will and can live only in the free fashioning of its being and its historical life out of rational ideas and infinite tasks.[13]

Every spiritual image has its place essentially in a universal historical space or in a particular unity of historical time in terms of coexistence or succession - it has its history. If, then, we follow historical connections, beginning as we must with ourselves and our own nation, historical continuity leads us ever further away from our own to neighboring nations, and so from nation to nation, from age to age. Ultimately we come to ancient times and go from the Romans to the Greeks, to the Egyptians, the Persians, etc., in this there is clearly no end. We go back to primeval times, and we must perforce turn to Menghin's significant and genial work The History of the Stone Age.[14] To an investigation of this type mankind manifests itself as a single life of men and of peoples, bound together by spiritual relationships alone, filled with all types of human beings and of cultures, but constantly flowing each into the other. It is like a sea in which human beings, peoples, are the waves constantly forming, changing, and disappearing, some more richly, more complexly involved, others more simply.

In this process consistent, penetrating observation reveals new, characteristic compositions and distinctions. No matter how inimical the European nations may be toward each other, still they have a special inner affinity of spirit that permeates all of them and transcends their national differences. It is a sort of fraternal relationship that gives us the consciousness of being at home in this circle. This becomes immediately evident as soon as, for example, we penetrate sympathetically into the historical process of India, with its many peoples and cultural forms. In this circle there is again the unity of a family-like relationship, but one that is strange to us. On the other hand, Indians find us strangers and find only in each other their fellows. Still, this essential distinction between fellowship and strangeness, which is relativized on many levels and is a basic category of all historicity, cannot suffice. Historical humanity does not always divide itself in the same way according to this category. We get a hint of that right in our own Europe. Therein lies something unique, which all other human groups, too, feel with regard to us, something that apart from all considerations of expediency, becomes a motivation for them - despite their determination to retain their spiritual autonomy - constantly to Europeanize themselves, whereas we, if we understand ourselves properly, will never, for example, Indianize ourselves.[15] I mean we feel (and with all its vagueness this feeling is correct) that in our European humanity there is an innate entelechy that thoroughly controls the changes in the European image and gives to it the sense of a development in the direction of an ideal image of life and of being, as moving toward an eternal pole. It is not as though there were question here of one of those known orientations that give to the physical realm of organic beings its character - not a question, therefore, of something like biological development in stages from seminal form up to maturity followed by ageing and dying out. There is essentially no zoology of peoples. They are spiritual unities. They have not, and above all the supernationality Europe has not, a mature from that has been or can be reached, no form of regular repetition. From the point of view of soul, humanity has never been a finished product, nor will it be, nor can it ever repeat itself.[16] The spiritual telos of European Man, in which is included the particular telos of separate nations and of individual human beings, lies in infinity; it is an infinite idea, toward which in secret the collective spiritual becoming, so to speak, strives. Just as in the development it becomes a conscious telos, so too it becomes necessarily practical as a goal of the will, and thereby is introduced a new, a higher stage of development that is guided by norms, by normative ideas.

All of this, however, is not intended as a speculative interpretation of our historicity but rather as the expression of a vital anticipation arising out of unprejudiced reflection. But this anticipation serves as intentional guidance[17] toward seeing in European history extraordinarily significant connections, in the pursuit of which the anticipated becomes for us guaranteed certainty. Anticipation is the emotional guide to all discoveries.

Let us develop this. Spiritually Europe has a birthplace. By this I do not mean a geographical place, in some one land, though this too is true. I refer, rather, to a spiritual birthplace in a nation or in certain men or groups of men belonging to this nation. It is the ancient Greek nation[18] in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. In it there grows up a new kind of attitude[19] of individuals toward their environing world. Consequent upon this emerges a completely new type of spiritual structure, rapidly growing into a systematically rounded (geschlossen) cultural form that the Greeks called philosophy. Correctly translated, in its original sense, this bespeaks nothing but universal science, science of the world as a whole, of the universal unity of all being. Very soon the interest in the totality and, by the same token, the question regarding the all-embracing becoming and the resulting being begin to particularize themselves in accord with the general forms and regions of being.[20] Thus philosophy, the one science, is ramified into the various particular sciences.

In the emergence of philosophy in this sense, a sense, that is, which includes all sciences, I see - no matter how paradoxical this may seem - the original phenomenon of spiritual Europe. The elucidations that follow, however brief they must be kept, will soon eliminate the seeming paradox.

Philosophy-science[21] is the title for a special class of cultural structures. The historical movement that has taken on the form of European supernationality goes back to an ideal image whose dimension is the infinite; not, however, to an image that could be recognized in a merely external morphological examination of changing forms. To have a norm constantly in view is something intimately a part of the intentional life of individual persons and consequently of nations and of particular societies within the latter, and ultimately of the organism formed by the nations united together as Europe. This, of course, is not true of all persons and, therefore, is not fully developed in the higher-level personalities constituted by intersubjective acts. Still, it is present in them in the form of a necessary progressive development and extension in the spirit of universally valid norms. This spirit, however, signifies at the same time the progressive transformations of collective humanity beginning with the effective formation of ideas in small and even in the smallest circles. Ideas, conceived within individual persons as sense-structures that in a wonderfully new manner secrete within themselves intentional infinities, are not in space like real things, which latter, entering as they do into the field of human experiences, do not by that very fact as yet signify anything for the human being as a person. With the first conception of ideas man gradually becomes a new man. His spiritual being enters into the movement of a progressive reformation. This movement from the very beginning involves communication and awakens a new style of personal existence in its vital circle by a better understanding of a correspondingly new becoming. In this movement first of all (and subsequently even beyond it) a special type of humanity spreads out, living in finitude but oriented toward poles of infinity. By the very same token there grows up a new mode of sociality and a new form of enduring society, whose spiritual life, cemented together by a common love of and creation of ideas and by the setting of ideal norms for life, carries within itself a horizon of infinity for the future - an infinity of generations finding constant spiritual renewal in ideas. This takes place first of all in the spiritual territory of a single nation, the Greeks, as a development of philosophy and of philosophical communities. Along with this there grows, first in this nation, a general cultural spirit that draws the whole of mankind under its sway and is therefore a progressive transformation in the shape of a new historicity.[22]

This rough sketch will gain in completeness and intelligibility as we examine more closely the historical origin of philosophical and scientific man and thereby clarify the sense of Europe and, consequently, the new type of historicity that through this sort of development distinguishes itself from history in general.[23]

First, let us elucidate the remarkable character of philosophy as it unfolds in ever-new special sciences. Let us contrast it with other forms of culture already present in prescientific man, in his artefacts, his agriculture, his architecture, etc. All manifest classes of cultural products along with the proper methods for insuring their successful production. Still, they have a transitory existence in their environing world. Scientific achievements, on the other hand, once the method of insuring their successful creation has been attained, have an entirely different mode of being, an entirely different temporality. They do not wear out, they are imperishable. Repeated creation does not produce something similar, at best something similarly useful. Rather, no matter how many times the same person or any number of persons repeat these achievements, they remain exactly identical, identical in sense and in value. Persons united together in actual mutual understanding can only experience what their respective fellows have produced in the same manner as identical with what they have produced themselves.[24] In a word, what scientific activity achieves is not real but ideal.

What is more, however, whatever validity or truth has been gained in this way serves as material for the production of higher-level idealities; and this goes on and on. Now, in the developed theoretical interest, each interest receives ahead of time the sense of a merely relative goal; it becomes a transition to constantly new, higher-level goals in an infinity preindicated as science's universal field of endeavor, its 'domain'. Thus science designates the idea of an infinity of tasks, of which at any time a finite number have already been accomplished and are retained in their enduring validity. These constitute at the same time the fund of premises for an endless horizon of tasks united into one all-embracing task.

Here, however, an important supplementary remark should be made. 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.[25] 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.[26]

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.

With the appearance of Greek philosophy, however, and with its first definite formulation in a consistent idealizing of the new sense of infinity, there occurs, from this point of view, a progressive transformation that ultimately draws into its orbit all ideas proper to finitude and with them the entire spiritual culture of mankind. For us Europeans there are, consequently, even outside the philosophico-scientific sphere, any number of infinite ideas (if we may use the expression), but the analogous character of infinity that they have (infinite tasks, goals, verifications, truths, 'true values', 'genuine goods', 'absolutely' valid norms) is due primarily to the transformation of man through philosophy and its idealities. Scientific culture in accord with ideas of infinity means, then, a revolutionizing of all culture, a revolution that affects man's whole manner of being as a creator of culture. It means also a revolutionizing of historicity, which is now the history of finite humanity's disappearance, to the extent that it grows into a humanity with infinite tasks.

Here we meet the obvious objection that philosophy, the science of the Greeks, is not, after all, distinctive of them, something which with them first came into the world. They themselves tell of the wise Egyptians, Babylonians, etc.; and they did in fact learn much from these latter. Today we possess all sorts of studies on Indian, Chinese, and other philosophies, studies that place these philosophies on the same level with Greek philosophy, considering them merely as different historical formulations of one and the same cultural idea. Of course, there is not lacking something in common. Still, one must not allow intentional depths to be covered over by what is merely morphologically common and be blind to the most essential differences of principle.

Before anything else, the attitude of these two kinds of 'philosophers', the overall orientation of their interests, is thoroughly different. Here and there one may observe a world-embracing interest that on both sides (including, therefore, the Indian, Chinese and other like 'philosophies') leads to universal cognition of the world, everywhere developing after the manner of a sort of practical vocational interest and for quite intelligible reasons leading to vocational groups, in which from generation to generation common results are transmitted and even developed. Only with the Greeks, however, do we find a universal ('cosmological') vital interest in the essentially new form of a purely 'theoretical' attitude.[27] This is true, too, of the communal form in which the interest works itself out, the corresponding, essentially new attitude of the philosophers and the scientists (mathematicians, astronomers, etc.). These are the men who, not isolated but with each other and for each other, i.e., bound together in a common interpersonal endeavor, strive for and carry into effect theoria and only theoria. These are the ones whose growth and constant improvement ultimately, as the circle of cooperators extends and the generations of investigators succeed each other, become a will oriented in the direction of an infinite and completely universal task. The theoretical attitude has its historical origin in the Greeks.

Speaking generally, attitude bespeaks a habitually, determined manner of vital willing, wherein the will's directions or interests, its aims and its cultural accomplishments, are preindicated and thus the overall orientation determined. In this enduring orientation taken as a norm, the individual life is lived. The concrete cultural contents change in a relatively enclosed historicity. In its historical situation mankind (or the closed community, such as a nation, a race, etc.) always lives within the framework of some sort of attitude. Its life always has a normative orientation and within this a steady historicity or development.

Thus if the theoretical attitude in its newness is referred back to a previous, more primitive normative attitude, the theoretical is characterized as a transformed attitude.[28] Looking at the historicity of human existence universally in all its communal forms and in its historical stages, we find, then, that essentially a certain style of human existence (taken in formal universality) points to a primary historicity, within which the actual normative style of culture-creating existence at any time, no matter what its rise or fall or stagnation, remains formally the same. In this regard we are speaking of the natural, the native attitude, of originally natural life, of the first primitively natural form of cultures - be they higher or lower, uninhibitedly developing or stagnating. All other attitudes, then, refer back to these natural ones as transformations of them.[29] To put it more concretely, in an attitude natural to one of the actual human groups in history there must arise at a point in time motives that for the first time impel individual men and groups having this attitude to transform it.

How are we, then, to characterize the essentially primitive attitude, the fundamental historical mode of human existence?[30] The answer: on the basis of generation men naturally live in communities - in a family, a race, a nation - and these communities are in themselves more or less abundantly subdivided into particular social units. Now, life on the level of nature is characterized as a naïvely direct living immersed in the world, in the world that in a certain sense is constantly there consciously as a universal horizon but is not, merely by that fact, thematic. Thematic is that toward which man's attention is turned. Being genuinely alive is always having one's attention turned to this or that, turned to something as to an end or a means, as relevant or irrelevant, interesting or indifferent, private or public, to something that is in daily demand or to something that is startlingly new. All this belongs to the world horizon, but there is need of special motives if the one who is caught up in such a life in the world is to transform himself and it to come to the point where he somehow makes this world itself his theme, where he conceives an enduring interest in it.

But here more detailed explanations are needed. Individual human beings who change their attitudes as human beings belonging to their own general vital community (their nation), have their particular natural interests (each his own). These they can by no change in attitude simply lose; that would mean for each ceasing to be the individual he is, the one he has been since birth. No matter what the circumstances, then, the transformed attitude can only be a temporary one. It can take on a lasting character that will endure as a habit throughout an entire life only in the form of an unconditional determination of will to take up again the selfsame attitudes in a series of periods that are temporary but intimately bound together. It will mean that by virtue of a continuity that bridges intentionally the discreteness involved, men will hold on to the new type of interests as worth being realized and will embody them in corresponding cultural forms.[31]

We are familiar with this sort of thing in the occupations that make their appearance even in a naturally primitive form of cultural life, where there are temporary periods devoted to the occupation, periods that interrupt the rest of life with its concrete temporality (e.g., the working hours of a functionary, etc.).

Now, there are two possibilities. On the one hand, the interests of the new attitude will be made subservient to the natural interests of life, or what is essentially the same, to natural practicality. In this case the new attitude is itself a practical one. This, then, can have a sense similar to the practical attitude of the politician, who as a state functionary is attentive to the common good and whose attitude, therefore, is to serve the practical interests of all (and incidentally his own). This sort of thing admittedly still belongs to the domain of the natural attitude, which is, of course, different for different types of community members and is in fact one thing for the leaders of the community and another for the 'citizens' - both obviously understood in the broadest sense. In any event, the analogy makes it clear that the universality of a practical attitude, in this case one that embraces a whole world, need in no way signify being interested in and occupied with all the details and particularities of that world - it would obviously be unthinkable.

In contrast to the higher-level practical attitude there exists, however, still another essential possibility of a change in the universal natural attitude (with which we shall soon become acquainted in its type, the mythical-religious attitude), which is to say, the theoretical attitude - a name being given to it, of course, only provisionally, because in this attitude philosophical theoria must undergo a development and so become its proper aim or field of interest. The theoretical attitude, even though it too is a professional attitude, is thoroughly unpractical. Thus it is based on a deliberate epoche from all practical interests,[32] and consequently even those of a higher level, that serve natural needs within the framework of a life's occupation governed by such practical interests.

Still, it must at the same time be said that there is no question here of a definitive 'cutting off' of the theoretical life from the practical. We are not saying that the concrete life of the theoretical thinker falls into two disconnected vital continuities partitioned off from each other, which would mean, socially speaking, that two spiritually unconnected spheres would come into existence. For there is still a third form of universal attitude possible (in contrast both to the mythical-religious, which is based on the natural, and to the theoretical attitudes). It is the synthesis of opposing interests that occurs in the transition from the theoretical to the practical attitude. In this way thoeria (the universal science), whose growth has manifested a tight unity through an epoche from all practical considerations, is called upon (and even proves in a theoretical insight[33] that it is called upon) to serve humanity in a new way, first of all in its concrete existence as it continues to live naturally. This takes place in the form of a new kind of practical outlook, a universal critique of all life and of its goals, of all the forms and systems of culture that have already grown up in the life of mankind. This brings with it a critique of mankind itself and of those values that explicitly or implicitly guide it. Carrying it to a further consequence, it is a practical outlook whose aim is to elevate mankind through universal scientific reason in accord with norms of truth in every form, and thus to transform it into a radically new humanity made capable of an absolute responsibility to itself on the basis of absolute theoretical insights.[34] Still, prior to this synthesis of theoretical universality and a practical outlook with universal interests, there is obviously another synthesis of theory and practice - the utilization of the limited results of theory, of those special sciences that are limited to the practical aspects of natural life, having relinquished by their very specialization the universality of theoretical interest. Here the primitively natural attitude and the theoretical are joined together in an orientation toward finite goals.

For a profounder understanding of Greco-European science (universally speaking, this means philosophy) in its fundamental difference from the equally notable oriental 'philosophies', it is now necessary to consider in more detail the practically universal attitude, and to explain it as mythical-religious, an attitude that, prior to European science, brings those other philosophies into being. It is a well-known fact, to say nothing of an essentially obvious necessity, that mythical-religious motives and a mythical-religious practice together belong to a humanity living naturally - before Greek philosophy, and with it a scientific world view, entered on the scene and matured. A mythical-religious attitude is one that takes as its theme the world as a totality - a practical theme. The world in this case is, of course, one that has a concrete, traditional significance for the men in question (let us say, a nation) and is thus mythically apperceived. This sort of mythical-natural attitude embraces from the very first not only men and animals and other infrahuman and infra-animal beings (Wesen) but also the suprahuman. The view that embraces them as a totality is a practical one; not, however, as though man, whose natural life, after all, is such that he is actually interested only in certain realities, could ever have come to the point where everything together would suddenly and in equal degree take on practical relevance. Rather, to the extent that the whole world is looked upon as dominated by mythical powers and to the extent that human destiny depends immediately or mediately on the way these powers rule in the world, a universally mythical world view may have its source in practicality and is, then, itself a world view, whose interests are practical. It is understandable that priests belonging to a priesthood in charge of both mythical-religious interests and of the traditions belonging to them should have motives for such a mythical-religious attitude. With this priesthood these arises and spreads the linguistically solidified 'knowledge' of these mythical powers (in the broadest sense though of as personal). This knowledge quasi-automatically takes on the form of a mystical speculation which, by setting itself up as a naïvely convincing interpretation, transforms the mythos itself. At the same time, obviously, attention is constantly directed also to the ordinary world ruled by these mythical powers and to the human and infrahuman beings belonging to it (these, incidentally, unsettled in their own essential being, are also open to the influence of mythical factors). This attention looks to the ways in which the powers control the events of this world, the manner in which they themselves must be subject to a unified supreme order of power, the manner in which they with regard to individual functions and functioners intervene by initiating and carrying out, by handing down decrees of fate. All this speculative knowledge however, has as its purpose to serve man toward his human aims, to enable him to live the happiest possible life on earth, to protect that life from sickness, from misfortune, need and death. It is understandable that in this mythico-practical approach to knowing the world there can arise not a little knowledge of the actual world, of the world known in a sort of scientific experience, a knowledge subsequently to be subjected to a scientific evaluation. Still, this sort of knowledge is and remains mythico-practical in its logical connections, and it is a mistake for someone brought up in the scientific modes of thought initiated in Greece and progressively developed in modern times to speak of Indian and Chinese philosophy (astronomy, mathematics) and thus to interpret India, Babylonia, and China in a European way.[35]

There is a sharp cleavage, then, between the universal but mythico-practical attitude and the 'theoretical', which by every previous standard is unpractical, the attitude of thaumazein [Gr. = to wonder], to which the great men of Greek philosophy's first culminating period, Plato and Aristotle, trace the origin of philosophy. Men are gripped by a passion for observing and knowing the world, a passion that turns from all practical interests and in the closed circle of its own knowing activities, in the time devoted to this sort of investigation, accomplishes and wants to accomplish only pure theoria[36]. In other words, man becomes the disinterested spectator, overseer of the world, he becomes a philosopher. More than that, from this point forward his life gains a sensitivity for motives which are possible only to this attitude, for novel goals and methods of thought, in the framework of which philosophy finally comes into being and man becomes philosopher.

Like everything that occurs in history, of course, the introduction of the theoretical attitude has its factual motivation in the concrete circumstances of historical events. Therefore it is worth-while to explain in this connection how, considering the manner of life and the horizon of Greek man in the seventh century B.C., in his intercourse with the great and already highly cultivated nations surrounding him, that thaumazein could introduce itself and at first become established in individuals. Regarding this we shall not enter into greater detail; it is more important for us to understand the path of motivation, with its sense-giving and sense-creating, which leads from mere conversion (or from mere thaumazein), to theoria - a historical fact, that nevertheless must have in it something essential. It is important to explain the change from original theoria, from the completely 'disinterested' (consequent upon the epoche from all practical interests) world view (knowledge of the world based only on universal contemplation) to the theoria proper to science - both stages exemplifying the contrast between doxa [Gr. = opinion] and episteme [Gr. = knowledge]. The theoretical interest that comes on the scene as that thaumazein, is clearly a modification of curiosity that has its original place in natural life as an interruption in the course of 'earnest living', as a working out of originally effected vital interests, or as a playful looking about when the specific needs of actual life have been satisfied or working hours are past. Curiosity, too (not in the sense of an habitual 'vice'), is a modification, an interest raised above merely vital interests and prescinding from them.

With an attitude such as this, man observes first of all the variety of nations, his own and others, each with its own environing world, which with its traditions, its gods and demigods, with its mythical powers, constitutes for each nation the self-evident, real world. In the face of this extraordinary contrast there arises the distinction between the represented and the real world, and a new question is raised concerning the truth - not everyday truth bound as it is to tradition but a truth that for all those who are not blinded by attachment to tradition is identical and universally valid, a truth in itself. Thus it is proper to the theoretical attitude of the philosopher that he is more and more predetermined to devote his whole future life, in the sense of a universal life, to the task of theoria, to build theoretical knowledge upon theoretical knowledge in infinitum.[37]

In isolated personalities, like Thales, et al., there thus grows up a new humanity - men whose profession it is to create a philosophical life, philosophy as a novel form of culture. Understandably there grows up at the same time a correspondingly novel form of community living. These ideal forms are, as others understand them and make them their own, simply taken up and made part of life. In like manner they lead to cooperative endeavor and to mutual help through criticism. Even the outsiders, the non-philosophers, have their attention drawn to the unusual activity that is going on. As they come to understand, they either become philosophers themselves, or if they are too much taken up with their own work, they become pupils. Thus philosophy spreads in a twofold manner, as a widening community of professional philosophers and as a common educational movement growing along with the former. Here also, however, lies the origin of the subsequent, so unfortunate internal split in the unity of the people into educated and uneducated. Still, it is clear that this tendency to spread is not confined to the limits of the originating nation. Unlike all other cultural products, this is not a movement of interests bound to the soil of national traditions. Even foreigners learn in their turn to understand and in general to share in the gigantic cultural change which streams forth from philosophy. Now precisely this must be further characterized.

As philosophy spreads in the form of research and training, it produces a twofold effect. On the one hand, most essential to the theoretical attitude of philosophical man is the characteristic universality of the critical standpoint, which its determination not to accept without question any pregiven opinion, any tradition, and thus to seek out, with regard to the entire universe handed down in tradition, the true in itself - which is ideal. Yet this is not merely a new way of looking at knowledge. By virtue of the demand to subject the whole of experience to ideal norms, i.e., those of unconditional truth, these results at the same time an allembracing change in the practical order of human existence and thus of cultural life in its entirety. The practical must no longer take its norms from naïve everyday experience and from tradition but from the objective truth. In this way ideal truth becomes an absolute value that in the movement of education and in its constant application in the training of children carries with it a universal revision of practice. If we consider somewhat more in detail the manner of this transformation, we shall immediately understand the inevitable: if the general idea of truth in itself becomes the universal norm of all the relative truths that play a role in human life - actual and conjectural situation truths - then this fact affects all traditional norms, those of right, of beauty, of purpose, of dominant values in persons, values having a personal character, etc.

Thus there grows up a special type of man and a special vocation in life correlative to the attainment of a new culture. Philosophical knowledge of the world produces not only these special types of result but also a human conduct that immediately influences the rest of practical living with all its demands and its aims, aims of the historical tradition according to which one is educated, thus giving these aims their own validity. A new and intimate community, we might say a community of ideal interests, is cultivated among men - men who life for philosophy, united in their dedication to ideas, which ideas are not only of use to all but are identically the property of all. Inevitably there develops a particular kind of cooperation whereby men work with each other and for each other, helping each other by mutual criticism, with the result that the pure and unconditioned validity of truth grows as a common possession. In addition there is the necessary tendency toward the promotion of interest, because others understand what is herein desired and accomplished; and this is a tendency to include more and more as yet unphilosophical persons in the community of those who philosophize. This occurs first of all among members of the same nation. Nor can this expansion be confined to professional scientific research; rather its success goes far beyond the professional circle, becoming an educational movement.

Now, if this educational movement spreads to ever wider circles of the people, and naturally to the superior, dominant types, to those who are less involved in the cares of life, the results are of what sort? Obviously it does not simply bring about a homogeneous change in the normal, on the whole satisfactory national life; rather in all probability it leads to great cleavages, wherein the national life and the entire national culture go into an upheaval. The conservatives, content with tradition, and the philosophical circle will struggle against each other, and without doubt the battle will carry over into the sphere of political power. At the very beginning of philosophy, persecution sets in. The men dedicated to those ideas are outlawed. And yet ideas are stronger than any forces rooted in experience.[38]

A further point to be taken into consideration here is that philosophy, having grown out of a critical attitude to each and every traditional predisposition, is limited in its spread by no national boundaries. All that must be present is the capacity for a universal critical attitude, which too, of course, presupposes a certain level of prescientific culture. Thus can the upheaval in the national culture propagate itself, first of all because the progressing universal science becomes a common possession of nations that were at first strangers to each other, and then because a unified community, both scientific and educational, extends to the majority of nations.

Still another important point must be adduced; it concerns philosophy's position in regard to traditions. There are in fact two possibilities to observe here. Either the traditionally accepted is completely rejected, or its content is taken over philosophically, and thereby it too is reformed in the spirit of philosophical ideality. An outstanding case in point is that of religion - from which I should like to exclude the 'polytheistic religions'. Gods in the plural, mythical powers of every kind, are objects belonging to the environing world, on the same level of reality as animal or man. In the concept of God, the singular is essential.[39] Looking at this from the side of man, moreover, it is proper that the reality of God, both as being and as value, should be experienced as binding man interiorly. These results, then, an understandable blending of this absoluteness with that of philosophical ideality. In the overall process of idealization that philosophy undertakes, God is, so to speak, logicized and becomes even the bearer of the absolute logos. I should life, moreover, to see a logic in the very fact that theologically religion invokes faith itself as evidence and thus as a proper and most profound mode of grounding true being.[40] National gods, however, are simply there as real facts of the environing world, without anyone confronting philosophy with questions stemming from a critique of cognition, with questions of evidence.

Substantially, though in a somewhat sketchy fashion, we have now described the historical movement that makes understandable how, beginning with a few Greek exceptions, a transformation of human existence and of man's entire cultural life could be set in motion, beginning in Greece and its nearest neighbors. Moreover, now it is also discernible how, following upon this, a supernationality of a completely new kind could arise. I am referring, of course, to the spiritual form of Europe. It is now no longer a number of different nations bordering on each other, influencing each other only by commercial competition and war. Rather a new spirit stemming from philosophy and the sciences based on it, a spirit of free criticism providing norms for infinite tasks, dominates man, creating new, infinite ideals. These are ideals for individual men of each nation and for the nations themselves. Ultimately, however, the expanding synthesis of nations too has its infinite ideals, wherein each of these nations, by the very fact that it strives to accomplish its own ideal task in the spirit of infinity,[41] contributes its best to the community of nations. In this give and take the supernational totality with its graded structure of societies grows apace, filled with the spirit of one all-inclusive task, infinite in the variety of its branches yet unique in its infinity. In this total society with its ideal orientation, philosophy itself retains the role of guide, which is its special infinite task.[42] Philosophy has the role of a free and universal theoretical disposition that embraces at once all ideals and the one overall ideal - in short, the universe of all norms. Philosophy has constantly to exercise through European man its role of leadership for the whole of mankind.


It is now time that there be voiced misunderstandings and doubts that are certainly very importunate and which, it seems to me, derive their suggestive force from the language of popular prejudice.

Is not what is here being advocated something rather out of place in our times - saving the honor of rationalism, of enlightenment, of an intellectualism that, lost in theory, is isolated from the world, with the necessarily bad result that the quest for learning becomes empty, becomes intellectual snobbishness? Does it not mean falling back into the fatal error of thinking that science makes men wise, that science is called upon the create a genuine humanity, superior to destiny and finding satisfaction in itself? Who is going to take such thoughts seriously today?

This objection certainly is relatively justified in regard to the state of development in Europe from the seventeenth up to the end of the nineteenth century. But it does not touch the precise sense of what I am saying. I should like to think that I, seemingly a reactionary, am far more revolutionary than those who today in word strike so radical a pose.

I, too, am quite sure that the European crisis has its roots in a mistaken rationalism.[43] That, however, must not be interpreted as meaning that rationality as such is an evil or that in the totality of human existence it is of minor importance. The rationality of which alone we are speaking is rationality in that noble and genuine sense, the original Greek sense, that became an ideal in the classical period of Greek philosophy - though of course it still needed considerable clarification through self-examination. It is its vocation, however, to serve as a guide to mature development. On the other hand, we readily grant (and in this regard German idealism has spoken long before us) that the form of development given to ratio in the rationalism of the Enlightenment was an aberration, but nevertheless an understandable aberration.

Reason is a broad title. According to the good old definition, man is the rational living being, a sense in which even the Papuan is man and not beast. He has his aims, and he acts with reflection, considering practical possibilities. As products and methods grow, they enter into a tradition that is ever intelligible in its rationality. Still, just as man (and even the Papuan) represents a new level of animality - in comparison with the beast - so with regard to humanity and its reason does philosophical reason represent a new level. The level of human existence with its ideal norms for infinite tasks, the level of existence sub specie aeternitatis, is, however, possible only in the form of absolute universality, precisely that which is a priori included in the idea of philosophy. It is true that universal philosophy, along with all the particular sciences, constitutes only a partial manifestation of European culture. Contained, however, in the sense of my entire presentation is the claim that this part is, so to speak, the functioning brain upon whose normal functioning the genuine, healthy spirit of Europe depends. The humanity of higher man, of reason, demands, therefore, a genuine philosophy.

But at this very point there lurks a danger. 'Philosophy' - in that we must certainly distinguish philosophy as a historical fact belonging to this or that time from philosophy as idea, idea of an infinite task.[44] The philosophy that at any particular time is his historically actual is the more or less successful attempt to realize the guiding idea of the infinity, and thereby the totality, of truths. Practical ideals, viewed as external poles from the line of which one cannot stray during the whole of life without regret, without being untrue to oneself and thus unhappy, are in this view by no means yet clear and determined; they are anticipated in an equivocal generality. Determination comes only with concrete pursuit and with at least relatively successful action. Here the constant danger is that of falling into one-sidedness and premature satisfaction, which are punished in subsequent contradictions. Thence the contrast between the grand claims of philosophical systems, that are all the while incompatible with each other. Added to this are the necessity and yet the danger of specialization.

In this way, of course, one-sided rationality can become an evil. It can also be said that it belongs to the very essence of reason that philosophers can at first understand and accomplish their infinite task only on the basis of an absolutely necessary onesidedness.[45] In itself there is no absurdity here, no error. Rather, as has been remarked, the direct and necessary path for reason allows it initially to grasp only one aspect of the task, at first without recognizing that a thorough knowledge of the entire infinite task, the totality of being, involves still other aspects. When inadequacy reveals itself in obscurities and contradiction, then this becomes a motive to engage in a universal reflection. Thus the philosopher must always have as his purpose to master the true and full sense of philosophy, the totality of its infinite horizons. No one line of knowledge, no individual truth must be absolutized. Only in such a supreme consciousness of self, which itself becomes a branch of the infinite task, can philosophy fulfill its function of putting itself, and therewith a genuine humanity, on the right track. To know that this is the case, however, also involves once more entering the field of knowledge proper to philosophy on the highest level of reflection upon itself. Only on the basis of this constant reflectiveness is a philosophy a universal knowledge.

I have said that the course of philosophy goes through a period of naïveté. This, then, is the place for a critique of the so renowned irrationalism, or it is the place to uncover the naïveté of that rationalism that passes as genuine philosophical rationality, and that admittedly is characteristic of philosophy in the whole modern period since the Renaissance, looking upon itself as the real and hence universal rationalism. Now, as they begin, all the sciences, even those whose beginnings go back to ancient times, are unavoidably caught up in this naïveté. To put it more exactly, the most general title for this naïveté is objectivism, which is given a structure in the various types of naturalism, wherein the spirit is naturalized.[46] Old and new philosophies were and remain naïvely objectivistic. It is only right, however, to add that German idealism, beginning with Kant, was passionately concerned with overcoming the naïveté that had already become very sensitive. Still, it was incapable of really attaining to the level of superior reflectiveness that is decisive for the new image of philosophy and of European man.

What I have just said I can make intelligible only by a few sketchy indications. Natural man (let us assume, in the pre-philosophical period) is oriented toward the world in all his concerns and activities. The area in which he lives and works is the environing world which in its spatiotemporal dimensions surrounds him and of which he considers himself a part. This continues to be true in the theoretical attitude, which at first can be nothing but that of the disinterested spectator of a world that is demythologized before his eyes. Philosophy sees in the world the universe of what is, and world becomes objective world over against representations of the world - which latter change subjectively, whether on a national or an individual scale - and thus truth becomes objective truth. Thus philosophy begins as cosmology. At first, as is self-evident, it is oriented in its theoretical interest to corporeal nature, since in fact all spatiotemporal data do have, at least basically, the form of corporeality. Men and beasts are not merely bodies, but to the view oriented to the environing world they appear as some sort of corporeal being and thus as realities included in the universal spatiotemporality. In this way all psychic events, those of this or that ego, such as experience, thinking, willing, have a certain objectivity. Community life, that of families, of peoples, and the like, seems then to resolve itself into the life of particular individuals, who are psychophysical objects. In the light of psychophysical causality there is no purely spiritual continuity in spiritual grouping; physical nature envelops everything.

The historical process of development is definitively marked out through this focus on the environing world. Even the hastiest glance at the corporeality present in the environing world shows that nature is a homogeneous, unified totality, a world for itself, so to speak, surrounded by a homogeneous spatiotemporality and divided into individual things, all similar in being res extensae and each determining the other causally. Very quickly comes a first and greatest step in the process of discovery: overcoming the finitude of nature that has been thought of as objective-in-itself, finitude in spite of the open infinity of it. Infinity is discovered, and first of all in form of idealized quantities, masses, numbers, figures, straight lines, poles, surfaces, etc. Nature, space and time become capable of stretching ideally into infinity and also of being infinitely divided ideally. From the art of surveying develops geometry; from counting, arithmetic; from everyday mechanics, mathematical mechanics; etc. Now, without anyone forming a hypothesis in this regard, the world of perceived nature is changed into a mathematical world, the world of mathematical natural sciences. As ancient times moved forward, with the mathematics proper to that stage, the first discovery of infinite ideals and of infinite tasks was accomplished simultaneously. That discovery becomes for all subsequent times the guiding star of the sciences.

How, then, did the intoxicating success of this discovery of physical infinity affect the scientific mastery of the realm of spirit? In the focus on the environing world, a constantly objective attitude, everything spiritual appeared to be based on physical corporeality. Thus an application of the mode of thought proper to natural science was obvious. For this reason we already find in the early stages Democritean materialism and determinism.[47] However, the greatest minds recoiled from this and also from any newer style of psychophysics (Psychophysik). Since Socrates, man is made thematic precisely as human, man with his spiritual life in society. Man retains an orientation to the objective world, but with the advent of Plato and Aristotle this world becomes the great theme of investigations. At this point a remarkable cleavage makes itself felt: the human belongs to the universe of objective facts, but as persons, as egos, men have goals, aims. They have norms for tradition, truth norms - eternal norms. Though the development proceeded haltingly in ancient times, still it was not lost. Let us make the leap to so-called 'modern' times. With glowing enthusiasm the infinite task of a mathematical knowledge of nature and in general of a world knowledge is undertaken. The extraordinary successes of natural knowledge are now to be extended to knowledge of the spirit. Reason had proved its power in nature. 'As the sun is one all-illuminating and warming sun, so too is reason one' (Descartes).[48] The method of natural science must also embrace the mysteries of spirit. The spirit is real[49] and objectively in the world, founded as such in corporeality. With this the interpretation of the world immediately takes on a predominantly dualistic, i.e., psychophysical, form. The same causality -only split in two- embraces the one world; the sense of rational explanation is everywhere the same, but in such a way that all explanation of spirit, in the only way in which it can be universal, involves the physical. There can be no pure, self-contained search for an explanation of the spiritual, no purely inneroriented psychology or theory of spirit beginning with the ego in psychical self-experience and extending to the other psyche.[50] The way that must be traveled is the external one, the path of physics and chemistry. All the fond talk of common spirit, of the common will of a people, of nations' ideal political goals, and the like, are romanticism and mythology, derived from an analogous application of concepts that have a proper sense only in the individual personal sphere. Spiritual being is fragmentary. To the question regarding the source of all these difficulties the following answer is to be given: this objectivism or this psychophysical interpretation of the world, despite its seeming self-evidence, is a naïve one-sidedness that never was understood to be such. To speak of the spirit as reality (Realitat), presumably a real (realen) annex to bodies and having its supposedly spatiotemporal being within nature, is an absurdity.

At this point, however, it is important for our problem of the crisis to show how it is that the 'modern age', that has for centuries been so proud of its successes in theory and practice, has itself finally fallen into a growing dissatisfaction and must even look upon its own situation as distressful. Want has invaded all the sciences, most recently as a want of method. Moreover, the want that grips us Europeans, even though it is not understood, involves very many persons.[51]

There are all sorts of problems that stem from naïveté, according to which objectivistic science holds what it calls the objective world to be the totality of what is, without paying any attention to the fact that no objective science can do justice to the subjectivity that achieves science. One who has been trained in the natural sciences finds it self-evident that whatever is merely subjective must be eliminated and that the method of natural science, formulated according to a subjective mode of representation, is objectively determined. In the same manner he seeks what is objectively true for the psychic too. By the same token, it is taken for granted that the subjective, eliminated by the physical scientist, is, precisely as psychic, to be investigated in psychology and of course in psychophysical psychology. The investigator of nature, however, does not make it clear to himself that the constant foundation of his admittedly subjective thinking activity is the environing world of life. This latter is constantly presupposed as the basic working area, in which alone his questions and his methodology make sense. Where, at the present time, is that powerful bit of method that leads from the intuitive environing world to the idealizing of mathematics and its interpretation as objective being, subjected to criticism and clarification? Einstein's revolutionary changes concern the formulas wherein idealized and naïvely objectivized nature (physis) is treated. But regarding the question of how formulas or mathematical objectification in general are given a sense based on life and the intuitive environing world, of this we hear nothing. Thus Einstein does nothing to reformulate the space and time in which our actual life takes place.

Mathematical science of nature is a technical marvel for the purpose of accomplishing inductrions whose fruitfulness, probability, exactitude, and calculability could previously not even be suspected. As an accomplishment it is a triumph of the human spirit. With regard to the rationality of its methods and theories, however, it is a thoroughly relative science. It presupposes as data principles that are themselves thoroughly lacking in actual rationality. In so far as the intuitive environing world, purely subjective as it is, is forgotten in the scientific thematic, the working subject is also forgotten, and the scientist is not studied.[52] (Thus from this point of view the rationality of the exact sciences is on a level with the rationality of the Egyptian pyramids).

It is true, of course, that since Kant we have a special theory of knowledge, and on the other hand there is psychology, which with its claims to scientific exactitude wants to be the universal fundamental science of the spirit. Still, our hope for real rationality, i.e., for real insight,[53] is disappointed here as elsewhere. The psychologists simply fail to see that they too study neither themselves nor the scientists who are doing the investigating nor their own vital environing world. They do not see that from the very beginning they necessarily presuppose themselves as a group of men belonging to their own environing world and historical period. By the same token, they do not see that in pursuing their aims they are seeking a truth in itself, universally valid for every-one. By its objectivism psychology simply cannot make a study of the sould in its properly essential sense, which is to say, the ego that acts and is acted upon. Though by determining the bodily function involved in an experience of evaluating or willing, it may objectify the experience and handle it inductively, can it do the same for purposes, values, norms? Can it study reason as some sort of 'disposition'? Completely ignored is the fact that objectivism, as the genuine work of the investigator intent upon finding true norms, presupposes just such norms; that objectivism refuses to be inferred from facts, since in the process facts are already intended as truths and not as illusions. It is true, of course, that there exists a feeling for the difficulties present here, with the result that the dispute over psychologism is fanned into a flame. Nothing is accomplished, however, by rejecting a psychological grounding of norms, above all of norms for truth in itself. More and more perceptible becomes the overall need for a reform of modern psychology in its entirety. As yet, however, it is not understood that psychology through its objectivism has been found wanting; that it simply fails to get at the proper essence of spirit; that in isolating the soul and making it an object of thought, that in reinterpreting psychophysically being-in-community, it is being absurd. True, it has not labored in vain, and it has established many empirical rules, even practically worthwhile ones. Yet it is no more a real psychology than moral statistics with its no less worthwhile knowledge is a moral science.[54]

In our time we everywhere meet the burning need for an understanding of spirit, while the unclarity of the methodological and factual connection between the natural sciences and the sciences of the spirit has become almost unbearable. Dilthey, one of the greatest scientists of the spirit, has directed his whole vital energy to clarifying the connection between nature and spirit, to clarifying the role of psychophysical psychology, which he thinks is to be complemented by a new, descriptive and analytic psychology. Efforts by Windelband and Rickert have likewise, unfortunately, not brought the desired insight. Like everyone else, these men are still committed to objectivism. Worst of all are the new psychological reformers, who are of the opinion that the entire fault lies in the long-dominant atomistic prejudice, that a new era has been introduced with wholistic psychology (Ganzheitspsychologie). There can, however, never be any improvement so long as an objectivism based on a naturalistic focusing on the environing world is not seen in all its naïveté, until men recognize thoroughly the absurdity of the dualistic interpretation of the world, according to which nature and spirit are to be looked upon as realities (Realitäten) in the same sense. In all seriousness my opinion is this: there never has nor ever will be an objective science of spirit, an objective theory of the soul, objective in the sense that it permits the attribution of an existence under the forms of spatio-temporality to souls or to communities of persons.

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[55]. 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 delf-concealing[56]. 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[57].

Now, how did the beginning of such a self-examination come about? A beginning was impossible so long as sensualism, or better, a psychology of data, a tabula rasa psychology, held the field. Only when Brentano promoted psychology to being a science of vital intentional experiences was an impulse given that could lead further - though Brentano himself had not yet overcome objectivism and psychological naturalism[58]. The development of a real method of grasping the fundamental essence of spirit in its intentionalities and consequently of instituting an analysis of spirit with a consistency reaching to the infinite, led to transcendental phenomenology. It was this that overcame naturalistic objectivism, and for that matter any form of objectivism, in the only possible way, by beginning one's philosophizing from one's own ego; and that purely as the author of all one accepts, becoming in this regard a purely theoretical spectator. This attitude brings about the successful institution of an absolutely autonomous science of spirit in the form of a consistent understanding of self and of the world as a spiritual accomplishment. Spirit is not looked upon here as part of nature or parallel to it; rather nature belongs to the sphere of spirit. Then, too, the ego is no longer an isolated thing alongside other such things in a pregiven world. The serious problem of personal egos external to or alongside of each other comes to an end in favor of an intimate relation of beings in each other and for each other.

Regarding this question of interpersonal relations, nothing can be said here; no one lecture could exhaust the topic. I do hope, however, to have shown that we are not renewing here the old rationalism, which was an absurd naturalism, utterly incapable of grasping the problems of spirit that concern us most. The ratio now in question is none other than spirit understanding itself in a really universal, really radical manner, in the form of a science whose scope is universal, wherein an entirely new scientific thinking is established in which every conceivable question, whether of being, of norm, or of so-called 'existence'[59], finds its place. It is my conviction that intentional phenomenology has for the first time made spirit as spirit the field of systematic, scientific experience, thus effecting a total transformation of the task of knowledge. The universality of the absolute spirit embraces all being in a absolute historicity, into which nature fits as a product of spirit. It is intentional, which is to say transcendental phenomenology that sheds light on the subject by virtue of its point of departure and its methods. Only when seen from the phenomenological point of view is naturalistic objectivism, along with the profoundest reasons for it, to be understood. Above all, phenomenology makes clear that, because of its naturalism, psychology simply could not come to terms with the activity and the properly radical problem of spirit's life.


Let us summarize the fundamental notions of what we have sketched here. The 'crisis of European existence', which manifests itself in countless symptoms of a corrupted life, is no obscure fate, no impenetrable destiny. Instead, it becomes manifestly understandable against the background of the philosophically discoverable 'teleology of European history'. As a presupposition of this understanding, however, the phenomenon 'Europe' is to be grasped in its essential core. To get the concept of what is contra-essential in the present 'crisis', the concept 'Europe' would have to be developed as the historical teleology of infinite goals of reason; it would have to be shown how the European 'world' was born from ideas of reason, i.e., from the spirit of philosophy[60]. The 'crisis' could then become clear as the 'seeming collapse of rationalism'. Still, as we said, the reason for the downfall of a rational culture does not lie in the essence of rationalism itself but only in its exteriorization, its absorption in 'naturalism' and 'objectivism'.

The crisis of European existence can end in only one of two ways: in the ruin of a Europe alienated from its rational sense of life, fallen into a barbarian hatred of spirit; or in the rebirth of Europe from the spirit of philosophy, through a heroism of reason that will definitively overcome naturalism. Europe's greatest danger is weariness. Let us as 'good Europeans' do battle with this danger of dangers with the sort of courage that does not shirk even the endless battle. If we do, then from the annihilating conflagration of disbelief, from the fiery torrent of despair regarding the West's mission to humanity, from the ashes of the great weariness, the phoenix of a new inner life of the spirit will arise as the underpinning of a great and distant human future, for the spirit alone is immortal.[1]



[1↑]. It is unquestionable that 'Western man' would be a happier expression in the context. Husserl, however, speaks of europäischen Menschentums, which, as will be seen later, must be translated as 'European man' if the rest of the text is to make sense.

[2↑]. Geisteswissenschaften: In certain contexts it will be necessary to translate this term more literally as 'sciences of the spirit'. This will be particularly true where the term occurs in the singular. cf. p. 154 n. 1 and n. 10 infra.

[3↑]. The notion of 'horizon', which played such an important part in Husserl's earlier writings, has here taken on a somewhat broader connotation. Formerly it signified primarily those concomitant elements in consciousness that are given, without being the direct object of the act of consciousness under consideration. In every act of consciousness there are aspects of the object that are not directly intended but which are recognized, either by recall or anticipation, as belonging to the object intended. These aspects constitute its horizon. In the present essay 'the community as a horizon' signifies the framework in which experience occurs, conditioning that experience and supplying the diverse aspects of objectivity that are not directly intended in any one act of consciousness.

[4↑]. I am using an expression borrowed from Dewey to translate the Husserlian Umwelt, a term Husserl uses frequently only in his last period. In the light of the Cartesian Meditations we must remember that though such a world is subjectively 'constituted', it is still not a private world, since its constitution is ultimately 'intersubjective'.

[5↑]. Like Kant, Husserl saw 'necessity' and 'universality' as the notes that characterize genuinely valid objectivity. Not until his later works (Ideen II and Cartesian Meditations), however, does he explicitly see 'intersubjective constitution' as the ultimate concrete foundation for universal objectivity.

[6↑]. Here Husserl is giving to the term 'intuition' the limited meaning of sense intuition that it has for Kant.

[7↑]. Geistigkeit: Following a decision to translate 'Geist' as 'spirit' rather than as 'mind', we are forced into a somewhat uncomfortable translation of the present abstraction. The embarrassment becomes acute when reference is made to the 'spirituality' of animals (cf. n. 8 infra), but it is not likely that 'mentality' would be any less embarrassing.

[8↑]. Where there is consciousness, there is spirit, and in animals there is consciousness. For Husserl, self-consciousness is a mark of 'personality' rather than 'spirituality'.

[9↑]. In this connection one should consult the Second Cartesian Meditation, where Husserl insists that the only reality that the world can have for one who would approach it scientifically is a phenomenal reality. If we are to understand it scientifically, our analysis of it must be purely phenomenological, i.e., it is the phenomenon 'world' that we must analyze. 'We shall direct our attention to the fact that phenomenological epoche lays open (to me, the meditating philosopher) an infinite realm of being of a new kind, as the sphere of a new kind of experience: transcendental experience' (Cartesian Meditations, p. 66). Cf. ibid., p. 69: 'Now, however, we are envisaging a science that is, so to speak, absolutely subjective, whose thematic object exists whether of not the world exists'.

[10↑]. Because of the context here, it is imperative that 'Geisteswissenschaft' not be translated as 'humanistic science'.

[11↑]. From his earliest days Husserl never tired of insisting that there can be no 'natural science' of science itself. It is the theme of Logische Untersuchungen and is perhaps most eloquently expressed in Formale und transzendentale Logik, whose purpose is to develop a 'science of science', which, Husserl holds, can be only a transcendental (constitutive) phenomenology.

[12↑]. Stämmen: Literally the term means 'stocks', but the English word could scarcely be unambiguous in the context.

[13↑]. Not only is Europe, according to Husserl, the birthplace of philosophy and the sciences, but it is philosophy and the sciences that more than anything else have made European culture unique, have given it its most distinguishing characteristic.

[14↑]. Oswald Menghin, Weltgeschichte der Steinzeit (Vienna: A. Schroll, 1931).

[15↑]. The tacit beginning of all Husserl's philosophizing is the value judgement that the rational life, in the sense in which he understands it, is the best life. But unlike Hegel, he has not excogitated a philosophy of history to justify this judgment.

[16↑]. Nature is precisely that which does repeat constantly (despite evolution). It is characteristic of natural species that their members follow each other in the same identifiable form. Spirit, however, is an ongoing totality, never reaching maturity, never reproducing itself in the same form.

[17↑]. This notion of 'intentional guide', of 'clue', is developed in No 21 of the Second Cartesian Meditation. Husserl recognizes a subjective factor - here 'anticipation' - as guiding the manner in which objects - here history itself - are intentionally 'constituted'.

[18↑]. Husserl was never particularly concerned with historical accuracy, even in his choice of terminology. Apart from the anachronism involved in applying the term 'nation' to the loose unities of the ancient world, 'Greek' itself is a term that covers a somewhat heterogeneous grouping in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.

[19↑]. Despite the embarrassments involved in certain contexts, I have chosen to translate Einstellung for the most part by 'attitude'. The German term indicates a focusing of attention in a particular way. There is no way in English of rendering the play on words involved in the opposition of Einstellung-Umstellung, which latter is more than a mere 'change' of attitude; 'reorientation' of attitude is more like it.

[20↑]. This is Husserl's somewhat unwieldy way of indicating that the overall interest in being breaks down into particular interests in types or classes of being - which are the objects of particular sciences.

[21↑]. Here, near the end of his life, Husserl retains the theme he had developed so many years earlier in 'Philosophy as Rigorous Science'. The ideal of philosophy and the particular sciences is the same; differences are to be traced to the degree of universality involved in the one and the other. The entire book Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschafften is devoted to developing this theme historically.

[22↑]. Under the verbiage of this extremely difficult paragraph is hidden a profound insight into the transformation that takes place in men when they begin to look beyond facts to ideas. The only way to describe the horizon thus opened is to call it 'infinite'. Whether this began only with the Greeks is, of course, open to dispute. Still, the Greeks are the intellectual first parents of Western man.

[23↑]. With the advent of philosophical and scientific ideals history itself becomes historical in an new and more profound sense. It is unfortunate, however, that Husserl fails to see history as the progressive concretization of the ideal.

[24↑]. It would seem that in terms of ideas the world scientific community is far more closely knit than is the philosophical community. The type of unity, however, is analogous in both cases. Husserl would not like to admit that the differences are due to essential differences in the disciplines themselves. It is questionable that the sort of unity achieved in science is even desirable in philosophy.

[25↑]. For Husserl, truth is, so to speak, a Platonic Idea, in relation to which any particular truth is but a participation.

[26↑]. If 'everyone' simply includes the sum total of all existing subjects, it does not have the universal significance that Husserl demands. In the sense in which he understands it, 'universal' is inseparable from 'essential'. One is reminded of the critics who accuse Husserl of being 'scholastic'. Cf. p. 82 supra.

[27↑]. The attitude that pursues 'knowledge for its own sake'. It is precisely in this that the 'infinity' of the horizon consists' there is no assignable practical goal in which its interests can terminate.

[28↑]. Here the play on words involved in Einstellung and Umstellung is impossible to render in English.

[29↑]. In Husserl's view, the beginning of a philosophical (of scientific) focusing of attention on the environing world - as opposed to a naïve, mythical, or poetic attitude - represents the most important revolution in the history of human thought. At the same time, he sees this revolution as continuous with previous attitudes, since it is a transformation of them - not an elimination - something is common to the old and the new.

[30↑]. That man's Einstellung in regard to the world about him should, for Husserl, be the most of human existence seems to imply some affinity between this position and that which Heidegger expresses by In-der-Welt-sein. Whether Husserl was influenced by his own student in this cannot be determined (cf. Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement, I, p. 300). It may or may not be significant that this theme appears in Husserl's writings only after the publication of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit (19.... Time, New York: Harper & Row, 1962).

[31↑]. Neither philosophy nor science nor, for that matter, any professional interest can become the exclusive interest in any man's life. But it is true that one is designated philosopher, scientist, etc., by the predominant interest which has an intentional continuity throughout all the occupations of his daily life.

[32↑]. In a somewhat different context the meaning of epoche here parallels its technical meaning as employed, for example, in Ideen I. It is neither an elimination of nor a prescinding from other interests. Rather, it simply 'puts them in brackets', thus retaining them, but allowing them in no way to influence theoretical considerations.

[33↑]. I.e., in a phenomenological essential intuition.

[34↑]. Since Husserl's philosophical life was devoted almost exclusively to the programmatic aspects of phenomenology - getting it 'off the ground', so to speak - he found little time himself for the sort of thing he describes here. But many of his students did. Much of the contemporary interest in Husserl, manifested in a wide variety of areas, is due to a desire to learn how to do what Husserl suggests.

[35↑]. Aside from the fact that he knows little or nothing of Eastern thought, Husserl here repeats the arbitrariness of 'Philosophy as Rigorous Science', where he simply decides what philosophy is (in an essential intuition, of course) and refuses to dignify with that name whatever does not measure up.

[36↑]. Despite Husserl's insistence here and elsewhere that this is Plato's attitude, there is little justification for his failing to recognize that Plato's purpose, even in his most 'theoretical' investigations, is eminently practical. In a somewhat different meaning, the same can be said for Aristotle.

[37↑]. To characterize 'essentially' the 'path of motivation' from mere curiosity about the world to a universal philosophical science of the world is, of course, extremely aprioristic. We are simply told how it must have been (the danger of all 'essential' intuition). It remains true, however, that there is no better introduction to philosophy than a history of the pre-Socratic attempts to know the secrets of the world - without doing anything about it.

[38↑]. One is reminded of the contrast made by Aristotle between 'men of experience' and 'men of science' (Metaph. A 981a). In a more striking way Socrates met this in his conflict with the 'practical' politicians of his day.

[39↑]. Again, a phenomenological essential intuition, that says nothing regarding the 'existence' of God.

[40↑]. Nowhere, it seems, has Husserl developed this profound insight wherein he sees faith as a special kind of evidence, permitting theology, too, to be a science. In different ways this is developed by Scheler in his philosophy of religion, by Van der Leeuw and Hering in their phenomenology of religion, and by Otto in his investigations of 'the sacred'.

[41↑]. Im Geiste der Unendlichkeit: The expression, scarcely translatable into English, bespeaks a spirit that refuses to stop short of infinity in its pursuit of truth. In Husserl himself, one hesitates to see it as a plea for a metaphysics, but in a Scheler, a Heidegger, a Conrad-Martius, it becomes just that; cf. Peter Wust, Die Auferstehung der Metaphysik (Leipzig, 1920).

[42↑]. In Formale und transzendentale Logik Husserl calls philosophy the 'science of all sciences', which is to say, it provides the norms whereby any science can be worthy of the name.

[43↑]. Husserl's constant plea has been for a return to the 'rationalism' of Socrates and Plato (cf. 'Philosophy as Regorous Science', p. 76 supra), not to the rationalism of seventeenth - and eighteenth - century Europe. His own inspiration, however, is traceable far more to Descartes, Hume, and Kant than to Socrates and Plato.

[44↑]. The philosophia perennis that, like a Platonic Idea, is eternally changeless amid the varying participations that we can call 'philosophies'.

[45↑]. One is reminded of Husserl's insistence in the Cartesian Meditations (pp. 121-35) that a successful phenomenological philosophy must being as solipsism, moving on to an intersubjectivity only after it has been established on a solipsistic basis. In this Husserl once more derives his inspiration from seventeenth - and eighteenth - century rationalism.

[46↑]. The theme is familiar from the whole first part of 'Philosophy as Rigorous Science'.

[47↑]. Democritus, who flourished two hundred years after Thales, was a contemporary of Socrates. Thus he belongs more properly to the 'golden age' of Greek philosophy than to the 'early stages'.

[48↑]. Regulae ad directionem ingenii, Rele 1. The quotation is verbally inaccurate (probably from memory), but the sense is the same.

[49↑]. For Husserl, real has a distinctively different meaning from reell. The former is applied only to the material world of facts; the latter belongs to the ideal world of intentionality. Cf. Ideen I, pp. 218-20.

[50↑]. Cf. Husserl's Encyclopaedia Britannica article, 'Phenomenology', where he develops the notion of a 'pure' psychology independent of psychophysical considerations.

[51↑]. The play upon the word Not is impossible to render here. The situation of modern science is described as a Notlage, which can be translated as a 'situation of distress'. By itself Not can mean 'need', 'want', 'suffering', etc. The word is used three times, and there is a shade of difference in meaning each time it is used.

[52↑]. The work of Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr has shown how quantum mechanics and nuclear physics have high-lighted precisely the problem Husserl brings out here.

[53↑]. It is axiomatic for Husserl that only insight can reveal 'essences' and that only a knowledge of essences can be ultimately scientific. That this insight should be at once intuitive and constitutive is peculiar to the Husserlian theory of intentionality; cf. my La phenomenologie de Husserl, pp. 31-34.

[54↑]. Husserl's judgment of 'phychologism' was no less severe at the end of his life than it was when he wrote 'Philosophy as Rigorous Science'.

[55↑]. 'Dualism' and 'monism' are terms whose meanings are not easily determined. As a convinced 'idealist' Husserl considered himself a monist, and he criticized Kant strongly for remaining a dualist. Hegel, on the other hand, criticizes Fichte (whom Husserl resembles closely in this) for not having escaped dualism. One might well make a case for designating as monism a theory that accepts only one kind of reality, to which both matter and spirit (of the 'factual' and the 'ideal') belong. By this criterion Husserl's distinction would be 'dualistic'. Perhaps the best that can be said is that Husserl is, in intention at least, epistemologically a monist. Spirit alone is being in the full sense, because only of spirit can there be science in the full sense. One conclusion from all this, it would seem, is that the terminology involved bears revision.

[56↑]. 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.

[57↑]. 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.

[58↑]. For his part, Brentano complained that his theory of intentionality had been transformed by Husserl into an a priori idealism.

[59↑]. Existenz: Husserl was never particularly sympathetic to 'existentialism'. To him it smacked too mach of irrationalism. A rational science of philosophy could only be an essentialism. In such a science, existence could be significant only as 'possible existence'.

[60↑]. Though Husserl's 'historical erudition' frequently leaves much to be desired, there is a profound insight here. It is the spirit of philosophy conceived in ancient Greece that throughout the centuries has guided the intellectual life of the West.

Note: see on-line resources on E. Husserl at the Husserl Page. Another copy of this lecture is available at: Pro Europa.

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  1. BMcC[18-11-46-503] note: I find this concluding word "immortal" phenomenologically questionable. I would rather it was: "lives", but I have verified from the Husserl Archive and the German original for this important sentence is: "Denn der Geist allein ist unsterblich." Unfortunately, Prof. Husserl is no longer around to discuss this. ~ I really would like this last sentence to read: "For the spirit alone lives, all else dies." Which I perhaps misinterpreted also from the film and book: "The Return of Martin Guerre". ~ Alternatively the word "immortal" needs to be clarified as not referring to an intraworldly personal life that/who never dies.

BMcC signature seal stamp. Modelled on 18th century messenger's letter box in collection of Suntory Museum, Tokyo. Japanese write poems and prayers on slips of paper which they tie into knots like this shape although with longer legs. Prayers are often tied to branches of trees which can look like they are covered with snow. "Symbol of a symbol, image of an image, emerging from the destiny that is sinking into darkness...." (H. Broch, "The Sleepwalkers", p.648) Always remember. Add value. (This image created not later than 21 May 2003)
Invenit et fecit
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