Attaining Clarity of the World

(Cottage Life)

In The Crisis of the European Sciences, Husserl examines our experience of the world through a phenomenological attitude. Husserl questions how we are objects, how we exist, and how we interact- so that we can take a step back to the world without presuppositions. In this essay, I will examine the problem that Husserl finds in our ordinary way of living. Husserl claims that all of our philosophizing, including logical formations, has been without a ground. There is a crisis that we need to resolve in our ordinary way of living. Our conception of an ‘objectively true world’, through science, led to a paradoxical interrelationship to our life-world. (131). In our natural living, we do not take attitude against the unquestioned ‘objective’ theories that attempts disclose philosophy. Hence, the continuation of this paradox will lead into a misinterpretation of our life-world. The pregivenness of our life-world will become peculiarly unclear. To examine the problem of our life-world, Husserl suggests taking a phenomenological attitude, which is carried out through a transcendental epochē. This is the first philosophy that considers the life-world as the ground of our epistemological investigation. The epochē, however, is radically different than the life-world. It is only through the transcendental epochē that we can take an attitude against the scholastic dominance of scientific thinking.

Husserl defined the concept of life-world to begin his transcendental approach: The life-world, as Husserl defines it, is: ‘‘always already there, existing in advance for us, the ‘ground’ of all praxis whether theoretical or extratheoretical. The world is pregiven to us… as the universal field of all actual and possible praxis, as horizon.’’ (142). The life world is a field that includes all immediate surroundings and experiences in an individual’s life. In our life-world, we experience all our given surroundings through the world-horizon. To freely examine an object in the world-horizon, we have to take interest in it without prejudice. Think of a specific acre of soil. That soil developed a unique experience over many years. If that soil was located in Normandy, and encountered farmers, crops, war, natural disasters, without prejudice, we can understand the essence of the soil as an object. But if we went to Normandy and had no insight of that specific soil, we would not be able to interact and be conscious of it. We would probably inattentively step on it. Although the being of this life world, as in the soil, is present, it does not reveal itself to our gaze. In this instance, the soil would be an object within the world horizon, and ‘‘we are conscious of this horizon only as a horizon for existing objects.’’ (143). On a daily basis, the world-horizon consists of many different objects that we validate, but never individually take interest in.

In the world-horizon, we human beings develop all of our theoretical and practical interests. Husserl classifies the ordinary experience within the world horizon as the ‘natural life’. As Husserl defines it: ‘‘[t]he natural life… is life within a universal unthematic horizon. This horizon is, in the natural attitude, precisely the world always pregiven as that which exists.’’ (145) In our natural attitude, we are not in search of alternative ways of revealing the world. Our daily attitude does not attempt to clarify the pre-givenness of the world. We have an unquestioning relationship towards the world, which is defined as an unthematic view of the world. This, by Husserl’s account, is the demonstration of our straightforward consciousness. I, as an undergraduate student at Tulane, think about classes, friends, and applying for internships. The domain of my current life is in relation to my immediate surroundings and subjective goals. I am not worried about removing myself from my life-world and taking a phenomenological attitude towards the world. My daily attitude as a living being does not thematize the world as a universal field that I exist in, instead it: ‘‘lie[s] always with the normal coherence of the life-horizon ‘world’.’’ (144). Thematizing my daily actions instead of the world is an example of straightforward living. My way of living has been influenced, and influenced other people. The people around me in Tulane, or back home, live in a similar manner; they label themselves as objects in the world. Husserl describes this as a: ‘‘subjective manifold constantly goes on, [and] it remains constantly and necessarily concealed.’’ (146). The only way to step away from this subjective manifold to is by beginning to concern our attention and attitude towards the world.

The reason why a phenomenological attitude was never identified as a solution to our subjective manifold is that no philosophy thematized the life-world as an encompassing horizon. For this reason, a next step is required. Does our logical validities, such as mathematics and sciences, serves as tools for the discovery of the life-world? Does a field like archeology or cosmos correctly investigate the life-world? Is human logic self-sufficient to examine the life-world? Logical formulas and science does exist in our life-world. It has utility in the world-horizon through its logical applications, such as rocket science. However, it can only improve as a theory in itself, not as a universal investigation of the life-world. Husserl states: ‘‘the logical constructs, are of course not things in the life-world like stones, houses, or trees. They are logical wholes and logical parts made up of ultimate logical elements… these are human formations, essentially related to human actualities and potentialities.’’ (130). The objectivity of science is a demonstration of the human mind — it has its own logically constructed system. It is ‘sound’ according to our logical foundations, but they have no part in the world-horizon. They are not secure experiences of logic that can be experienced in the world. Our world encompasses much more than rational human thought. The world, as an object, is ubiquitous, pregiven, and applied universally. Mankind is only a phenomenon when we take world as an object. Our natural attitude does not make a causal distinction of how pre-scientific and scientific thinking are both the same species existing on our pregiven world. If we do take this into account, science is not a secure experience in the world. Rocks, trees, and mankind are the products that exist in the world-horizon. But science does not exist in the world horizon; it intersubjectively exists in the mankind that adopted scientific thinking. Concluding that our constructed logical validities can objectively explain our pregiven world is just as foolish as concluding that a single psychologist can cure all of our mental problems in our life-world. Although it can be a helpful tool, it can never solve every mental problem. Mental life is not a byproduct that can be reduced to sense interactions. Their account on our experience cannot escape subjectivity. World exists as ‘A’. ‘B’ is sciences established by human rationality. A makes B. With our ‘objective’ sciences, we try to claim that B could fully explain A. Husserl considers this as: ‘‘[t]he paradoxical interrelationships of the ‘objectively true world’ and the ‘life world’ make enigmatic the manner of being both’’ (131). If A could fully explain B, then B would be A. The paradox with ‘objective’ sciences is that if it could objectively examine the world, objective sciences would transform into the world as an object. Thus, science and human logic does not give universal account for ‘objectivity’ in our life-world to determine our relationship with the world.

If our modern logic and human rationality is not sufficient to reveal the life-world, how can we begin a total transformation of our life world? What sort of method can universally achieve what is most hidden from our view? For this, we need ‘‘…the creation of a new science of a peculiar sort… a science of the universal how of the pregivenness of the world.’’ (146). Husserl is suggesting an a-priori investigation of the world. This new universal science must be evident to mankind before science was created. There are difficulties in this approach because it is both difficult to reveal and present in our life-world. To achieve objectivity, Husserl believes that there must exist general structures in our life-world that are universally conceived: ‘‘If we set up the goal of truth about which is unconditionally valid for all subjects… common to all… such as spatial shape, motion, sense-quality… then we are on the way to objective science.’’ (139). This investigation seeks universal structures that we observe in the world, and intends to systematically deconstruct and establish a universal a-priori science. According to Husserl, this is not an impossible task, because our life-world does reveal to have its own general structure. With sufficient care, this structure reveals itself, similar to how we discover ‘truths in itself’ in natural sciences, as systematically unfolding a-priori structures. (139). What concerns us in this inquiry is how this investigation can be carried out.

What exactly are we questioning to reveal the structured and universal truths of the life-world? Our investigation requires a phenomenological attitude towards our experiences in the life-world. Husserl defines this investigation as the transcendental epochē. The transcendental epochē is: ‘‘ [a] total change of the natural attitude… transformed and novel subject of investigation… [how] of the ‘pregivenness of the world as such’.’’ (148). The question of ‘how’ in relation to the world as an object is the fundamental question that is sought by the epochē. Since the natural existence in the life-world does not reveal the world itself, we must radically change our attitude in questioning the ‘how’ of the world’s pregivenness to human existence. The attitude taken through the transcendental epochē is an unprecedented experience. It requires a suspension of the natural way of living, and strives for a total transformation of our life-world. To clarify this concept, lets return to I, the undergraduate student. Through the transcendental epochē, I want to abandon my straightforward living and direct my domain towards the world. I will not be concerned with my daily routines, such as going to class, picking up groceries, and attending my social environment. Universality of the epochē is possible when ‘‘an attitude is arrived… above the whole manifold but synthetically unified flow in which the world… attains anew its content of meaning and its ontic validity… we thus have an attitude above the universal conscious life’’ (150). The distancing from the world does not indicate a total transformation of consciousness. Husserl acknowledges that our causal relationships in the world cannot disappear through the transcendental epochē. He is not suggesting a loss of identity through this method. It is not an act of obliteration of the facts encountered in natural experience, but a change in attitude. Our being is still plays a part, not as an object in-itself, but as a subject, a phenomenon of the object, the world. Instead, he states that we should suspend our a-posteriori judgments of the world. ‘‘Through the radical epochē every interest in the actuality or nonactuality of the world is put out of play… we are not concerned here with any scientific psychology and its problems.’’ (179). Our perspective of the world should not be enforced by logical validities or natural sciences. When we look at a falling apple, we will not immediately point the reason to it as ‘gravity’, we will explore the essence of the phenomenon’s that occur in the all-encompassing world, which our existence is a part of. Transcendental epochē aims at liberating the human gaze by removing all previous validities we developed of the world. Through this abstention: ‘‘the gaze of the philosopher in truth first becomes fully free’’ (151).

If this investigation is successfully carried out, we achieve an absolute correlation between the epochē and the life-world. Every aspect of our life-world is in a certain order — our subjective view of the world correlates to the epochē — we are involved as subjects for the ontic meaning of the pregiven world. Husserl insists that this epochē is not a part of the subjective manifold that is observed in natural-life: ‘‘[t]his is not a ‘view,’ an ‘interpretation’ bestowed upon the world. Every view about…, every opinion about ‘the’ world’, has its ground in the pregiven world.’’ (152). The life-world presents us the perceptual experience of the pregiven-world. When we do not attend to the world, and instead consider ourselves as objects in it, the world does not reveal itself to us. The question that Husserl directed and attained to resolve was this straightforwardness of our natural life. Our method of living could not stand above the world and achieve transcendental clarity, which is why we took the life-world as the ground of the pursuit of our existence. By taking our subjectivity as a mere phenomena included in the pregiven world, we discover that the essence of the life-world reveals itself to us as the ‘world’, with full ontic meaning and a new way of the ‘experience’. All this effort led Husserl to write about his experience of carrying our the transcendental epochē, as he states: ‘‘It is from this very ground, that I have freed myself through the epochē; I stand above the world, which has now become for me, in a quite peculiar sense, a phenomenon.’’ (152). By the reduction, Husserl claims to have rinsed all of his causal relations and intersubjectivities he has with other people. If it was successfully carried out, his ego has the same classification for him as a tree: they transform into mere phenomenons of the world. He has no causal positions of his existence and becomes fully engaged with the world phenomenon. If Husserl experienced a successful transcendental epochē, he carried out an attitude that is not present in natural-life and stood ‘above the world’.