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Notes on Husserl: “Appendix V: Objectivity and the World of Experience.”

Today we will be discussing Edmund Husserl’s thought in the “Appendix V: Objectivity and the World of Experience.” from The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970. He begins by discussing “prescientific experiential life” by this he means the process by which we come to  know (objective) things with certainty through sight, touch, feel, sound etc, through the repetition of experience, but Husserl states that what actually occurs is that:

What becomes well known through repeated experience is always still only relatively known in regard to everything known about it, and thus it has in all aspects a peculiar horizon of open unfamiliarity. (Husserl, p. 343, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

Husserl states that when we actually come “nearer” to the thing we experience (or something like it at least), we get to know it more exactly, which he dubs “more exact determination” (p. 343) which is a “continual process of correction” (p. 343) (the example he uses if of seeing something as purely smooth and red, but finding “in truth” it to be a bit rough, and spotted). This relates to the fact that we all have our own experiential representations that we assume with certainty is accurate to everyone else around us too, we tend to assume that:

Everything is valid that is valid for us as actually existing there is always already understood as existing for all, precisely through common experience. (Husserl, p. 343, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

Husserl states that the horizon mentioned above continues on to other objects with horizons that extend beyond what is “coperceived” to the infinity of unknown things (of possible experiential knowledge), which also corresponds to vague causalities. He states that even this manner of being in the world, in suspension, with open, undeterminate horizons does not disturb the everyday world of “normal men” (p. 344) Why is this so? Because in our normal life, we encounter a sphere of normal things which become known through normal (and common) “types of experience”, whatever horizons remain in suspension out of sight of this remain (practically) irrelevant says Husserl. What we are left with is a:

… practically perfect acquaintance with the things as they really are and [as they] can be exhibited [to be] again and again in their true being – in the only truth which normal, practical life knows and needs. (Husserl, p. 344, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

From here Husserl asks then how scientific knowledge is possible, more over how is scientific objectivity possible? He claims that:

A deeper inspection of this knowledge soon gives rise also to the recognition of its relativity to those who experience, individually and together, those who cognitively identify the same things throughout the alteration of wavering, subjective, sensible manners of givenness. But how, from this point, did the idea arise of an absolute, exact determineness of things, and not only those things of the universal, open, infinite world-horizon which can never be traversed by actual experience with its finite progress? (Husserl, p. 345, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

Husserl asks these questions and more, but eventually comes to formulate the problem thus: “the radical problem of the historical possibility of “objective” science” (p. 347) Husserl states we need not simply establish “science’s historical, factual point of origin in terms of place, and actual circumstances”, but rather we must try to understand its original “spiritual motives” which by this Husserl means “its most original meaningfulness” (p. 347) Husserl says we need to look through the origins of a “successful rational objectification within a fundamental stratum of the world”, which he takes to mean the objectification brought forth in mathematical disciplines such as geometry. To Husserl, objectification is a method which is founded in our previously mentioned prescientific data of experience, in which the :

Mathematical method “constructs,” out of intuitive representation, ideal objects and teaches how to deal with them operatively and systematically. It does not produce things out of other things in the manner of handwork; it produces ideas. Ideas arise through peculiar sort of mental accomplishment: idealization. (Husserl, p. 348, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

Firstly idealizing to Husserl accomplishes together with the “exactly identifiable ideas it can produce, as mental structures based on multiplicities of appearance which are suspended in relativity.” (p. 348) Secondly Husserl notes the “operative construction of idea-structures out of pregiven ideas” – it is the inter working of both of these types of idealization that makes up the “objective-scientific mind”. (p. 348) These become “pure-thinking” to Husserl in the sense that they are a “science that idealizes”, and remains purely in the realm of ideas. The leads Husserl to state:

This world [the totality of such objects] is already objective insofar as the knowledge it affords, the ideals formed of it, are absolutely identical for anyone who practices the method, no matter how much his empirically intuitive representation may differ from what serves others in their intuition-based idealization. (Husserl, p. 349, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

From here Husserl questions the a priori nature of the ideal mathematical structure discussed. The a priori is something ideal and general according to Husserl, it is the objectivity of this type of thought that he means to critique, as it is a structure within men, it is we who form it, thus how can it be objective? To get around this problem Husserl states:

It must be shown, then, in deed as something belonging to the individual essence of man and thus to the world, that in mankind this capacity can never cease, can never be completely absent, even if it remains undeveloped for factual reasons. This leads to the most general and deepest problems of reason. (Husserl, p. 350, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, 1970)

To Husserl we are searching for an ultimate truth, in the sciences, in mathematics these “actual or still to be accomplished” branches of a single philosophy, which he calls “theoretical mankind”, and “philosophizing mankind”. One that overcomes finitude, limitedness and relativity, that encompasses the world. To Husserl these questions and goals will guide us toward a new philosophy, which will cause new historical paths and lead to a new method of philosophical work, which one could say we see in his phenomenological project.

Reference

Husserl, E. (1970). “Appendix V: Objectivity and the World of Experience.” Trans. David Carr. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Evanston: Northwest University Press. Pp. 343, 344, 345, 347, 348, 349, 350.

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