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Volume 51
John J. Drummond, Fordham University

Editorial Board:
Elizabeth A. Behnke
David Carr, Emory University
Stephen Crowell, Rice University
Lester Embree, Florida Atlantic University
J. Claude Evans, Washington University
Burt Hopkins, Seattle University
Jos Huertas-Jourda, Wilfrid Laurier University
Joseph J. Kockelmans, The Pennsylvania State University
William R. McKenna, Miami University
Algis Mickunas, Ohio University
J. N. Mohanty, Temple University
Tom Nenon, The University of Memphis
Thomas M. Seebohm, Johannes Gutenberg-Universitt, Mainz
Gail Soffer, New School for Social Research, New York
Richard M. Zaner, Vanderbilt University

The purpose of this series is to foster the development of phenomenological philosophy through
creative research. Contemporary issues in philosophy, other disciplines and in culture generally,
offer opportunities for the application of phenomenological methods that call for creative responses.
Although the work of several generations of thinkers has provided phenomenology with many results
with which to approach these challenges, a truly successful response to them will require building on
this work with new analyses and methodological innovations.


Edited by




A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN 978-1-4020-2824-3 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-2824-3

Printed on acid-free paper

All Rights Reserved

2004 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Originally published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in 2004
Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 2004
No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording
or otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher, with the exception
of any material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered
and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work.













Making Chinese Sense of Phenomenology
LAO Sze-kwang

Time Zones: Phenomenological Reflections on Cultural

David CARR
Krisis: The Power of Sense. Time, History and
the Crisis of Western Culture in Husserls Phenomenology
The Human Sciences and Historicality: Heidegger and
the Self-positioning of the Western Humanistic Tradition
KWAN Tze-wan
Authentic Historicality
The Sociological Gaze and its Time Structure
A Sociologists Belated Encounter with Merleau-Ponty
LUI Ping-keung
Toward Revisioning Ricoeurs Hermeneutic of
Suspicion in Other Spaces and Cultures
Purushottama BILIMORIA
Objectivity and Inter-Cultural Experience
William McKENNA
Phenomenology of the Consocial Situation: Advancing the
Intersubjectivity and Phenomenology of the Other:
Merleau-Pontys Contribution
LAU Kwok-ying
Personal Givenness and Cultural a prioris
Lifeworld, Cultural Difference and the Idea of Grounding
YU Chung-chi
Empathy and Compassion as Experiential Praxis. Confronting
Phenomenological Analysis and Buddhist Teachings
Natalie DEPRAZ
Heng and Temporality of Dao: Laozi and Heidegger
James WANG Qingjie













Self-Consciousness (Svasamvittibhaga) and

Ego-Consciousness (Manas) in Yogacara Buddhism
and in Husserls Phenomenology
NI Liangkang
Natural Realism, Anti-reductionism, and Intentionality.
The Phenomenology of Hilary Putnam.
Separation and Connection: Phenomenology of
Door and Window
CHEUNG Chan-fai




Notes on Contributors


Index of Names


The essays in this volume were originally presented at an extraordinary and
fruitful conference held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in November of
2000. The conference was co-sponsored by the Hong Kong Society for
Phenomenology, the Department of Philosophy of the Chinese University, and
the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology.
The idea of the organizers was to bring together researchers from the
Chinese-speaking world and from the West, whose common bond was training in
phenomenology, broadly conceived; and to ask these researchers to present their
ideas on the spatial and temporal aspects of culture, cultural difference, and
cultural interaction. For the participants themselves, probably the most
memorable part of the conference was the intense discussion and personal
exchange which surrounded the presentation of papers. The collegiality and
congeniality of the occasion was made possibly by the beautiful and hospitable
environment of the Chinese University itself. Unfortunately, this spontaneous
interaction cannot be captured on paper. But it may have influenced the revision
of the papers which were ultimately submitted for this volume. In addition to
selecting the contributions, the editors have had a hand in their final formulation,
at least as far as the language is concerned. Although the official language of the
conference was English, only five of the seventeen authors in this volume claim
that language as their native tongue.
This points to another salient feature of the conference: in the cultural
diversity of its participants origins it exemplified the very phenomenon it was
examining. They came from Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan; from
India by way of Australia; from Denmark, France, Italy and the United States.
To be sure, as professors and scholars they can hardly claim to be typical of their
respective societies, and it can be argued (and was the subject of some
discussion) that these days academics the world over make up a new sort of
culture of their own. Still, even philosophers do not lose touch with the language
and culture of their origins, and most indeed make an effort, perhaps to
counteract the abstractness and putative universality of their enterprize.
It must be said as well, as an examination of the contents of this volume will
show, that the authors have approached their broad common theme in very
diverse ways. Some pursue topics that are of long standing in Western, especially
in German and French philosophy, in connection with classic thinkers of the
phenomenological tradition; and it will be noticed that the authors of these
contributions are Chinese as well as European and American. Some, by contrast,
have undertaken explicit comparisons of Western Phenomenology with classical
Asian thought; and again these authors are both Eastern and Western. Finally,
some have approached some aspect of Space, Time and Culture in a systematic



way inspired by the phenomenological method, drawing examples from the

everyday life of different cultures. Again, the authors of these contributions are
equally diverse in their own origins.
It may be said that phenomenology lends itself to the kind of interaction
these papers exemplify. Phenomenology began with Husserls attack on
psychologism in logic and on related doctrines such as cultural relativism. Just as
the objects of consciousness cannot be reduced to the conscious we have of them,
so the world of culture is not self-enclosed and sealed off from what is around it.
The concept of intentionality stresses that consciousness is not a container but
essentially an openness to a world beyond itself; and the world in turn, as
phenomenology conceives it, is neither a finite nor an infinite universe but an
expanse of overlapping horizons. As such it is always related to a perspective or
point of view. Whether as individual or social, human subjectivity hasor
perhaps isits perspective on the world, and each perspective will differ from
those of others. But its openness allows for an understanding of other
perspectives, an understanding that is not so much given as posed as a project.
Thus phenomenology brings to philosophy and to intercultural exchange a unique
and valuable array of concepts and methods. In the essays of this volume, we
believe, these concepts and methods are put to impressive use.
David CARR
CHEUNG Chan-fai

Making Chinese Sense of Phenomenology*

LAO Yung-wei (alias LAO Sze-kwang)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

I have never regarded myself as a Phenomenologist, therefore I am not

going to present a formal paper on any specific topic in this field but only to
offer you a simple proposal. As shown by the title of the present paper, my
proposal is concerned with the adoption of the phenomenological method for a
reformulation of the basic ideas of traditional Chinese philosophy. So far as I
know, few Phenomenologists paid attention to Chinese philosophical thinking;
and on the other hand, Chinese philosophers usually believe that
phenomenology, as a special branch of European philosophy, makes no real
sense to the Chinese Mind. However, I am pretty sure that the possible
relation between the two sides can be seen in a different light.
Apparently, a phenomenological reformulation of Chinese philosophical
ideas seems to involve various difficulties. But if we put the whole thing under
closer examination, these difficulties would not prove to be so tremendous as
they appeared to be. For the sake of simplicity, let me take Confucianism as the
representative doctrine of Chinese philosophy, and compare its basic ideas
about the human world with the general attitude held by phenomenologists.
Needless to say, here is the problem of how to identify this general
attitude. To work out a complete solution for this problem would involve
numerous methodological and historical arguments which would go far
beyond the scope of this short address. What I attempt to do now is only to
express my view in a very brief way. I beg to make the following points.
(1) While scholars in different fields claim to use the phenomenological
method in their studies, this term has never been well defined. When we talk
about a general attitude, we are also confronted with a similar problem.
Phenomenology covers a wide variety of doctrines and they rarely converge.
Merleau-Pontys concept of body subject is hardly compatible with
Opening Address to the International Conference on Phenomenology Time,
Space and Culture organized by the Department of Philosophy at the Chinese
University of Hong Kong, 21 November 2000.

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 1-2.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.


Husserls transcendental Ego; Sartres theoretical orientation in his theory of

Being is quite distinct from the Heideggerian orientation. These obvious facts
are in no need of explanation. Then where can we find the general attitude of
Phenomenologists? To this question, my answer is: whether we can identify
the general phenomenological attitude depends upon how strong our claim is.
If we insist upon making a positive complete narrative, we will find it almost
impossible to get started. But, if we are satisfied with negative narratives and
partial description, then such an attempt is not hopeless. To put it in a more
concrete way, I just mean that common features of different phenomenological
theories consist rather in their denials than in their assertions about basic
philosophical problems. This clue, properly handled, will make it possible for
us to talk about the general phenomenological attitude.
(2) Let us take the concept of world-view as the focus point for this
search. On the one hand, Phenomenologists deny the naturalist view of the
world. For them, the presupposition of an independent world as objective
reality is not acceptable as a philosophical world-view. Therefore, they do not
see the world as a big collection of physical existences. On the other hand, they
also deny the theological view of the world. They do not appeal to Divine will
and Divine Logos to interpret the world-process. As declared by Heidegger,
the phenomenological world-view is necessarily singular. There is only one
appropriate world-view which is the panoramic picture of the process of
Being in becoming or the way to be (to borrow a term from Z.
Adamczewski). If we go a little bit further, I would say that the
phenomenological attitude is to show the world as a disclosing process of
Being with the human world as its center. Here we find the general
phenomenological attitude in a minimum sense. I am aware of the possible
controversies involved in this simplified presentation. However, this short
paper cannot deal with those problems. Let it suffice. Now, let me turn to the
other side.
(3) Although Confucian philosophy is, in its basic character, far different
from any European philosophy, the Confucian world-view is still comparable
to the phenomenological world-view. Confucians always emphasize the
central position of the human world in the cosmic process. They deny the
mechanistic concept of natural world. They also refuse the concept of personal
God. This philosophical attitude has shaped Chinese mentality during many
centuries. The result is that both natural sciences and revealed religion never
developed in Chinese culture. This constitutes part of the so-called East-West
distance. However, if we want to reformulate Chinese philosophical ideas and
reduce such distance, I believe that adopting the phenomenological method for
this reformulation is an attempt worthwhile and promising. When such efforts
become fruitful, we will be able to make Chinese sense of Phenomenology and
perhaps, at the same time, to make phenomenological sense of Chinese

Time Zones:
Phenomenological Reflections
on Cultural Time

David CARR
Emory University

In this paper I want to explore the idea of a phenomenology of cultural

time. I shall begin with the distinction between lived (or experienced) space
and objective space, and with the idea of lived space expanding into cultural
space. I shall then consider the possibility of finding parallels in the
experience of time. After outlining my idea of the cultural experience of time,
I shall explore certain cultural differences based on different experiences of
time. I shall conclude with some reflections on the relation between such
cultural differences and the contemporary world.

I. Space and Place, Home and Beyond

It was Husserl who introduced us to the distinction between lived space
and objective space, a distinction made possible by the phenomenological
reduction. Only if we suspend our nave belief in the reality of objective
space, which requires that we explain everything, including our own
experience, in its terms, can we recognize and appreciate the distinctive
character of experienced space and its difference from and its founding
relationship to our concept of objective space. Heidegger carried the
investigation a few steps farther, but it was Merleau-Ponty who recognized
what Husserl had already seen but Heidegger ignored, namely that lived
space is rooted in, and cannot be understood apart from, the lived body. This
recognition has widespread implications for phenomenology, as we all know:
subjectivity itself must be understood as embodied, and the world is at its
most fundamental level an Umwelt: a world of spatial orientation that reveals
itself in response to our movements, not just to our perceptual observations.
The phenomenology of lived space, with its emphasis on embodiment,
is but one area of investigation that was originally inspired by Husserl and to
which many others have made valuable contributions since Husserls time,
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 3-13.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.


some closer to and some farther in spirit and style from Husserls own work.
In more recent times, phenomenologists have looked at space in a broader
context. Edward Caseys books Getting Back Into Place1 and The Fate of
Place,2 and Anthony Steinbocks Home and Beyond,3 are particularly striking
examples. The works of these two philosophers are very different in style and
content (in spite of the teacher-student relation between the two authors), and
I may be doing a disservice to the particular originality of each by bringing
them under one heading. But I think it can be said that they both seek to
extend the notion of lived space into the intersubjective, social and especially
the cultural realms.
Caseys distinction between space and place, which serves as the
conceptual foundation for his wide-ranging work, is introduced by saying
that we dont live in space,. . .instead, we live in places.4 Like Husserl
and Merleau-Ponty he puts the emphasis on the lived; but it must be noted
that the subject here is not I but We. Most phenomenological discussions of
lived space, linked as they are to the body, have tended to center on the
individual. Many follow Husserls practice of speaking in the first person
singular. Though he includes a discussion of embodiment, Caseys work is
from the start intersubjective in character. Place is the lived space not
primarily of individuals but of groups; subjectivity is still embodied but is
also plural. The life that is lived in this context is the life that we live
together, and it is in our place that we do this.
Steinbock, whose work is much more closely tied to Husserls than
Caseys is, moves right away to the intersubjective dimension of
phenomenology, and from there to Husserls distinction between Heimwelt
and Fremdwelt. With its focus on the home/alien distinction and on such
notions as terrain and territory, Steinbocks work can be seen primarily,
though certainly not only, as a phenomenology of social and cultural space,
the lived space that is lived not just by the individual but by the group or

II. Lived Space, Lived Time

Husserl also introduced us to the distinction between objective time and
lived time. Again, the phenomenological reduction plays a crucial role.
Indeed, his bracketing of objective time, in the early lectures on the

Edward Casey, Getting Back Into Place (Bloomington: Indiana University

Press, 1993).
Edward Casey, The Fate of Place (Berkeley: University of California Press,
Anthony Steinbock, Home and Beyond (Evanston: Northwestern University
Press, 1995).
Casey, Getting Back into Place, op. cit., xiii.


phenomenology of internal time-consciousness, 5 is regarded by some

scholars as the first more or less explicit formulation of the reduction.
Husserl invites us to consider our experience of time, and time as
experienced, but again, not in order to contrast it with or explain it by
reference to time-as-it-really-is. Rather than simply taking objective time for
granted, which would force us to integrate experienced time into it, Husserls
phenomenology seeks to show how objective time arises out of our
experience. Temporal differences and dimensions are first of all elements of
our experience, and can be described in terms of our experience. Husserl
seeks what he calls the origin of time, but what he means by this is not
some temporal origin (which would again presuppose objective time), but
rather the directly given or originr encounter with time. We often seek to
represent time, usually by drawing a line; but in doing so we re-present
something that has been presented beforehand in experience. It is this direct
encounter with time that Husserl seeks to describe in his lectures. Here we
find Husserl the phenomenologist at his most brilliant, introducing some of
his most striking concepts, such as the comet-tail, the triad of impressionretention-protention, and the distinction between retention and recollection.
Like his phenomenology of lived space, Husserls phenomenology of
lived time has prepared the way for a whole new approach to time in 20th
century Western philosophy, especially after it was appropriated by
Heidegger in Sein und Zeit. French philosophy, especially in Levinas and
Ricoeur, has added new dimensions to the phenomenology of time which
take us far beyond the investigations of both Husserl and Heidegger, even
though it remains indebted to them. What I do not see in this development,
however, is the kind of extension of the phenomenology of time which would
correspond to the expanded phenomenology of space carried out by Casey
and Steinbock. How can we move from lived time to cultural time? In what
sense, if any, would such a move be parallel to the phenomenology of
cultural space?
Before I move directly to this topic, I will say a few words about the
connection between time and space as they are treated phenomenologically.
As you know, Husserl initially sought to exclude space from his analysis of
time, directing us to ignore the spatiality of sound, for example (the fact that
the tone emanates from a violin over there across the room), and treat it as a
pure sense datum. Recall too that in these same years, Henri Bergson was
warning against the tendency to think of time in spatial terms. But the reader
of Husserls lectures is struck by the fact that from the very start he depends
very heavily on spatial terminology, spatial metaphors, and spatial
comparisons to carry out his description. Just as I do not experience pure
space but things in space, so I experience time through what he calls
temporal objects, (melodies and the like). As I hear the melody tone by
Edmund Husserl, On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal
Time (18931917), trans. J. Brough (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991).


tone, it is as if I were seeing the same thing from different points of view.
Thus the temporal object, like the spatial thing, has its internal horizons as
well as its external horizons. In general, the concepts of foreground and
background, interpreted temporally rather than spatially, play a large role in
Husserls lectures, and the foreshortening effect of spatial distance from the
observer is said to have its counterpart in the experience of time. Starting
from the now rather than the here, there seems to be something like a
temporal field, comparable to the spatial field, spreading out around me.
And Husserl comes up with his famous diagram of time which is, of
course, a spatial representation.
It should be clear that the space to which Husserl appeals for these
comparisons and metaphors is not objective spacewhich is what Bergson
was worried aboutbut precisely the lived space to which his own
phenomenological analyses, in these same years, were devoted. In part this
appeal derives from the ordinary language of time, where we constantly use
terms like long and short, near and far, distance, segments of time, etc. But
there is also a lack of terminology at certain crucial junctures (for all this,
Husserl writes in frustration at a particularly important point in his
manuscript, we lack names 6 ), which sends him in search of metaphors,
something he does with a certain amount of distaste. But above all this
mixture attests to the fact that these two dimensions of experience cannot be
separated, except abstractly, whereas what we are trying to capture is the
precisely the concrete.
The parallelism of lived space and lived time leads us to the very heart
of subjectivity itself. Just as the spatial here is absolute, representing the
zero-point of orientation around which all of space arranges itself, no
matter where I am, so the now is absolute as well, the place, as it were,
where I am always located, even though the content of the now is always
changing. Just as the space of my surroundings extends indefinitely in all
directions, so time, with its two-fold horizon, extends indefinitely into the
past and the future. Opposed to the here is the there; to the now the then. The
present, which is both spatial and temporal, stands out against its
background: the absent, in the case of space, the past and future, in the case
of time.

III. The Universal Now

If we seek now to extend the phenomenology of lived time from the
subjective to the intersubjective and thence to the cultural, we may, like
Husserl, expect to find useful parallels with lived space. But at a crucial point
the parallel seems to break down.
For Husserl and many of his successors, the phenomenology of space is
the entrance gate to alterity and intersubjectivity. Husserls attempts to deal

Ibid., 79.


with the experience of the other subject, in the Fifth Meditation and
elsewhere, are firmly grounded in his phenomenology of spatial perception.
If the here is my permanent and absolute location as a perceiver, the there is
the location of the other, a place in my environment where, in the strict sense,
I can never be. The there-ness of the other both instantiates and symbolizes
the otherness of the alter ego: it is the concrete manifestation of the fact that
to experience the other is to have before me a subjectivity which is not my
own, a point of view on the world which in principle I cannot occupy. Most
phenomenologists reject the Levinasian view that this otherness shows us the
limits of intentionality and ultimately of phenomenology itself. This view
seems based on the mistaken assumption, common throughout the history of
epistemology, that in order to experience and know something I have to
become that thing, or it has to become me, thus obliterating the distinction
between me and the object, or reducing the other to the same. But this is just
the mistake that the concept of intentionality is designed to overcome. The
irreducible otherness and thereness of the other person is precisely the sense
the other person has in my world. That sense does not make the other
inaccessible, any more than the appearance of a thing is a barrier, a second
thing, standing between me and the thing-in-self. Rather, that sense is my
access, which reveals the other to me even if my access is limited.
Those limits are set aside, though they are never completely overcome,
where ego and alter constitute a community, however small, however
fleeting. Existing not somehow above or apart from, but through the
individuals that make them up, communities can be seen as personalities of
a higher order, as Husserl calls them. 7 Here subjectivity, as conceived
phenomenologically, once again demonstrates its flexibility: just as it must be
seen as embodied in the context of individual perception, here it becomes
plural, and the first-person singular is replaced by the we-subject. But more
than that: this we-subject exists in relation to a common world, or rather,
common surroundings. It is not merely the subject that becomes plural:
remarkably, the here and the there become plural as well. No less absolute for
being intersubjective, the here is now the place of the community, the
territory of our communal life; it is where we live. The there now represents
not the individual but the communal other. By this means we arrive at the
distinction between the homeworld and the alien world. Thus in the
intersubjective as in the subjective sphere, space has a dual role: it provides
the access to the other even as it reveals the otherness of the other. By setting
up the limits between me (or us) and the other, it constitutes the sense the
other has for me or us.
But if we look now for something parallel in the sphere of time, a
curious disparity seems to open up. Whereas the absolute here separates me
from you, us from them, the absolute now seems not to function in this way. I
am (we are) always here, you are always there. I am always now, but. . .so are

Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, trans. D. Cairns (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1960), 132.


you. There is something odd about saying, in parallel to the I am here, I

am now. We would be more inclined to say it is now, and this it seems
to signal the utter, absolute, impartial universality of time. Time, as we might
say, is no respecter of persons; it is not linked to a point of view. The here,
we might say, can be shared by the members of a community, but not by
everyone. The community must define itself by reference to the others, and
likewise the here must define itself by reference to the there. But the now, it
seems, is in principle shared, not just by you and me, us and them, but by
everybody everywhere, even those who dont figure at all in the cultural
geography of the here and the there.
What are we to make of this apparent disparity? Does it signal a radical
difference between time and space, in spite of their interwovenness and in
spite of the many parallels we can find between them? Perhaps time is the
dimension of human existence that is destined not to divide us, as space does,
but to unite us all, to bring home to us our oneness with all mankind. Just
think for a moment of all the billions of people we have never seen, in places
we will never know, who are nevertheless united with us by this one bond:
we are all now, we all share the absolute center of time. One
phenomenologist who tried to grapple with the intersubjective dimension of
time, Alfred Schutz, found a striking expression for this shared dimension:
we grow older together. 8 But if time, construed in this way, signals no
difference between me and the other, it also seems to have no role in my
access to the other. On this view of time, I share the now not only with those
near and far, friend and foe, but also with others to whom I have no concrete
relation whatsoever, of whose existence I know only by hearsay, who are, for
me, little more than an abstract idea.

IV. Time and the Other

Now I want to argue that the discrepancy we have just been discussing
between space and time is merely apparent, and that if we accept it our
phenomenology of lived time and culture will have taken a wrong turn. The
discrepancy, it seems to me, is the result of a mistake that often creeps into
phenomenolgical discussions when we forget the distinction between the
lived and the objective. We are misled partly by our ways of speaking, but
also by the great strength of the hold that the objective prejudice has on our
thinking. We share the absolute and universal now with everyone and
everything in the universe in the same sense that we share universal and
objective space with everyone and everything. That is something we know,
but it not something we experience. In the case of space, that is a sense of

Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World, trans. G. Walsh and
F. Lehnert (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), 165.


sharing that precisely overlooks the differences that phenomenology is

supposed to attend to: difference of perspective, differences of point of view.
What we have to remind ourselves is that the phenomenological now is
not an abstract point on a scale, whether as one of an endless sequence of
numbered ts or as points on the circular face of the clock. These are ways of
representing time, not ways of experiencing it. In experience, what is now is
the event I am actually living through. To repeat what we said before, I
experience time by experiencing what Husserl calls temporal objects, that
is, by participating in events that exist by taking time. Like the paradigmatic
melody, to be what they are they must unfold in time, and to experience them
I must grasp their unfolding. On Husserls analysis, this means that the now
is given against the background of the not-now which is first of all the justpast. This is what Husserl calls retention, and no less important, though
Husserl does not devote enough attention to it, is the anticipatory grasp which
he calls protention. These are the horizons of temporal experience, and
together with the present they make up the temporal field. As with space, this
field is not an empty array of abstract points but is occupied by events just as
the spatial field is inhabited by things. It is through things and events that I
experience space and time.
What this means is that my experience of time is a function of the
events that I live through, the events, that is, that are meaningful or
significant for me. It is these events, not abstract points on a scale, that are
ever receding into an indefinite background and make up the horizon of my
past. And it is the events that figure in the immediate sphere of protention or
anticipation, and not some abstract empty spaces to be filled in, that make up
the horizon of my future. For the individual, events can be meaningful or
significant such that I not only live through but also remember themand
here we come to Husserls distinction between primary and secondary
memory or between retention and recollection. Likewise, future events can be
of such importance that I explicitly look forward to or dread them, that I plan
for them or seek to avoid them. This is the horizon of secondary
expectation which is somehow a counterpart of recollection. The point of all
this is that these primary and secondary horizons of past and future form the
complex background against which the now stands out and from which it
derives its significance. Like a single note in a melody, the present is nothing
by itself; it is what it is thanks to its place (a spatial metaphor again) in the
melody, its role in the unfolding whole of which it is a part.
If we look at our experience of time in this way we begin to see how
we might move from subjective to intersubjective time, from individually
lived time to socially or culturally lived time. As an individual, I am engaged
in a present that is determined by its place among the events, past and future,
of my own life. These are its horizons of retention and protention, horizons of
memory and expectation. From the individual point of view you and I do
indeed occupy different presents, because we lead different lives, because we



have different pasts and futures, and because the present is for each of us a
function of the past and future events which frame it. In this sense your
now is as much a mark of your otherness and differentness from me as is
your spatial there, because it is a point of view on a different time, a past
and future which are different from mine. In that sense it is a temporal point
of view which in principle I can never occupy. It opens out, as it were, onto a
different field, and just as I cannot have your perceptions, see the world from
your vantage point, so I cannot have your memories or your expectations. To
do that I would have to be you. But again, from that fact that I cannot be you
it does not follow that I cannot know you. Though I cannot have or share
your memories, I can know about them and thus about you. Your very sense
as other is the sense that gives me access to you.

V. Local Time, East and West

Thanks to this access, you and I can be members of a community, and
this gives us a completely different access to time. Just as the here can be
shared, so can the now. But in this case it is defined by the events that we live
through together. It is in this sense that we can have a shared past and a
common future. With regard to the past, instead of speaking of memory we
are more likely to speak of history and tradition. As members of a
community, individuals participate in a temporality that reaches beyond their
own experience, extending into the past before their births and into the future
after their deaths. And so it is that the temporal field of subjective lived time
opens out onto a larger field of social and cultural lived time. What we do
and suffer together, the events we live through and the actions we perform,
stand out from and get their sense from the larger cultural horizons of past
and future. The time we experience is not universal time, it is our timelocal
time. That is, it is linked to our place.
Here the spatial duality of the here and the there, as it is extended into
the social and cultural spheres, has its counterpart in the temporal differences
of past and future. The otherness of an alien culture is at least in part a
function of its having a different past and a different future. But this
difference, in both space and time, is more than just a factual difference.
Different communities, understood as different points of view on the world,
also have different ways of construing or structuring space and time
generally. One of the many merits of Caseys work lies in showing different
ways of according significance to spacedifferent attitudes toward bodily
space, differences between sacred and profane sites, between the settled and
the wild, between surrounding nature as habitation or adversary to be tamed,
etc. In the same way we can discern different attitudes toward time. Even
personal time may differ according to cultures, or indeed the distinction
between private and public time. There are shared attitudes toward the speed
or slowness of time, and even toward the measurement of time and the



importance of objective time itself. Here I am thinking of attitudes toward

punctuality and the meanings of expressions like a little while or a long
time in different cultures. Certain English expressions (and Heidegger has
dealt with German equivalents) treat time as a commodity or currency: we
spend it, borrow it, save it, lose it, waste it, earn it, gain it. Clearly these
suggest rich possibilities for anthropological and sociological empirical
research. The best phenomenology can do is indicate broad structural
Clearly time is experienced in the ways we divide it up, the manner in
which we structure it in terms of events and the patterns of events. What is
our relation to our own past? As we experience the cultural present becoming
the cultural past, what is more important, sameness or difference, continuity
or change? This is the place to consider the well-worn distinction between
cyclical and linear conceptions of time. Time is change; but is change
significant or insignificant? Does the present differ from the past or only
repeat it, to be itself repeated again in the future? Is cultural life centered in
the rituals of commemoration, which suppress difference and elevate the
same, or does culture celebrate change? A linear conception of time is often
thought of as a narrative or a historical conception, but this can in turn be
construed in different ways. Our cultural community can be seen as
advancing from its originating foundation toward the fulfillment of a set of
ideals in the future, or as a steady decline from a past golden age. Is
civilization progressive, somehow inclining toward triumph over adversity,
or is it heading downhill toward some ultimate catastrophe?
It is a clich when speaking of temporality and historicity to associate
the linear, narrative or historical conception of time with the West and the
Judeo-Christian tradition in particular. By contrast, even the Greek worldview shares the supposedly cyclical form with traditional East and South
Asian cultures. Actually, the picture is much more complicated than this. The
cycles of nature and the seasons are important in any culture. And consider
the cultural importance of the sequence of generations, which is cyclical in
the sense that children become parents, who in turn have children, etc. Nor
should one think that the cyclical in the West is restricted to the cultural
significance of nature. It is certainly possible to find cyclical elements in the
Christian and Jewish calendars, not only in the cycle of liturgical seasons but
also in the form of ritual commemorations conceived as repetitions of sacred
events. Thus cyclical features have traditionally played an important part in
the Western structuring of cultural time.
It is true, however, that in the West there is an underlying chronological
sequence represented by the reckoning of the Christian era. This was
reflected in the ancient tradition of annals and chronicles. Laid over this is the
practice of naming eras after the kings, princes and emperors who ruled over
them. From this we can distinguish in turn the kind of periodization which



results from explicitly historical reflection, and which results in such terms as
middle ages, renaissance, enlightenment, etc.
According to the work of Masayuki Sato, 9 in China as in Japan the
system of era names or dynastic periodization, discontinued in China after the
1911 revolution, was in nature not radically different from the era names
traditionally used in Europe in connection with annals and chronicles. Both
are ways of compartmentalizing or structuring the flow of time with
reference to political and social realities. The difference lay in the absence in
East Asia of an underlying chronological sequence. Political and social
history was not superimposed on chronology but rather on the traditional
sexagesimal or sixty year cycles. This means that what lay at the root of
temporality was not a linear sequence but a system of recurrent time.

VI. Conclusion: Cultural Time and the Contemporary World

These cultural differences do indeed suggest importantly different ways
of construing the passage of time. Several remarks must be made about this
brief comparison, however.
First, it should be noted that the Christian era is not merely a
chronological reckoning, but is itself an era name derived not from a secular
but from a divine ruler. It is true that in many cultures rulers have considered
themselves and been considered divine, and their relation to the naming of
eras has something to do with their divinity. In this sense the Christian
conception conforms to a familiar pattern, even though there are again
important differences.
Second, and this is a related question, to what extent do or can these
cultural differences survive in the contemporary world? Changes in the last
150 years in commerce, travel, and communication have brought the need for
world-wide agreement on time-reckoning, including the idea of the so-called
common era. This bit of political correctness is designed to cover over the
fact that the common standard is in fact the Christian era of the West. This
fact was largely forgotten in the West, except perhaps in Rome, in the
celebrations of the millennial year 2000, and my impression is that many
non-Westerners around the world forgot it, too. China, of course, has been
officially governed in the 20th century by the Marxist idea of history, that
most Western and most 19th century of conceptions. And no discussion of
time and culture should overlook the cultural revolution in China, which was
in part an attempt to completely deny the significance of the past. This
attitude is in sharp contrast to contemporary China, where the antiquity of
Chinese culture and language are apparently a matter of great public
significance, leading to heated debates about the archeological evidence for


Masayuki Sato, Time and Historiography in China and Japan, unpublished



the Yellow Emperor and the earliest, but largely undocumented, dynasties of
Chinese history.
These questions, of course, take us beyond the scope of this paper, this
conference, and indeed phenomenology itself. But they do raise certain
questions for phenomenology, I think. Phenomenology is sometimes accused
of a kind of willful primitivism or nativism, its emphasis on the lived, as
opposed to the objective, being taken as part of the romantic reaction to
modernity. Are the differences of cultural space and cultural time destined to
disappear, so that calling them to mind is really a way of celebrating the past,
a form of nostalgia? Indeed there is a certain irony in philosophers
celebrating such notions as place, home and local time even as they jet
around the world, crossing times zones and in some cases not even having a
very clear idea of where they are at home or what day it is. We can answer
that these aspects of phenomenology became possible only after the ideas of
objective space and time collapsed from within, with no help from
phenomenology. After all, we could say that the first to question objective
space was not Husserl but Riemann, and the first to question objective time
was Einstein, all within the realm of physical science. But in the process they
moved space and time even farther from our ordinary experience than they
had previously been. In the process they opened up the possibility for
philosophers to reclaim space and time as elements of our experience. The
globalization of space and time in the contemporary world is not so much the
triumph of the objective as it is the rise of a new culture of space and time,
still living uneasily with the old.

Krisis: The Power of Sense.
Time, History and the Crisis of Western Culture
in Husserls Phenomenology

University of Venice

I: Europe in Question.
European Nihilism and the Question of Phenomenology
Let us introduce ourselves to the question of Europe, as it is posed by
phenomenology. This, however, compels us first to ask what the question of
what phenomenology is, in order for us to understand the turn apparently
taken by Husserls reflection when, at a late stage of his research, he starts
looking into the crisis of Europe through the crisis of European sciences. As a
matter of fact, in the 20s his research seems dominated by problems
concerning the ultimate foundation of philosophy, therefore by the idea of
transcendental phenomenology as first philosophy (the 19234 Erste
Philosophie lectures), by the critique of logical reason from a
phenomenologic-transcendental perspective (Formale und transzendentale
Logik, 1929), and by the radicalization of the Cartesian inspiration of the
phenomenological conception of subjectivity. The Paris and Strasbourg
Lectures, together with his elaboration of (the text of) the Cartesianische
Meditationen conclude Husserls work of those years and open his last
philosophical activity in a condition of restlessness, however, as it results by
his difficulty in bringing to an end the re-elaboration with a view to the
German edition of the text intended for the French translation.1
The importance Husserl ascribes to this work in the critical situation of
German philosophy is well known from his correspondence with Roman Ingarden:
das wird das Hauptwerk meines Lebens sein, [. . .] ich fhle mich berufen, dadurch
entscheidend in die kritische Situation einzugreifen, in der jetzt die deutsche
Philosophie steht. Husserl complains about his solitude due to the prejudices of a
generation that, because of the downfallpsychoses (Zusammenbruchspsychosen), does
not want to have anything to do with philosophy as a science. In spite of this, he
confirms his trust in the future: ich bin der Zukunft sicher, Hua I (The Hague:

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 15-29.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



Even with respect to the other themes dealt with by him in the 20s, and
known by us thanks to the publication of his lectures and unpublished work
(phenomenological psychology, the analyses devoted to passive synthesis,
the phenomenology of intersubjectivity), his denunciation of the spiritual
crisis of Europe, seen as linked to a radical failure of its originary vocation to
science can surprise, today as much as then, those who have followed the
stages of Husserls research. This assumption of a dramatic historical
responsibility on the part of phenomenology in fact comes as unexpected.
What is, then, the question of phenomenology brought to light by the
fundamental questioning of the Krisis?
I am going to maintain that the foundational conception of subjectivity,
centered as it is on its transcendental constitutive function and reconfermed
by the Krisis with the force of an extreme tension of thought, reveals that the
question of phenomenology is the question of sense. Access to the ultimate
foundation of sense happens, as everybody knows, through the procedure that
passes from the epoch of (the) natural attitude to the reduction of every
reality to its phenomenological character of object for the transcendental
subject. Through this procedure what is decided is the objectivity of the
object, the fact that anything and any living being, even any person as other
to the I that experiences, is such since in itself it does not have but receives
the determinate sense of its being by virtue of the relation to the subject in the
first person. Being object, therefore, means having sense for the subject
which can say I in the face of other beings. The being of the object depends,
in fact, on the intentionality it is addressed to by the subject, who targets it
and elaborates a more and more complex and integrated configuration of its
sense. There is no object without sense, but, therefore, there is no object
without subject. In these terms all the problems pertaining to the epoch and
to reduction establish the question of subject as the question of the foundation
of sense. To Husserls idealism this means the resolution of the real in the
objectivity dependent on the subjectivity of the subject.
This fundamental pattern, this necessary telos of the phenomenological
reflection explains the tension that inspires it and that, in the light of the
pages of the Krisis, can be rediscovered already alive in previous writings,
too. What Husserls latest writings give us to understand, thus, is the destiny
of phenomenology as transcendental idealism. The question of
phenomenology radically explodes in the epoch-making time of the crisis of
sensethus justifying Husserls obsessive insistence on the decisive step of
reduction as a preliminary and necessary condition of any phenomenological
Nijhoff, 1963), Einleitung, XXVII-XXVIII. This way of thinking anticipates the
XXVIII Beilage of Krisis (Sommer, 1935), which begins with the seemingly desolate
consideration according to which Philosophie als Wissenschaft, als ernstliche,
strenge, ja apodiktisch strenge Wissenschaftder Traum ist ausgetrumt. These
words do not express the old philosophers surrender, but his consciousness of the
crisis and a real anxiety about the future: Philosophie ist in Gefahr, d.i. ihre Zukunft
ist gefhrdet, Hua VI, 508509.



inquiry. The necessity of the phenomenological reduction doesnt mean

anything less than the most radical and dramatic quest of sense. The
strategies of the ultimate foundation of transcendetal phenomenology stem
from the epoch-making experience according to which sense fails. This
amounts to saying that man does not recognize himself as subject in the
world which, as the Krisis makes clear, has been made measurable and
reduced to its quantitative aspects by modern science. Man has lost his living
and direct relationship with the world of life. In the wake of these
considerations Martin Heidegger will develop his radical questioning of the
destiny of technique. In rejecting Heideggers radicalization Jrgen
Habermas will take up again the problems of the Lebenswelt from Husserl,
with a view to introducing the concept of the colonization of the world of life,
an important concept when socio-politically applied. But what must not fail
being underlined, here, is that much before Krisis and the thematization of
the Lebenswelt concept (in a strategic function), Husserl makes reference to
the counterfeiting of the subject-object relationship produced by the
objectivism of sciences, particularly by experimental psychology. Scientific
objectivism involves the loss of the sense dimension: everything is object,
therefore there is no subject, therefore there is no sense, everything being
only measurable quantity. By assuming the pattern of rigorous, because exact,
science, psychology has produced the naturalization of consciousness, as
denounced in the pages of Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft, and has
reduced science to a science of the empirical facts, incapable of explaining
any normativity. The result of such corruption is the reification of
consciousness (das Bewutsein verdinglichen, an almost Marxist expression
by Husserl!), once the distinction between the experience of the thing and the
experience of the conscience is missed. For this reason Husserl already sees,
under the rule of naturalism, a growing danger for our civilization (eine
wachsende Gefahr fr unsere Kultur): The strong assertion of Krisis,
according to which sciences that only deal with facts produce men capable
of facts alone (bloe Tatsachenwissenschaften machen bloe
Tatsachenmenschen), is thus anticipated in the content as well as in the form
by the drastic formulations of the battle in writing dating back to twenty-five
years before.2
Lets say, then, that the Krisis, while bringing to light the epochmaking destiny of phenomenology, reveals in it a deep ethical-political
vocation which had been completely concealed by the ruling theoretical
stance. More decisively than with the motto zu den Sachen selbst,
Logos I 19101911, 293, 295, 297, 310. In this last page Husserl writes:
Dem naturwissenschaftlichen Vorbild folgen, das besagt fast unvermeidlich: das
Bewusstsein verdinglichen. The last page of Sein und Zeit probably refers in quotes
to this expression of Husserls: das Bewusstsein zu verdinglichen. M. Heidegger,
Sein und Zeit (Tbingen: Niemeyer, 1967), 437 (but see, also, 46: die
Verdinglichung des Bewusstseins and 47, note 1).



foreground prominence is given to the commitment to stand up to the

advance of nihilism, that is to say to the loss of sense of (human) existence
and the world.3 It is this loss of sense that from the beginning, but now with
unavoidable explicitness, requires of Husserl the reconstitution of
subjectivity and, through it, the refoundation of the modern experience of
being. To HusserlKrisis being the extreme confirmation of thisthe
relationship with Descartes is not occasional, even less due to a
misunderstanding, but it brings to light the modern roots of the
phenomenological interrogation of the world. The sense in questionthe
experience of nihilismdemands bringing back to light of the root that the
modern experience of being as sense has in the revindication of subjectivity
as a principle. Nietzsches epoch-making question, his cry of alarm, is thus
Husserls question and cry, too: Nihilism is at the door: where is this guest,
the most sinister of all, coming to us from? Husserl shares, in fact,
Nietzsches fundamental experience of it, expressed by the latter in a late
note: For the history of European nihilism: what is missing? Essentially:
sense is missing. In the same way, they share the same concern over the
diagnosis: Nihilism is inescapable if its premises are not understood.4

II. Nihilism and the Teleology of Reason

To Husserl Europe in crisis has lost the sense of its relationship with
reality, that is with its own history. The crisis of Europethe fact that
European humanity is at a loss in a world that doesnt respond to its ideals
and values any longeris the crisis of the sense of Europe, that is to say the
Concerning the reference to Descartess philosophy as the origin of the
modern way of thinking (Descartes als Initiator der historischen Epoche der Neuzeit)
man cannot avoid approaching Hegels conception of the epoch-making meaning of
the Cartesian discovery of the cogito, the land reached by philosophy after its long
and troubled sailing over furious sea (GWF.Hegel, Vorlesungen ber die Geschichte
der Philosophie, III, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1986, 123156). In his last years
Husserl was in a better frame of mind to recognize the importance of German
classical idealism for his phenomenology. He wrote: Erst der Idealismus in allen
seinen Formen versucht der Subjektivitt als Subjektivitt habhaft zu werden und dem
gerecht zu verden, da Welt nie anders dem Subjekt und Subjektgemeinschaften
gegeben ist denn als die ihr mit jeweiligem Erfahrungsinhalt subjektiv relativ geltende,
und als eine Welt, die in der Subjektivitt und von ihr her immer neue
Sinnverwandlungen annimt (Krisis, Hua VI, 271). The Krisis-Ergnzungsband, Hua
XXIX, 397, speaks about the Cartesianische Neuformung der Idee der Philosophie.
But, as to the philosophical idea of rationality, Husserl discerns a double discovery,
distinguishing two epochs, the former having been achieved by Descartes, die
Entdeckung der Grundforderung der Apodiktizitt, the latter by himself, die
Aufweisung der wahren Methode einer apodiktisch gegrndeten und apodiktisch
fortschreitenden Philosophie, Krisis, Hua VI, 274.
F. Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 18851887, 2[118], 2[127]; 1887
1889,13[3]: Zur Geschichte des europischen Nihilismus: woran es fehlt?
Wesentlich: der Sinn fehlt. (Berlin-New York: KSA. 1213, 1998).



crisis of Europe as a project of sense. Europe is neither a geographical

expression, nor a mere economical, nor a political reality. Therefore, to
interpret the problem of phenomenology, brought to light by Krisis, as the
problem of European nihilism, of the failing of the European sense of the
world is not out of place. This means that what is failing is the European
consciousness power to reconstruct its own history, starting from the Greek
origin, as justification of its own progressive affirmation on a planetary level.
The meaning and goal of history is the affirmation of European rationality,
that is of the spirit of Europe formed, for Husserl, by philosophy, so it is the
celebration of the historical task of philosophy. But this is what is at stake in
the time of nihilism, the possibility of the teleological accomplishment of
reason, and thus the possibility of the European consciousness of conceiving
itself as the history of the progressive production of the sense of the world.
This is, in fact, the secret of the modern invention of history, climaxing in the
great metaphysical elaborations of the XIXth century: the need to submit
even the past to the present affirmation of subjectivity so as to guarantee an
accomplishment that cannot be lacking. Without this retrieval of the origin
without the possibility of transforming every so it was into the necessary
antecedent of what is nowand likewise without the complementary
anticipation of the final accomplishment, history is not possible: at least it is
not possible in its modern meaning, as history of sense. The claim of sense
that bestows on the subject the ultimate power over the being of thingsreal
is what makes sense for the subjectwould remain suspended over a double,
unbearable abyss. The teleological conception of time as history provides
subjectivity with the double assurance it needs, while, at the same time,
producing the resolution of the obscurity of the past and of the uncertainty of
the future in the present of the subjects certainty of himself. The Europe of
sense, the Europe of the history of the world as a history of the spirit, is the
Europe of the extreme configuration bestowed by modern subjectivity to its
own constitutive need for sense. When, in this extreme configuration,
subjectivity takes upon itself the responsibility of the world, it is still
searching for its own affirmation. As European spirit it looks for the sense of
the world rather than for its truth.
A thick fabric of fundamental philosophical motifs and of theses of
philosophy of history is characteristic of the period of Krisis, as last
documented by the Ergnzungsband which has recently published, in R. N.
Smids edition, unknown texts dating back to the years 193437. Particularly
significant appears to be the long text Teleologie in der
Philosophiegeschichte, introduced by the editor as Husserls philosophisches
Testament. 5 In elaborating his teleology of the philosophical history of
Europe, Husserl is not held back by the positivistic objection that his
historical reconstruction of the origin of philosophy, and of the new start

E. Husserl, Die Krisis der europischen Wissenschaften und die

transzendentale Phnomenologie. Ergnzungsband, Hua XXIX, LXIII.



represented by Descartes, is based upon interpretations rather upon facts. In

history he needs to find a better and more instructive way, with respect to
the originary and not historical one of Ideen I, a way capable of leading to a
full clarification of the idea of philosophy. As a matter of fact, the crisis of
present-day Europe shakes its philosophical foundations and demands a refoundation of the very possibility of philosophy as a science. The so-called
historical way therefore lies in the methodical presentation of the internal
teleology of recent history, so as to show how the Cartesian idea spreads
through Locke up to Leibniz and Hume and, through Leibniz and Wolff, up
to Kant. But what makes this new way decisive is the critical in-depth
examination in the style of a radical epoch, which allows the teleology
authentically guiding history to emerge from under the surface of inauthentic
teleology. As written by Husserl, it is a question of having access, through
this way, to the transcendental subjective historicity (Geschichtlichkeit) as to
the only one to be originally authentic.6 To this complex structuring of the
historical way, the fact that it is not composed by itself on the basis of a
gathering of historiographical facts, well come back later on.
Lets remember now that in the Vienna lecture held in May 1935, he
had spoken about the absolute historicity (absolute Historizitt) in which
the universality of the absolute spirit comprises every being; to it nature
itself subordinates itself as a spiritual formation. Nothing remains to be
added to the pretentions of phenomenology, in this extreme version of it,
since, apparently, nothing escapes it. Husserl, after all, has just made clear
that for the first time intentional phenomenology has made the spirit as such
a field of experience and of systematic science and that, therefore, it is able
to answer the seeming wreck of rationalism by virtue of a renewed
experience of reason. The ratio is nothing but the truly universal and truly
radical self-comprehension of spirit, in the form of a universally responsible
science. But the latter is possible thanks to the new scientific character to
which phenomenology has been paving the way, beyond the estrangement of
a reason lost in the dead-end ways of naturalism and objectivism. Once
reason has been led again to its authentic responsibility towards the sense of
the total being, phenomenology rediscovers the teleology of European
history through the elaboration of the concept of Europe as historical
teleology of the infinite aims of reason. In this way it must be apparent that
the European world has been engendered by the ideas of reason, that is to
say, by the spirit of philosophy. Only from out of this spirit the rebirth of
Europe, its salvation from barbarism, can come, by virtue of a heroism of
reason capable of overcoming naturalism forever. In this heroism lies the
necessary rationalism of authentic philosophy, that is nothing less than

Ibid., 398403. Concerning Husserls conversion to history see Krisis, Hua VI,
Beilage XXVIII, 510: Also es ist kein Zweifel, wir mssen uns in historische
Betrachtungen vertiefen, wenn wir uns als Philosophen und das, was in uns als
Philosophie werden will, sollen verstehen knnen.



reason itself in the constant movement of auto-clarification, starting from its

first irruption in the life of humanity. Here, Husserls plea for rationality
reveals the voluntaristic aspect of his conception of reason, which is
explicitly conceived as will to reason, that is, according to its more explicit
modern features. Philosophyhe writesis rationality [. . .] as will to come
to a true and full rationality (im Erringenwollen der wahren und vollen
Rationalitt). In any case this remains an idea to be endlessly pursued,
although on the basis of a definitive configuration (Endgestalt), that, at the
same time, is of use as much as the initial configuration (Anfangsgestalt) of
an infinity and relativity of a new genre.
This teleological dynamic of the universal spirit as European spirit, that
is the infinite progress of reason, is accomplished by virtue of the selfcomprehension of the philosophizing ego. This remains, to Husserl, the
bearer of absolute reason in its coming to itself. The apodicticity of the
being of the I-subject as self-consciousness (sein Fr-sich-selbst-sein, his
being for himself) is thus confirmed as the foundation of Husserls stance
with respect to the crisis of European humanity, that is, of the ethicalphilosophical renewal announced by him. Whats more, the philosophizing
ego, though elevated into the transcendental dimension of absolute
subjectivity, for Husserl is still connected with the humanity of man, which in
fact the Krisisthough in an obscure wayconceived as the selfobjectivation of transcendental subjectivity in the world. Therefore, it is in
the light of the absolute auto-comprehension of spirit, that goes through and
transcends the subjects worldly life, it is in this transfiguration of his
worldliness that man understands that he is called to the deepest
responsability towards his own being. A life in apodicticity represents his
oughtness, if humanity means being rational by virtue of ones will to be
rational (vernnftigsein im Vernnftigsein wollen), therefore the infinity of
a life turned to reason. Humanity, Husserl concludes, is being in a
teleological sense, in the sense of oughtness: Menschsein ist
Teleologischsein und Sein-sollen.7 European mans ethical destination at last
expresses itself in the duty of being a philosopher in a phenomenologictranscendental sense. The salvation of Europe is thus tied to its philosophical,
in fact, phenomenological conversionas we wanted to demonstrate.
The issue of responsibility as will of sense in the first person breaks
through this reflection on the destiny of Europe and interwines with that of
the teleology of reason. The mobilization of philosophy for the rebirth of
Europe in the end turns out to be like an appeal to European mans will to
rationality. But the fervid tones of the Vienna lecture, emphatic to the point
of appearing naive, must not hide the desperate depths of this extreme plea
for reason and philosophy. The appeal to history, the teleological optimism
that Husserl tries to transfuse in it in order to guarantee its development as

Krisis, Hua VI, op. cit., 273276; 345348.



history of sense, the sharp revelation according to which reason that should
enlighten man is only will to sense in the end, show the dramatic honesty of a
thought that as metaphysics of subjectivity has exhausted its resources. By
making reference to Nietzsche, again, and to the problems of nihilism we
have started from, we could read the awareness that there is sense if there is a
will capable of willing it as a result of the great effort to re-found philosophy
and Europe. But what is at the source of will? What is its truth? Significantly,
Husserl concludes the Vienna lecture by warning Europe about tiredness
(Europas grte Gefahr ist die Mdigkeit), in the same way as Nietzsche
defends life against the tiredness of the nihilism that surrenders to the lack of
sense, to what is defined by him as the pathos of the all in vain.
In other texts belonging to the same period, the valiant philosophical
determination, so stubborn and unrelenting, seems, however, to be looking
for the last, almost desperate, resistance line, the one that must allow for the
relaunching of the phenomenological project and legitimate the great
programme of the re-foundation of the spirit of Europe. In the famous
Beilage XXVIII (summer 1935) Husserl puts down: What I aspire to under
the title of philosophy, as the aim and field of my work, I know, of course.
And yet I dont know. To what thinker has this knowledge ever been
sufficient, for whose philosophical life has philosophy ever ceased to
represent an enigma? Only second-rate thinkers are content with
definitions and merely verbal concepts, though, in this way, they kill the
problematic telos of philosophizing. At this point Husserl expresses a highly
interesting suggestion, when he considers that in that obscure knowledge,
as much as in the verbal concepts or formulae, hides the historical (steckt das
Historische), which, in its proper meaning, represents the philosophers
spiritual heritage: in it he finds again the link he shares with the others in the
philosophical discussion, in a relationship of friendship as much as of
This irruption in Husserls reflection of the obscurity of the historical,
which comes to dim the alleged clarity of the idea of philosophy, is to be
underlined. The enigma of history, in fact, conceals in itself the
indecipherable of the relationship with the others, that is to say the historical
failure of the telos, that asserts itself as a categorical imperative to the
philosopher, aus innerer apodiktischer Berufung,of the ground of an
intimate apodictical vocation, as expressed by Husserl, but that, rather than
gathering the various participants in the dialogue under a unique philosophy,
scatters them irreparably (hoffnunglos) in the various philosophies.
Philosophy is to him an idea that cannot be inflected in the plural form, at
least as an idea: Philosophy as an aim has no plural. All philosophies aim at
Philosophy, which according to its own sense is only one (Philosophie als
Zweck hat nicht einen Plural. Alle Philosophien erstreben die Philosophie,

Ibid., 512.



die ihrem Sinne nach die einzige ist). 9 But the paradoxical situation
originating in Husserls thought and representing a downright check to his
conception (I must confess it [Ich mu mir das eingestehen]), stems from
the fact that in this dispersive obscurity of history he goes searching for the
comprehension of the unitary telos, or the luminous idea, that must give
sense to his life as a philosopher and guide the way of the universal
(universally European) spirit. Every philosopher draws from the history of
the philosophers of the past, as Husserl seems acknowledge, although not
without some critical reservations which allow him to elaborate the
historical way legitimizing the philosophical intention he is driven by,
however vague and indeterminate it may be. Still, this way does not produce
the searched-for result directly; on the contrary, it seems to prove that
philosophy, as it is to be found in the philosophies starting from its originary
institution (Urstiftung), has not reached yet the point of demonstrating the
possibility of its own sense (ihre sinnhafte Mglichkeit). From this judgment
Husserl draws the inexorable consequence according to which no traditional
philosophy has been able concretely to be philosophy. Elsewhere, with
dramatic frankness, he speaks about the philosophers contradiction, taken as
he is between the apodicticity lying in having to will philosophy and the
rights of skepsis which questions his purpose.10
In this difficult moment in the philosophical foundation of
phenomenology as meant by Husserl, what is decisive is the appeal to
Besinnung: It is necessary in any case to gain consciousness (Es bedarf der
Besinnung), it is necessary to find ones bearings. 11 The Besinnung that
breaks the obscurity of history is the one that actually elevates consciousness
above history itself, with its manifold and ungovernable contingency, in order
to produce a new beginning by virtue of a universal epoch. The Cartesian
theme of the total absence of presuppositions triumphally returns as the
illusion to which Husserl hangs his philosophical faith in the ultimate,
indisputable foundation. Without any gain of consciousness of the totality of
the presuppositions there is no philosophythere is no science on the basis
of an ultimate, actual responsibility. Husserl knows that he is betting heavily,
better still that he is gambling everything on this possibility of suspension or
control of the totality of the tacitly admitted obviousnesses. Just a few
lines before the end of this dramatic heritage of his, in fact, he comes back to
his reckless pretention: I have said totality. But, were I not able to use this
word, it wouldnt be possible to unravel the scattered, unconnected
obviousnesses that belong to the idea of a philosophy. In such a case, the idea
itself would be already condemned.12 To Husserl, therefore, philosophy is

Krisis, Hua XXIX, op. cit., 406.

Ibid., 410415.
Krisis, Hua VI, op. cit., 510. A few lines below Husserl precisely states:
historische Besinnung.
Krisis, Hua XXIX, op. cit., 415 and 419.



possible only in spite of contingency, beyond contingency. To its foundation

and extreme guarantee, that is in extremis, he calls upon the solitary
Besinnung, which, in the scattered manifold of the historical, traces back a
telos not to be found otherwise, starting from the self-certainty and,
consequently, from the position of the subjective-relative character of the
world. Mich besinnen! Das ist schon ein neuer Anfang. 13 Selfconsciousness is the only principle, from which philosophy can find its
always new beginning: immer wieder! This means that to the diachronic as
much as synchronic relationship with the othersthrough the manifold ages
of history, in the everyday circumstances of lifeis presupposed as a
fundamental one the relationship everyone has with himself in terms of
absolute selftransparency: one of limited extent, if you want, still, in any case,
indubitable, at least as far as it extends. Husserls Besinnung, then, is the
folding back onto the same on the part of a philosophy that feels the
inescapable urge of the otherthe obscure, but unavoidable relationship
with others in history, but does not come to think of it as of the other that
not only is not-objectifiable, but not even subjectifiable. In fact, owing to its
late-modern radicalization in the thought of subjectivity as foundation,
transcendental phenomenology cannot think of the other except in terms of
subjectivity: it cannot sustain the other as other from sense, from what the
subject commeasures to the assertion of (him)self.

III. The Responsibility of the Other. For an Ethics of Finitude

The history of Europe, if it is history of the sense of Europe, is a history
of the assertion, the danger of loss, and, finally, the necessary refoundation of
the identity of Europe. It is almost a dialectic pattern of assertion, negation,
and negation of negation, as it has often been observed. This pattern,
however, is meant in the strong and voluntaristic sense appearing from
Husserls hints and from the presuppositions of his reflection that are kept out
of discussion, so that the identity of Europe is linked with its capacity for
Besinnung, that is, with the possibility of recovering itself as subject of
history. The implication illustrated at the beginning holds good here: no
history without subjectivity, no subjectivity without historyan implication
that wants to express the necessity of thinking of history as mastery, as
unavoidable constraint of the manifold and of the other under the unity of
sense conferred and administrated by the subject of history. And if history
means time, we have to complete: no time without subjectivity and no
subjectivity without time. That means at last the phenomenological resolution
of time and history into the quest of the self-affirmation of the I-subject: what
Husserl calls reduction! Can this hermeneutical provocation to
phenomenology prompt the necessary rethinking of the classic theme of

Ibid., 411.



Sinngebung? Can it reveal its ambiguities concealed behind the seeming

phenomenological neutrality? In the wake of these questions, the history of
the sense of Europe appears, as we were saying, as the vindication of the
Europe of sense, that is of the Europe that, as such, decides and is responsible
for the sense of the world. Husserl and the philosophy he leads to an
accomplishment have vindicated this idea of Europe. The desperate
reassertion of the foundationalism of philosophy as a philosophy of
subjectivity is, in a very transparent sense, the extreme longing for the
hegemonic role played by Europe.
At this point, it cannot but be clear that it is not a matter of simply
abandoning the need for the Besinnungfor philosophy and Europe, nor,
even less, of rejecting on principle any question of identity. On the contrary,
it is a matter of making the rethinking of it actual, by getting it free from the
assumption according to which speaking of identity is nonsense if not in
apodictic and ultimate terms. The paradox of Husserls reflection lies in the
fact that the pretention of a critical elevation above the totality of
presuppositions is the product of a unique, gigantic presupposition. The
absolute certainty drawn from self-consciousnessin the Selbstbesinnung, in
the figure of the Selbstdenker Husserl loves to appeal toobstructs the
opening to the other that, in fact, remains in the well-known investigations
of the V Cartesian Meditation, simply a function of the I from whom the
analysis and any sense-giving stems: inevitably in a one-way direction, from
me to the other, never from the other to me. In these terms, the certainty of
the I is the loss of the others. And this is the void of each problematic of
Einfhlung, or empathy, when it confirms the irreducible principle of the I
that I am. Conversely, the realization of the insurmountable finitude of the
being in the world of existence makes the myth of the total absence of
presuppositions sink and opens to the need for the others the experience the I
has of itself. Existing with the others becomes, in fact, for everyone the
condition for being able to posit oneself as an I, for seeking in extroversion
rather than in introversion that truth of self that, defining itself en route, can
never be unassailably given. Therefore, it is not the Cartesian telos of total
clarity, as imposed by the identification of truth with the subjects certainty
of himself. Rather, it is the realization that the experience of truth feeds on
the relationship with obscurity, that what lets itself be possessed unreservedly
is not true because, on the contrary, the obscurity surrounding truth is, in the
right measure, its necessary guardian. By means of it, truth itself defends the
possibility of taking by surprise and disconcerting existence over and over
again, without which it would be simply reduced to the object appropriated
and arranged by the subject. The risk of wreck concealed by the obscurity of
the other and of history is no sufficient reason to claim for the conversion of
the others necessarily elusive truth into the totally-controllable clarity of
sense, to which the subjects intentionality tries to submit any alterity.



In this way, through this rehabilitation of what, in Husserl, appears as

problematic, one inverts the direction of Husserls thought. Rather than
following him in his obstinate demand for apodicticity, one values the
elements of vagueness, inconclusiveness, the traces of alterity he is urged by
and that he would like to put under control. One profits from the richness of
the phenomenological themes, without following Husserls intention. One
therefore insists on the crisis, but in order to attempt a different experience
of it. This means attempting the possibility of another experience of time as
history: without teleology, without the heroism of the philosophical
(European) will, which make us blind to the truth of the others, and of other
experiences and questions on mens worldly experience that are different
from philosophy. Not only are sciences to be rethought in a new relationship
with philosophy; they are to be delivered from naturalism and scientism,
without being subordinated to first philosophy. And, well before sciences,
religions, arts and poetry are waiting for the enlightenment of philosophy in
the same measure in which philosophy needs be surprised by their revelations.
Perhaps European nihilism, as a crisis of totalizing projects of senseas a
devaluation of absolute values, in Nietzsches terms, is a menace (one may
in fact be crushed under the weight of the ruins of what is fading), a menace
that, however, maintains a possibility of freedom. In this case nihilism has
got a reverse, a side still in the shadow which is not destructive: this is, again,
the indication coming from Nietzsche, to be interpreted, however, beyond the
Nietzschean myths of the will to power and of the superman, that is, beyond
the tragic will to the eternal return. This remains, in fact, an extreme will to
sense. But perhaps European nihilism, for its other side, is the very
exhaustion of the metaphysical subjectivity that has wanted the sense of the
world, in whatever form.
To insist from within the crisis, to try a descent into the bottom of the
vortex, means to try to get out of the fatal attraction of absolutes, and get free
from the vortex of their blind conflict, from their dull insistence on their
privileges, in order to assume the condition of finitude revealed by any
pursuit of truth: in Husserl, with dramatic honesty, faced with the crisis of
the reasons of his philosophical life. The heritage of the phenomenology of
transcendental auto-clarification of subjectivity can be undertaken, perhaps,
by a hermeneutics of the finitude of existence. The responsibility appealed to
by Husserl, but ultimately assumed by the subject facing his own
incontrovertible certainty of himself, is, then, taken over by the responsibility
towards the other: by the need for answering him, since always from the
other and from elsewhere comes the appeal raising existence, and thus the
very possibility for each one of us of saying I. Finitude, in fact, means
heteronomy, dependence on the others; at the same time, the other speaking
to me depends on my answer. At the moment in which I answer him, I
therefore take upon myself the responsibility for his being, and I give him
account of my words. So, the situation is one of reciprocal interdependence



and responsibility, which, fundamentally, means the necessity for

corresponding, for each to be listening to the others discourse rather than
withdrawing into a presumption of self-sufficiency when urged by the others
At the basis of this ethics of otherness lies not a categorical imperative
mobilizing the solitary will, but the unavoidable experience of the
relationship with others, of the necessity of it. This relationship is shunned by
the modern metaphysics of the subjects autonomy that, to impose itself,
must reduce the others being-an-other to the sense of otherness
bestowed to him by the subject himself in his posing as absolute I at the
beginning of the relationship. Still, the relationship is really such provided
that it has its beginning in no I, but rather in an other dimension with
respect to two or more poles of the relationship itself. The dimension
arousing and gathering the manifold relationships among the subjects we
call world. The opening of the world into the existences establish a
relationship between them and calls everyone to the responsibility of saying I
in answer to the others questions. But the word coming from another
existence for each one, in the end, contains the secret of his relationship with
the world and the answer each one attempts is his assumption of
responsibility for a world in common. At the beginning of the world,
therefore, is not transcendental intersubjectivity, by virtue of its constituting
power. When entrusting the community with the sense of the world,
phenomenology reflects and brings to an end the way of thinking of
modernity. On the contrary, it is the event of the world that calls existences to
participating in the conversation, the ones with the others, of generations
one of Husserls most beloved themeswhose fundamental ethical link
through time is constituted by the shared responsibility for the world.
A world in common cannot but be a world of differences. Differences
that are relative, that is reciprocally interdependent and thus frail,
continuously in jeopardy, liable to everyones temptation to vindicate his
own difference as absolute. The preceding considerations concerning the
presumption of selfsufficiency by means of which the metaphysical subject
acquits himself from the relationship with others and the world, and the ones
concerning the blind conflict of subjects who, as absolute, reciprocally
exclude themselves, aim at being meaningful at the level of an ethicalpolitical reflection over the destiny of Europe. They even try to interpret
although from afar and in very general termsthe present-day tragedy of the
contrasts and bloody struggles on the south-eastern borders of Europe. In this
time of abysmal crisis, from which it is easier for us to turn our eyes than
stop and think about it, the problem of Europe is that of finding an identity
again, not so much through the assumption of a renewed responsibility
towards oneself, for the reassertion of ones hegemonic spirit and thus
concretely for the defence of ones borders. The European identity is by now
to be rethought in the terms of an extroverted responsibility, a responsibility



turned to the other, therefore subjected to the others possibility of accepting

the relationship and profiting from it. No more an introverted responsibility
that is obsessively absorbed in its own assurance, but a responsibility
engaged in actually answering the others requests rather than defensively
withdrawing in face of the others aggressive neediness which is certainly
menacing but also throwing light on the poverty of our opulent security. The
answer is all the more responsible the more the one addressed has been able
to listen, having accepted to put himself at stake and to commisurate his own
words to the others requests. This is not, therefore, the answer of those who
dictate their unappealable conditions. It is the answer of those who, rather
than imposing their own, unchanged, certainties to the interlocutor, accept to
share and, so, assumewithin their own certaintiesforeign elements that
are capable of transforming them. This presupposes that each of us gives up
the idea of a preconstituted identity to be defended, in favor of the freedom to
put the one each one of us has found to the test represented by any new
encounter: in favor of the freedom to try ones truth, again and again, at the
cost of losing the one that, by being so familiar, is all the more reassuring. In
essential terms this means that the other is not simply subjected to the
imposition of ones paradigms but is taken as the necessary measure of ones
Only through the courage shown in interpreting the others hardship in
highly-meant political terms, can Europe face and sustain its own crisis of
identity. A Europe withdrawn into itself, into its own self-sufficiency, can
only be a source of conflicts, indirectly or directly. On the other hand, the
excluded other, the other pressing from without on the borders, reveals that
no presumption of self-sufficiency ever achieves the pursued-for stability.
The other external to the subject, excluded from the latters autarchic project,
reveals the internal other, the unfit, the stranger in his own country: he
reveals, as it were, the manifold and variuos strangeness inhabiting every
community and every subjectivity. The subject never being in the position of
coinciding with himself in a situation of perfect possession, this
insuppressible internal otherness on the one hand undermines the
autonomous consistency claimed by the subject, while, on the other,
actually by virtue of this constitutive destabilizationit is the concealed root
of the possibility of his relationship with the external other. Out of it stems
the reaction against an introversion that otherwise would provoke
catastrophic consequences. But the problem is: how does this unavoidable
opening to the other take place? As a process of integration exclusively
aiming at the stronger subjects interests, or as the necessary way binding the
poles of the relationship to respect themselves as such? This, in fact, involves
each of us: the necessity to recognize in the others difference the destiny that
compels each of us to come out of ourselves in order to find our own
difference. There, come! the poet urges, lets look at the open, lets search
for what is ours, however far it is (So komm! Da wir das Offene schauen, /



Da ein Eigenes wir suchen, so weit es auch ist). Hlderlin knew about the
difficulty of ones ownhe knew that ones own is never given, but is to be
searched foras he had deeply felt the need for the foreign. Ones own,
however, must be learnt, not less, as much as the foreign (Aber das Eigene
mu so gut gelernt sein wie das Fremde). The following are the concluding
lines of his elegy: One thing stands firm: whether it be at midday or it
reaches / until midnight, always there is a measure, / common to all, yet
assigned to each, / towards it each one proceeds and arrives, as far as he


F. Hlderlin, Brot und Wein, III. strophe. Cf. the last verses in the German
text: Fest bleibt Eins: es sei um Mittag oder es gehe/Bis in die Mitternacht, immer
besteht ein Ma,/Allen gemein, doch jeglichem beschieden,/Dahin gehet und kommt
jeder, wohin er es kann. The other quotation comes from the letter to Casimir Ulrich
Bhlendorff, Nrtingen, 4 December 1801.

The Human Sciences and Historicality:
Heidegger and the Self-positioning
of the Western Humanistic Tradition

KWAN Tze-wan
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

I. Manifoldness of the Idea of the Human Sciences in the West

In the Western academic world, the making of the notion of the
human sciences has gone through a long and intricate path. As far as
terminology is concerned, there were debates as to what would be the most
suitable designation for the broad but vague field of humanistic studies. In
English, there are notions such as liberal arts, humanities, social sciences,
human sciences etc. In German, besides the central notion of Geisteswissenschaft, other terms such as Kulturwissenschaft 1 or Geschichtswissenschaft have been used. Recently, even the ambiguous term
Humanwissenschaft2 is being considered.
If we go through these terms quickly, we see that key notions such as
art/arts, spirit/mind, culture, society, history and human/man etc. are involved.
Given the semantic diversity of these terms, we come upon the important
question: How can we possibly argue that these terms are referring to the
same thing? From the outset let us note that, being so diverse in meaning, the
above notions have been raised only to be put overagainst the one counternotion of natural sciences, so that the essence of the human sciences can
be singled out through a comparison with or a demarcation from the former.
This shows that the exemplary notion of the natural sciences with their
exactitude remained a great challenge for the human sciences. And the fact
that scholars of the humanities fail to agree upon a common banner is a clear
indication that the path for the humanities to find self-identity was a tough
and insecure one. The manifoldness of the idea of the human sciences
See Ernst Cassirer, Zur Logik der Kulturwissenschaften, 2. Unvernderte
Auflage (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1961).
The concept of Humanwissenschaft is definitely much less popular than
Geisteswissenschaft in German, and is used mostly in a biological sense. However,
there are indications showing that the term can now be used to mean the human
sciences. See Gunter Gebauer et al., Historische Anthropologie. Zum Problem der
Humanwissenschaften heute oder Versuche einer Neubegrndung (Reinbeck bei
Hamburg: Rowohlts, 1989).

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 31-55.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



documented thus the various attempts of the humanities for a better selfunderstanding.
From the multitude of key terms related to humanities study, can a
crucial, pivotal meaning be discovered? The concept of analogy as discussed
since the day of Aristotle seems to be able to give us an answer. According to
the principle of analogy (that of the analogy of attribution, to be precise),
when a group of terms with various meanings all proclaim to be predicate of
a certain phenomenon or concept, then, very often, one of these terms may be
playing the role of an analogon, i.e. having a pivotal meaning in the midst
of all the other terms, which are then its analogates. The meaning of the
analogon is pivotal in the sense that out of its basic meaning, the meanings or
usage of the other terms (analogates) could be sensibly derived or explained.3
This seemingly complicated relationship can be made very clear by the
classical example of the word healthy.4
Following this line of thought, it should be clear that out of the notions
arts, social, Geistes-, Kultur-, human etc., it is the notion
human/man that is the most pivotal one. This is so because it is from the
notion of man alone that the usage of the rest can be effectively justified.
To put it in another way, only by understanding the humanistic disciplines as
a science of man can we explain why under circumstances notions such as
society, culture, mind, history etc. are involved.
In Western history, conceptual distinctions such as that of FSIWNMOIand FSIW-POHSIW in Greek antiquity or that of Natur-Geist or NaturKultur in the modern era have played an important role in the formation of
Western intellectual thinking. Looking closer at these distinctions, it turns out
very clearly that for all of the four dichotomies mentioned, nature was
always on the one pole, while on the other pole different terms were used,
which in turn are not totally disparate in meaning. For they must all be
conceived in relation to the central notion of man as such before their
contradistinction to nature can make sense. For example, NMOI in the sense
of conventional means actually agreed by man; POHSIW meaning artifact
or art is literally man-made. The fact that we cannot talk about Geist and
Kultur without referring to man or human being is very clear. With all
the above reflections, the term human sciences does turn out arguably to be
the most suitable designation. As there is still no general consensus as to the
use of the term human sciences, it seems that we have to tolerate other
designations as cited earlier, as long as we know that it is the problem of
man which is the central notion of the humanistic disciplines. Furthermore,
given the vagueness and broadness of the human sciences, each of these other
terms often carries with it a special emphasis or perspective, which would be
too much a waste to be abandoned altogether. For example, the term
Geisteswissenschaft, by far still the most widely used notation for the human
sciences in Germany, is so much preferred, since the term Geist still

See Thomas de Vio (Cardinal Cajetan), The distinction of the analogon from
the analogates, in The Analogy of Names, Chapter 4 (Pittsburgh: Duquesne
University, 1959), 30ff.
Aristotle, Met. (2, 1003a35-b4.



exhibits the mystical charm central to both the Hegelian philosophy and
Another thing special about the German term Geisteswissenschaft is
that unlike English designations such as humanities and the arts etc., the
term Geisteswissenschaft places itself in a much firmer position against the
term Naturwissenschaft through its intrinsic claim for Wissenschaftlichkeit.
In fact, since the time of Kant, Wissenschaft has never been monopolized by
natural science alone, as is the case for the term science in English. For
Kant, Wissenschaft means simply a well-organized discipline of knowledge.5
At a German University, Religionwissenschaft, Literaturwissenschaft,
Sprachwissenschaft etc. are regarded as scholarly disciplines.
Besides just being a matter of terminology, the contradistinction
between Natur- and Geisteswissenschaft shows that scholars of the human
sciences have been self-conscious of the need to safeguard the integrity of
their own disciplines. Obviously, Geisteswissenschaften do differ from
natural sciences in many respects, of which exactitude is one. Humanities
scholars know this very well. It is for this reason that generations of
humanities scholars have been in search of a better way to understand the
nature, scope and methods of their own disciplines. The discussion of history
as focused in this paper is an important example.

II. The Human Sciences under the Shadow of the Natural Sciences
In the long history of Western philosophy, philosophy has maintained
an intricate relationship with both mathematics and the natural sciences. In
Greek antiquity, philosophy, mathematics and natural sciences were still not
clearly enough differentiated from each other. They were for Western man
nothing but different means of discerning the mystery of being. In fact many
Greek philosophers did lay their fingers upon mathematical and natural
scientific doctrines, although in a way different from what we expect them to
be nowadays. Thales, the Pythagoreans, Empedocles, Plato and Aristotle
were all good examples.
In the modern age, when the boundaries between philosophy with
mathematics and natural science have taken shape, the intricate relationship
between these disciplines still continued. In the first place, natural science
gradually shed its somewhat philosophical mantel, which has accompanied it
since the days of Aristotle. In the second, the bond between natural science
and mathematics became closer, bringing benefits for both. Whereas natural
science acquired through mathematics a high degree of rigorousness, the
application of mathematics on natural scientific phenomena allowed the
potentials of the former to be fully liberated. Their union gave rise to great
physicists like Galilei, Kepler and Newton. Western philosophy on its part,
having just cleansed off its bad name as the handmaid of theology, showed
a zealous anxiety to catch up with its pre-Christian allies. In modern Western

The term Wissenschaft used in this sense can be traced back to Kant. See
Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft. 68. Hrsg. von Karl Vorlnder (Hamburg:
Felix Meiner, 1968), 245.



philosophy, the regard for and interest in mathematics and the natural
sciences were unmistakable, especially in continental rationalism.6
However, this preference of modern philosophy for mathematics and
the natural sciences is for Heidegger a trait to be deplored, for it signals
nothing but a lack of confidence of philosophy in its own objectives and
methods. Heidegger depicted the subjectivistic tradition since Descartes as a
mathematical system of reason, which was precisely the result of the
imitation of mathematics. By replacing the axioms (literally the adorable)
in mathematics with a renewed concept of the subject (as human), says
Heidegger, the modern West discovered for itself a new philosophical
foundation. For Heidegger, the subsequent development of the objective
sciences was nothing but the hallmark of the dominance of the human
subject as observer. Heidegger also suggested that this new development of
subjectivity toppled the originally much balanced relationship between man
and nature. For Heidegger it is the extravagance and aggression inherent in
this new development that has amounted to the deification (Vergttlichung)
of man, and consequently to the so-called modernity crisis, which is so
much talked about nowadays.
In spite of the insight shown in Heideggers interpretation of the
modern theory of subjectivity, I very much doubt if the discovery of the self
by modern West is really so deplorable. In another occasion,7 I have argued
that an increased awareness of the self does not necessarily have to end up in
cultural aggressiveness as suggested by Heidegger. Within the Western
tradition itself, we see that self-awareness can be mediated by respect for and
devotion to others, as is the case in the personalistic tradition. In Chinese and
other Eastern philosophies, awareness of the self can even bring about a
firmer sense of duty, a deeper level of self-reflection, a more contended and
unimpeded personality, increased tolerance for others, readiness for selfsacrifice, and even the wisdom of self-detachment and self-denial. In a sense,
subjectivity theory by itself is rather neutral, and can lead to different
consequences. What really matters is how we are making use of the increased
But Heidegger might still have his point if we limit our discussion to a
narrower concept of the theory of subjectivity. In German Idealism and
particularly in Hegel, the self-confidence of Western philosophy reached a
new climax with an all-inclusive system built on an overlapping subjectivity.
In the eyes of Heidegger, Hegels system was nothing but subjectivity

Besides being very keen in mathematics, Descartes showed great interest in

natural scientific researches such as anatomy, blood circulation, astronomy etc. The
fact that Spinozas Ethics was written in mathematical format is well known. Leibniz
was one of the founders of binary mathematics and calculus, and was also much
involved in scientific and technological researches.
I am referring to my paper
(Kant and Phenomenology: Some Reflections on the Philosophy of
Subjectivity), presented in the Sixth Conference of the Society of Chinese
Phenomenology, Beijing, October 16-19, 1999. Published in
(Zhongguo Xianxiangxue yu Zhexue Pinglun or Chinese Phenomenology and
Philosophical Critique) 4 (2001):141184.



infinitely self-transcended. Besides criticizing subjectivity theory in general,

Heidegger was particularly critical of Hegel. In fact he reprimanded Hegel
for having developed an onto-theo-ego-logie, 8 an epithet he coined to
characterize Hegels subjectivistic yet theistic system.
If we look back on Kant, the situation was a rather different one. With
the publication of the three Critiques, Kant drew a balance sheet for nearly all
major philosophical problems hitherto discussed. The Kantian system can
also be regarded as a subjective one as it seems to be revolving around the
question of human activities as pivotal phenomena. But given this
unmistakable tendency toward a theory of subjectivity, Kantian philosophy
on the whole seems to distinguish itself from the rest of the modern
subjectivistic tradition to the extent that Kant remained mindful of the human
finitude and has been very careful about not transgressing its limits. It is for
this reason that Kant should be accorded a special position in the history of
modern subjectivity philosophy, and thus be exempted from the Heideggerian
critique as described above.
In Kant we see clearly that the theory of subjectivity, even within the
Western philosophical tradition, can take utterly different shapes. However,
in regard to the mission of laying out a solid foundation for the human
sciences, Kant obviously is still unable to free himself from the enormous
influence of mathematics and the natural sciences. As far as foundation issues
are concerned, Kant has put much more emphasis on mathematics and the
natural sciences than on the human sciences, and this was later very much
criticized by his epigones such as Windelband.
As with the theory of categories, Kant has also been criticized by
Dilthey for having expounded a theory which is suitable only for the
cognition and explanation of external, natural phenomena, but not of much
use for handling aspects of the phenomenon of life itself.9 Dilthey once even
made a remark as sarcastic as No real blood runs in the veins of the knowing
subject that Locke, Hume and Kant constructed. 10 Consequently, Dilthey
found himself obliged to propose, in addition to Kants three Critiques, the
new program of a Critique of Historical Reason, and to make room for the
discussion of the categories of life.11
In one word, with the advent of modernity, the humanities in general
and philosophy in particular were all under the stark and overwhelming
influence of mathematics and the natural sciences. As a result of this,
Western philosophy directed its energy and attention much more toward the
outside world than to the inwardness of life and to the phenomenon of man
itself. From the end of the nineteenth century to the first two decades of the

Martin Heidegger, Hegels Phnomenologie des Geistes (Frankfurt:

Klostermann, 1980), 183.
In this regard, Dilthey is obviously not very satisfied with the categories of
freedom expounded by Kant in his Kritik der praktischen Vernunft.
Wilhelm Dilthey, Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften, Gesammelte
Schriften, Band-I, xvii; See also Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode (Tbingen: Mohr,
1965), 232.
Wilhelm Dilthey, Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften (Stuttgart: Suhrkamp, 1970), 235237, 281ff.



twentieth, this one-sidedness of modern philosophy finally alerted a number

of Western scholars to come up with a rethinking of the nature, idiosyncrasies
and tasks of the human sciences. In this new front, the voices of Dilthey,
Windelband and Heidegger have been the most important.

III. Windelband on the Theoretical Foundations of

Windelband was academically acclaimed mainly for two reasons.
Firstly, he was a representative of the South-Western branch of NeoKantianism. Secondly, he advocated the notion of Problemgeschichte as a
new way of treating the history of philosophy. It is less well-known, however,
that Windelband was among the earliest European scholars to reflect
seriously upon the nature of the humanities in comparison to the natural
sciences. This part of his work has proved to have lasting influence upon a
whole generation of philosophers after him. On occasion of his Strasbourg
rectorship in 1894, Windelband delivered an important inaugural lecture
bearing the title History and the Natural Science.12
From todays point of view it might appear strange why Windelband
singled out the discipline of history alone to be compared with the whole
front of the natural sciences. For this I can think of three reasons. First, we
should bear in mind that in the aftermath of Hegel and Darwin, the nineteenth
century could be called a Century of History. 13 Second, Windelband
seemed to be quite unhappy with the status Kant has ascribed to history. And
third, he seemed to be not satisfied either with the term Geisteswissenschaft,
which has become so common. For it is in history, if correctly reinterpreted,
that Windelband seems to have discovered the most important trait of what
we nowadays call the human sciencesthe direct reference to life as a
cultural endeavor of human beings. Disregarding many complicated and
debatable issues in Windelbands time, we will summarize this lecture in the
following points to prepare ourselves for our subsequent discussion of
Heidegger and historicality.
In Windelbands day, the distinction between Naturwissenschaft and
Geisteswissenschaft was already very popular. However, Windelband was of
the opinion that this distinction was a mere ontological or substantive
dichotomy, which he found increasingly vulnerable from the theoretical
point of view. While being unable to explain the nature and methods of the
respective disciplines, the boundary of such a distinction has also become
blurred since the emergence of new disciplines like psychology. Windelband
therefore proposed a methodological dichotomy which he thought would
serve the purpose better. He divided empirical sciences into the nomothetic

See Wilhelm Windelband, Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft, in Prludien,

Band 2 (Tbingen: Mohr, 1924), 136160. For the English translation of the lecture,
see History and Natural Science, History and Theory 19, trans. Guy Oakes (1980),
165185. For comparison, see also Windelbands last lecture: Geschichtsphilosophie
(Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1916).
See Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, The Discovery of Time (London:
The Scientific Book Club, 1965), 232.



and the idiographic, the former seeking the general in the form of laws of
nature, the latter the particular in the form of historically defined structure.
Whereas the nomothetic disciplines concern the universal and what is
invariably the case (was immer ist), idiographic disciplines treat of what was
particular, or what was once the case (was einmal war), i.e. historical facts
and processes. Nomothetic is literally positing the laws, and idiographic
picturing the character. Sciences built upon such principles can be called
Gesetzeswissenschaft and Ereigniswissenschaft respectively.14
The nomothetic and the idiographic, or natural science and history,
being utterly different in methods and objectives, are mutually irreplaceable.
However, the relation between these two sciences, and these two methods, is
not totally antagonistic. Quite on the contrary, they complement each other.
When we come across a certain event, we can understand it from both aspects,
for they reveal to us two kinds of cause, the timeless necessity of the nature
of things on the one hand, and the historically specific antecedent of the event
on the other. 15 By the same token, we see that in the handling of life
situations, applying the two methods interchangeably will help us understand
both the impersonal, universal nature of things and the personal, contingent
state of affairs, allowing us thus to have better judgment of our real situations.
Windelband also pointed out that Western logic and epistemology have
focused mainly on natural science and mathematics. As far as logic is
concerned, Windelband complained that since the days of Aristotle nearly all
examples in logic textbooks were taken from mathematics and natural
science. As with epistemology, nearly all methodological devices
(instruments, experimentation, probability etc.) are addressing the needs of
the nomothetic natural sciences alone. In face of such prejudices, Windelband
declared that the idiographic historical disciplines should develop their own
logic and methodological devices to cope with their specific needs.16
Windelband put forward the idea: man is an historical animal. Being
culturally engaged, man will not find himself at ease with a broken
connection to his past, but is destined to find historical connection to his own
root. In this regard, so said Windelband, the human race is obliged to carry
the immense school bag of history. It is for this reason that an improved
methodological approach to history has become an extremely urgent task.17
History aims indeed at the particular, but not the particular that is in
total isolation. For Windelband, the particular in history has to be related to
some general concern in a broader context in order to be enlivened with
meaning.18 But this correlation and incorporation can never be achieved with
a chronology, as is often considered the main task of history. The kinds of
relatedness important for historical facts are TLOW, significance, and value.19

See Windelband, Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft, op. cit., 145.

Ibid., 156.
Ibid., 149150.
Ibid., 1523.
Ibid., 1534.
For further explanation, see George Iggers, The German Conception of
History. The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present
(Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1968/1983), 147152.



For Windelband, although the historical fact itself is non-derivable from any
general principle, it should however be something significant from which
something general can be learned, and for this reason, it should have
universal meaning.20 But the problem is, where exactly does the universal
meaning of historical facts lie? In reply to this difficult question Windelband
thoughtfully reminds his readership of Leibniz distinction between vrits de
fait and vrits ternelles, as well as Spinozas distinction between the finite
and infinite standpoints. His basic position is that particularity of history is
independent of but compatible with universality of the laws of nature.
But according to my own judgment, instead of having fully answered
the above question, Windelband has rather exposed the impasse the problem
of history is facing. On the one hand, historical research inevitably has to
presuppose meaning and purpose, but for the human intellect, this meaning
and purpose are never intellectually clear-cut and objectively available. On
the other hand, giving up the search for such meaning and purpose would be
totally devastating for the human mind and thus against its intellectual
interest. Should we thus follow Leibniz and be content with ascribing
meaning and purpose to Divine will and providence? Or should we follow
Spinoza by making the contemplative acceptance of Divine necessity the
final purpose of our own historical existence? Or should we rather leave the
question open?
By putting history against natural science, what Windelband has in
mind is obviously not the discipline of history as such, but what we now call
the human sciences. His emphasis of history is nothing but a renewed attempt
of the West to redefine the human sciences, by highlighting the historical
aspect in them. But have we not clarified at the outset that out of the many
notions used to depict the human sciences, it is the notion man which has a
central pivotal meaning, thus justifying why the human sciences should
really be so called? Windelbands emphasis of history is no doubt instructive,
but whether the notion history can replace the notion of man is
questionable, unless we manage to look deeper into the notion of history
and discover in it an original and inherent relation to the notion of man. This
was exactly what Dilthey has done, but the real breakthrough was again in
Heidegger. For Heidegger, the problem of history has to be transformed into
one of historicality, the true bearer of which is no longer historical facts, but
man himself with all his peculiar ontological/existential characters, of which
historicality is the crucial one.

IV. Heidegger on History and Historicality of Human

As expounded above, humanities in the West (including philosophy)
were overshadowed by the natural sciences. After the turn of the twentieth
century, owing to the sudden boom of natural scientific research, the pressure
felt by the humanities became ever higher. Orientation of the humanities
Cf. Aristotles position that tragic poetry, dealing with particular action of
the protagonist, is but capable of exerting a universal appeal in the minds of the
audience. Poetics, Bk.9, 1451a37b8.



towards the natural sciences became a scenario not uncommon. But the most
disturbing thing was that, in face of such overwhelming influences, many
scholars of the humanities became attuned to the natural sciences without
themselves being aware of it. To exemplify this, we can choose the marathon
debate between Cassirer and Heidegger, taking place in the small Swiss town
of Davos in the year 1929, as a classical example.
The Davos disputation touched upon many problems that concerned
both Cassirer and Heidegger. When talking about the relation between the
humanities and the natural sciences Cassirer first of all clarified that
mathematics and the natural sciences, put together, constitute by no means
human knowledge in its entirety, and can therefore never replace the
humanities. However, Cassirer immediately added that, being in possession
of a higher degree of rigorousness, mathematics and natural science could
provide an ideal paradigm for the improvement of the humanities. It was at
this point that Heidegger started his strong rebuttal of Cassirers position.
Heidegger took a very strong stance and maintained that the humanities
should not imitate the methods of the natural sciences at all. He said despite
the unmistakable rigorousness demonstrated by natural science, any attempt
of the humanities to mimic such exactitude is just like putting the humanities
on Procrustean beds. Such maneuver not only will not help solve the many
problems of human existence, but will even place the humanities in the
dilemma of Scylla and Charibdis.21
If we look backward in time, we should see that Heidegger was
actually very consistent in his attitude. For Heidegger, humanities of the West
have been burdened since the advent of the modern age by a certain sense of
inferiority because they think they lack rigorousness. But on this point
Heideggers attitude is totally different from that of Cassirer. Heidegger often
told his friends and students that Physics is not more rigorous (strenger)
than history, but only narrower (enger).22 In Sein und Zeit, he repeated this
dictum in a slightly different manner: Mathematics is not more rigorous than
historiology, but only narrower, because the existential foundations relevant
for it lie within a narrower range.23
This position of Heidegger was no doubt a very remarkable one among
the philosophy circle of his days. What he meant was that rigorousness is
indeed a great advantage of mathematics and the natural sciences, but this
advantage indeed has its price, namely, their confinement upon a muchlimited domain of natural or technical objectivity. With respect to the various
existential situations confronted by man, they indeed appear too narrow.

The protocol of the disputation at Davos was prepared by O-F. Bollnow and
Joachim Ritter, and is now included as appendix (Anhang) to Heideggers Kant und
das Problem der Metaphysik. 4. erweiterte Auflage (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann,
This was reported by Oskar Becker, a fellow phenomenologist and another
assistant to Husserl. The dictum in German was: Die Physik ist nicht strenger als die
Geschichte, sondern nur enger.
Mathematik ist nicht strenger als Historie, sondern nur enger hinsichtlich
des Umkreises der fr sie relevanten existenzialen Fundamente. See Heidegger, Sein
und Zeit. Op. cit., 153.



Naturally, one can argue that mathematics and natural science can remain
content with their own scope and do not mind being confined. This is
certainly true. In fact mathematics and natural science can maintain their
rigorousness precisely because they can afford to narrow themselves down to
a more well-defined scope of interest. On the contrary, for humanistic
disciplines like history and philosophy, as far as they have to shoulder the
non-technical, but existential bewilderment of human existence, this kind of
rigorousness enjoyed by natural science is precisely not what they need to, or
can afford to possess.
By singling out history (Geschichte as well as Historie) and allowing it
to be juxtaposed with mathematics and the natural sciences, Heidegger is
obviously trying to take issue with the other camp in a way reminiscent of
Windelband. This very maneuver documented once again how hard Western
humanities scholars have been trying to position themselves through a selfdemarcation from mathematics and natural sciences. Yet what did Heidegger
himself understand under the notion of history? In what way does history
have to do with the existential foundations? How can this notion of history
contribute to a deeper understanding of the humanities on the one hand, and
be able to fit into Heideggers own philosophical program on the other? In
the following, I will raise a few points to have things clarified.

A. The Root Meaning of HistoryHistoricality

The concept of history
embraces within itself since
antiquity a certain ambiguity in
meaning. It can mean the
writing about things that
happened in the past, or it can
mean the very process these
things have gone through. Take
The decline and fall of the
Roman Empire as an example.
Besides referring to the
historical masterpiece written by Gibbon, this expression can also refer to the
whole process of change triggered by the Vlkerwanderung Rome witnessed
from the second century AD onward until the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
In Chinese, the original word for history, shi ( ), tends to suggest the first
meaning, for the ancient form of shi is a hand holding a bamboo tablet used
to write records on. 24 In modern Chinese, the character shi is usually

The archaic meaning of the character shi ( ) has been extremely

controversial. While traditional masters from XU Shen () of the first century AD
to scholars of the late Qing Dynasty (eg. WU Dacheng [] and WANG Guowei
[]) favoured the interpretation of as the taking of historical records, more
and more contemporary scholars (eg. CHEN Mengjia [] and XU Zhongshu [
]) challenged this view and proposed that , being the same word as in
antiquity, should originally mean mans hunting activity using a certain wand-like



conjoined with li () to form the disyllabic expression lishi (). And

it is in this other character that the second of the above two meanings is
implied, for li in its archaic written form is represented by a foot strolling
over a paddy field. The distinction between these two meanings is important
since the common emphasis of the first meaning might cover up the
theoretical issue that the writing of history (Geschichtsschreibung in German)
has to presuppose the past events to be described. In English, we have only
one word, history, but in German, we can choose between the two terms
Historie and Geschichte, just in case a distinction has to be made. In fact,
German scholars like Droysen, Nietzsche and Bultmann were all aware of the
significance of such a distinction.25
Despite the importance of history as a problem, it is still not the most
central one in Heideggers thought. At least, for Heidegger the problem of
history can never be self-sufficiently formulated apart from more
fundamental issues as that of Sein, Dasein, Wahrheit or Ereignis etc.
If I am allowed to deconstruct Heideggers thought, I would simply point out
that Heideggers lifework is nothing but to ask how we, as human kind and as
individuals, are to position ourselves in the midst of the unfathomable world
occurrences so as to decide what attitudes to adopt or what actions to take.
All other problems, including that of history and historicality, have to be
related to this basic quest in order not to become too subtle and detached
from the basic concern of philosophy. Following this guideline, we at last
come to the main point of our inquiry today: For Heidegger, the question of
history can be raised because man is in possession of historicality
(Geschichtlichkeit), and historicality belongs to the existential structure of
man, or in short, to human nature as such.

instrument. Given this new and creditable interpretation of the original meaning of
, we can still maintain that taking of historical records is at least a derivative
meaning, which by all means has developed into the subsequently predominant
meaning of the character. For a summary of controversies related to this issue, see
( YU Xingwu) edited,(Jiagu Wenzi Gulin, or An Anthology of
Interpretations on the Oracle Scripts), Vol. 4 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1996), 29472961.
The samples of oracle and bronze scripts of the two characters and as
shown in the diagram are taken from the following collections: 1. (XU
Zhongshu) edited, (Jiaguwen Zidian, or A Dictionary of Oracle
Scripts) (Chengdu: Sichuan Press, 1998); 2. (YONG Geng) edited,
(Jinwen Bian, or A Collection of Bronze Incriptions); and 3. (ZHOU Fagao)
edited in collaboration with (ZHANG Risheng), (XU Zhiyi) and
(LIN Jieming), (Jinwen Gulin, or An Etymological Dictionary of
Ancient Chinese Bronze Inscriptions) (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1974
For this topic, see 1) Max Mller, Historie und Geschichte im Denken
Gustav Droysens, in Speculum Historiale. Geschichte im Spiegel von
Geschichtsschreibung und Geschichtsdeutung, ed. Clemens Bauer, Laetitia Boehm
and Max Mller (Freiburg i. Br.: Alber, 1965), 694702; and 2) Gisbert Greshake,
Historie wird Geschichte. Bedeutung und Sinn der Unterscheidung von Historie und
Geschichte in der Theologie R. Bultmanns (Essen: Ludgerus, 1963).



With this clarification, we should be able to understand how the two

meanings of history could engender and be correlated. We have pointed out
that history in the sense of Geschichtsschreibung can only make sense if
there were past occurrences out there for us to write about. Now after
singling out the notion of historicality as the root of history, we can further
clarify that the reason why we at all care about things of the past and write
about them is because we have historicality in us.

B. Historicality and Temporality

Looking at a piece of human history like the decline and fall of the
Roman Empire, even the layman will find no difficulty in saying that related
events can be lined up in a temporal or chronological order. For these
events are considered to be encapsulated in time, in which such events
happened or stretched from one phase to another. Whereas the layman
would ascribe these characteristics of history to the objective states of affairs,
it is Heideggers view that such characteristics are rooted rather in the
existential structure of man. Characteristics in this sense include
temporality (Zeitlichkeit), happening (Geschehen) and stretchedness
(Erstreckung, Erstrecktheit)26 etc., and temporality is the most fundamental
The problem of time is even more abstract than that of history.
Have we not heard enough complaints since Saint Augustine, about time
being too obscure a topic for human understanding? According to Kant, there
are three major conceptions of time: 1) In Newtonian physics, time is a
quantifiable and measurable entity; it constitutes with mass and space the
three irreplaceable real entities. 2) In Leibnizian metaphysics, time becomes
pertinent to the relation between monads. Although not itself a real entity,
time is managed by Divine providence. 3) In Kants own view, original
time can not be a real entity or relation. On the contrary, time in the above
two senses can only be so conceived since mans sensible intuition is so
constituted that it only works under the formal conditions of time (and space).
For Kant, time is the form of human intuition. These three stages of the
Western understanding of time are characterized by LAO Sze-kwang in a
pregnant manner: Whereas time is for Newton a substantive, it is for Leibniz
an adjective and for Kant an adverb.27 Following this line of thought, the true
theoretical status of Heideggers notion of temporality comes readily to the
foreground. For Heidegger, time in the most original sense is the activity of
man itself. Therefore, besides the concept of temporality, he also speaks of
temporalizing (zeitigen) or temporalization (Zeitigung). Linking up with
Professor Laos differentiation, we can remark that Heidegger did make a
step further than Kant by rendering time a verb. For Heidegger, man is born
to care about things that environ him, and the very intention or awareness of
See Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 371; Grundprobleme der Phnomenologie,
Gesamtausgabe, Band 24 (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1976), 343f, 382.
See (LAO Sze-kwang), (Kandde Zhishilun
Yaoyi or Essentials of Kants Theory of Knowledge), ed. (KWAN Tze-wan)
(Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2001).



care (cura) must be unfolded through temporalization. All life situations man
encounters, all world-spheres man opens up are nothing but a result of this
very process of temporalization. In Sein und Zeit, this involves further
terminological distinctions such as that between ecstase and horizontal
schema, and between authenticity and inauthenticity etc., problems which can
not be further embarked upon in this essay.28
Having clarified the relation between time, temporality and
temporalization, we see why Heideggers problem of history is resolved into
one of historicality. In fact we can immediately point out that, just as
temporality as existential leads to temporalize as existential action,
historicality (Geschichtlichkeit) in Heidegger also leads to Geschehen, which
means usually happening, but correctly rendered as historizing in the
Macquarrie-Robinson translation. The fact that this notion is a verbal noun
like Zeitigen/Zeitigung indicates clearly that, for Heidegger, the primordial
roots of history lies in mans existential caring activity, stretched along a
temporal dimension allowing circumstances, events and vicissitudes of all
sorts to come under mans attention.29 All this can best be expressed with
Heideggers own characterization of man as the subject of events
(Subjekt der Ereignisse).30
In a word, historicality is a close parallel of temporality, and can be
considered a more concrete working out (konkretere Ausarbeitung)31 of the
latter, which often appears too high-sounding and abstract. In the context of
life situations, personal as well as social, historicality turns out to be of much
higher relevance.
In fact, with Windelbands dictum man is an historical animal or
Diltheys notion of man as historical being (geschichtliches Wesen), 32 a
tradition of tracing the root of history back upon man himself was already
taking shape. But Heideggers thought on historicality and historizing
touches upon something even more profound: by tracing the meaning of
history back to historicality, he does not mean that this historicality can be
found in the study of history. What he does mean is that mans thought,
understanding, action, in short his whole existence is infiltrated with it.
Heidegger has made this point very clear in his Grundprobleme der
Phnomenologie, Understanding as the Daseins self-projection is the
Daseins fundamental mode of historizing. As we may also say, it is the


See the authors account in 1.

(On Historical ConsciousnessPreface to The Earlier Works of LAO Sze-kwang),
now included in (Cong Zhezue de Guandian Kan or From a
Philosophical Point of View) (Taipei: Dongda, 1995), 7394; and 2.
(Heidegger on the dictatorship of the they and
existential solipsism), (Legein Bulletin) 6 (1991): 113164.
For the notion of historizing, see Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 19, 371f, 384ff.
Ibid., 379.
Ibid., 382.
Wilhelm Dilthey, Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften (Stuttgart: Suhrkamp, 1970), 347.



authentic meaning of action. It is by understanding that the Daseins

historizing is characterizedits historicality.33
In the review of Jaspers new book around 1920, Heidegger pointed out
that mans life experiences can not be adequately handled with Husserls
theory of intentionality, because life experiences are in the last analysis not
objective, but historical through and through. And even as a historical
phenomenon, life should be understood not as an objective-historical
(objektgeschichtliches), i.e. as an object for historical study, but as an
actualization-historical (vollzugsgeschichtliches) 34 phenomenon. Here, in
contrast to what is represented by knowledge or observation, actualization
is a key term Heidegger used to characterize the actual realm of mans
concern and involvement in his life-world. In this way, Heidegger again
meticulously related the phenomenon of history back upon mans existential
activity as such.

C. The Characteristics of Historical Time

At the outset we have pointed out that out of the many names of the
human sciences, it is the hidden notion of man which has played the role of
a pivotal analogon. In the above, we have demonstrated that the problem of
history is important for Heidegger not because it is a major scholarly
discipline of the humanities, but precisely because historicality, which is
historys primordial root, pertains to the very existential structure of man
In an early lecturer of the year 1916 with the title The Concept of
Time in the Historical Science,35 Heidegger embarked upon this same issue
by asking the question, how does the concept of time discussed in the
historical (i.e. human) sciences differ from that in the natural sciences?
Heidegger explains that in physics, the concept of time is mainly a means for
the measurement of movement of physical objects.36 In order to be so used,
time has to be quantifiable and measurable, and must be conceivable as a
homogenous time axis so that physical movement of all kinds may fit in.
With such physical qualities, time in physics becomes a calculable factor and
is used to form scientific laws so that movements of all kind can be
accurately predicted, as, for instance, Galileis laws of terrestrial motion. In

Heidegger, Grundprobleme der Phnomenologie, op. cit. 393. English

translation by Albert Hofstadter, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology
(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1982), 277278. Please note that while Hofstadter has
translated Geschehen as happening, I have rendered it historizing to conform with
earlier discussion. Italics are Heideggers.
See Martin Heidegger, Anmerkungen zu Karl Jaspers Psychologie der
Weltanschauungen, in Wegmarken, Gesamtausgabe Band 9, hrsg. F.W. von
Herrmann (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1976), 37. For the English translation of
this tricky concept, see Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis of Heideggers Being & Time
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 508.
See Martin Heidegger, Der Zeitbegriff in der Geschichtswissenschaft, in
Frhe Schriften, Gesamtausgabe, Band 1 (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1978), 413
This characteristic of time was first raised by Aristotle; see Physics III, 1.



contrast, Heidegger points out, the task of historical science is a totally

different one. The object of historical science is culture, which is nothing but
the objectification of the intellectual activities of man. And its goal is to lay
bare all the cultural values inherent to these activities, according to the
development they have followed and the objective influences they have
exerted. 37 With this totally different backdrop, historical studies, when
talking about time, do not emphasize the quantitative aspects of temporal
duration or order, which are by themselves value-free and disinterested for
the historian. What is emphasized is the quality or historical meaning
specific events or personalities have in the whole historical context (Stelle im
qualitativen historischen Zusammenhang).38 In other words, the time element
is incorporated into historical studies only to mark out the context of
important, valuable historical happenings. Heidegger thus maintains that
historical time always has value-relation (Wertbeziehung). 39 Heidegger
cited the example of the famine of Fulda in the year 750 AD as an example to
show that the historian can do very little about the figure 750 quantitatively.
Being a non-repeatable figure, such a historical time is used only for the
condensation or crystallization 40 of unique and important life events in
Another important step towards a thematization of the problem of
historical time, as differentiated from the natural scientific time concept, is
the distinction between XRNOW and KAIRW, a distinction already made by the
Greeks. If XRNOW is used to denote the neutral evolving of nature, than
KAIRW refers to that span of time that was segmented from the endless
XRNOW by virtue of the relation to certain meaningful events. In classical
Greek, KAIRW is related to the words for cut and judge, hence the
meaning of the right time being judged as appropriate. 41 For Aristotle,
KAIRW implies at the right time, on the right occasion, towards the right
people, for the right purpose and in the right manner.42
For Heidegger, the rediscovery of the classical Greek notion of the
right time (KAIRW) was crucial for his philosophical development. Now we
have clear evidence showing that this rediscovery took place during the early
twenties, through the Christian notion of PAROUSA and Aristotles analysis
of FRNHSIW. 43 Whether for Greek antiquity or for early Christendom, if


Heidegger, Frhe Schriften, op. cit., 426427.

Ibid., 432.
Ibid., 433.
Ibid., 431.
See the entry on KAIRWin Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon of Classical Greek,
(Network version, Perseus Project). See also Christoph Lange, Alles hat seine Zeit.
Zur Geschichte des Begriffs KAIRW, article retrieved from the World Wide Web. (September 27, 2000).
See Aristotle, Eth. Nic., 1106b21. Quoted by Kisiel, op. cit., 298.
The importance of KAIRW for Heideggers thinking was first hinted at by
Otto Pggeler as early as 1959 (see his book Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers). Now,
the lectures concerned are still only partially published. For detail analysis of the



something is to be accomplished, judgment of the right time is of the utmost

importance. For all events, no other moments can be more important than the
beginning and the end. In other words, once something is given (has begun),
how it should end up is a matter of the greatest concern. While the Christian
world laid much emphasis on eschatology, for Heidegger, this end or TLOW
of man is characterized by his very existence as being towards death (Sein
zum Tode). Once this feature of human finitude is taken into account, the
complete picture of time in life situations will undergo a drastic change.

D. Authentic Historicality and Inauthentic Historicality

The demarcation between authentic and inauthentic is for
Heidegger a conceptual distinction of utmost importance. Simply speaking,
they are the two basic modes of Daseins life actualization (Vollzug). If we
find this hard to understand, I would suggest to have this pair of concepts
replaced by another pair proposed by Heideggers contemporary
phenomenologist friend Oskar Becker. For Becker, the distinction between
authentic and inauthentic can be understood as a distinction between having
oneself (Selbsthabe) and losing oneself (Selbstvorlorenheit).44 Of course,
Heidegger talked mainly about authentic temporality and inauthentic
temporality, but as clarified above, historicality is a more concrete working
out of temporality, so we have also the question of authentic and inauthentic
For Heidegger, authentic historicality lies mainly in resoluteness
(Entschlossenheit) to assume ones duty or vocation. It is resoluteness that
reveals to man his own historical situation as well as that of his community.
By taking into account our own existential bondage and finitude (including
ones ownmost death), one should readily project into the possibilities of
ones own future and make this projection a guideline for ones action
(actualization). With future projection as an orientation, one can stretch ones
concern back and forth to retrieve from ones own past experience to help
make decision for the present, so that one knows what to do at the right
moment and in the right manner The most remarkable thing about
authentic historicality is its unmistakable sense of direction, and as a
direction for the actualization of life, authentic historicality is oriented,
paradoxically, towards the future. Heidegger made this point very clear in
Sein und Zeit: history has its essential importance neither in what is past
nor in the today and its connection with what is past, but in that authentic
historizing of existence which arises from Daseins future. As a way of Being
for Dasein, history has its roots [] essentially in the future45
Inauthentic temporality is identified by the preoccupation in the
concern (besorgen) for various everyday things, driven by curiosity but
development of this theme see the finely written account of Theodore Kisiel in The
Genesis of Heideggers Being & Time, op. cit.
Oskar Becker, Para-Existenz: Menschliches Dasein und Dawesen (1943),
in Dasein und Dawesen. Gesammelte philosophische Aufstze (Pfullingen: Neske,
1963), 89.
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 386.



without a clear sense of purpose or direction. Heidegger maintains that this

inauthentic mode of life, being unsupported by existential resolution and
dispersed (zerstreut) among arbitrary interests of the day, is most likely to
get lost in the public opinion of the They. As for the study of history
(Historie, hereafter translated as historiology), Heidegger considers it as
rooted in authentic historicality.46 But just as man proximally and for the
most part tends to fall back to inauthenticity, historiology can also get
trapped in the abundance of historical data without touching upon the
situation and destiny (Geschick) of man as a historical being. It is to this
extent that a historian can easily get lost in the stream of events commonly
known as world history (Weltgeschichte).47

E. Historicality and the Emphasis of its Modality

Modality is one of the most frequently discussed topics in the Western
philosophical tradition. Basically speaking, modality is value in the broadest
sense a proposition or judgment can acquire. From Aristotles Prior Analytics
on, three modalities of necessity, actuality and possibility have been
identified. Of these three, necessity has its foothold in theology, logic and
even mathematics, and is for this reason much emphasized. Actuality, which
provides ground for the empirical sciences, is considered equally important.
By contrast, possibility appears to be the most uncertain modality, and is
much less stressed than the other two. In Kant, all three modalities were
absorbed into the table of categories. For Kant, modality primarily has
nothing to do with the content of a judgment, but concerns how a judgment is
related to the cognitive faculty. In a word, modalities must be reckoned from
mans point of view. Kant also reiterated the Aristotelian distinction between
logical possibility and real possibility, which also cleared up some
confusing philosophical issues.
For Dilthey and for Heidegger, however, even Kants modal doctrine
proves insufficient in handling the problem of life, which is their real concern.
It is well known that Dilthey, being discontented with the traditional theory
of category, conceived the categories of life (Kategorien des Lebens) as a
new approach to the issue. Heidegger in his early years precisely adopted this
very expression of Dilthey as a starting point of his own thinking, although
thematically speaking the crucial inspiration was from Aristotles practical
philosophy. 48 In order to make room for the effective discussion of
phenomena related to life, Heidegger attempted to coin his own terminology.


Ibid., 394ff.
Ibid., 387392, especially 389. For further discussion of this tricky part of
Heideggers doctrine, please refer to Theodore Kisiels account of historicality, op.
cit., 348-353.
See Martin Heidegger, Phnomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles.
Einfhrung in die phnomenologische Forschung. Frhe Freiburger Vorlesung,
Wintersemester 1921/22, hrsg. von Walter Brcker und Kte Brcker-Oltmanns,
Gesamtausgabe, Band 61 (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1985), 84ff.



He did this first in a series of lectures on Aristotle in the early twenties,49 and
revised it repeatedly until the publication of Sein und Zeit to form the whole
kernel of terminology collectively known as existentials (Existenzialien).
The doctrine of existentials is basically a further development of the idea of
categories of life, which is nothing less than a functional parallel of the
traditional systems of category, adapted but for the problem of life.50
As we have pointed out, among the three traditional modalities,
possibility seems to be ascribed the lowest priority. But in the domain of life
phenomena, or to be more precise, in the context of the life actualization, this
situation is changed radically. In the introduction to Sein und Zeit, Heidegger
made one of the most important proclamations of his thought: Higher than
actuality stands possibility. We can understand phenomenology only by
seizing upon it as a possibility.51
In what sense exactly is possibility higher than actuality? This is a
question Heidegger takes pain to answer in the later sections of Sein und Zeit.
The crucial point is, we are no longer talking about natural scientific objects
but actualization of human life. As a modal category, the possible is that
which is not yet actual (noch nicht wirklich) or not at all necessary (nicht
jemals notwendig), in a word, it pertains to nothing but the merely possible
(nur mglich). Possibility in this sense being lower is well imaginable. But
once we treat possibility as an existential (a category of life) the whole
picture will change! To make it simple: In the actualization of our lives, the
more important thing is not what we now are, but what we can be. These are
the possibilities, or potentialities of our lives, which are finite, unique and
non-repeatable. To depict these potentially actualizable possibilities of real
life contexts, Heidegger coined a word I consider most ingenious: Seinknnen,
which can have no better translation in English than as can be.52
For Heidegger, the possibilities of natural objects, as far as they do not
concern us, are no more than possibilities in the sense of libertas
indifferentiae.53 Possibilities in our life are definitely not so. Of course there
are a lot of possibilities open to us, but they are not unlimited when our
own finitude is taken into account. And the most important thing is,
The categories of life proposed by Heidegger in this period include such
concepts as Neigung, Abstandstilgung, Abriegelung (Kategorien im Bezugssinn
desLebens); Reluzenz and Praestruktion (Bewegungskategorien); Ruinanz etc. See
Martin Heidegger, Phnomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles: Einfhrung in
die phnomenologische Forschung, Ibid.
For further discussion, see KWAN Tze-wan, The doctrine of categories and
the topology of concern: Prolegomena to an ontology of culture, in Analecta
Husserliana, Vol. 46, Logic of the Living Presence, An oriental-occidental
confrontation in phenomenology (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publ., 1995), 243
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 38.
Seinknnen has been translated by Macquarrie/Robinson as Potentiatlityfor-being. Theodore Kisiel, however, keeps the power of the word by translating it as
can-be, this being in line with the present authors earlier translation of the term in
Chinese as (keyi shi.) See Kisiel, op. cit., and KWAN Tze-wan, Heidegger
on the dictatorship of the they and existential solipsism, op. cit.
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 143144.



whenever we actualize one possibility, we at the same time give up many

others; sometimes we thought we made the right choice, but we often regret it.
All this suggests that we have to be careful about our own possibilities. Being
born with a lot of possibilities ahead, one has to reckon with them. Put in
Heideggerian terms, man is thrown in the projection of future (geworfener
Entwurf). This thrown openness to possibilities is human freedom in the
truest sense. But now the ironic thing is that it is often this freedom that man
is most afraid of. Proximally and for the most part, man would rather give up
this freedom by turning away (Abkehr) evasively,54 and by hiding oneself
behind the inauthentic realm of the They, which provides us with canniness.
If this is the case, ones life will be dominated by arbitrary actualities of the
day and there will be no more room for self-determination (Beckers
Selbsthabe). However, Heidegger maintains that there will be a call of
conscience to urge one to stop this turning away. By turning back to
(rckwenden) or turning towards (Ankehr) ones own possibility, one is
again facing his own choices. This very phenomenon of turning back to and
towards oneself Heidegger calls choosing to make this choice (Whlen der
Wahl).55 It is in this way that possibility wins over actuality. With this shift of
emphasis in modality from actuality to possibility, the emphasis of future
orientation is once again confirmed.
The problem of orientation towards the future is in fact not a totally
new issue. First of all this idea is quite popular among historians. In
philosophy, it can arguably be traced back to St. Augustine. In the Modern
West, philosophers like Nietzsche, Ernst Troeltsch, Meinecke etc. all share
this view to some extent. 56 In Heidegger, although the idea of future
orientation concerns mainly mans life situations, it seems also applicable to
historical theories and for this reason is supportive of historicism in the
broadest sense of the term.
In his book The Poverty of Historicism, Karl Popper queries if human
knowledge could make any effective judgment on the future. For Popper,
historicism can not justifiably make any future prediction. Popper remains
consistent with his position in philosophy of science by maintaining that the
only way to a better future is the continual elimination of errors (EE) in the
course of history, and this can only be done by piecemeal social
engineering.57 This attitude is of course contrary to that of Heidegger. I can
not help agreeing with this view of Popper, which obviously provides us with
a serious and practical guideline for everyday social political practice. But if
we look at the issue from a different angle we can still retort that, without
detriment to his positive contribution, Popper errs precisely in his using
natural science as the measuring rod in treating historical knowledge. In so
doing, he seems not to understand that the humanities concern for the future
is not so much a matter of fact or actuality than a matter of possibility.
Of course no one can predict the outcomes of tomorrow accurately enough.

Ibid., 136, 190.

Ibid., 268.
See Gabriel R. Ricci, Metaphysics and History: The Individual and the
General Reconciled, in Humanitas X, no.1 (1997), WWW (September 27, 2000).
See Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (London: Ark, 1986).



But can this be used as an excuse to deprive people of the right and urge to
make plans for tomorrow? Naturally, indulgence in excessive future-tensed
thinking might become too utopian; elimination of errors is more practical.
But if we are not guided by of a vision of tomorrow, the errors of today might
even escape our attention, let alone be eliminated.
In face of this seeming dilemma, Gabriel Ricci has made a conceptual
distinction that might help clear things up. Inspired by the works of Nietzsche,
Ricci points out that when talking about the future, we have to differentiate
judgments of the future from judgments for the future, which are two
totally different things.58 In other words, we can on the one hand agree with
Popper that our current knowledge of things does not qualify us to effectively
make prediction of the future, but on the other hand we can still justifiably
make projection for the future, as long as this projection is rooted in our
very existential urge.

V. Critique of Heideggers Thought on Historicality

As we have pointed out at the outset, the Western humanistic tradition
has been looking for new ways of self-understanding and self-positioning. To
this end, Heidegger has no doubt taken an important step by founding the
human sciences (or Geschichtswissenschaft) back upon the existential
structure of mans historicality, or to be more precise, upon the actualization
of life. Heideggers thought triggered waves of deepened discussions, but
much room for further debate is still left open. Putting aside other more
controversial issues, like those concerning Being and Truth etc., I will in the
following raise some queries about the very concept of historicality.
When I say Heideggers existential analysis of historicality has
deepened the understanding of the problem of life, I do not mean only a
deepening of humanistic research or academic philosophy. For Heidegger,
the understanding of the existential structure of historicality not only enables
humanities scholars to better position themselves in front of the natural
sciences. The even more important thing is that this same understanding
indeed enables each of us (bear in mind Heideggers concept of in-eachcase-mine-ness or Jemeinigkeit) to better position ourselves in our concrete
life situations. This in fact is the true teachings of authentic historicality,
which is for Heidegger the key to Selbsthabe.
It is usually stated that Heideggers distinction between authenticity
and inauthenticity should not be understood as a moral distinction. But
despite this warning, I remain always convinced that this distinction does
have important bearings for our everyday ethical concern. Of course,
Heidegger never makes ethical prescriptions. But by juxtaposing the
inauthentic with the authentic, the fall with resoluteness, the turning away
with the turning towards, Heideggers doctrine of historicality can indeed
arouse deep ethical reflection. When a reader really understands what
Heidegger means by expressions like lost in the They, fall,
resoluteness etc., and is able to relate these notions back to his ownmost


See Ricci, op. cit.



existence, the impact on him can be stronger than anything else imaginable.
At least this was my own experience After all, Heidegger not only
describes, but also prescribes. Although he does not prescribe us
concrete maxims, he at least prescribes us the choice, or the choosing
between the authentic and inauthentic.
However, by performing still deeper reflections, I find it not difficult to
think of some specific scenarios (or KAIRO) on stages of lifes way, which
can neither be regarded as lost in the inauthentic they on the one hand, nor
as commensurable to Heideggers theory of authenticity and future
orientation on the other. Consider the examples,59 (a) recreation or play
after hard work, (b) the total immersion in the solution of mathematical
problems, (c) the ecstatic experience of artistic creation, (d) a pair of lovers
looking into each others eyes in a small world of their own, or (e) griefstricken parents giving their dying child their last comforts
In all of the above situations, all activities involved have values of their
own and they all have solemn meanings. To actualize these values, they
require of us the complete dedication of our body and soul. They might be
counted as the most important moments (or OKAIRO) of our lives. But
precisely in these exemplary moments, we find the Heideggerian concern for
historicality totally untimely and irrelevant. In fact too much reckoning of
historicality and future orientation might even spoil the precious KAIRO,
and thus destroy the Ganzseinknnen of our life. In these moments, what we
really need is neither historical consciousness nor projection into the future.
What we really need might simply be: (a) play wholeheartedly, (b) complete
absorption in the world of mathematics, (c) listen only to the outpour of ones
creative impulse, (d) love romantically (not just talking about wedding
banquets or property mortgages), or (e) linger on every tender moment and
make it eternal
Among Heideggers phenomenological contemporaries, Oskar Becker
was probably the first one to point out the grave limitation of Heideggers
doctrine of historicality. Beckers criticism of Heidegger can be expressed in
one laconic word: pan-historical philosophy of melancholy (panhistorische
Philosophie der Schwermut). 60 Becker was a mathematician and physicist
turned phenomenologist. Although deeply attracted by Heideggers thought
for some time, his original training eventually urges him to raise questions.
He starts with mathematics and proposes that activities of a mathematician
have in fact little to do with historicality. Following this line of thought, he
readily claims that many other existential activities of man are also nonhistorical (nicht-historische Daseinsweise des Menschen). For example,
Becker describes natural science as a domain of selflessness
(Selbstlosigkeit), mathematics and arts as a domain of self-foreignness
(Selbstfremdheit) etc. This apparently is a challenge against the
Heideggerian bifurcation between Selbsthabe and Selbstverlorenheit. In
The examples given are randomly chosen. They are enumerated just to
render their correlated solutions to be discussed in the next paragraph more obvious.
Oskar Becker, Dasein und Dawesen. Gesammelte philosophische Aufstze
(Neske: Pfullingen, 1963), 75.



one word, the theoretical validity of historicality as the only touchstone of the
problem of human existence is very much doubted.61
If we look back into the history of philosophical thinking, we do not
need to wait until Becker for this general doubt in the universal applicability
of historicality. In fact, this query about the universal validity of history has
been raised by Nietzsche well before Heidegger was born. In the second
essay of his early work Unzeitgeme Betrachtungen, Nietzsche reflected on
the problem of history and historical consciousness. The subtitle of this essay
is On the uses and disadvantages of history for life. Looking at the title
alone, we know that something critical will follow.
In the essay, Nietzsche differentiates between three modes of history:
the monumental, the antiquarian and the critical. For Nietzsche, men,
under various circumstances, might find this or that mode of history useful
for them. For the man who acts and strives, who wants to do something
great and heroic, monumental history will cheer up his spirits. For the man
who is content with his own being, and wants nostalgically to preserve and
revere his own roots, the antiquarian mode of history would help. For the
man who suffers and seeks deliverance from extant constraints, he would
prefer critical history, which judges and condemns.62
It is remarkable, that in Sein und Zeit Heidegger himself did quote the
above sections from Nietzsches essay and discuss them at some length.63 But
while interpreting Nietzsche, what Heidegger actually did was to squeeze the
three modes of history into the three moments of his authentic historicality to
show how history can be of use, a job which obviously has not been done
skillfully or persuasively enough. But the more disappointing thing is that, in
dealing with the disadvantages (Nachteil) of history (which was unfortunately
translated as abuse by Macquarrie/Robinson), Heidegger, instead of giving
a reasonable account of the issue, just evasively suggested that this had
something to do with inauthentic historicality. By so doing, Heidegger
practically twisted Nietzsche to an extent that the latters most important
message became covered up, the message, namely, that too much history
could become a disadvantage to our life. In other words, Heidegger onesidedly emphasized the uses of history, but underplayed what worried
Nietzsche most.
For Nietzsche, knowing the uses of history and knowing its
disadvantages are equally important. That life is in need of the services of
history, however, must be grasped as firmly as must the proposition, which is
to be demonstrated later, that an excess of history is harmful to the living

So far the best exposition of Beckers work is still that written by Otto
Pggeler. See his Hermeneutische und mantische Phnomenologie, Philosophische
Rundschau 13 (1965): 139; Oskar Becker als Philosoph, Kant-Studien 60 (1969):
298311. Inspired by his work, the present author has dedicated one chapter of his
dissertation to discuss Beckers critique of Heideggers doctrine. See Die
hermeneutische Phnomenologie und das tautologische Denken Heideggers (Bonn:
Bouvier, 1982), 154168.
See Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. R.J. Hollingdale
(Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1983), 6776.
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 396397.




man. After having underlined the uses of history, Nietzsche turned around
to warn us that, the historical consciousness (historischer Sinn), when
expanded to too overwhelming an extent, will be so exhausting for man that
it will eventually become intolerable. And this warning is directed not only to
the individual, but also to the community: there is a degree of sleeplessness,
of rumination, of the historical sense, which is harmful and ultimately fatal to
the living thing, whether this living thing be a man or a people or a culture.65
For Nietzsche, an over-exploitation of historical sense will lead to a
stifling of life (berwucherung des Lebens) which he characterizes as an
illness or malady of history (historische Krankheit). After making this
diagnosis, Nietzsche does not forget to write a prescription for his posterity.
He prescribes us two antidotes, namely the unhistorical (Unhistorische)
and the suprahistorical (berhistorische). The first one is the ability of
forgetting and of enclosing oneself within a bounded horizon, and the
second the ability to transfer ones attention from historical change to realms
of knowledge or activities which aim at things that are eternal and stable, like
art and religion, and in a very dialectical sense, science as well.66
Nietzsche has apparently seen the same problem, as did Becker. But it
is lamentable that he seems himself to be afflicted by the malady of history.
We only need to note that he has taken upon his own shoulder the
revaluation of all values of the whole Western history of morality in order
to imagine how much he suffered from this illness. We do not know if he has
taken his own medicine or not. But that he at last collapsed mentally, be it
due to a stifling of life or not, is a well-known fact.
As far as mankind has to cope with situations and to face challenges, a
certain degree of historical sense is of course beneficial, or even necessary.
However, it seems to me that if historical sense is allowed to surpass or
dissolve mans other senses, problems will sooner or later arise. It is no
doubt important for man to have a projection for the future, but future
projection alone, if not accompanied by adequate knowledge of objective
states of affairs, is very likely to run aloof. In Sein und Zeit, Heidegger takes
pain to lay bare the danger of a dictatorship of the They, but he probably is
not aware of that on the other side of the same coin there lies the possibility
of a dictatorship of history, and its potential danger should not be
undermined. After all, Poppers thesis against historicism, given some
counter-balance, is not totally without ground.
Heidegger has emphasized the historicality of human existence all his
life. He even made a personal commitment to project the historical destiny
of his own nation. But the most ironic thing about Heidegger seems to lie
precisely in this personal commitment of his. I am of course referring to his
involvement with the Nazis around 1933. Since this issue has been much
debated over decades, I do not intend to take sides in accusing or defending

Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, op. cit., 67.

Nietzsche, Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie fr das Leben, in
Unzeitgeme Betrachtungen. In: Smtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe in 15
Bnden, hrsg. Giorgio Colli und Mazzino Montinari (Mnchen/Berlin: dtv/de Gruyter,
1981). Band 1, 250. Untimely Meditations, op.cit., 62.
Ibid., 330331.



Heidegger directly. Many scholars have pointed out, the grave political
mistake of the historical Heidegger was insofar understandable, as it was
made out of an ardent but honest longing for a better future. Defenders of
Heidegger often ascribe Heideggers mistake to an over-expectation of and
illusion about the spiritual essence of the Nazis, and such a mistake is,
according to them, pardonable as Heidegger very soon withdrew himself
from the whole movement after being disillusioned. I have no objection
against treating Heidegger with some sympathetic understanding. But I think
sympathizing with Heidegger is one thing, but if this sympathy is based
totally on the disillusion of the Nazi movement, then the matter is quite
another, which I find extremely dangerous.
Today, decades after the total destruction of the Nazi movement, it is of
course not a difficult task for us to point out Heideggers romantic error
and to defend him accordingly. But if the Nazis were successfully in power
until today, would we then be prepared to rehabilitate what was wrong in
Heidegger? We must understand that the judgment Heidegger has gone
wrong is a moral indignation. If we do not want to found our moral
indignation on arbitrary grounds such as political success or failure, then we
must find some other ground for it. In this connection, I am totally in line
with Karl-Otto Apels subtle critique of Heidegger. Apel accused Heidegger
for failing to do justice to scientific knowledge and to safeguard genuine
human communication. For Apel, Heidegger is merely exchanging oblivion
of being (Seinsvergessenheit) for oblivion of logos (Logosvergessenheit).67 Obviously, the price of the latter is as great as the former.68
At this point let us ask the questions: given Heideggers undeniable
virtuosity in the art of philosophizing and his contribution to philosophy, how
is it possible for him to be involved in such a grave mistake? How can the
same mistake be avoided in the future? Is Heideggers delusion for a brave
new world of the Nazis not a real life testimony of the malady of history as
depicted by Nietzsche, or of panhistorism as criticized by Becker? Of
course, the Heidegger case will not nullify the significance of historicality as
the fountainhead of humanistic values. For this is an insight, which has been
firmly established by generations of philosophical wisdom. But, how a
pleonasm of historicality could overshadow other realms of discourse and
thus lead to error, the same Heidegger case seems to have taught us a
precious lesson

VI. Concluding Remarks

From the Heidegger lesson, let us return to our announced topic on the
relation between the human sciences and the natural sciences to end up this

See among others Apels comments on a conference paper by Pggeler, in

Phenomenology: Dialogues & Bridges, eds. Ronald Bruzina and Bruce Wilshire
(Albany: SUNY Press, 1982), 99.
Thomas Sheehan represents a similar attitude. In one of his reviews he wrote:
The notions of authenticity and historicality commit Heidegger toin fact
neccessitatea kind of political sensu latiori. See his review of Wolin and
Rockmore in Ethics 103/1 (October 1992): 178181.



paper. In face of the challenges of the natural sciences and modern

technology, the human sciences of course should not feel intimidated by the
glamour of the other camp. Bluntly imitating the natural sciences without
considering the humanities own objectives and methods is suicidal, this we
should be convinced about by Windelband and Heidegger. But on the other
hand, human scientists should also refrain from indulging too much in
thinking about the peculiarity of their own disciplines to the extent that this
indulgence would turn into a one-sided belief that the human sciences alone
can constitute a self-sufficient realm of existence. As for the pretensions that
the human sciences are more primordial and all embracing etc., these are
ideas, which seem to me to be most notorious. As for the natural scientific
camp, what they eventually will think of the human sciences is a question
they themselves have to reckon with. If they think they can do without the
human sciences, they then have to bear the consequences. In face of the old
and the new challenges, the best attitude the human scientist can adopt is one
of self-esteem balanced with modesty (I am thinking of the Aristotelian
MEGALOCUXA 69 and the Spinozian equanimity 70 respectively), keeping in
sight the objectives and value of his own field on the one hand, but remaining
open to outside areas on the other. Too many thoughts about primordiality,
if unchecked, will bring about intoxication, and eventually humanistic autism,
probably a complication of the malady of history. To the last analysis, both
the natural and human sciences are intellectual gems of the human mind.
They are cultural heritage common to all men. For the human race as a whole,
they are mutually irreplaceable. For individual people, to be proficient in both
is ideal (Renaissance man!), if not too unrealistic. But it seems beyond doubt
that a balanced exposure to both of these sciences will be a blessing for being

Aristotle, Eth. Nic. 1123a34ff. Aristoteles concept of .EGALOCUXAhas

often been translated as greatness of soul, which carries the connotation of lofty
pride and self-esteem in ones own work. Though therefore in regard to the
greatness of his claim the great-souled man is an extreme, by reason of its rightness he
stands at the mean point, for he claims what he deserves; while the vain and the smallsouled err by excess and defect respectively. (Eth. Nic. 1123b8) For Aristotle, a
great-souled man who exhibits MEGALOCUXAshould also have a clear and wellbalanced knowledge (golden mean, MSOW) of what he should claim and deserves to
claim. Putting aside the ethical overtones of the term, I consider MEGALOCUXA a
good attitude the humanities can adopt in the face of the challenge of the natural
sciences. While ungrounded arrogance and over-confidence of the humanist might
amount to excess (PERBjLLOUSI), a failure to assert the humanities unique
position could lead to what Aristotle called smallness of soul (MIKROCUXA). See
relevant entries in Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon (Perseus Project). For a
more detail discussion of MEGALOCUXA, see Walther Kranz, Die griechische
Philosophie: Zugleich eine Einfhrung in die Philosophie berhaupt (Birsfelden:
Schibli-Doppler, 1955), 244.
Spinoza also advocated the state of mind of equanimity (aequo animo,
Gleichmut) overagainst the two extremes of pride (superbia, Hochmut) and
despondency (abjectio, Kleinmut). See Benedictus de Spinoza, Die Ethik.
Lateinisch und Deutsch, Pars IV, Propositio LV, LVI; Appendix, Caput XXXII
(Stuttgart: Reclam, 1980), 552, 615.

Authentic Historicality

Rice University

I. Introduction: Historical and Philosophical Understanding

We are besotted with history and the current impoverishment of
philosophy is the result. Where other ages would seek to understand things by
grasping them as Ideas in the mind of God, we look only to antecedents. We
worry not about divine judgment but about the judgment of history, as though
the meaning of our acts, obscure to us, will be clear with just a little more time.
Thinking dares nothing against what Merleau-Ponty called the weight of
history, because in the last analysis it believes that it is nothing without
history. It wishes only to trace developments, offer genealogies, tell stories.
But what else is there? History is the alchemy of timeresponsible for
everything and to no one. It seems that all things have become and that their
meaning is a function of this emergence, development, growth, and decay.
Where such phenomena are present, the historical mode of understanding is at
home. If philosophy imagines itself in possession of other resources
timeless truthslet it show just what these resources apply to. If it cannot,
let it keep silent, let it cede its mantle to the historian, the story-teller, or the
evolutionary biologist. It is said that Zeus, the immortal Olympian who laughs
at history and the foibles of men, escaped being devoured by his father Kronos,
time. But the escape was only temporary. The Titan has long since dispatched
his all-too-mortal son, leaving nothing to devour but himselfthe image of
time as the serpent swallowing its tail.
Such an image is appropriate for the stage we have achieved in the West.
The scientific rationality that displaced God as the source of ultimate norms
and the ground of truth has, as Nietzsche predicted, turned on itself in the name
of historical development to proclaim that reason is altogether historical,
product of an evolving, self-generating practice in which todays facts become
tomorrows norms. When at last the historian of science replaces the
philosopher of science everyone breathes a little easier, for thereby the last
ghost is exorcised and we stand in the noontime of sober empiricism,
naturalism, and narrative explanation without absolute foundations. What
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 57-71.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



could be wrong with that? Havent we merely aired out the last stale chamber
of old gods, swept away the last remnants of aristocratic, feudal, oppressive,
anti-democratic ages in which claims to rise above history in thought only
served to mask the messy injustices of historical reality?
I do not think that either meaning or rationality is, in its deepest essence,
a historical phenomenon, nor that we would be able to understand anything at
all if we had only historical explanations. I do not believe that philosophy
reduces to evolutionary epistemologyor to historicist hermeneuticsnor
that development, genealogy, and generativity are the quasi-foundational
phenomena they purport among us to be. Philosophy loses its way when it
forgets that it must contest history, and that it has powerful resources for doing
so. Perhaps surprisingly, one can enlist the Heidegger of Being and Time in
support of this untimely position; for, as I shall argue, his notion of authentic
historicality explains both why historical explanations are so attractive and
why they do not exhaust the resources of philosophy. To state my point in the
form of a thesis: Heideggers idea of authentic historicality is anti-historical.
The philosopher who is often credited with historicizing reason, with rejecting
the ahistorical claims of transcendental phenomenology, shows, on the
contrary, precisely how philosophy can ignore time in order to be not the
thought of its time (Hegel) but its conscience. It is just because it helps us see
that philosophical understanding is not reducible to historical understanding,
then, that Heideggers account of authentic historicality is so timely.1

II. Historicality, Historicism, and Narrative

Heidegger introduced the concept of authentic historicality in opposition
to historicismthe view that because everything takes place in time, including
the thoughts, actions, and passions of human beings, the only way to
understand the meaning and value of things is in terms of their historical
development or historical situatedness. For Heidegger, such a view collapses
the distinction between philosophical and historical understanding, with the
result that historicism cannot explain what constitutes something as historical
in the first place.2 Why not?

Perhaps this aspect of Heideggers philosophy is so frequently overlooked

because we see only its anti-Cartesianism. Because his critique of Descartes concept of
the self as substans is so important, we fail to notice that in the concept of authentic
historicality Heidegger identifies an existential structure that retrieves a significant
aspect of Cartesianism, namely, its claim that I am irreducible to my own development.
Even Dilthey, who otherwise decisively influenced Heideggers thinking about
history, was only on his way towards the question of life that is, did not fully
succeed in overcoming the defect of historicist Lebensphilosophie, namely, that life
itself as a kind of being does not become ontologically a problem. See Martin
Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York:
Harper & Row, 1962), 72 (H 46).



To identify something as historical is not simply to note its position in

time: a stone has a past but is not historical, while a suit of armor is quite
present in the museum display, but it is historical. What makes it so, according
to Heidegger, is that it belonged to a context of equipment and [was]
encountered as ready-to-hand and used by a concernful Dasein who was
in-the-world, a world [that] is no longer.3 Now the historicist understands
world in terms of phenomena that lend themselves well to historical
explanationroughly, those Hegel termed objective spirit: state, civil
society, social institutions, communities, and cultures. The very identity of
these phenomena seems to demand a developmental account. What the
American state is now, for example, cannot be understood in terms of its
constitution alone. The gaps between what the constitution says and the
institutions that claim legitimacy in its name must be filled in, made
intelligible, by noting the history of constitutional law and of events in the
body politic such as the civil war. Nor can social institutions like marriage be
understood as they exist now without a sense of their historical origins. Such
phenomena are historical in a second way as well, since they function only if
those who participate in them understand themselves, from a first-person point
of view, in terms of specific stories that constitute the institutions. To be a
member of a community is to see oneself in light of certain narratives that
define the community against other communities; it is to accept certain
myths that render intelligible the norms and customs that one finds already
existing in the world into which one is born. From this point of view, the
third-person history that seeks an objective account of why we are the way we
are is secondary to that first-person history whose task is not to explain why we
are the way we are but to make us that way. So Heidegger notes that even those
ages which are without history in the first sense are still historical in the
second: History is the very mode of being of social reality insofar as this
requires institutions whose identity is essentially dependent on stories by
means of which I come to identify with them.4
For Heidegger, this shows that what is primarily historical is Dasein as
being-in-the-world and what is secondarily historical. . . is what we encounter
in the world.5 Historical understanding will only be universal (the thesis of
historicism), therefore, if Daseins understandingspecifically, Daseins
self-understandingis thoroughly historical. Just here, however, Heidegger
argues that the emergence of a problem of historicism is the clearest
symptom that historiology endeavors to alienate Dasein from its authentic
historicality.6 To overcome such alienation one must see that the possibility
and structure of historiological truth are to be expounded in terms of the
authentic disclosedness (truth) of historical existence because the basic

Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 432 (H 380).

Ibid., 448 (H 396).
Ibid., 433 (H 381).
Ibid., 448 (H 396).



concepts of the historiological sciences. . . are concepts of existence. 7

Heidegger thus challenges historicism in the name of that being who is
historicalthat is, by reflecting on the historicality of existence.
This move has an obvious air of paradox, and it is little wonder if
Heideggers argument against the older historicismagainst the idea that
human beings are simply entities occurring in time and so fully accessible to
a third-person developmental accounthas led to a new form of historicism.
These new historicists (one could mention Alasdair MacIntyre, Richard Rorty,
H. G. Gadamer, Charles Taylor and many others) argue that our
self-understanding is thoroughly historical and that the concepts of existence
that Heidegger refers to as underlying historical science are narrative concepts.
On this view Heideggers claim that the being of Dasein [is] constituted first
of all by historizing, so that anything like circumstances, events, and
vicissitudes is ontologically possible only because Dasein is historical in its
being would mean that Dasein has a narrative structure.8 Self-identity would
be conceived not as a matter of some underlying substance beyond the
vicissitudes of time, but as a function of the interpretive self-fashioning that
gives meaning to my present activity, under ever-shifting circumstances, in
light of a projected anticipation of who I shall be, grounded in what I have
However, while there is a place for the narrative concept of the self in
Heideggers text, I shall argue that it does not tell the whole story. On the one
hand, unlike many who reject the narrativist position Heidegger does not
appeal to naturalistic considerations to suggest that narrativity is a fictional
conceptual construct imposed on what is at bottom a merely causal
concatenation. 9 On the other hand, he does argue on phenomenological
grounds that the conceptual unity the narrativist identifies with the ontological
structure of selfhood captures only Daseins inauthentic understanding of its
historicality, but not its authentic historicality.

III. Narrative and Practices

To get the argument going, consider the central narrative concept of a
life story. To speak of self-identity in narrative terms is to refuse the episodic
and to insist, at some level, on the unity of a life. We may recall Gadamers

Ibid., 449 (H 397).

Ibid., 431 (H 379).
See, in this regard, theorists as diverse as Louis O. Mink, Narrative Form as a
Cognitive Instrument, in Historical Understanding, eds. Brian Fay, Eugene O. Golub,
and Richard T. Vann (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 182203; Frank
Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (London: Oxford University Press, 1967); and
Hayden White, The Content of the Form (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,



claim that only what really constitutes a unity of meaning is intelligible.10

The same principle is adopted by MacIntyre, who defends a concept of
self-identity as the unity of a narrative which links birth to life to death as
narrative beginning to middle to end.11 Heidegger would appear to agree with
this, since he argues that Dasein is not episodic but rather stretches along
between birth and death with a connectedness of life in which [it]
maintains itself constantly.12 Nor do the similarities end there. For MacIntyre,
narrative structure is primary: history is not built up of discrete actions or
experiences; rather, an action is a moment in an actual or possible history
abstracted for some purpose. 13 Heidegger, too, rejects the idea that the
connectedness of life can be adequately grasped as consisting of a sequence
of experiences [Erlebnisse]. Even if one insists, with Husserl, that
temporality is prior to objective time, the being of this persevering changing
connectedness of experiences remains indefinite.14 Is it possible to hold, then,
that Heideggers concept of authentic historicality aims at a narrative solution
to the connectedness problem?
Against this suggestion Heideggers text presents one very serious hurdle:
for Heidegger, the problem is not that we do not have the appropriate
conception of what constitutes the self as a perseveringly changing unity
between birth and death, but that we see this as the central problem to begin
with. Upon completing his analysis of authentic historicality, Heidegger notes
that it remains all the more enigmatic in what way this historizing. . . is to
constitute the whole connectedness of Dasein from its birth to its death; but
if authentic historicality had a narrative structure there would be no enigma
here. The plain fact is that Heidegger has not tried to solve that problem at all,
and he now exposes it as a red herring: Why is it that the question of how the
connectedness of life is constituted finds no adequate and satisfying
answer? Perhaps it is because we have not first tested the legitimacy of the
question. Isnt it precisely Daseins inauthentic historicality, he asks, that
has directed our questioning to the connectedness of life and has blocked off
our access to authentic historicality and its own peculiar connectedness?15
Even to look for a way to represent the self as a unity between birth and death is
to miss the nature of the self, its authentic historicality.
This conclusion may appear hasty. After all, Heidegger does say that
there is a peculiar connectedness to selfhood, and he does not specifically
say that this sort of connectedness does not have a narrative structure. And
further, when Heidegger comes to talk about this connectedness as loyalty to

Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald
G. Marshall (New York: Crossroad, 1991), 294.
Alastair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 191.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 425 (H 373).
MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, op. cit., 202.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 42526 (H 373).
Ibid., 439 (H 387).



oneself, as a certain steadiness which has been stretched along, he does

describe it in terms similar to those that show up in narrative theories. For
instance, authentic historicality is described as the historizing of. . .
resoluteness, that is, the repetition of the heritage of possibilities by handing
these down to oneself in anticipation.16 What does this mean if not, as David
Carr has suggested, that I choose the story in which I am cast as a character,
even if the story has already been written and the part I play has been played
before? 17 Wont authentically being historical mean that one chooses to
inherit and continue a tradition, emulate heroes from the past and be loyal and
true to them. . . even act out a fate indicated by ones historical position?18
Isnt authenticity just the transparent awareness of ones narrativity? To
answer, we must explore the connection between narrative theory and
inauthentic self-understanding a bit more closely.
We start by noting that inauthentic self-understanding characterizes the
way we exist zunchst und zumeistthat is, in average everydayness. This in
turn is characterized as umsichtiges Besorgen, practical coping in the social
world. As Heidegger notes, everyday existing is primarily characterized by
goal-oriented actions, and these are inseparable from socially prescribed
standards, institutions, and practices belonging to a specific relevance
totality (Bewandtnisganzheit).19 A narrative theorist like MacIntyre has no
trouble pointing out that this totality of relevance must include narratives. First,
a particular action cannot even be identified outside of some narrative context.
What I am doing by putting pen to paper is not identifiable by noting my
movements (which can belong to any number of actions); nor is it specified by
what it causally accomplishes (since it accomplishes many things). In order to
identify what Heidegger calls the work, we need to identify what MacIntyre
calls the primary intention. And to identify the primary intentionfor
instance, that putting pen to paper is the act of writing an essay rather than the
act of reducing the amount of ink in my pen (which it also is)requires,
according to MacIntyre, that we situate [it] in the narrative history of the
social practices of academic life.20 In Heideggers terms, we must identify the
Worumwillen (for the sake of which) that anchors the system of relevance.21
This is a potentiality for being which I myself amneither a mere logical
possibility nor reducible to a desire or set of desires, it is something like a role
in which I understand myself, the mtier of an American university professor.
Such self-understanding is not a thesis about oneself but an ability
(sein-knnen), know-how, or skill that I possess. On Heideggers account,
such abilities are essentially social, drawn from the public world into which I

Ibid., 442 (H 390).

David Carr, Time, Narrative, and History (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1986), 9394.
Ibid., 94.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 115 (H 84).
MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, op. cit., 192.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 116 (H 84).



am born, such that I do what one typically does, and I must do so if my

behavior is to be an act at all. Abilities constitute actions only in light of
institutional contextsfor instance, the universitythat provide the
normative standards that establish the intentionality of an action (its
satisfaction conditions, its possibility of success or failure). And since these
institutions are what they are only in light of a tradition that sustains them, it is
reasonable to hold, as MacIntyre does, that the intelligibility of any everyday
Umwillen entails a specific narrative. If therefore what I do is what it is only in
terms of a specific narrative tradition, it might seem that what I am can be
understood only narrativelysince the Umwillen is not a property but the very
substance of my being. It is true, as Carr argues against MacIntyre, that my
life narrative is not already written, as if by some invisible hand.22 But if one
grasps how my everyday life is a seamless flow of interconnected and
overlapping practiceshow my various roles and skills meld together as I go
about absorbed in my business, each of them depending on narrative
structuresthe idea that the whole adds up to something, that some deeper
sense of oneself is adumbrated through all of them, is not far-fetched. When I
come to ask explicitly Who am I? it is not, on this practical model,
unreasonable to think of my identity, with MacIntyre, as having the unity of a
narrative quest.23
Nevertheless, even in everyday terms this model has its weaknesses.
Heidegger notes how there are situations in which the seamless flow of
everyday practices can be disturbed by more or less serious
breakdownswhen tools become obtrusive and my self-understanding is
transformed from mindless coping to, say, thinking and deliberating. Similarly,
there are many sorts of everyday experience whose meaning does not seem to
involve the narrative structure exhibited by the meaning of action. When I am
transported by a great piece of music; when I am rapt by the solitude of the
deep woods; when I am enraged by a careless driver; when I wake up feeling
oppressedthese feelings and experiences are not meaningless, but one is
hard-put to make sense of them narratively. When I try to do so, I discover
what the lyric poet knows: focus on the texture of such experiences more often
challenges the narrative unity of the self than reinforces it. As Dieter Thom
points out, What a person suffers, perceives, experiences, feelssuch things
are not as easily incorporated into her narrative self-ascription as are the things
she does.24
The narrativist will be tempted to object that though the meaning of such
experiences, what they say about who I am, may not appear to be a function of
narrative in the way the meaning of my action does, it is so in fact. To unpack
such meaning, in other words, might require some form of psychoanalysis in

Carr, Time, Narrative, and History, op. cit., 92.

MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, op. cit., 203.
Dieter Thom, Erzhle Dich Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches
Problem (Mnchen: C. H. Beck Verlag, 1998), 236.



which a more or less hidden narrative is brought to light that links the
affective charge of such experiences to the fundamental narrative unity of my
life. Against this suggestion I shall here only point out that to have recourse to
it is to leave the dimension of phenomenological evidence and to make ones
case for the narrative unity of a life on the basis of a speculative hypothesis. If
one sticks to phenomenological evidence, however, one need not be a
committed postmodernist to believe that the dense textures of meaning found
in perceptual and affective experience support the idea that ours is a more
Bakhtinian, more polyglot, form of identity. 25 It is perhaps true, as
MacIntyre argues, that to be the subject of a narrative that runs from ones
birth to ones death is. . . to be accountable for the actions and experiences that
compose a narratable lifethat is, that the idea of the narrative unity of the
self (pertaining as it does above all to actions) is a condition for ethics.26 But
that does not mean that it is necessarily an adequate ontological model of the
self. Without taking up the question of how ethics relates to ontology, I will
simply cite Thoms observation that the person who is moved to become
responsible, who wants to take on responsibility, must take a stand toward her
actions in a biographical [sc. narrative] dimension. There are, however, no
systematically compelling grounds for thinking that someone who feels free
need strive for biographical coherence.27 What it means to be, and what it
means to do, need not coincide. To think that they must is to hold a view of the
self modeled on the inauthentic self-understanding of everyday practical
coping. This becomes readily apparent from Heideggers account of what
authentic historicality is.

IV. Authentic Historicality (I): Death

To see why the ontological model of the unity of an action cannot be
carried over into the unity of a life, recall that Heideggers account of authentic
historicality is just a more concrete working out of temporality. 28 This
means that authentic historicality cannot be identified with the narrative
concept of a self stretched between birth and death, since it will be a more
concrete working out of the temporality revealed in anticipatory resoluteness,
and this temporality is not sequential. 29 For that reason alone, authentic

Ibid., 248.
MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, op. cit., 202.
Thom, Erzhle Dich Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem,
op. cit., 257.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 434 (H 382).
The best account of the non-sequential concept of temporality is William
Blattner, Heideggers Temporal Idealism (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press,
1999), 277289. Blattner argues that Heideggers theory fails, but the grounds he
adduces do not undermine the phenomenology on which Heidegger bases the theory,
and it is only the phenomenology that is at issue in the present essay. Blattner has also



historicality cannot be modeled in terms of beginnings, middles, and ends. But

what, then, are we to make of Heideggers talk of birth and death? How
are these notions to be interpreted in light of an authentic, non-sequential,
A narrative theorist like MacIntyre conceives death as the close of life. As
such, death would not be experienceable by me, but I might be said necessarily
to anticipate it as the final chapter of that biographical dimension into which
all my actions must fit if they are to (if I am to) make sense. But this is
precisely not what Heidegger means by death; it is rather what he calls
demise. When narrativists focus on demise, the genuine existential
phenomenon of death gets passed off as always something actual, its
character as a possibility gets concealed. 30 Here we must recall that
possibility in Heidegger refers to the Umwillen as an ability to be
(sein-knnen). Hence death is not something that brings my life to a close, but
something that I sometimes am.
Heideggers explanation of this peculiar notion leads us back to our
discussion of Daseins everydayness, for he defines death as the possibility of
no longer being able to-be-there, that is, the possibility of the absolute
impossibility of Dasein. 31 My inability to-be-there does not refer to a
condition in which I am no longer found among the living. Rather, since my
ability-to-be is the skill one exercises in everyday practices, death is the
disabling of these skills as a whole: the inability to do anything. 32 Taken
globally in the spirit of narrativism, to die is to reach a point where the
seamless flow of the practices in which I understand myself narratively do not
merely encounter snags but break down altogether. It is no longer a matter of
finding more or less satisfying ways to incorporate recalcitrant experiences
into my sense of who I am; indeed, there need be no such worldly snags at all.
Rather, death is a matter of finding it impossible to go on, to write the next
chapter. It is what Thom calls a radical crisis of narrative, an inner
derangement [Zerrttung]. To die is to achieve a newauthentic
self-understanding, namely, to exist (for self-understanding is not a thesis) in
the ontological dislocation between what I do and who I am, to experience my
identity as an eccentric position vis-a-vis the narrative.33
But what sort of self-understanding is this after all? If death is not the end
of life but a moment within it, so to speak, wont the narrativist be able to argue
that if it is to make sense, I must be able to find myself both before and after
my death, and thus once more establish narrative continuity? To answer this
Literature, in The Many Faces of Time, eds. John Brough and Lester Embree
(Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000), 187202.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 297 (H 252).
Ibid., 294 (H 250).
William Blattner argues this point at length in his The Concept of Death in
Being and Time, Man and World 27(1994): 4970.
Thom, Erzhle Dich Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem,
op. cit., 238.



question we need to recall that authentic self-understanding (the inner

derangement that reveals my eccentric position vis-a-vis my life narrative)
is nothing but the articulation of a specific affect, Angst. Because it is the
collapse of all doingand so the collapse of that which supports the
intelligibility of thingsAngst means that the world has the character of
completely lacking significance, that it can offer nothing more, and neither
can the Dasein-with of Others.34 We feel ourselves not at home (unheimlich)
in the world; the thread of the storythough still very much therehas broken:
everyday familiarity collapses.35 The experience of anxiety thus reveals the
meaning of death: it is not that in pondering the fact that someday Ill be
dead the absurdity, the futility, of my hopes and dreams overcomes me. It is
rather that no matter how well I script my identity, I never have power over
[my] ownmost being from the ground up,36 and thus my script will always
leave out the deepest truth about myself. To understand that is not to tell a
story but to verge upon philosophy, to acknowledge a kind of
self-understanding that escapes narrativity. It is not that I cannot recollect this
episode narratively; but if I do, I must recollect it as an affect that permanently
calls into question the narrative unity of my life. The existential meaning of
death is thus an affective self-understanding that refuses absorption in the
ongoing history of everyday practical activity.
The analysis of death yields part of an account of authentic historicality,
but if the latter is to contest the historicist conception of selfhood as something
stretching along between birth and death, an existential reinterpretation of
birth is also necessary. This is just what Heidegger provides in his account of
resoluteness (Entschlossenheit).

V. Authentic Historicality (II): Birth

In an existential sense, birth is no more the beginning of life than death is
its end; ontologically, both are to be understood from the truth of existence,
anticipatory resoluteness, which determines the meaning of authentic
historicality.37 If from this perspective death is seen as the anticipated in
anticipatory resoluteness, birth will appear as resolve, or choice, itself. For this
reason, Heidegger identifies Daseins authentic historicality, its primordial
historizing (Geschehen) as fate (Schicksal) and claims that Dasein, as fate,
incorporates into its existence birth and death and their between, and holds
them as thus incorporated.38 Yet just here it is easy to imagine that an
argument for a narrative conception of the self is being made. Isnt fate
precisely what I was all along meant to be, the inner plot of which I am often

Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 23132 (H 18687).

Ibid., 233 (H 189).
Ibid., 330 (H 284).
On the truth of existence. See Ibid., 343 (H 297).
Ibid., 442 (H 391).



only dimly aware, never wholly in my power, but which nevertheless makes
sense of the unity of my life? Isnt fate the sort of thing to which Achilles
responds resolutely, knowingly, when he returns to battle to avenge
Patroclusthat, as Heidegger describes, in which Dasein hands itself down
to itself. . . in a possibility which it has inherited and yet has chosen?39 Even if
we agree with Carr that we cannot imagine the story as already written, doesnt
talk of fate make sense only if Dasein constitutes its identity in the form of a
story drawn from its heritage (Erbe) as the way of interpreting Dasein that
has come down to us, the stories which resoluteness, as thrown, takes
over?40 On this view, birth might well be taken to mean something like the
historical condition into which I was born, the particular, historically
developed resources I have for authoring myself.41 These impressions appear
to be confirmed by Heideggers claim that when Daseins heritage is thus
handed down to itself, its birth is caught up into its existence in coming back
from the possibility of death. . . if only so that this existence may accept the
thrownness of its own there in a way which is more free from illusion.42
Nevertheless, the narrativist reading of these passages puts the accent in
the wrong place. Thrownness does not signify the historical situation in the
sense of ones inherited possibilities for beingthe roles, practices, and
institutions that make up the current everyday world. It is not equated with
heritage but with facticity (Faktizitt), the absolute opacity of existencean
opacity that characterizes precisely the whence and the whither of birth in
the sense of origin.43 In no sense can fate, in which Dasein hands itself down
to itself,44 be understood as facing up clearly to ones birth taken as some
actual historical situationany more than anticipating death can be seen as
the awaiting of some future actual occurrence. On the contrary, it is in coming
back from the possibility of deaththat is, with insight into my eccentric
position vis-a-vis all narrative self-understandingthat birth is caught up
into existence. Hence birth itself, like death, becomes an existential
possibility. The point can perhaps be put as follows: as a coming back from
(existential) death, existential birth is always a re-birth. It is not confirmation
of the self as a narrative unity between birth and death, but the mark of the
ever-present possibility of conversion.

Ibid., 435 (H 384).

Ibid., 435 (H 383).
Indeed though William Blattners analysis of Heidegger on death set the stage
for showing that Heidegger holds a non-narrativist view of the self, Blattner returns to a
narrativist interpretation when he suggests that this inability to escape tradition and
who we are is what. . . Heidegger might mean by birth. Blattner, Heideggers
Temporal Idealism, op. cit., 287.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 443 (H 391).
Ibid., 17475 (H13536). For the argument here, see my Facticity and
Transcendental Philosophy, in From Kant to Davidson: Philosophy and the Idea of the
Transcendental, ed. Jeff Malpas (London: Routledge, 2003), 100121.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 435 (H 384).



On this reading, authentic historicality does not reside in the clarity with
which I fashion myself narratively on the basis of my historical situation, but
in the anarchical structure of the choice itself, in resolve as rebirth. It is true
that Dasein can draw those possibilities upon which it factically projects
itself only from its heritage45 (though as we shall see in a moment, this is
not equivalent to ones community or culture). But being authentically
historical is not equivalent to engaging in the chosen possibility or specific
ability-to-be; it is the handing itself down to itself as such, resolve as such.
Resolve cannot be an act, a doing, something with the structure of a
sein-knnen, since it transpires on the basis of death, the total breakdown of
such abilities-to-be. For this reason it can be encompassed by no rules,
assessed by no public criteria, integrated into no public practices; it is not a
form of skillful coping and cannot be thought in terms of phronesis. Resolve,
existential birth, occupies a liminal space on the verge of doing; it belongs to
the truth of existence, a truth that is deeply anti-historical. Let me illustrate
by considering the much-disputed question of the criterion of choice.
It is often argued that Heideggers account of authentic existence leaves
us with pure decisionism, since my resolve lacks any guiding criterion. In one
sense this is true: if I imagine that such a criterion can only come from the
tradition in which I find myself (from what makes me what I am in the
narrativist sense), then there can be no criterion. There are several reasons for
this. First, if resolve were an act there would be public criteria of success or
failure; but it is not an act. Second, any tradition provides too many criteria for
my choices. Finally, I can be perfectly indifferent to my place in tradition. My
whole life, as Dieter Thom nicely argues, may point unambiguously in a
certain direction; everything may dictate the right choice; but I still might
remain unmoved by all of that, resolved to follow my dream. Against such
disinterest in the past, Thom concludes, no principled objection can be
raised. 46 Why not? Because it is only through the choice itself that the
principle takes on authority for me: resolving in one direction, the consistency
of my old self becomes authoritative; resolving in the other, my dream
becomes authoritative.47
Nor may we argue that resolve can be guided by what Harry Frankfurt
calls the essential identity of an individual, constituted by the preferences,
and the other personal characteristics that the individual cannot help having.48
It is true that I experience aspects of myself in this way, but Heideggers whole
existential analytic shows that this sort of substantializing of the self is

Ibid., 434 (H 383).

Thom, Erzhle Dich Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem,
op. cit., 250.
Compare John Haugeland, Having Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1998), 34043, on the role of commitment, not as constitutive of norms but of
their ability to function as norms.
Cited in Thom, Erzhle Dich Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches
Problem, op. cit., 244.



ontologically false. In resolve I do attend to something like what I cannot

help but do, but it is bad faith to imagine that I thereby discover something
about my essential identity, such that the rightness of my choice could be
grounded in some historically established, continuing selfhood. To call
whatever it is I feel compelled to do now part of my essential identity, is
simply to mask the autonomy of my choice with a fiction.49 In Heideggerian
terms, this is a fiction because, while Dasein can be disclosed, it is not an entity
with properties that can be discovered.50
Nevertheless, I agree with Dieter Thoms suggestion that authenticity
should be glossed as a kind of being true to oneself, and that this is primarily
a matter of feeling, of being in tune with oneself. As the genuine norm of
existencethat according to which success or failure in existing is
understoodauthenticity (and so authentic historicality) does not measure the
coherence of a life between birth and death. It can get a grip only on how one
feels about oneselfnot for all time, but precisely only in the particular
situation in which one finds oneself and acts;51 its criterion being whether one
can live with oneself, so to speak. This is by no means the same as living up
to the good for man or acting in accord with universal principles, but it
doesnt rule these out (as moral norms) either. Authenticity measures the
resolve itselfwhether it is done with my whole heart and as minenot the
subsequent existing resolutely, which will always be a modification of
everydayness, a form of narrative selfhood, practical coping in a particular
historical role. Where this is a retrieval (Wieder-holung) of an inherited
possibility, resolve is essentially the consciousness of being able to take it
back, to be born again, even at the expense of my lifes narrative integrity.52
This does not make my life unintelligiblenarrative intelligibility remains a
form of self-understandingbut it attests to another sort of intelligibility, one
that speaks outside of history, in my body, in my feelings, and my attunement
to the world as I find it now.

VI. Historicality and Philosophy

Let me conclude by calling into question one aspect of Heideggers
account of authentic historicality. Because resolve occupies a liminal space
that is ontologically definitive of selfhood, Heidegger is on very shaky ground
when he moves from the idea of my fate to the idea of the historizing of the
This argument is borrowed from Jan Bransen (cited in Thom, Erzhle Dich
Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem, op. cit., 24546),
Identification and the Idea of an Alternative of Oneself, European Journal of
Philosophy 4 (1996): 116.
On the distinction between disclosedness and discoveredness see
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 118 (H 85).
Thom, Erzhle Dich Selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem,
op. cit., 246.
Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 355 (H3078).



community, of a people which he calls destiny (Geschick).53 It is not as

though no possible sense can be given to this notion, but Heidegger is wrong to
argue that Daseins historizing is always a co-historizing that is
determinative for it. 54 If there is such a thing as the historizing of a
community, it must have a structure quite different from that of authentic
historicality for the simple but decisive reason that communities cannot choose
authentically. There is nothing in the ontological structure of a community that
corresponds to the liminal space of Angst, death, reticent guilt, and rebirth that,
in existing authentically, constitutes self-responsibility. There is, in other
words, no first person. Communities just are the narrative identities that
narrative theorists think persons are.
Heideggers failure to mark this distinction yields two illusions: first, that
in choosing I am choosing for my whole community; and second, that what I
can choose must somehow be a function of that very community. Neither of
these claims is compatible with the structure of authentic historicality. First,
that I must choose for my whole community (or generation) is ridiculous on
the face of it. And second, there is no interesting sense in which my
possibilities are circumscribed by anything that can be called my
community. In the face of Angst, death, I can feel the need to Journey to the
East, to light out for the Territories, to sing the blues. In so doing I am not
trying to become the cultural otherto repeat some possibility that was
actualbut to hearken to what speaks to me, to engage it in a reciprocative
rejoinder (Erwiderung), to seek a new way to be that will true up myself.55 I
can of course fail; I can become deluded, lose myself, drift irresolutely from
flower to flower. But if I venture beyond my cultural, ethnic, or national milieu,
this cannot be seen as an offense against identity, a failure to be authentically
However, if one did believe in something like Geschick in Heideggers
sense, it would be understandable that one might also believe that ones
possibilities were dictated by the historical situation of ones
peoplethe destiny, say, of the German Volk in 1930. But if such a one were
to claimas Heidegger did to Karl Lwiththat it was the concept of
historicality that underwrote his political engagement, it would be wrong to
use such a claim (as it has been used) to cast suspicion on the concept of
historicality as such, and thereby on Heideggers ontology as a whole.56 Rather,
we should insist that what underwrote Heideggers engagement is not what I

Ibid., 436 (H 3845).

Ibid., 436 (H 384).
Ibid., 437-38 (H38586).
See for instance Richard Wolin, The Politics of Being (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1990), 75: When in 1936 Karl Lwith suggested that Heideggers
partisanship for National Socialism lay in the essence of his philosophy, Heidegger
agreed without reservation, and added that his concept of historicality was the basis
of his political engagement. Wolin cites these passages from Karl Lwith, Mein
Leben in Deutschland vor und nach 1933 (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1986), 56.



have explained as the anti-historical concept of authentic historicality, but just

its illegitimate extension into the concept of destiny. That there is a necessary
connection here is a mistake, and this mistake is at the basis of Heideggers
grosse Dummheit. If we cannot fault Heidegger ontologically for opting for
Hitler, it is nevertheless imperative that we reject the idea that somehow that
choice could be underwritten narratively by the current demands of the
destiny of the German people. The most important lesson of the theory of
authentic historicality is that there are no such demands of history.
Philosophical understanding shows the limits of historical understanding and
punctures the pretensions of the alchemy of time.

The Sociological Gaze and its Time Structure
A Sociologists Belated Encounter with

LUI Ping-keung
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

I. Merleau-Ponty on Sociology
In the Preface to his most important work, The Phenomenology of
Perception, Merleau-Ponty presents, among other things, his view on science
and, in particular, on history and sociology. There is a second paper called
The philosopher and sociology in his Signs. Alfred Schutz mentioned the
French original Le philosophe et la sociologie in a footnote that appears on
page 142 of his Collected Papers I, The Problem of Social Reality.
Merleau-Ponty has a third paper on sociology and anthropology with the title
From Mauss to Claude Levi-Strauss in Signs. We can also find a fourth
paper on sociology and history, The crisis of understanding, in his The
Primacy of Perception. These four papers amount to a declaration of his
phenomenological position regarding sociology. The fourth one is an attempt
to co-opt Max Weber into the phenomenological camp. Merleau-Ponty has
good reasons to do so because Weber is the only one among the great masters
in classical sociology who insists on the primacy of subjectivity until his last
breath. In a letter to his friend Robert Liefmann just before he died, he stated:
. . . if I have become a sociologist (according to my letter of accreditation), it
is mainly in order to exorcise the spectre of collective conceptions which still
lingers among us. In other words, sociology itself can only proceed from the
actions of one or more separate individuals and must therefore adopt strictly
individualistic methods.1 Much earlier than Merleau-Pontys attempt, there
was Alfred Schutzs. He actually worked out a credible connection between
Webers sociology and Husserls phenomenology. His The Phenomenology of
the Social World came out only twelve years after Webers death in the year
1920. After Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur also sees the affinity between Weber
and Husserl, and has made a similar attempt to co-opt Weber in a paper with

Wolfgang Mommsen, Max Webers political sociology and his philosophy of

world history, in Max Weber, ed. Dennis Wrong (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall, 1970), 192.
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 73-87.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



the title Practical reason in his From Text to Action. On this score I am in
agreement with Schutz, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur. But the viewpoints that
Merleau-Ponty expresses in his first three papers are disturbing to me, and this
paper sets out to respond to them.
From Mauss, written in the heyday of structuralism, is a praise of
Levi-Strauss: Thus inquiry (that is, Levi-Strausss structural anthropology)
feeds on facts which seem foreign to it at first, acquires new dimensions as it
progresses, and reinterprets its first results in the light of new investigations
which they have themselves inspired. At the same time, the scope of the
domain covered and the precision of factual knowledge are increased. These
are the marks of a great intellectual endeavor.2 With the benefit of hindsight
and the labor of many, we can now see weaknesses of Levi-Straussian
structuralism that Merleau-Ponty was not aware of. This is not the point I want
to dwell on in this paper. Merleau-Pontys insights into the general
significance of structuralism, the Levi-Straussian version being one among
many, remain very interesting to us, and they are usually correct and
sometimes penetrating. But even this second point is not the primary issue for
this paper.
The philosopher is probably one of the friendliest papers to sociology I
have so far come across written by phenomenologists. It is in line with
Merleau-Pontys praise for Levi-Strauss in From Mauss, and I suspect that
both papers were written at about the same time, that is, probably in the late
fifties. Merleau-Ponty traces this friendliness back to Husserl: Husserl seems
to us to be exemplary in that he may have realized better than anyone else that
all forms of thought are in a certain sense interdependent. We need neither tear
down the behavioral sciences to lay the foundations of philosophy, nor tear
down philosophy to lay the foundations of the behavioral sciences.3 He goes
on to say, The sociologist philosophizes every time he is required to not only
record but comprehend the facts. At the moment of interpretation, he is himself
already a philosopher. 4 But, as expected, he does not forget to claim a
reciprocal right for the philosopher, This means that the professional
philosopher is not disqualified to reinterpret facts he has not observed himself,
if these facts say something more and different than what the scientist has seen
in them. As Husserl says, eidetic analysis of the physical thing did not begin
with phenomenology but with Galileo. And reciprocally, the philosopher has
the right to read and interpret Galileo.5
This friendliness of Merleau-Pontys to sociology cannot be found in the
earlier Preface, which was written at the latest in 1945, the stated publishing
date of his Perception. Being rather unfriendly, he claims,
Scientific points of view, according to which my existence is a moment
of the worlds, are always both nave and at the same time dishonest,
because they take for granted, without explicitly mentioning it, the other

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Signs, trans. with an Introduction by Richard C.

McCleary (Northwestern University Press, 1964), 125.
Ibid., 98.
Ibid., 101.



point of view, namely that of consciousness, through which from the

outset a world forms itself round me and begins to exist for me. To return
to things themselves is to return to that world which precedes knowledge,
of which knowledge always speaks, and in relation to which every
scientific schematization is an abstract and derivative sign-language, as
is geography in relation to the countryside in which we have learnt
beforehand what a forest, a prairie or a river is.6
We must bear in mind: in view of its substantive content, Levi-Strausss
structural anthropology is not eligible to apply for and on the principle of
fairness should not be granted an exemption from this claim, which is almost
an accusation. We can be fairly safe to conclude that Merleau-Ponty had
changed his view on sociology during the fifties.
But we should not be mistaken that Merleau-Pontys phenomenological
position had changed. No, it had not. The primordial status of the world that
precedes knowledge remains in The Philosopher, in which he claims,
Under the collective noun science there is nothing other than a
systematic handling and a methodical usenarrower or broader, more
and less discerningof this same experience which begins with our first
perception. Science is a set of means of perceiving, imagining, and in
short, living which are oriented toward the same truth that our first
experiences establish an urgent inner need for.7
This paper is not going to argue against Merleau-Pontys
phenomenological position as a theoretical interest in sociology. The great
sociologist Weber has decreed that there can be innumerably many legitimate
theoretical interests in sociology, following the doctrine of Kantian
epistemology. Merleau-Pontys phenomenological position is certainly a
legitimate one. I readily agree with him that in the most primordial sense all
sociological knowledge must return to the sociologist himself in order that his
knowledge is meaningful to himself. But Merleau-Ponty needs to defend his
phenomenological position as a theoretical interest in sociology. He has not
put up a defense in Preface, where he has other more urgent matters to deal
with. From Mauss is a praise, not a defense. We can only find his defense in
The philosopher, but we have to say that it is not a convincing one.
I give an example from The philosopher in order to seek your
sympathy with my judgment. Merleau-Ponty says the following against
objectivism in sociology:
Under the pretext that as a matter of fact sociology is not yet constructed
with this lived experience but is instead an analysis, an explicit
formulation and objectification of it which reverses our initial
consciousness of social relationships (and ultimately shows that these
experienced social relationships are very special variants of a dynamics

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception (English translation of

Phenomenologie de la Perception), trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 1962), ix.
Merleau-Ponty, Signs, op. cit., 102.



we are originally unaware of and can learn about only in contact with
other cultural formations), objectivism forgets another evident fact. We
can expand our experience of social relationships and get a proper view
of them only by analogy or contrast with those we have lived. We can do
so, in short, only by subjecting the social relationships we have
experienced to an imaginary variation. These lived relationships will no
doubt take on a new meaning in comparison with this imaginary
variation. . . but they will provide it with all the sociological meaning it
can have.8
Objectivism can be found in many schools of sociology and, for some
good reasons and some bad ones, is surviving well;9 it is a living fact, and is
not a point to be argued for or against in this paper. Our question however is:
has Merleau-Ponty offered a good defense against objectivism?
Merleau-Ponty is describing the self-enrichment that the sociologist will enjoy
in doing sociology, because his lived relationships [with others] will no doubt
take on a new meaning. But if the lived relationships of Merleau-Pontys
sociologist with others are providing the particular imaginary variation (that is,
the sociological object) with all the sociological meaning it can have, the
objectivist sociologist will surely raise the reasonable doubt that whether or
not the imaginary variation has nothing but the lived experience of
Merleau-Pontys sociologist as its epistemological support. Merleau-Ponty
can answer this question by inviting the objectivist sociologist to consider

Ibid., 100.
The following quotation from Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology,
compiled by a well-known British sociologist, Gordon Marshall, on the term
sociology is revealing: There are three general conceptions of the object of
sociological interestalthough these are not mutually exclusive. . . The first states that
the proper object for sociology is social structure, in the sense of patterns of
relationships which have an independent existence, over and above the individuals or
groups that occupy positions in these structures at any particular time: for example, the
positions of the nuclear family (mother, father, children) might remain the same from
generation to generation and place to place, independently of the specific individuals
who fill or do not fill those positions. There are two main versions of this approach:
Marxism. . .and Parsonsian structural-functionalism. . . A second perspective deems
the proper object of sociology to lie in something that we might call, with Durkheim,
collective representations: meanings and ways of cognitively organizing the world
which have a continued existence over and above the individuals who are socialized
into them. Language itself is the paradigm case: it pre-exists our birth, continues after
our death, and as individuals we can alter it little or not at all. Much modern structuralist
and postmodernist work. . .can be seen as part of this tradition. Finally, there are those
for whom the proper object of sociological attention is meaningful social action, in the
sense intended by Max Weber. The implicit or explicit assumption behind this
approach is that there is no such thing as society: merely individuals and groups
entering into social relationships with each other. There are widely differing ways in
which such interaction can be studied, including Webers . . . [social action theory], the
symbolic interactionism. . .and the ethnomethodological study. . . A moments
reflection will confirm that, between them, these three possible candidates for
sociological study almost exhaust the range of what one is likely to meet during the
course of social relationships.



substituting the word man with the name the sociologist in his famous
motto man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself.10 In
my view, it is too twisted an answer, an answer that asks the objectivist
sociologist to drop all his doubts and to enter into Merleau-Pontys motto in
which all his doubts are no longer doubts. It is not the circularity of his
argument that is unacceptable to me, it is that it is not a fair debate. Would
Merleau-Ponty put on the objectivist spectacle, if the objectivist sociologist
invited him to do so? If he accepted, he would have to surrender his
phenomenological spectacle.
Now we know the reason why Merleau-Ponty embraces structuralism. In
From Mauss, he explains, The notion of structure, whose present good
fortune in all domains responds to an intellectual need, establishes a whole
system of thought. For the philosopher, the presence of structure outside us in
natural and social systems and within us as symbolic function points to a way
beyond the subject-object correlation which has dominated philosophy from
Descartes to Hegel.11 Again, as expected, Merleau-Ponty puts Levi-Strausss
structuralism in the phenomenological jacket,
By showing us that man is eccentric to himself and that the social finds
its center only in man, structure particularly enables us to understand
how we are in a sort of circuit with the socio-historical world. . . What
interests the philosopher in anthropology is just that it takes man as he is,
in his actual situation of life and understanding. The philosopher it
interests is not the one who wants to explain or construct the world, but
the one who seeks to deepen our insertion in being. Thus his
recommendation could not possibly endanger anthropology, since it is
based upon what is most concrete in anthropological method.12
I presumed that Levi-Strauss did not refuse Merleau-Pontys
interpretation of structure, since they were friends and colleagues at the
College de France.13
But Merleau-Pontys praise of Levi-Strauss can apply fairly, if not
equally, well to Weber. Aron, the French sociologist, who was also a professor
at College de France in the fifties and sixties and possibly seventies, has given
more or less the same praise of Weber in his Main Currents in Sociological
Thought 2,
What Weber is putting in logical form is the spontaneous and, in my
opinion, authentic experience of historical man, that is, man who lives
history before reconstructing it.14


Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, op. cit., xi.

Merleau-Ponty, Signs, op. cit., 123.
Ibid., 114, fn. 1.
Raymond Aron, Main Currents in Sociological Thought 2, trans. Richard
Howard and Helen Weaver (Hamondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd,
1972), 202.



All sociology is a reconstruction that aspires to confer intelligibility on

human existences which, like all human existences, are confused and
Max Weber asked the most important questions. What is the meaning
men have given their existence? What is the relation between the
meaning men have given their existence and the way they have
organized their societies? What is the relation of mens attitudes towards
profane activities and their conception of the sacred life? This Weberian
approach has been and still is fundamental for those of us who conceive
of reflection on the past as a philosophical confrontation between our
lives and those of other people.16
Weberian sociology is inspired by a kind of existential philosophy. . .17
In other words, if Levi-Strauss were a phenomenological anthropologist,
then Weber would be an existential sociologist.
Every great sociologist or anthropologist is acutely aware of the
problems of human existence, whatever intellectual inclination he may happen
to possess. But Weber as a professional sociologist remained until his last
breath a faithful follower of Kant orsome would sayof Rickert the
neo-Kantian. This is evident in his methodological papers. The point I want to
drive at is that we must examine the core ideas of a sociologists corpus in
order to determine his major intellectual roots. This is the textual facticity upon
which theoretical sociology is built. Besides this facticity, all other
interpretations are peripheral. By naming his major work Structural
Anthropology Levi-Strauss is telling us his major intellectual roots.
Structuralism can be given a phenomenological interpretation as well as a
non-phenomenological one. Both interpretations are peripheral but legitimate
in the sense of Webers view of sociology.
Take Saussures well-known opposition between langue and parole in
his Course in General Linguistics as an example: A language as a structured
system. . .is both a self contained whole and a principle of classification.18
The language itself is not a function of the speaker. It is the product passively
registered by the individual. It never requires premeditation, and reflexion
enters into it only for the activity of classifying. . . Speech, on the contrary, is
an individual act of the will and the intelligence. . .19 Merleau-Ponty of course
knew Saussures Course well, in his Signs alone, there are two papers on
language, namely, Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence and On the
Phenomenology of Language. But for the purpose of this paper this is beside
the point. Our point is: if a non-phenomenologist reads Course in a way

Ibid., 207.
Ibid., 250.
Ibid., 197.
Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, eds. Charles Bally and
Albert Sechehaye with the collaboration of Albert Riedlinger, trans. and annotated by
Roy Harris (London: Duckworth, 1983), 10.
Ibid., 14.



different from that of the phenomenologist, and Saussures actual intention in

his Course is intrinsically unknown to us, then, to be fair, we must admit that
Saussure might as well disagree with a phenomenological interpretation of his
Coursewhich in my opinion is closer to his intellectual inclination. In other
words, the phenomenologist should not be given a privileged position. I do not
think phenomenologists would disagree with it.
In my view, this is the real tension between phenomenology and
sociology: if the phenomenologist is decided to participate in the sociological
debate, he has to concede that he is only one participant among many. The
Merleau-Ponty in Preface would surely refuse to concede that, the
Merleau-Ponty in The Philosopher would concede that but only
half-heartedly as he was talking about a win-win situation for both the
phenomenologist and the sociologist, and finally the Merleau-Ponty in From
Mauss was seeking the support of Levi-Strauss to maintain his
phenomenological position. Has there been any phenomenologist willing to
make the concession? Yes, there has been at least one, he is Schutz.

II. The Schutzian Time Series:

A Critical Difference between Schutz and Merleau-Ponty
Phenomenology is no longer an alien position to English-speaking and
Chinese-speaking sociologists, especially to those who care to know, through
the works of Schutz. Schutz wears two hats; he is both a phenomenologist and
a sociologist; and he had an intimate feeling of the tension between the two
disciplines. I incline to believe that Schutz would not agree with
Merleau-Pontys view on sociology, and in fact, we shall see that the
difference between Schutz and Merleau-Ponty is a critical one in
phenomenology. In Perception Merleau-Ponty did not mention Schutz. Being
published in 1932 before Perception, Schutzs Social World naturally does not
mention Merleau-Ponty. Schutz did mention Merleau-Pontys in his later
papers which can be found in his Collected Paper I, which has been mentioned
earlier, and Collected Papers III Studies in Phenomenological Philosophy. But
the critical difference that I believe exists between Schutz and Merleau-Ponty
does not appear there. In fact, whether Schutz was aware of that difference is a
matter of doubt, because there is no mention of Merleau-Ponty in his Collected
Papers II Studies in Social Theory.
Consider the contrast between Merleau-Pontys position and Schutzs in
the following two quotations:
Merleau-Ponty in Preface:
The world is there before any possible analysis of mine, and it would be
artificial to make it the outcome of a series of syntheses which link, in
the first place sensations, then aspects of the object corresponding to
different perspectives, when both are nothing but products of analysis,
with no sort of prior reality.20

Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, op. cit., ix.



[W]hile I am directly experiencing you and talking with you, the whole
complicated substructure of my own interpretation of you escapes my
attention. I am not interested in such matter. . . However, I can at any
given time change all this and bring these acts within the focus of my
gaze. For instance, I may ask, Have I understood you correctly?
Dont you mean something else? What do you mean by such and
such action? These are typical of the questions that I am forced to ask
every day in my relations with other people. The moment I raise such
questions, I have abandoned my simple and direct awareness of the other
person, my immediate grasp of him in all his subjective particularity. . . I
no longer experience my fellow man in the sense of sharing his life with
him; instead I think about him. But now I am acting like a social
Schutz distinguishes two worlds in the above quotation, namely, the
world of consociates (my fellow man) and that of contemporaries (I think
about him ). In fact, he has distinguished two more worlds, namely, the
world of predecessors and that of successors, but they are of no concern to us
in this paper. How would Merleau-Ponty react to Schutzs distinction of
different worlds? As regards the Merleau-Ponty in Preface, the answer
seems to be obvious: On the one hand, he would agree readily that the world of
consociates is the world before any possible analysis of mine. On the other
hand, the world of contemporaries should be hard for him to swallow, because
in his eye it is an artificial world which is the outcome of a series of
syntheses which link, in the first place sensations, then aspects of the object
corresponding to different perspectives, when both are nothing but products of
analysis, with no sort of prior reality. As regards the Merleau-Ponty in The
Philosopher, the world of contemporaries is still hard for him to swallow.
Evidence? We have already heard the Merleau-Ponty in From Mauss saying
For the philosopher, the presence of structure outside us in natural and social
systems and within us as symbolic function. . .
Notice the outside us versus within us distinction in the quotation,
whose basic metaphor is the front page and the back page of a piece of paper,
or the inner wall and the outer wall of a glass. Mathematically, they are
topologically equivalent. Also recall the topological trick of the mathematician:
Twist a piece of paper 180 degrees along the horizontal axis through its center
point, glue its right and left sides together, we get the famous one-surfaced
Mobius band, but it is still a two-dimensional space. It is then very clear:
Merleau-Ponty is using a spatial distinction, which is a totally different
distinction from Schutzs distinction of the world of contemporaries from that
of consociates. Merleau-Ponty is using a spatial distinction while Schutz is
using a temporal distinction. This is the critical difference between the two,
indeed a most critical one for phenomenology as well as for sociology.

Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World, trans. George Walsh
and Frederick Lehnert (London: Heineman Educational Books, 1980), 140141.



One can argue that Schutz also uses a spatial distinction. Yes, there is
textual evidence for it, for example, he says,
I speak of another person as within reach of my direct experience when
he shares with me a community of space and a community of time. He
shares a community of space with me when he is present in person and I
am aware of him as such, and, moreover, when I am aware of him as this
person himself, this particular individual, of his body as the field upon
which play the symptoms of this inner consciousness. He shares a
community of time with me when his experience is flowing side by side
with mine, when I can at any moment look over and grasp his thoughts as
they come in to being, in other words, when we are growing old
It seems clear that he is talking about the world of consociates only. In
this way, this spatial distinction has nothing to do with us in this paper because
we are talking about the relationship between the world of consociates and that
of contemporaries.
Schutz has not mentioned the return to the world of consociates, but it is
only reasonable for me to assume that I will surely not stay for very long in the
world of contemporaries because staying there means now I am acting like a
social scientist, and that is too tiresome. It has been said that Descartes
recommended doing philosophy only once a week. Descartes could not
possibly have written his Meditations while he was in the world of consociates.
He must be in any one of the remaining three Schutzian worlds, while writing.
He tells the truth about what I have called the Schutzian time series in one of
my papers in Chinese, Gaze and Social Action in Sociological Research (a
journal published by Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social
Sciences, Beijing), Issue 87, Volume 3, 2000. For Schutz, if A is the world
of consociates and B is that of my contemporaries, I must be living in an
unceasingly alternating time series of this form until my death:
. . . ABABA. . .
HO Wing-chung, a student of mine, and I had formulated the Schutzian
time series as . . . We trustI thinkWe trust. . . earlier in a paper
presented to the Hong Kong Society of Phenomenology in 1997, being naively
unaware of our ignorant mixing of Descartess Cogito into Schutzs
phenomenology at that time. Of course, our philosophical ignorance did not
escape the tutored eye of our learned colleagues at the meeting, but it does
seem to me now in retrospect that it reflects the real significance of the
Schutzian time series: both Descartes and Kant are allowed to enter into the
world of contemporaries while reserving the world of consociates for the
phenomenologists. It is actually a sincere outcome of a game that Schutz had
played fairly and seriously with the non-phenomenogists, especially Weber, in
sociology. By introducing a time structure of a very special kind for his
sociological gaze, Schutz is able to accommodate both phenomenology and
non-phenomenology. Needless to say, both Ho and I could not articulate this
most significant point at that meeting.

Ibid., 163.



How would Merleau-Ponty think about the Schutzian time series? Let us
first leave aside his theory of temporality in Perception for a while, so that we
can go a little deeper into the awkwardness Merleau-Ponty in Preface is in
since he must refuse Schutzs invention. In the Preface, he says, When I
return to myself from an excursion into the realm of dogmatic common sense
or of science, I find, not a source of intrinsic truth, but a subject destined to the
world.23 Schutz surely agrees with this, but he will raise to Merleau-Ponty an
awkward question about travelling in the opposite direction. It goes like this:
now according to you, the world is always already there before reflection
beginsas an inalienable presence,24 my simple fellow man can leave it and
go to the realm of dogmatic common sense. Isnt it a variation of the ancient
philosophical theme of truth versus doxa? The only novelty you offer us is that
when my fellow man returns from an excursion into the realm of dogmatic
common sense he will find not a source of intrinsic truth, but only himself
as a subject destined to the world? Doxa is outside of the world that precedes
knowledge, or outside of my poor fellow mans good self. It sounds strange to
For the sociologist, Merleau-Ponty in Preface is slightly more
courteous: The whole universe of science is built upon the world as directly
experienced, and if we want to subject science itself to rigorous scrutiny and
arrive at a precise assessment of its meaning and scope, we must begin by
reawaking the basic experience of the world of which science is the
second-order of expression.25 Sociologists will not argue with Merleau-Ponty
when their work is relegated to the second order. In fact, Weber readily agrees.
He makes a modest claim for sociology in his Economy and Society:
Sociology. . .is a science concerning itself with the interpretive understanding
of social action and thereby with a causal explanation of its course and
consequences. 26 But this second order of expression has already been
condemned by Merleau-Ponty in the Preface: Scientific points of
view. . .are both nave and at the same time dishonest. . . Hasnt he changed
his attitude to sociology in the friendliest The Philosopher? We have
mentioned earlier that Merleau-Ponty in The Philosopher gave the title of
philosopher to the sociologist (The sociologist philosophizes. . .he is himself
a philosopher). The trouble is: sociologists like Weber refuse. Durkheim will
refuse. Marx is definitely hostilePhilosophers only interpret the world. The
point, however, is to change it.
Yes, Merleau-Ponty in The Philosopher has almost completely
changed his attitude, and he is not alone. Commenting on the letter of Husserl
to the famous French anthropologist Levy-Bruhl on March 11, 1935, he has the
following conclusion: The last lines of the letter gives us an idea: philosophy
must accept all the acquisitions of science (which has the first word concerning
knowledge), and thus historical relativism along with them.27 [Husserl says,]

Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, op. cit., xi.

Ibid., vii.
Ibid., viii.
Max Weber, Economy and Society, eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich
(Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1978), 4.
Merleau-Ponty, Signs, op. cit., 108.



on the path of that already largely developed intentional analysis, historical

relativism is incontestably justified as an anthropological fact.28 Judging by
Husserls later views, philosophy would gain autonomy after, not before,
positive knowledge. This autonomy would not exempt the philosopher from
gathering in everything anthropology has to offer us. . . Nor could it withhold
anything from the scientists jurisdiction which was accessible to his methods
of research.29 Merleau-Ponty has given great concessions to sociology, but he
withholds the right of the last word from it!
The trouble he is facing is in fact bigger and deeper than Merleau-Ponty
admits in The Philosopher. Once concessions are made, his journey through
the terrain of philosophy and sociology, which is full of landmines, is most
perilous. Here are some examples from The Philosopher.
Example 1. He moves dangerously close to Kant and Weber:
As long as I cling to the ideal of an absolute spectator, of knowledge with
no point of view, I can see my situation as nothing but a source of error.
But if I have once recognized that through it (that is, historical inherence)
I am grafted onto every action (the main concern of Webers sociology)
and all knowledge (the main concern of Kants first critique) which can
have a meaning for me, and that step by step it contains everything
which can exist for me, then my contact with the social in the finitude of
my situation is revealed to me as the point of origin of all truth, including
scientific truth.30
Example 2. He isperhaps this time not dangerouslyclose to
Bourdieu, his alleged sociological heir:
[W]e must not simply say that philosophy is compatible with sociology,
but that it is necessary to it as a constant reminder of its tasks. . .
Philosophy is not a particular body of knowledge; it is the vigilance
which does not let us forget the source of all knowledge.31
Example 3. Merleau-Ponty, this time together with Husserl, is
dangerously close to Hegel and Durkheim:
[Husserl says,]. . .if man is a rational being, he can be so only to the
extent that the whole human community he belongs to is a rational
community, either latently disposed to reason or openly disposed to an
entelechy which has arrived at self-awareness or become evident to itself,
and is thus consciously guiding human development according to its
essential necessity. Philosophy and science would then be the historical
movement of revelation of universal reason, innate in the human
community as such.32

Ibid., 109.
Ibid., 110.
Ibid., 111.



Example 4. He steps on a landmine, that is, Parsons: The individual

drama takes place among roles which are already inscribed in the total
institutional structure. . .33
Example 5. He is almost killed by another landmine, this time, the living
British sociologist Giddens: [F]rom the beginning of his life the child
proceeds. . .to a deciphering of meanings which from the outset generalizes his
own drama into a drama of his culture.34
My observation: Only Marx the most deadly sociological landmine is
absent in his journey.
Why is Merleau-Pontys journey so dangerous? My tentative answer is
this: Since Merleau-Ponty does not accept worlds other than the one that
precedes knowledge, there is no place for the dangerous human rationality, the
same rationality but narrated in different ways by Descartes, Kant and Hegel.
Even when he accepts structuralism, which in my view is very foreign to
phenomenology in its essence, he puts the world that precedes knowledge
and the realm of dogmatic common sense and of science in a spatial
structure consisting of the front page and the back page of the same sheet of
paper, namely within us and outside us. The Schutzian time series seems
to have completely evaded Merleau-Ponty. Towards the conclusion of The
Philosopher Merleau-Ponty is still groping in the dark. Here is his
From the causal point of view it is unthinkable that this centripetal
movement [from culture to personality, that is, the Parsonian
internalization] and this centrifugal movement [from personality to
culture, that is, the Hegelian externalization] are compossible. These
reversals, these metamorphoses, this proximity and distance of the
past and the present. . ., this way that cultural time and space roll up on
themselves, and this perpetual overdetermination of human events
which makes the social fact. . .always appear to us as a variant of a single
life that ours is also part of, and makes every other person another
ourself [sic] for usall these things become conceivable or even visible
to the philosophical attitude alone.35
No, all these things can also be conceivable or visible to the sociological
attitude. It does not seem to me that Merleau-Ponty has arrived at a conclusion.
Rather, I incline to think that he is like washing dirty linenthat is matters he
is unable to comprehend using his spatial structurein public.
We want to note that Schutzs journey through the sociological terrain
was safe. His death in 1959 prevented him from completing the journey all by
himself, but he was most fortunately to have a self-proclaimed sociological
heir, Harold Garfinkel the American sociologist, who carried on the journey
safely to its completion. How Schutz is rated as a phenomenologist is another
question, and it does not concern us in this paper. Had Merleau-Ponty ever

Ibid., 112.



read Schutzs Social World? It is likely that he had never read it; he had not
mentioned Schutz in his Signs.

III. The Sociological Consequence

In Alvin Gouldners The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, Garfinkel
was said to be one of the several culprits (among whom also is Erving
Goffman the symbolic interactionist) who brought down the sociological
hegemony of Parsons in the sixties. He established his ethnomethdology, very
much along the line of Schutz in Social World. Garfinkel has never discussed
philosophy. He has seldom written systematically on sociology. But I was able
to discover the Schutzian time series only after I came across the metaphor of
the iceberg in his Studies in Ethnomethodology:
The relationship between routine and rationality are incongruous ones
only when they are viewed according to everyday common sense and
according to most philosophical teachings. But sociological inquiry
accepts almost as a truism. . . the ability of a person to act rationally . . .
[and] that this ability depends upon the person being able to take for
granted, to take under trust, a vast array of features of the social order. In
the conduct of his everyday affairs in order for the person to treat
rationally the one-tenth of his situation. . . like an iceberg appears above
the water, he must be able to treat the nine-tenths that lies below as an
unquestioned and. . . as an unquestionable background of matters that
are demonstrably relevant to his calculation, but which appear without
even being noticed.36
The metaphor alone does not give one the impression that Garfinkels
sociological gaze has a time structure, but if one remembers that he ridiculed
Parsonss action theory by calling its time structure derisively a fat moment
in his doctoral dissertation,37 Garfinkels awareness of the need for a time
structure for ones sociological gaze is all too transparent. By the term a fat
moment he is deploring that Parsonss world is a rock on dry land all the time.
It must be a dead world. But so is the world as an iceberg that is totally
submerged in the water all the time. There must therefore be a time structure in
which the world as an iceberg appears one-tenth above the water for one
moment and then totally below it for another, cyclically. The amount of
rationality that Garfinkel grants to our being-in-the-world is only one-tenthit
is a little too mean of Garfinkel. In my personal evaluation, human beings
deserve a little more. Perhaps Garfinkel was also a little too mean to Parsons,
who incidentally was his dissertation supervisor.
Merleau-Ponty is alleged to have a sociological heir. He is Bourdieu the
French sociologist. Loc Wacquant, one of Bourdieus disciples, claims, I
want to suggest that Bourdieu is his (that is, Merleau-Pontys) sociological heir,
Harold Garfinkel, Studies in Ethnomethodology (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,
1967), 172173.
John Heritage, Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology (Cambridge: Polity, 1984),



if one who innovates in ways that are sometimes incompatible with both the
spirit and the letter of the phenomenologists work. 38 In A Lecture on
Lecture, his inaugural lecture at the College of France on April 23, 1982, he
The source of historical action. . .resides. . .in the relation between two
states of the social, that is, between the history objectified in things, in
the form of institutions, and the history incarnated in bodies, in the form
of that system of enduring dispositions which I call habitus. The body is
in the social world but the social world is also in the body.39
The last sentence looks very similar to the quotation we have taken from
Merleau-Pontys Preface. Wacquant has given an even more similar
quotation from Perception, which he refers to as appearing on page 401 but I
cannot locate it there. It is this: Inside and outside are wholly inseparable. The
world is wholly inside and I am wholly outside myself.40 Doesnt it look like
a Mobius band? What Bourdieu has inherited from Merleau-Ponty is not too
clear to me and needs investigation; but at least three keywords of
Merleau-Pontys phenomenology, namely, body, world and time, have been
taken over by Bourdieu into his own reflexive sociology. In the paper The
ground of the social world, which I read to Hong Kong Society of
Phenomenology early this year (postscript: it has appeared in Sociological
Research, Issues 92 and 93, Volumes 2 and 3, 2001), I have tried to
demonstrate that the time structure of Bourdieus sociological gaze is in fact
nothing more than a historical tempo, an echo of what has been past into
history, which exists in one of the two time states of the Schutzian time series,
namely the world of consociates, only. I called it the Bourdieuen historical
The connection of Bourdieuen historical tempo to the time structure of
Merleau-Pontys gaze in Perception remains to be investigated. Will
Merleau-Pontys gaze in Perception also end up in Schutzs world of
consociates and nowhere else? A tantalizing suggestion to ponder over. Also,
for your information, I have preliminary evidence from his text that the time
structure of Webers sociological gaze is a particular stochastic process, called
the Markov chain. A surprise even to myself.

Pierre Bourdieu and Loc J. D. Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 20, fn. 35.
Pierre Bourdieu, In Other Words, Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology
(Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1990), 190.
Bourdieu and Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, op. cit., 20, fn.



Aron, Raymond. 1972. Main Currents in Sociological Thought 2. Trans.
Richard Howard and Helen Weaver. Hamondsworth, Middlesex,
England: Penguin Books Ltd.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. In Other Words, Essays Towards a Reflexive
Sociology. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
and Loc J.D. Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. New Jersey:
Gouldner, Alvin Ward. 1971. The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology.
London: Heinemann.
Heritage, John. 1984. Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity.
Levi-Strauss, Claude. 1963. Structural Anthropology, trans. Claire Jocobson
and Brooke Grundgest Schoepf. New York: Basic Books.
Marshall, Gordon. 1994. Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin
Smith from Phenomenologie de la Perception. London: Routledge.
. 1964. Signs. Northwestern University Press. 1960. Translated, with
an introduction by Richard C. McCleary from Signs. Paris: Librairie
Mommsen, Wolfgang. 1970. Max Webers political sociology and his
philosophy of world history. In Wrong, 183194.
Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1983. Course in General Linguistics, edited Charles
Bally and Albert Sechehaye with the collaboration of Albert Riedlinger,
translated and annotated by Roy Harris. London: Duckworth.
Schutz, Alfred. 1962. Collected Papers I The Problem of Social Reality, edited
and introduced by Maurice Natanson, with a preface by H. L. Van Breda.
The Hague/Boston/London: Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1976. Collected Papers II Studies in Social Theory, edited and
introduced by Arvid Brodersen. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1975. Collected Papers III Studies in Phenomenological Philosophy,
edited by I. Schutz, with an introduction by Aron Gurwitsch. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1980. The Phenomenology of the Social World, trans. George Walsh
and Frederick Lehnert. London: Heineman Educational Books.
Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus
Wittich. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press.
Wrong, Dennis, ed. 1970. Max Weber. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.


Toward Revisioning Ricoeurs

Hermeneutic of Suspicion
in Other Spaces and Cultures

Purushottama BILIMORIA
Deakin University

I. Preamble
In this paper I wish to examine a contemporary response to an
important debate in the science of hermeneuticsthe art of rightly
understanding the speech, chiefly in written form, of another. 1 The 20th
century has witnessed what elsewhere has been termed a profound
radicalization of the understanding of texts inasmuch as hermeneuticsthe
programmatic of interpretation and all that it had hitherto supposed about the
nature and relation of text and its meaningis itself problematized. The site
of the contestation has been language, understood in the broadest possible
sense of the medium that functions to convey meaning, textual and otherwise.
A variety of responses, maturing into formidable intellectual movements,
have emerged, and continue to be articulated, especially in philosophy,
literary studies and the social sciences. As is well-known, this virtual
explosion of theories of textual meaning and vastly differing models of
linguistic understanding, or of the semiological processes, during the
intellectual ferment known as Modernism, has had considerable impact in
areas as far afield as architecture, the arts, postmodernism, feminist studies,
psychoanalysis, cross-cultural and post-colonial discourses, indigenist
jurisprudence and even on geography and ecology or the geo-sciences. I will
here confine my inquiry to a significant thinker rather than cover any
particular movement or movements. I have chosen to discuss Paul Ricoeurs
intervention in the debate between Hans-Georg Gadamer and Juergen
Habermas concerning the proper task or calling, as it were, of hermeneutics

F. Schleiermacher, Hermeneutik und Kritik, ed. M. Frank (Frankfurt:

Suhrkamp, 1977).
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 89-109.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



as a mode of philosophical interrogation in the late 20th century. I will also

take the opportunity of drawing some implications through this encounter
with Hermes (the messenger of the gods) matured into hermeneuein, for
thinking on religion (as distinct from the God of theology).

II. Setting the Scene

Heidegger throws a hammer into the work of classical (19th century)
hermeneutics. From its beginnings in unravelling hidden meaning in the text,
discerning the authorial intention and understanding the text more deeply
than ordinary language would enable, by the early years of the 20th century
hermeneutics under the impetus of phenomenology in particular directs its
focus more toward discovering the epistemological foundations of the
human sciences, or the methodological principles which lead to objective
knowledge in the Geisteswissenschaften.2 Thus in Husserl and Cassirer, for
example, the question of truth is subordinated to the question of meaning,
significance and symbolic formation. The task of phenomenology in this
context centers on an analysis of knowledge, but moves further into
investigating all modes of apprehension or the phenomenology of
perception and the diversity of ethnological-psychological experiences,
which includes myths and symbolic forms in cultural lifeworlds. Heidegger is
initially sympathetic to aims of this project (having been a former junior
colleague of Husserl, and having met the neo-kantian Cassirer in Davos in
1929). However, with Heidegger the emphasis shifts to the discourse of the
ontological conditionsin contradiction to the linguistic, psychological, and
anthropological structural formationswhich underlie such knowledge or
claims to knowledge. As Ormiston and Schrift explain, 3 citing from
Heideggers Being and Time:
Heidegger views the hermeneutic projects of Schleiermacher and
Dilthey as derivative of hermeneutics primordial signification,
through which the authentic meaning of Being, and also those basic
structures of Being Dasein [authentic human existent] itself possesses,
are made known to Daseins understanding of Being. The hermeneutic
of Dasein, as an analytic of existence, is thus, for Heidegger, the
point of departure for philosophy conceived as universal
phenomenological ontology. In other words, the first step on the way
to fundamental ontology, as the uncovering of the meaning of Being,
will be a hermeneutic inquiry into the structures of Being implicated in
the activities of understanding and interpretation.

Gayle Ormiston and Alan D. Schrift, eds., The Hermeneutic Tradition from
Ast to Ricoeur (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), 15.
Ibid., 1516.



Later Heidegger came to recognize more and more the pervasiveness of

the hermeneutical circle with respect to understanding, interpretation and
meaning. He thus distanced himself from hermeneutics in terms of no longer
believing that classical (i.e. mid-19th to early 20th centuries) hermeneutics
held out the key to its own problem or presupposition. The problem is
explained in the following way. A prior understanding always grounds
interpretation; but the understanding itself is constituted by fore-structures.
(The entity which is held in our fore-havingfor instance, the hammeris
proximally ready-to-hand as equipment.) Thus understanding already
presupposes in its fore-structures what interpretation is to provide. One has to
acknowledge the grip of this circle while also working through to disclose the
fore-structures, the presuppositions and so on, in the genuine apprehension of
Daseins encounter with Being and its own trajectory.
In short, Heideggers preoccupations shifted towards a critique of
epistemology (which builds on reasons undisclosing potentialities) and to
the grounding-ontological quest (the encounter with Being), even as he
deepened the tension between Verstand (understanding) and Vernunft
(reason), a distinction which Hegel had adopted from Kant. But reason too
for Heidegger was not the formal and definitive process of (calculative)
thinking, with its unassailable logic, appeal to argument, and universality of
its codes, as the Enlightened thinkers had been hard at forging. Rather, reason
is the epistemic space within thinking (or thought thought-ing, Denken). The
Romantic image of language as a natural transparency to reason, whose
representations reason could therefore disclose with ease, looses its hold on
post-Enlightenment philosophers. Rather the emphasis is on the possible
absence of universality in epistemology and more towards the phenomenon
of language as the house of Being. This insight for Heidegger helps inquiry
move toward newer and hitherto unchartered modes of knowingbut a
knowing which is as it were for beings sake aloneand which occurs upon
disclosure of the hiddenthe unspoken, the unthoughtthrough the
powerful reflection (on history as on Daseins conditions). The inquiry here
turns for its aid also to the searching phenomenological critique (in the
Husserlian manner) and, more especially, Destruktion (de-structuring) of
the history of metaphysics and classical ontology wedded to theology or the
onto-theo-logos contagion alongside modern humanism that has apparently
bedevilled Western thought, ever since the pre-Socratics began to wonder.
In Being and Time Heidegger suggests the following account of the
hermeneutic circle of meaning and being:
In the circle [of understanding] is hidden a positive possibility of the
most primordial kind of knowing. To be sure, we genuinely take hold
of this possibility only when, in our interpretation, we have understood
that our first, last, and constant task is never to allow our fore-having,


fore-sight, and fore-conception to be presented to us by fancies and
popular conceptions, but rather to make the scientific theme secure by
working out these fore-structures in terms of the things themselves.4

As to the precise role or genealogy of Destruktion in the history of

ontology (often misunderstood as indicative of a nihilistic urge or simple
destruction), Heidegger gives this account:
We understand this task [of loosening the hardened tradition and of
dissolving its obscurities in order to make the question transparent in its
own history] as that of the destruction of the traditional standing
(Bestand) of ancient ontology, a destruction which is carried out under
the guidance of the question of being and which works toward the
original experiences in which the first and thenceforth the leading
definitions or determinations of being were achieved.5
So Destruction is aimed at getting behind the presuppositions of a
tradition (its history of ontology) and unearthing or unmasking the hidden,
the unspoken, the unthought, (its history of metaphysics), as well as gaining
an inkling of the future goals, trajectory of hopes or aspirations of the culture
(religion, the national project).
The suggestion that follows on from Heideggers insights in this regard
is that if text and its meaning are to be understood in a broader sense or
context (and pre-text or pre-judgments) than just in terms of the markers on
paper (or verbal ciphers in speech and oral enactments), or the authorial
intention(s), then the inquiry perforce spills beyond linguistics into other
modes of expressions and cultural productions or constructs, all of which
may in turn play a role toward interpretation and the understanding to be
derived In a special sense, language might be said to constitute this larger
horizon in which the idea of text as a linguistic expression on the one hand
and text as a cultural-historical artefact or production on the other hand
converge if not coincide. But cultural and historical artefacts and their
transmissions over time (or travel over space) are also imbued with preconceptions, prejudices, pre-judgment, occlusions and even errors of
judgment within them. Now if our readings or expectations of meaning are

Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward
Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 195; on pre-understanding, cf. Paul
Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, ed. and trans. John B Thompson
(Cambridge/Paris: Cambridge University Press and Editions de la Maison des
Sciences de lHomme, 1987 Reprint), 57.
Ibid., section 6; parenthetical clarifications from Robert P. Scharlemann, The
Being of God When God Is Not Being God: Deconstructing the History of Theism,
in Deconstruction and Theology, eds. J.J. Altizer, Carl Raschke, Mark C. Taylor et al.
(New York: Crossroad, 1982), 81.



conducted against this horizon or background of language then our

interpretations cannot be said to be free of those very prejudices,
presuppositions and biases, wittingly or unwittingly, as is too often
presupposed in the hermeneutical enterprise. The interpreter as the
interlocutor is another moment in the tradition as is the object s/he is
attempting to interpret and understand (and all the more confounding if the
object is the subject or self of the interpreter, or the Self writ large as in
Hegels idea of Spirit as Absolute Subject, or Brahman of the Upanishads).
Language, text, linguistic structure, interpretation and understanding are
inextricably intertwined. All understanding (and translation) is interpretation
and all interpretation is embedded in language which itself, history and
culturally speaking, is not free from certain prejudices and presuppositions.
Can a nail dislodge a bent nail stuck on the raw piece of hardwood?
A rather gloomy implication drawn by Walter Schulz in respect of the
history of Western metaphysics with the advent of the Heideggerian
philosophical hermeneutics seems to suggest that modern Western
metaphysics represented the end of a long tradition of speculative
hermeneutics, and therefore incapable of either being assimilated into it or
criticized in terms of any phase of that. Western metaphysics, he believes,
with Heidegger exhibits a meaningful historical pattern moving towards an
end which culminates with Destruktion or the strategy of dismantling to
take the step back (to loosen hardened concepts and retrieve the lost
dimensions of meaning formerly possessed in living languages, texts,
cultures, speech of the gods, and so on). This is most explicit in his essay
What is Metaphysics? in which the metaphysical tradition is shown as
culminating in Nothing, which is the end-point of tradition, thus marking
the metaphysical endwork of traditional metaphysics or traditions
terminus point, after which it passes into another beginning.6 As J.L. Mehta
remarks, Heideggers philosophy thus represents the historic moment of the
self-abrogation, the reversal, of the metaphysical tradition and is itself
conditioned by this tradition.7

III. Gadamer: The Hermeneutic of Tradition

At this point, we should introduce Hans-Georg Gadamer who takes the
Heideggerian critique of the classical interpretative schema a stage further,
by sharpening this particular puzzle in phenomenological terms, and
suggesting a likely solution by invoking the weighty role of tradition in the
hermeneutical enterprise. Gadamer was an early pupil of Heidegger, and
Walter Schulz, Uber den philosophiegeschichtlichen Ort Martin
Heideggers, Philosophische Rundschau 1 (1953/54): 6593, 211232.
J.L. Mehta, J L Mehta on Heidegger, Hermeneutics and Indian Tradition, ed.
William Jackson (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 54.



inspired as much by him as by the works of Husserlian phenomenology and

Schleiermacher or the tradition of Geisteswissenschaften, though Gadamer is
of a more sober and humbler temperament in comparison to the formidable
passionate presence of Heidegger in his richly didactic and multipli-nuanced
writings. Much of Gadamers thinking is articulated in his magisterial treatise
Wahrheit und Methode (1960, second edition with replies 1965; English
translation issued in 1975 as Truth and Method, hereafter TM). This work
culminates in a discussion of language juxtaposed between intentional
meaning and historical consciousness as a basis for a hermeneutic ontology.
Gadamers own way of putting the conundrum we confronted with
Heideggers thinking is to suggest the following. Given that the elements that
comprise the fundamental structures of our linguistic understanding are not
entirely independent of the text we are attempting to understand, and being
historically and culturally constituted, they are further not free from certain
presuppositions and prejudices (Heideggers fore-structures, preunderstanding). How then can we claim to arrive at a neutral, Archimedean
point, from which to proffer the objective reading of the text qua text?
Either we say that everything is a text, including our own modes of
understanding and the disciplines and methods of inquiry we bring to bear on
our subject-matter (the texts), and therefore themselves stand in need of
interpretation or de-construction, or that the concept of the text has to be
extended in a way that does not leave out all the many modalities, influences,
myths, cultural, historical and rhetorical tropes or expedient devices and all
manner of constructs, patriarchal overlays, etc., that might have gone into
informing the deeper, unconscious, structure or background in the very
formation of the discourse.
The give and take of understanding of a text occurs in the medium of
language; but the medium of language is not so different from the matrix of
conversation in which the speakers, if they do not share the same languagegame, will find it difficult to follow and understand each other. And no one
takes everything someone else says in a dialogue as unquestionable and
absolute truth. Often the authenticity or otherwise of the speaker is
established only after the dialogue has proceeded some way and one has had
a moment or two to reflect on the testimony being presented in the course of
the conversation. From such a stance, it becomes possible to cultivate
reflection, detachment from the texts and the tradition as well. This insight
has immense ramifications for inter-textual and intra-tradition understanding.
Tradition in this way is both de-mystified and understood as a historical
process yet to be fully realized, and its hold therefore on authority, or claim
to be grounded in logos (the absolute presence of Truth, or truth-claims
about things-in-themselves, the End, Finality, and ultimate purpose or
Telos) is also softened somewhat, if not bracketed out and opened up for
questioning. A tradition can be menacingly obscure and bewitching, if not
also marked with exclusivity. A sense of alienation from the tradition is then



an indispensable part of reading and thinking through the textuality (texts and
the making of the texts) of the tradition. There is no such thing as presuppositionless understanding. Our understanding is not just an act of our
subjectivity, but is more like an ingression or intrusion into the process of
tradition in which the past and present are continuously mediated. And this
matrix, i.e. tradition or community of understanding and mutuality, is itself in
constant formation and transformation: we cannot anticipate a finality to any
understanding, but hold up this telos as an ideal, or vice versa (the latter
being more a Hegelian concern).8
Gadamer nevertheless did not believe that such difficulties as outlined
above should lead us to a hopelessly relativistic, anarchic and defeatist
situation. Rather, Gadamers own contribution was to underscore the
conversation or dialogue between tradition as the horizon of expectation of
the interpreter and the more universal or transcendental process of reflection,
but never far away from the conditions that make history. The hermeneutic
dimension of meaning is bound to the unending conversation or dialogical
interaction of an ideal interpretive community, an ideal however that can
perhaps never be achieved in praxis but which could nevertheless anticipate
the direction in which the hermeneutic act (and enactment) must move if it is
not to become a meaningless montage of stereotypes and multipli-located
non-sensical conversation stoppers (or a tower of babels). Gadamers
formulation of a philosophical or ontological version of hermeneutics
gives ample room to concepts such as hermeneutical consciousness and
intentional meaning which draws him closer to traditional philosophy of
reflection, while in the critique of the subjectwhether it be in the work of
art or aesthetics, literature, history, which he follows Heideggers
Destruktion, he is at one with the ontological turn (as indeed Gadamer has
often been charged with). 9 While a fixed subjecthood or subject-centered
meaning in the interpretive availability of the ear of the other is not
presupposed, nevertheless the intentionality of the other in conversation is
placed in relation to the whole of our own meaning, or becomes temporality
at least the horizon wherein holds the meaning of the other.
What could have presented themselves as the bitter blockers to
adequate understanding and Selbstverstaendnis (self-understanding)namely,
intentions, subject or auto reference, and the embeddedness of a tradition
of textual representation in presuppositions, pre-judgments and prejudices,
are turned around by Gadamer to become the very links, devices and missing
parts that actually enable and are constitutive of understanding. Prejudices are

Cf. Hans Georg Gadamer, Text and Interpretation, in Hermeneutics and
Modern Philosophy, ed. Brice R Wachterhauser (Albany: State University of New
York Press, 1986).



made transparent for what they are, and their limitations are thereby
undermined. The walls of traditional framework need not keep the world
closed off from hermeneutical access, in understanding and in reflection. This
is what Gadamer calls the happening of tradition which admits to a kind of
hermeneutic self-reflection on the part of language in dialogue with (the
author-ity) of tradition; and here one will notice that the horizons of language
and tradition are seen to converge, the world of the reader and the world of
the text merge into one another.10 Gadamer characterized this non-analytic
coming-together as the fusion of horizons;11 and later commentators have
extended the metaphor to signal the meeting of disparate cultures, transtradition comparisons, and even the synthesis of the arts of different cultures
(as in the fusion of world music).
However, Gadamer goes further and elevates tradition to a neartranscendental status for grounding our understanding, placing immense
value on ousia or Being that as it were speaks through the audacious
philosophical hermeneutics (not a historical necessity as with Hegels
parousiological Geist, but in various concrete historical, plural, self-and-other
conscious, and non-hierarchized forms). The following very often cited
passage from Gadamers famous Truth and Method brings out this point
rather tellingly:
That which has been sanctioned by tradition and custom has an
authority that is nameless, and our finite historical being is marked by
the fact that always the authority of what has been transmittedand
not only what is clearly groundedhas power over our attitudes and
behavior. . . The validity of morals, for example, is based on tradition.
They are freely taken over, but by no means created by a free insight or
justified by themselves. That is precisely what we call tradition: the
ground of their validity. . .tradition has a justification that is outside the
arguments of reason and in large measure determines our institutions
and attitudes.12

Hans Georg Gadamer, Letter to Dallmayr (1985), in Dialogue &
Deconstruction The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter, eds. Diane P. Michelfelder and
Richard E. Palmer (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989), 97.
Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (English translation of Wahrheit
und Methode) (London: Sheed and Ward; New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 273ff,
337, 358.
Hans Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode (Tubingen: J C B Mohr, 1960),
26465; Gadamer, Truth and Method, op. cit., 249; John D. Caputo, Gadamers
Closet Essentialism: A Derridean Critique, in Dialogue & Deconstruction The
Gadamer-Derrida Encounter, 259.



IV. Habermass Attack on Gadamer

Philosophers have interpreted the world; the point however is to
change it.
A highly critical review of Gadamers leading treatise, Truth and
Method, was issued in 1967 in the form of a debate with Gadamer by the
contemporary German philosopher, equally well-known and regarded, Jurgen
Habermas, who however hails from the Critical Theory or Frankfurt School
(which has is linked with critiques of Feuerbach, Horkheimer, Adorno, a
Kantian Marx, and Apel, unlike Gadamers phenomenological antecedents in
Hegel, Heidegger and Husserl). After the second edition of Gadamers
Wahrheit und Methode appeared in 1965, Habermas launches an attack in
1967 in Zur Logik der Sozialwissenschaften,13 especially on the section in TM
discussing the rehabilitation of prejudice, authority and tradition, and the
famous theory of the historical-effective consciousness. Habermas attack,
Gadamers clarificatory essays, and the ensuing debate are collected in
volume entitled Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik. 14 (Paul Ricoeurs essay
which reports this debate in note one, while bearing the English rendition of
the self-same title of the debate, is not a translation but a commentary, indeed
an intervention from a third voice in the debate, originally published in
French as Hermeneutique et des Critique des ideologies, 1973, in English
as Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology, 1981, [1987] 1986).
Let us consider the critique before we turn to Ricoeurs intervention.
Habermas begins by criticizing Gadamers position as relativistic and
potentially repressive, in the suspicion that Heideggers attack on realism and
humanism (via his hermeneutic of Dasein) are somehow linked to his Nazism,
and in the final analysis all attempts at interpretation, including Marxist ones,
and preoccupations with defining words like truth, knowledge, or
philosophy are nothing more than an apology for the status quo. 15
Habermass specific criticism of Gadamers approach to the hermeneutic
theory of knowledge through the idealized tradition makes the following
(1) The idea of tradition reeks of foundationalism even as it seeks the
impossible grounding in essentialist presuppositions.

Juergen Habermas, Zur Logik der Sozialwissenschaften (Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp, 1967).
Juergen Habermas et al, eds. Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik (Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp, 1971).
Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism and Truth (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), 2830.



(2) Inasmuch as the hermeneutic of tradition retains a decisive role for

the subject, self-understanding and our own meaning it has not freed itself
from valuation of the abstract, the subjective and indeed Being.
(3) The concept of tradition leads one to ignore the dimension of
ideology and the sway that powerful allies, forces and domineering groups
within a tradition (textual, authorial, religious, cultural) have over the
development of social justice and transformations anticipated in the
conversations as Gadamer rightly underlines.
It follows, from (3) especially, that there is no guarantee that the
supposed goodness and fair-mindedness in human beings will prevail.
Tradition can easily become a ruse (hence tradition-in-use), and where it is
absent tradition can be re-invented (as Coomaraswamy did so ably in the
Indian aesthetic and metaphilosophical context). The erstwhile or new
understanding so derived serves as a further weapon or armoury with which
to continue the regime of oppression and violence (e.g. in the march of
Reason in Hegels Geistwelt, the emergence and justification of patriotism,
nationalism, colonialism, imperialism, and fundamentalism). If we loose our
distance then we weaken our ability to criticize rationally the powerful,
quasilinguistic (or discourse-saturated) forces of society that impact on our
thoughts, regulate labor, dictate education, channel information, and
perpetrate various forms of domination. Hence Habermas worries about
Gadamers conservatism which shows in the latters tendency to accede to
the authority of tradition even as a rational possibility.
As it should be apparent, the confrontation between Gadamer and
Habermas turns on the assessment of tradition and the place of language
within it: the hermeneutical stance takes a rather more positive and sanguine
stance, while the critical theory of ideology views tradition with a hoodedbrow of suspicion, which in Ricoeurs words amounts to, seeing tradition as
merely the systematically distorted expression of communication under
unacknowledged conditions of violence.16 The reference to suspicion here
is deliberate as it echoes Ricoeurs own characterization of the school of
suspicion or the doubters of the inexorably given (in history, metaphysics,
and in consciousness), to which he enlists Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud
respectively, who opposed or fissured interpretation as restoration of meaning
with interpretation as an exercise of suspicion. From this dialectic we get
the famous phrase the hermeneutic of suspicion,17 which can be extended
to describe the Habermasian critique or doubt as well.

Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, op. cit., 64; Paul Ricoeur,
Hermeneutique et des Critique des ideologies (English translation of Hermeneutics
and the Critique of Ideology), reprinted in Hermeneutics and Modern Philosophy, ed.
Brice R. Wachterhauser (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 301.
Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, trans.
Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 3235; Ricoeur,
Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, op. cit., 34.



Habermas is thus deeply suspicious of Gadamers understanding of

language as an event in tradition, which we essentially suffer as a
historical condition and which we doubtless confront in lived experience.
Habermas searches for a distanciation (critical distancing, setting reflectively
aloof) from tradition and the subjectively-involved conditions (happenings,
events, etc.) that would make space for reflection, question dogmatic forces,
and not conflate knowledge with authority. Unless there is a more universal
epistemological and objective matrix from which to launch and check or
scrutinize the ground-rules for this conversation or dialogue between
tradition and reflection, there is no way of subduing the rule of subjectivity
and preventing prejudices and pre-suppositions of a tradition from reasserting and re-inscribing themselves.
This is a powerful criticism and Habermas did certainly pick on a
fundamental weakness in the Heideggerian-Gadamarian project for staying
too close to a historicization of understanding rather than making sufficient
space for the critique of the historicity of understanding itself. In other words,
providing a transcendental or sufficiently objective ground for self-reflection
and criticism without compromise or blinking of the eye. It might look as if
Habermas is looking for the Archimedean point or some kind of idealism
of linguisticality which Gadamer had earlier rejected as a genuine
possibility.18 The point of the contention here is that Gadamer does himself
attach a claim to universality to hermeneutical enterprise in practice at least;
that is to say, the program of hermeneutic as formulated by Gadamer has
universal applicability without setting its limits. Gadamer was as concerned
to develop a theory as to suggest ways for its applicability or praxis.
Habermas however remains sceptical about the basis of the universal
claim in Gadamers formulation, and believes that the universal basis should
be looked for in concerns for social justice, local or particularized concerns,
communicative action, development of the means for human flourishing, and
the appropriate attitude toward nature this may call for. Habermas wants us
therefore to rethink the conditions for the possibility of knowledge and its
power over human affairs for which he develops the concept of interest
(which itself is a larger conception related to labor and power in the spheres
of social development). Its implications for hermeneutics is that one has to be
upfront and critically reflective about the complicity of language in distorting
communication and entrenching prejudice, authority and the domineering
tradition. So Habermas opposes the Gadamerian Romantic ideal of tradition
with the critique of ideology; prejudice (even in its positive legal sense of
praejudicium) with judgment (in the Kantian critical sense); and
understanding (Verstand) with reason (Vernunft); which is to say that contra
Gadamer hermeneutics is stood on its head or subverted under the powerful
methodology of communicative ethics developed by Habermas and his senior



colleague, Karl Otto-Apel. But Gadamer himself is not averse to the thrust of
reason understood as communicative action, for he too emphasizes Vernunft;
however, he would argue that what is reasonable emerges in the course of
dialogue and understanding derived in the spirit of the tradition.

V. Ricoeurs Hermeneutic of Suspicion

It might be instructive at this point to turn to Paul Ricoeurs
intervention in this debate more directly. Let us note that in positioning
himself in this debate, Ricoeur does not take sides either way, but rather tries
to focus on both sides of the competing positions on hermeneutics articulated
in recent times and especially in the Gadamer-Habermas debate. From where
Ricoeur stands, the debate raises the question of the fundamental gesture of
philosophy, which is at heart a post-Heideggerian problem. The question is
teased out thus:
Is this gesture an avowal of the historical conditions to which all human
understanding is subsumed under the reign of finitude? Or rather is it,
in the last analysis, an act of defiance, a critical gesture, relentlessly
repeated and indefinitely turned against false consciousness, against
the distortions of human communication that conceal the permanent
exercise of domination and violence?19
What is then at philosophical stake in this debate would seem to boil
down to either of the alternatives: hermeneutical consciousness (Gadamer) or
a critical consciousness (Habermas). But Ricoeur questions this simple
formulation of the alternatives, for not only is the philosophical stake too
high to risk an error at this juncture, but also because it might be necessary
(or our own calling in the aftermath of the disputation) to surpass the
alternative, to take another turn. But Ricoeur shies away from any planned
annexation or syncretism in attempting to open respective spaces on both
sides to speak to each other, and to recognize the others virtues and claim
to universality. This bold philosophical gesture has earned Ricoeur an
endearing recognition among philosophers and theologians alike.
Ricoeur therefore brings an interesting insight into this debate and
helps re-orient the debate from one concerned purely with method to the
heart of philosophy which is the question of ontology in the concrete context
of lived history. The task is not so much of Destruktion as of reconstruction, or re-structuring out of the latent layers of recollected
consciousness, reminiscence, myths, symbolic forms, narratives, with the

Wachterhauser, ed., Hermeneutics and Modern Philosophy, op. cit., 47.

Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, op. cit., 63; Ricoeur,
Hermeneutique et des Critique des ideologies, op. cit., 300.



requisite engagement of reflection and criticism. Accordingly, Ricoeur sees

four schemes through which the two seemingly opposing camps (of Gadamer
and Habermas) can be dialogued and brought to closer appreciation of the
others perspective.
Firstly, he takes Gadamers suggestion of distanciation or alienation
from the tradition and shows this to be an important strategy for the
emancipation of the text. The suggestion is that a text is a production of a
number of moves, beginning with the intention of the author, the disposition
of the original auditors, the cultural environment and the socio-linguistic
conditions in which it arises. A decontextualization is necessary before a
recontextualization can take place. Dialogue is not a sufficient condition;
discourse has to be reframed and mediated through writing which is open to
anyones reading of it.
The second theme follows on from the recognized need of the critical
attitude, in which discourse is pushed further towards objectification, to the
point where structural analysis discloses the depth semantics of a text.
Third, the hermeneutics of texts turns towards the critique of ideology,
through interrogation and transgressing of the closure of the text. One no
longer looks simply for the intentions of the author, but expects a world or
reality (as the mode of being and power-to-be) to unfold out of it. This
echoes Heideggers trajectory of Daseins own possibilities.
The fourth condition returns the element of subjectivity into
interpretation, for understanding in the end is concerned with selfunderstanding, mediated by the matter of the text against the horizon of the
tradition. But such a self-understanding must be open to a rupturing of the
subjective (or transcendental) illusion as well, i.e. to a critique of false
consciousness, whether historical or contemporary The critique of false
consciousness can thus become an integral part of hermeneutics, conferring
upon the critique of ideology that metahermeneutical dimension that
Habermas assigns to it.20 Again, the theme of distanciation or detachment
becomes critical here. Ricoeur dwells on this concept at some length
complaining about its apparent radical absence in Gadamers philosophical
hermeneutics, in his essay The hermeneutical function of distanciation.21
Ricoeur then goes further and turns the hermeneutic themes outlined
here on the critique of ideology itself, lest it assumes a life all its own without
contributing to understanding in any deep or significant way. So both a depth
hermeneutic and a critical hermeneutic is necessary for there to be
emancipation from the snares of tradition on the one hand and the oppressive
potentialities within the discourse or the theory of ideology itself. (For
instance, Marxism in the Soviet Union was intended as a critique of


Ricoeur, Hermeneutique et des Critique des ideologies, op. cit., 332;

Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, op. cit., 94.
Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, op. cit., 131144.



bourgeois ideology; but in the present day it has outrun its function, yet
Marxism continues to hold sway, albeit as a replacement ideology.)
So Ricoeur combines the reanimation of traditional sources of
communicative action with the reawakening of political responsibility
towards a creative renewal of cultural heritage. His own summary of the
fusion or consensus (which he refrains from calling a synthesis or
union), discusses the specific symbols from the two dominant religions of
the West, Judaism and Christianity, namely, Exodus and Resurrection, which
are eschatological symbols of liberation, salvation and hope. A passage
recounting the debate in Ricoeurs famous essay upon which we have
focused here brings out this point most poignantly. (The pauses between the
quotes are interspersed with linkages that discern.)
[I]n the end, hermeneutics will say, from where do you speak when you
appeal to Selbstreflexion [self-reflexion], if it is not from the place you
yourself have denounced as a non-place, the non-place of the
transcendental subject?
[This is Heideggers question following on from Neitzsches
It is indeed from the basis of a tradition that you speak. This tradition is
not perhaps the same as Gadamers; it is perhaps that of Aufklrung
[Enlightenment], whereas Gadamers would be Romanticism. But it
is a tradition nonetheless, the tradition of emancipation rather than that
of recollection.
[This is Gadamers position spiced with the wanting ingredient of
distanciation, anticipating Habermas, which is more marked in the next
Critique is also a tradition.
[But Habermas is immediately qualified for the less concrete and more
spiritual goals in the history of ontology.]
I would even say that it plunges into the most impressive tradition, that
of liberating acts, of the Exodus and the Resurrection. Perhaps there
would be no more interest in emancipation, no more anticipation of
freedom, if the Exodus and the Resurrection were effaced from the
memory of mankind. . . If that is so, then nothing is more deceptive
than the alleged antinomy between an ontology of prior understanding
and an eschatology of freedom.



[We are returned to Heideggers gesture and ontology of preunderstanding in being, but less vengefully with what has preceded in
the aftermath of the Nationalist Socialist ascendancy, the Holocaust;
and so now with greater hope, or self-liberating remembrance of things
We have encountered these false antinomies elsewhere: as if it were
necessary to choose between reminiscence and hope! In theological
terms, eschatology is nothing without the recitation of acts of
deliverance from the past.22
Ricoeur has put this model for hermeneutics to fruitful use and
produced excellent interpretations of phenomena which neither
phenomenologists before him nor theologians were quite able to deal with in
their complexities. In his work The Symbolism of Evil he develops an
interpretation of symbols, understood as cultural expressions which contain
double meaning. The object of hermeneutics is to disclose, to explicate, to
open out the symbolic (or sacred) meanings in these double-barrelled or
ambivalent expressions. Evil presents itself as one extremely reified
challenge. In another of his major works, The Rule of Metaphor, Ricoeur
shows how a philosophy of living metaphoras distinct from signs set up
through analogy or the non-offending argument from paritycan form a
reconciliatory bridge in the age-old divide between the poetic and the
speculative discourses in philosophy. The history of this divide goes at least
as far back as Plato and Aristotle respectively, and a hermeneutics of the
metaphor can be seen to play a far greater role in understanding than had
hitherto been realized.
Ricoeur then returns us one again to the theme of the hermeneutic of
suspicion we referred in the discussion of Habermass critical strategy, and
drawing increasingly from Derridas unbounded deconstruction to
supplement Heideggers own restrained criticism, he proposes this as a
means of unhitching the latent in metaphysics and dead metaphors which
accumulate and occlude a traditions understanding of cosmology, and the
deeper symbolic truth undergirding certain of its discourses. He points out:
A simple inspection of discourse in its explicit intention, a simple
interpretation through the game of question and answer, is no longer
sufficient. Heideggerian deconstruction (Destruktion?) must now take
on Nietzschean genealogy, Freudian psychoanalysis, the Marxist
critique of ideology (post-Habermas), that is, the weapons of the
hermeneutics of suspicion. Armed in this way, the critique is capable of



Ibid., 99; Ricoeur, Hermeneutique et des Critique des ideologies, op. cit.,



unmasking the unthought conjunction of hidden metaphysics and wornout metaphor.23

The overall task is not a linguistic task (or the prerogative of cultural
studies), rather it is a philosophical task (as part of the fundamental gesture
of philosophy). Thus if Habermass use of the hermeneutic of suspicion is
shot through with ideologiekritik, Ricoeurs would seem to have a more
creative edge to it, and one which, in keeping with Gadamers philosophical
hermeneutics, is full of hope and sagacity.
I wish to conclude this essay with a brief discussion of the possible
areas of application of the creative hermeneutic of suspicion especially in the
non-Western contexts. The examples I draw upon take in seriously both the
hermeneutic of tradition and the critique of ideology, which becomes
paradigmatic in post-colonial critiques of Western ethnocentrism and other
(more indigenist) kinds of author-itarian elitism. To take up the latter first,
one could argue that the impersonal, abstract, ahistorical, atemporal concept
of Brahman much dear to Vedanta philosophy is a dead metaphor,
inasmuch as it is grounded in eidos, logos, and ousia and therefore has its life
or sustaining significance entirely within the discourse of metaphysics (as
Heidegger would say of all grand metaphors of the subject). A culture or
rather ideology of brahmanical hegemony and renunciative restraint
bordering on the obsessive denial of the lived experience, was built or
idealized on the basis of this dominant and powerful transcendental signifier.
Its social praxis legitimated the rule of the priest, a strident and pervasive
caste hierarchy, marginalization of women, the under-class and foreigners as
others. A wondrous evocation that may have arisen in the poetic musings of
the Vedic (nomadic Aryan) bards, which in the altar of later Vedic sacrificial
fire is transmuted into a substantive being (in the dis-guise of language), and
which finally under the anvil of speculative philosophy ascends to assume the
throne on highest rungs of metaphysics. Thus Brahman stands to be destructured, dismantled, disseminated, deconstructed by being subjected to the
same rigours of the hermeneutic of suspicion and critical ideology as Ricoeur
has suggested. It may then be possible to recover the latent and to reanimate
the tradition in more creative ways than has occurred either through the
revivalism of neo-Vedanta or the Romanticism of 19th century philological
The last remark brings me the second example. The large body of texts
produced and translated in Europe since around the 16th century on the


Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences, op. cit., 285.

Purushottama Bilimoria, On Sankaras Attempted Reconciliation of You
and I. Yusmadasmatsamanvaya, in Relativism, Suffering and Beyond Essays in
Memory of Bimal K Matilal, eds. P. Bilimoia and J.N. Mohanty (Delhi/NY/Melbourne:
Oxford University Press, 1997).



cultures, prevalent literature, and peoples inhabiting the vast land mass to the
east and south-east of Europe has nowadays been recognized to be suffused
with orientalism. This marks a peculiar hermeneutical act which the West
ingressed upon the East. More specifically, the discourse of Orientalism
underscores the wilful romantic construct of the East (the Orient or Asia) in
the imagination of the West as Europes other, and destined to be
converted, civilized and controlled by the burgeoning Western religious,
economic and political might. But if we leave out any part, conscious or
complicitous, involved in the formation of the text or the supplemental
discourse we could be doing grave epistemic violence to the text. An
incisive judgment along these lines has, for instance, been said of the 19th
century British Rajs novel statutory judgment on sati, the Indian practice of
widow burning, as constituting a legal crime, which however failed to
register the social motivations of the Hindu patriarchal order that perpetrated
this culturally aberrant practice for so long (Spivak). It is not as though such
a censor was not possible within the Hindu and Pan-Indian tradition itself;
indeed, there was evidence in traditional moral texts against such practices
and indigenous leaders had rallied against the act on the grounds that sati
violated womens rights: but is that tantamount to a criminal act under
English Common Law? 25
By focussing on the discourse of Orientalism we understand better the
Occidental-West, its logocentrism, and its failure to bring about genuine
dialogue with the East and generate authentic methods for reading,
translating and understanding the other. The same can be said about the
early British settlers judgment that the colonies of terra australis were not
inhabited by any people (thus rendered as terra nullius) because the nomadic
native Aborigines appeared not to have cultivated the land or invested any
labor in it or asserted an instrumental interest in it. It took a Ernie Mabo to
challenge this interpretation of another tradition in place. This massive
legal and political prejudice, in the Gadamarian sense, is finally turned back
on the incoming tradition for its own self-reflection, and to demonstrate that
it misjudged interest in individualistic-utilitarian rather than in
communicative-communitarian terms; and it perhaps paves the way for
corrective reparation or Reconciliation of First and Second-Third Nations
respective claims.
Third World studies and feminist movements more widely have
capitalized on such insights and trans-boundary critiques, which was given a


Purushottama Bilimoria, Personal LawLegal Origins and Constitutional

Issues: Debates over Uniform Civil Codes in Modern India, Journal of Dharma xxii
no. 4 (OctoberDecember 1997): 483522. P. Bilimoria, The Enlightenment
Paradigm of Native Right and Forged Hybridity of Cultural Rights in British India,
South Pacific Journal of Philosophy and Culture 5 (2001): 649; reprinted in
Varieties of Ethical Reflections: Directions for Ethics in a Global Context, ed.
Michael Barnhart (New York: Lexington Books, 2002).



heavy political emphasis by Foucaults theorizing premised on the

generalization that all knowledge is inextricably linked with power (and
power is invariably corrupting). They have advocated, and developed
methods for a re-reading and de-construction therefore of much of the past
history and civilizing or literary productions, translatory enactments, etc.
resulting from the basically liberal-individualistic, imperial and patriarchypropelled intrusions into the lives of women, slaves, marginalized groups, the
other, the outcastes, and the colonized subjects, both within the history of
Western-European societies but more damagingly in various countries
throughout the world. History might be more authentic and closer to the truth
were its voices to emerge, as it were, from below rather than from the pens
of the privileged, the elite, the experts, and bow-tied academic researchers
who have a vested interest (unwittingly perhaps) in perpetuating certain
mythsparadigmof the dominant cultural force in a society or tradition
at large. The requisite hermeneutics for (re-)writing history from below has
been technically popularized by South Asian radical social theorists as the
Subaltern stance or voices of the submerged subject-positions.
Last but not least, cross-cultural philosophers of religion have claimed
that the Western invention of the sub-discipline or discourse of philosophy of
religion with its expectations of a solid, irrefutable and logically profound
proof (or, for that matter, disproof) of the existence of God has triggered
much unnecessary anguish, mimicry, and irreparable damage among nonWestern, non-Christian peoples.26 When directed at the other this trenchant
discourse has in part also helped erode local traditions, folk understandings,
indigenous hermeneutics, law and social wisdom developed over many
centuries in non-Western religious cultures by which they have sustained
themselves. Such and more sophisticated critical analyses have arisen in
recent years from movements in philosophy and the human sciences,
particularly from Europe and now increasingly influential in North America,
India, and Australasia.

* I wish to take this opportunity to thank my colleague Dr Jocelyn
Dunphy Blomfield for commenting on an earlier draft of the paper and
pointing me to some significant narratives; and to the late and my beloved Dr
Renuka Sharma for giving me to access to her fabulous Hermenenutics
collection in the household library.

Purushottama Bilimoria, What is the subaltern of the Comparative
Philosophy of Religion? Philosophy East & West, forthcoming July, 2003.



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Objectivity and Inter-Cultural Experience

William McKENNA
Miami University

This paper is part of an ongoing project to develop a theory of situated

objectivity and to apply it to various human interactions. My interest is to
develop a concept of objectivity that has certain aspects of human experience
contribute to objectivity that are considered irrelevant or even obstacles to it in
what I consider to be the leading concept of objectivity in modern Western
philosophy. This concept is the concept of scientific objectivity that Thomas
Nagel has called the view from nowhere.
Understood as the view from nowhere, scientific objectivity involves
conducting investigations, forming beliefs, etc. in ways that prevent certain
aspects of yourself from influencing the outcome. Among these are features
that derive from your cultural identity, social class, gender, etc., all of which
can influence the way you understand reality and which thus help delimit your
point of view. You achieve scientific objectivity by setting aside your point
of view. Ideally, as Nagel explains it, scientific objectivity would involve even
transcending the human point of view to attain the view from nowhere, i.e.
a view that is not from any point of view. In the pursuit of this type of
objectivity, he writes, a certain element of oneself, the impersonal or
objective self, which can escape the contingencies of ones creaturely point of
view, is allowed to predominate.1 This is a self that apprehends the world
from without rather than from a standpoint within it, and has no particular
point of view at all, but apprehend(s) the world as centerless.2
In contrast to this, the concept of objectivity that I want to discuss is one
that requires the participation of different perspectives in order to be achieved.
I will look upon different cultures as supplying their people with different
perspectives and will consider inter-cultural experience to be a way that
different cultural perspectives can contribute to objectivity. I believe that the

Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press,
1986), 9.
Ibid., 61.
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 111-118.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



applications of this theory may be useful for enhancing the ability of different
people to live together, but I will not discuss that here.

I. Bias
I am considering objectivity as the opposite of bias, and I am dealing
with it in an epistemic sense, and so as the opposite of bias in forming beliefs
(perceptual and conceptual) about what is true or what is real. You are biased
when something about your point of view prevents you from letting things
influence the formation of your belief that would allow the belief to be more
accurate. Let us look into this.
A biased belief involves an error in knowing, but not in a simple way.
Let us call it simple epistemic error when you believe something that is
totally false. Let us say you believe that S is P, but S is really Q and not P at all.
If we understand believing something to be holding it to be true, then if you
believe something that is false, you do not think that you are wrong and are
thus unaware of being mistaken. With respect to this feature of unawareness,
bias is like simple error. If you believe that S is P, but have come to that belief
in a biased manner, you do not think you are in error or that you are biased.
You do not question your perspective (think here of the example of making a
judgment from the perspective of your own self-interest, but being unaware
that you are doing that). Let us call this being naive, and think of it as an
uncritical living of the perspective which yields the belief that is quite
analogous to the naivete of what Husserl calls the natural attitude. As we
will soon see, cultural perspectives can have this feature of bias, and we can
speak of cultural natural attitudes.
Bias refers to a problem in the way a belief is formed and has to do with
an inadequacy in the justification for the belief. Although generally speaking it
is possible for a person to hold an entirely true belief but be unjustified in
believing it, I do not think this is the case with bias. It seems to me that we do
not think of a person as being biased unless we also think that there is
something wrong both with the way the belief was formed and with the result,
the belief itself. And while the problem with a biased belief can be that it is
totally false, as in the case of simple epistemic error, a biased belief can also be
true in a sense. It can be partially true. The problem can be that the bias
motivates you to take what is in fact a partial knowledge as the whole
knowledge (we can think here of the fable of several blind people having
experience with different parts of an elephant and each claiming that the
elephant is entirely what their experience gives them of it. One, who holds the
tail, says that an elephant like a snake, and others say similar things on the
basis of other parts of the elephant that they experience). Of course there is an
error here, but at a different level than in the case of simple epistemic error. In
simple error, I believe that S is P, but S is actually Q. In bias, I believe that S is
P, and that could be correct. But it could also be Q, and I am unaware of that



and instead think that S is entirely P. This kind of biased understanding or

perception is an inaccurate one, but it is not entirely wrong. Perhaps it is
because of this kind of bias that being partial and partiality have come to
be ways of referring to bias. At any rate I will henceforth use those terms
instead of biased and bias to refer to the kind of bias which consists of
thinking a part of knowledge is the whole of knowledge, reserving the terms
biased and bias for bias in the general sense which included partiality. I
think that some of the bias of cultural perspectives is partiality, and it is
cultural bias of this sort that is my interest.

II. The Partiality of Cultural Perspectives

As an ideal, objectivity is freedom from bias. But for real life, it might be
better to talk of striving for objectivity. To strive to form beliefs objectively is
to transcend bias and to attain a more accurate grasp of something. In the case
of partiality, it is to strive to go beyond the one-sidedness of a particular way of
thinking or proceeding in order to let yourself attain a more comprehensive
grasp of that with which you are dealing. Objectivity is valued because it is
thought to allow us to take into account relevant factors concerning the object
with which we are dealing that would otherwise escape us and in this way do
justice to the object. Objectivity, as deriving from object, and having to
do with justice, is a kind of epistemic or procedural virtue that gets its positive
value from allowing something to be represented accurately.
Let us see how this relates to culture. Of course culture means many
things. The term culture is used these days in a variety of technical and
non-technical ways so that it seems to relate to any fairly broad social context
within which people live. There is talk of corporate culture, the culture of
poverty, American culture and Chinese culture. Without explaining how
to draw the lines, I want to deal here with cultures in the sense of the culture
of a people, such as American and Chinese cultures. Cultures in this sense
have many facets one of which will be my concern here, and that is that a
person growing up in a certain culture internalizes and operates with a certain
set of beliefs, and through them comes to have a particular way of
understanding and experiencing the world. I want to call these ways cultural
I would like to argue here that cultural perspectives contain bias in the
form of partiality, and then I will present situated objectivity as a way of
overcoming partiality. To argue that a cultural perspectives are partial might
not seem like a very courageous thing to do, for it may seem obvious that they
are. I need then first to show that it is not obvious and that an argument is
needed. What is perhaps obvious is that different cultures have one of the
features of bias mentioned earlier, the feature of naivete. They have different



perspectives on the world and the people in these cultures live7 many of the
beliefs that shape the perspectives naively: they uncritically take the judgments
presented to them in the processes of believing as true and their perceptions as
giving them reality. Thus there are different cultural natural attitudes.
But although it may seem clear that cultural perspectives have this
feature of partiality, it is not clear that they have the other, that they amount to
taking a part of knowledge for the whole of it. For this assumes that there is
some whole truth or whole reality that can be better grasped by taking into
account other cultural perspectives and in that way striving to be objective. But
many, perhaps most would not grant this.
One differing position is that different cultural perspectives amount to
different subjective interpretations of the one world. With respect to that
world, none of these perspectives are representations and all are in error. This
is the position that Thomas Nagel holds in his book The View From Nowhere.
It is also the position of much of modern Western philosophy.
Another position is that the primary realities are the different life-worlds
of the different cultures, and that something that could be called one world is a
constitutive achievement of humans on the basis of certain abstractions they
carry out with respect to their different life-worlds. The relationship of a given
life-world to this one world is not of being a representation of it at all, and
therefore not any kind of knowledge of it. The one world is not a substratum
for various culturally based interpretations; rather it is the other way around: it
is the realization of a certain constitutive potential of human consciousness
operating on different life-worlds as substrata. This is the position of Husserl
in his Crisis.3
A cultural perspective could be partial if the perspectives of different
cultures could give partial knowledge of some whole reality. But I am not
aware of any philosophical position like that. I do not mean a position which
holds that the different cultures form different interpretations of the one world,
where interpretation refers to a life-world or something else which is distinct
from and not part of this one world. Any such view, it seems to me, would not
yield a position that holds that at least some part of the different life worlds
compose a one world which is not distinct from the sum of (or interconnection
of) these parts. To put forth a position that the different cultures form different
interpretations of the one world, in my view, would just bring into play,
perhaps in a contemporary form, the whole discussion of representation of
modern philosophy since Descartes. But a theory that had the relationship
between life-worlds and a whole world that of part to whole could be
developed using the resources of constitutive phenomenology. This would be
possible if these perspectives together constituted this whole, in the
Husserlian sense of constitution, but not as something different from them
collectively. What I have in mind is explained in the paragraphs below.

Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental

Philosophy, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1976).



People in different cultures have different ways of understanding and

experiencing the world that are due to cultural differences. From a constitutive
phenomenological perspective we can say that some of these ways are noetic
intentional processes that have as their constitutive achievement and noematic
correlate some aspect of the life-world as experienced. Furthermore, these
culturally conditioned ways of intending are objectifying. An intending is
objectifying in the sense I mean when it presents us with something that we
take to be part of objective reality. By this I mean something whose
continuing existence (although not necessarily its initial existence) does not
depend on anyones being aware of it. For example I can imagine that different
cultures could have different ways of experiencing world space and world time.
As constitutive intentional processes that are objectifying, these ways of
experiencing present space and time, as basic features of the life-worlds,
differently, and what is experienced by the people in each culture is taken to be
the real world space and time. Insofar as this is the case, these ways of
experiencing partake of the cultural natural attitude and its naivete.

III. The Intercultural World and Intercultural Experience

I think that among these objectified products of cultural intentionality
are some that can be experienced by persons in other cultures through
intercultural experience. It will help to draw an analogy to explain exactly how
I mean this. I use the analogy as an aid to communication, as there are many
disanalogies which make the two things being compared different. The
constitutive product of intercultural intentionality is analogous to the
achievement of the intersubjective world through intersubjective experience as
described by Husserl in the Fifth Meditation of his Cartesian Meditations.4 A
cultures life world is like the sphere of ownness in the Fifth Meditation in that,
as in the case of ones own world, our cultural world is only capable of being
experienced with the primary kind of evidence by us, the members of that
culture, who are capable of the intentional processes whose noematic correlate
our life world is. Of course it could be that someone from another culture may
join us and gradually become acculturated and thereby capable of sharing our
experience, and that is a point of disanalogy. But this is not the intercultural
experience I referred to a moment ago. Rather, I mean that some of the
objectified products of one cultural intentionality are such that they can be
experienced by persons in other cultures from within the perspective of those
other cultures and thus without experiencing the intentionality through which
they are accessible with primary evidence. This is analogous to the experience
Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, trans. Dorion Cairns (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1960).



of what another experiences, and of the consequent experience of the

intersubjective sense of the world in the Fifth Meditation.
Let us call cultural intentionalities that achieve objectified products, that
can be experienced by persons in other cultures from within the perspective of
those other cultures, world-making intentionalities. This world that is
made up of these products is analogous to the intersubjective sense of the
world in the Fifth Meditation in this way: that only by a mediate intentionality
is it capable of being experienced. Recall that in the Fifth Meditation Husserl
describes the intersubjective sense of the world as the constitutive effect in
my world of the experience of the other. 5 What he means is that the
constitutive product of the others experience (e.g. the same object I see, but as
now seen by the other from over there) makes a change in the way I experience
the object (and the world), a change that remains a change in my world (which
is now an enlarged ownness that contains the object also visible to others and
a whole intersubjective stratum). The mediate intentionality is the route
through the constitution of the experience of others who have experiences of
the same objects that I experience.
For the constitution of the intersubjective world, it is important, even
crucial, that my experience of the others experience be from the outside so
to speak. If this were not the case, and I did have the sense of experiencing
from over there (while remaining here) then the other would be merely myself
also over there, and this would not achieve the intersubjective world. So also
in the case of intercultural experience. The world-making intentionalities of a
culture do not attain that status by themselves. For what we are to understand
by world here is not the life world of a particular culture, but a world that
transcends a particular life world, but without becoming severed from it. It is
an intercultural world. This world begins to become constituted when the
constitutive effects of the experience of one culture are experienced by
someone in another culture. That is, when, remaining naively immersed in the
objectifying intentionalities of my own cultural experience, I experience a
change, a disturbance in my world that my own intentional resources could not
have produced and which is due to the intentionality of another culture. (What
I have in mind is analogous to Sartres example of the experience of shame in
the chapter on The Look in Being and Nothingness.6 The sense shame as a
self attribution would not be possible without the experience of the look of the

Ibid., 93.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel Barnes (New York:
Philosophical Library, 1956), 260ff.



IV. Objectivity and Intercultural Experience

When a member of one culture comes into contact with another culture
the strength of his cultural natural attitude leads him to experience the other
culture not simply as different or strange, but as wrong (you can think here of
the value dimension of the life world and the kind of experience that some
people have of it when in a foreign land that motivates them to reject what they
experience). I have in mind contact in the sense of the real engagement that
comes from trying to live in a different culture, although even the tourist who
finds the local life fascinating apprehends that life against the background of
his own which is taken to be the norm. Thus the foreign culture is interesting
because it takes on the appearance of an interpretation of the world credit for
which is due to the ingenious minds of the past and present people of that
culture, unlike in the case of ones own. Here the partiality of ones own way
of experiencing prevails. Our life world is the objective world; theirs is some
subjective interpretation of the world.
How can this partiality be transcended? Not by learning to experience
the others intentionalites and attaining primary evidence of their world. This
route could only lead in two other directions. Either I would now think that my
new life world was the objective world, and be right where I was before in
partiality, or I would develop the attitude that there are multiple life worlds and
my (former) world was merely one among others, having no particular
epistemic advantage. What becomes lost in this latter process is the naivete of
the cultural natural attitude and abandonment of any thought there could be
any objective world other than perhaps the world of natural science which is no
ones life world. I believe that the transcendence can be achieved in a way that
continues to give epistemic value ones own cultural experience while at the
same time giving epistemic value to the cultural experience of others. That
way is to attain situated objectivity.
As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, situated objectivity is a
concept of objectivity that, unlike the traditional concept, requires the
participation of different perspectives in order to be achieved. One way in
which this can happen is when an intercultural world becomes constituted
from certain intentionalities of diverse cultures in the way outlined above. One
would become more objective in the sense of situated objectivity by attending
to undeveloped constitutive effects of the intentionalities of other cultures
within ones own life world and proceeding to develop these effects and an
understanding of the experience that generates them. Of course that requires
that these constitutive clues, these nodes for focus and development are
present. These effects are not present in the experience of a person who has



never encountered another culture. But I think to some extent they are in the
experience of those who have.
What I have in mind as examples of such clues are the very negative
experiences that people may have in an alien culture that often lead to feelings
and judgments of rejection of what is encountered. There is something in these
experiences that could be considered to be the constitutive effects in your
world of the experience of another. You are experiencing from the outside
what the other experiences from the inside. The negative feelings are a sign
of this in that they indicate a disturbance in the fabric of your life world
through the contact of the other life world. Whatever you are experiencing in
common is experienced differently by both, and is different in the ways
experienced. This could be objects, environments, behaviors, etc. These
objects have two sides, and, up to the point of the encounter with the other,
you were unaware of the other side. To learn about it through dialogue with the
other can never give you the first person experience of it that is primary
evidence, but it can help develop and clarify your own experience of that alien
something that resided within the negativity and disturbance. This developing
contributes to the constitution of the interface, the shared tissue of the two
life-worlds that is the inter-cultural world. To do this is to transcend the
partiality of your own experience and to expand your consciousness and take
in the world more fully, or to become more objective. But you do this all the
while remaining in your own perspective and without weakening the power of
its objectivating intentionalities.

Phenomenology of the Consocial Situation:
Advancing the Problems

Florida Atlantic University

I. Introduction
Aron Gurwitsch used to say that since the tasks of constitutive
phenomenology are infinite, we cannot solve problems, but we could
nevertheless advance them. In case one finds this formulation idiosyncratic, it
can be construed as signifying that accounts can be refined. This view
intimates that we can receive problems that have been worked on from our
own earlier efforts (something Husserl did to a great degree) as well as from
others alive and dead. The present essay is devoted to advancing several
aspects of a set of issues or matters, i.e., a problematics addressed in the work
of Alfred Schutz (18991959). These pertain to the situation centrally
involving what he calls consociates, who immediately share space as well as
time, it being understood that when an other is a consociate for a self, the self is
a consociate for that other. It will suffice here to go back only to Schutz, but it
deserves mention that he found the equivalent of this notion in Husserl.1
After the discussions of several passages from Schutz, his account will be
refined through reflective observation of some pertinent matters themselves,
i.e., phenomenologically. It is furthermore hoped that the passages quoted are
taken as descriptions, i.e., used as guides to further reflective observation and
even better description.

Thus, relationships of mutual understanding. . .and consent. . .and, therewith, a

communicative common environment originate. It is characterized by the fact that it is
relative to the persons who find one another within this environment and the
environment itself as their counterpart. . . The persons participating in the
communicative environment are given one to the other not as objects but as
counter-subjects, as consociates in a social community of persons. Alfred Schutz,
Edmund Husserls Ideas, Volume II, in Collected Papers, Vol. III, ed. Ilse Schutz
(The Hague: Nijhoff, 1966), 29; hereafter this source will be cited as III. Cf. also
Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol. I., ed. Maurice Natanson (The Hague: Nijhoff,
1962), 315; hereafter cited as I.
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 119-133.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



Lest the reader wonder about the philosophical significance of the

following essay, it can be said that Schutz considers direct social observation
possible only of other persons within a consocial situation and that this sort of
observation is the key to the understanding of the manner in which the data of
the social sciences are established.2 What such observation is and one of its
contrasts is told in this passage:
As a direct observer I can. . .in one glance take in both the outward
manifestationor productsand the processes in which are
constituted the conscious experiences lying behind them. This is possible
because the lived experiences of the Other are occurring simultaneously
with my own objective interpretations of his words and gestures. . .
But in any direct social observation carried on outside a social
relationship, my interpretation of anothers behavior cannot be checked
against his own self-interpretation, unless of course I exchange my role as
an observer for that of a participant. When I start asking questions of the
person observed, I am no longer a mere observer. . . Still the point must be
stressed that direct social observation can be converted at will into a
face-to-face relationship, thereby making such interrogation possible,
whereas that cannot be said of observation of ones mere contemporaries
or predecessors.3
Schutz goes on in the subsequent section to sketch how the concepts or
types used in the social and historical sciences are derived from those
originally formed in direct observation and interrogation, direct observation in
everyday life being also different from cultural-scientific observation. The
consocial situation is thus important for the methodology or, better, the theory
of the cultural sciences.

II. Aspects of Schutzs Account

On at least eight occasions Schutz analyzes what he first introduces as
Die soziale Umwelt und die Wirbeziehung,4 terms later rendered by him as
well as by his translators in English as the face-to-face situation and the
Alfred Schutz, Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozial Welt: Eine Einleitung in die
verstehende Soziologie (Frankfurt/Main: Surkamp 1991 [original Vienna 1932]), 35;
English translation by George Walsh and Frederick Lehnert, The Phenomenology of the
Social World (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1967); hereafter, the
translation will be cited as PSW.
PSW, 173.
Ibid., 33.



We-relationship. As these expressions already suggest, his emphasis is on the

social dimension, which is appropriate for a book on the meaningful structure
of the social world, but which can also lead one to wonder about what else
there is in such a situation. This situation will here be called the consocial
situation, an expression Schutz does not use, but which is called for and
which may prepare the way for a better balanced and more adequate account.
Unless it is too familiar, the example of a person presenting a paper to
colleagues at a conference can lend clarity to the present essay. Thus, after the
speaker is introduced and before the discussion phase, such a case involves a
single self speaking and reading aloud and one or more consociates listening to
In another passage, Schutz locates the relation of consociates within his
larger analysis of the social, but also alludes to other matters:
I, the human being, born into the social world, and living my daily life in
it, experience it as built around my place in it, as open to my interpretation
and action, but always referring to my actual biographically determined
situation. Only in reference to me does a certain kind of my relations with
others obtain the specific meaning which I designate with the word We;
only with reference to Us, whose center I am, do others stand out as
You; and in reference to You, who refer back to me, third parties
stand out as They. In the dimension of time there are with reference to
me in my actual biographical moment contemporaries, with whom a
mutual interplay of action and reaction can be established;
predecessors, upon whom I cannot act, but whose past actions and their
outcome are open to my interpretation and may influence my own actions;
and successors, of whom no experience is possible but toward whom I
may orient my actions in a more or less empty anticipation. . .
Among my contemporaries are some with whom I share, as long as the
relation lasts, not only a community of time but also of space. We shall,
for the sake of terminological convenience, call such contemporaries
consociates and the relation prevailing among them a face-to-face
relationship. . .5

Three aspects of this situation immediately deserve comment; space and

time will be returned to below. First, while one can get the impression from
most other passages that the consocial situation involves merely two persons
facing one another, the passage quoted actually implies that there can also be a
group of selves against more than one group of others, all of which groups are

I, 15.



also consociates who share the one space as well as time: We over here can talk
with You over there about Them on the other side of the room.
Second, there is the biographically determined situation, also simply
called the biographical situation. Schutz writes:
Man finds himself at any moment of his daily life in a biographically
determined situation, that is, in a physical and sociocultural environment
as defined by him. . . within which he has his position, not merely his
position in terms of physical space and outer time or of his status and role
within the social system but also his moral and ideological position. . . To
say that this definition of the situation is biographically determined is to
say that it has its history; it is the sedimentation of all [of a] mans
previous experiences, organized in the habitual possessions of his stock
of knowledge at hand, and as such his unique possession, given to him
and to him alone.6
He also writes: To this biographically determined situation belongs not
only my position in space, time, and society but also my experience that some
of the elements of the world taken for granted are imposed upon me, while
others are either within my control or capable of being brought within my
control and, thus, modifiable.7 Each person thus has a place in the world that
is, chiefly because of her past life, unique to her, even though it is only to a
small extent of [her] own making.8 What is here asserted about the individual
has its counterpart for successive groups in history as well as among
concurrent groups, which does not need to be explored on this occasion.
As for the third aspectand to go beyond the text to the mattersit can
be observed that audience members can be physically to the side and also
behind the speaker in a conference as well as in many other consocial
situations, and hence the expression face-to-face favors one spatial
relationship over others. This emphasis seems deliberate: the so-called
face-to-face relationship. . .is important because each consociate has
maximum access to the others body as the expressional field and because a
sector of the outer world serves as the common environment of the
consociates,9 but he does allude to the side-by-side relation at least once.10

Ibid., 9.
Ibid., 76.
Ibid., 312.
Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol. IV, eds. Helmut Wagner, George Psathas,
and Fred Kersten (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996), 63; hereafter cited
textually as IV.
PSW, 165.



More will be said presently about contents of the consocial situation other than
human bodies.
As a philosopher of especially the social sciences, Schutz is interested not
only in social roles, relationships, interaction, etc. but also in the scientific
thinking employed by social scientists as well as the common-sense thinking
of everyday life upon which, for him, social-scientific thinking focuses.
Common-sense thinking also uses constructs or typifications and some of what
it uses them on is fairly clear in this passage:
But it will be useful to remember that what the sociologists call system,
institutionalization, [are] experienced by the individual actor on the
social scene in entirely different terms. To him all the factors denoted by
these concepts are elements in a network of typificationstypifications
of human individuals, of their course-of-action patterns, of their motives
and goals, or of the sociocultural products which originated in their
actions. These types are formed in the main by others, his predecessors or
contemporaries, as appropriate tools for coming to terms with things and
men, accepted as such by the group into which he was born. But there are
also self-typifications: man typifies to a certain extent his own situation
within the social world and the various relations he has to his fellow-men
and cultural objects.11

Cultural objects will as well be addressed in Part II below.

The consocial situation is spatial and is, as such, structured in terms of
what Schutz calls reach, which refers to sensory as well as physical reach.12
Part of the spatial structure is the manipulatory sphere of what is directly or
indirectly within physical reach, while the rest of the sphere of actual reach is
directly visible and/or audible and more than human bodies can be thus be
reached. Through technology, the rest of the current world is within indirect
actual reach, but these passages can be construed as about the direct reach that
obtains in consocial situations.


Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol. II, ed. Arvid Brodersen (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1964), 232; hereafter cited as II.
This sector of the world of perceived and perceptible objects at whose center I
am shall be called the world within my actual reach, which includes, thus, the objects
within the scope of my view and the range of my hearing. Inside this field within my
reach there is the region of things I can manipulate. . .
The manipulatory sphere. . .is the region open to my immediate interference
which I can modify either directly by movements of my body or with the help of
artificial extensions of my body, that is, by tools and instruments in the broadest sense
of this term (I, 308).



So far we have dealt only with the face-to-face relationship in which a

sector of the world is both in my and my fellow-mans actual reach. To be
precise, the world within my actual reach overlaps that within his reach
but necessarily there are zones within my actual reach which are not
within his, and vice versa. Facing another, for example, I see things
unseen by him and he sees things unseen by me. The same holds good for
our manipulatory spheres. This stone placed between us is within my
manipulatory sphere but not within his.
In this sense the world of another transcends mine. But it is a corollary of
the idealization of standpoints. . .that the world within actual reach of
another is also within my attainable (potential) reach and vice versa.13
The zones of reach and their contents, which include stones and, presently,
birds as well as fellow humans, can of course be interpreted and Schutz relates
the reach structure of perception and action in everyday life to common-sense
thinking under the heading of the idealization of what he calls the
interchangeability of standpoints:
The sector of the world within my actual reach is centered around my
Here, and the center of the world within the actual reach of my
fellow-man around his, which is, seen from my Here, a There. Both
sectors may partially overlap, and some of the objects, facts, and events in
the outer world may be in mine as well as my fellow-mans actual reach,
and even within his and my manipulatory zone. Nevertheless, such an
object, fact, or event will have a different appearance as to the direction,
distance, perspective, adumbration, etc., seen from the center of my
coordinates, called Here, and then from his, called There.
Now it is a basic axiom of my interpretation of the common world and its
objects that these various coexisting systems of coordinates can be
transformed one into the other; I take it for granted, and I assume my
fellow-man does the same, that I and my fellow-man would have
typically the same experiences of the common world if we changed
places, thus transforming my Here into his, and hisnow to me a
Thereinto mine. . . This general thesis of the reciprocity of perspectives
which involves idealizations by which. . .typifying constructs of thought
supersede the thought objects of my and my fellow-mans private
experience. . .is the presupposition for a world of common objects and
therewith for communication. To give an example: we both see the


I, 316.



same flying bird in spite of the difference[s] of our spatial position, sex,
age, and the fact that you want to shoot it and I just to enjoy it.14
While most of what has just been quoted pertains to what Schutz calls
the community of space between and among consociates in a consocial
situation, there is also the community of time. He writes:
But what does community of time mean? Since social intercourse is based
upon actions within the meaning of our definition, I may say that there is a
common specious present which the consociates share. Each of them can
follow the others action in its ongoing flux as it unrolls phase by phase. . .
When I look at my consociates ongoing action, by protentions and
anticipations I may expect its outcome even if I do not know his
underlying project. Of course, this expectation is also based on our stock
of knowledge on hand and will still be empty; it may or may not be
fulfilled. But while the others action goes on, it is an element of his as
well as of my specious present: I participate in the ongoing flux of his
action as directed toward its terminus, the goal to be attained, the act to be
accomplished, the problem to be solved, the state of affairs to be brought
about. In short, with the other I anticipate the projected end as a specially
existent ingredient of my stock of knowledge at hand in a shared specious
present. To a certain extent, this common specious present is unified,
although not in the same way in which my own specious present is unified
through my projecting and acting. The fact that we are mutually tuned
in to one another constitutes a common interest, a common environment,
a common relevance bestowed upon the ongoing action and, by
implication, even a common stock of knowledge at hand.15
The common specious present will also be returned to in Part III, but a
passage about tuning-in can be added now:
It appears that all possible communication presupposes a mutual
tuning-in relationship between the communicator and the addressee of the
communication. This relationship is established by the reciprocal sharing
of the Others flux of experiences in inner time, by living through a vivid
present together, by experiencing this togetherness as a We. Only
within this experience does the Others conduct become meaningful to
the partner tuned in on himthat is, the Others body and its movements
can be and are interpreted as a field of expression of events within his

Ibid., 315, paragraphing modified.

IV, 63.


inner life. Yet not everything that is interpreted by the partner as an
expression of an event in the Others inner life is meant by the Other to
expressthat is, to communicate to the partnersuch an event. Facial
expressions, gait, posture, ways of handling tools and instruments,
without communicative intent, are examples of such a situation.16

The vivid present will also be returned to below.

In the familiar consocial situation used as running example here, the
speakers and audience members are participants. When it is not obvious, one
might expressly distinguish active participants, here the one who is speaking,
and the passive participants, who are listening, and then, when the question
period comes, these roles alternate. And if a higher institutional authority, e.g.,
a dean, has slipped in to watch from the back of the room how well resources
are being used, she would not be a participant, but an observer. Yet hers would
still be a role in everyday life. A social scientific observer would also be an
observer, but in a theoretical rather than a practical attitude.

III. Beyond Schutzs Account

Alfred Schutzs description of the consocial situation is focused on the
social and on common-sense as well as scientific thinking about the social. His
account can be refined beginning from other matters. In addition to society,
there are space, time, and culture that can be approached on the sub-categorial
level, i.e., by seeking how they are prior even to common-sense interpretation
with typifications. Before undertaking that, however, it will be well to consider
what all can be typified or conceptualized for Schutz:
It should be emphasized that the interpretation of the world in terms of
types. . .is not the outcome of a process of ratiocination, let alone of
scientific conceptualization. This world, the physical as well as the
sociocultural one, is experienced from the outset in terms of types: there
are mountains, trees, birds, fishes, dogs, and among them Irish setters;
there are cultural objects, such as houses, tables, chairs, books, tools, and
among them hammers; and there are typical social roles and relationships,
such as parents, siblings, kinsmen, strangers, soldiers, hunters, priests, etc.
II, 76. Presenting a paper is like performing a musical piece: the relationship
between performer and audience is subject to all variations of intensity, intimacy, and
anonymity. This can be easily seen by imagining the audience as consisting of one
single person, a small group of persons in a private room, a crowd filling a big concert
hall. . . In all these circumstances performer and listener are tuned-in to one another,
are living together through the same flux, are growing older together while the musical
process lasts (II, 174).



Thus, typifications on the common-sense levelin contradistinction to

typifications made by the scientist, and especially the social
scientistemerge in the everyday experience of the world as taken for
granted without any formulation of judgments or of neat propositions
with logical subjects and predicates. They belong, to use a
phenomenological term, to prepredicative thinking. The vocabulary and
the syntax of the vernacular of everyday language represents the epitome
of the typifications socially approved by the linguistic group.17
For Schutz, merely to name something involves at least pre-predicative
thinking and then that something is experienced with its typification. To
explore the sub-categorial is to delve deeper than that and to focus on
encountering and objects as encountered. Schutz asks if there are events within
life of the subject that are not meaningful for the subject. We think the answer
is in the affirmative. There are the mere physiological reflexes, such as the
knee jerk, the contraction of the pupil, blinking, blushing; . . . my gait, my
facial expression, and my mood. . .18 It should be noted that this list includes
psychic as well as somatic events.
In the just previous passage, there are three kinds of types that are
mentioned. (1) It is possible for a consocial situation to be outdoors and then
chiefly to include physical or, better, natural objects that can be animal,
vegetable, or mineral. What is essential is that a spatial area be immediately
shared by two or more people relating to each other. The extent of this
immediate space is determined by what is within sight and hearing, which can
extend for miles in the outdoors. (2) Cultural objects can of course occur
outdoors even for a professional conference, but regular places to stand and sit
more usually occur inside along with tables, chairs, books, tools, i.e., pens and
pencils, etc. (3) Finally, the social roles of friends and colleagues seem the
most likely ones played among consociates at a conference. While these things
are typified by names in the pre-predicative thinking of everyday
common-sense thinking and speaking, they are still there if such thinking and
its concepts or typifications are abstracted from.
What is culture is a complex question for Schutz. In other work,19 the
present author has shown that in his Austrian period Schutz held that cultural
worlds and their contents are (a) historical, which must mean that they
continue and change over time, (b) intersubjective or shared among a plurality
of subjects, (c) relative to such groups or communities of culture, and (d)
frameworks of meaning instituted by humans via actions in the lifeworld. In

II, 23.
I, 210.
Lester Embree, Editors Introduction to Alfred Schutz, T.S. Eliots Theory of
Culture, forthcoming in Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol. V, ed. Lester Embree.



his American period, moreover, while there are partial statements, e.g., II, 133,
the full statement occurs only in the Eliot essay: culture is just everything
which is taken for granted by a given social group at a certain point in its
historical existence.20
On the sub-categorial level of what can be called basic culture,21 which
presupposes that frameworks of meaning are abstracted from, a consocial
situation can be recognized in reflective observation as shared among a
plurality of consociates, as taken for granted by them as a group, and as
including more than artifacts such as chairs and tables. Going beyond the letter
of Schutz, it can further be observed that at least artifacts are constituted in
basic culture with value and use in the evaluational and volitional components
of our encounterings of them. That there is willing of objects seems tacitly
included in Schutzs account of influencing (Wirken). The largest lack in his
work is a systematic recognition of a place for emotional-valuational processes
and the correlative values that reflection can disclose in their intentional
objects.22 Yet the example quoted above of the flying bird does contrast one
person wanting to shoot it, which is volitional, with another wanting to enjoy it,
which is valuational.
In a consocial situation such as a conference indoors, it is clear that the
places in which to walk and sit, chairs and tables, walls to keep the weather,
sounds, and other distractions out, etc. are used in a deeply traditional but
nevertheless volitional way and observably have such uses when reflectively
analyzed. As for the emotional-evaluational dimension, the places where
collegial consociates meet to hear and discuss papers have moods founded
upon the background sound and silence, lighting, warmth or coolness, as well
as the conduct of speaker and audience. Given his interest in common-sense
typifications as central to the subject matter of social science, it is
understandable that Schutz underemphasizes if not omits discussion of such
matters. But they are clearly there in consocial situations, which are more
adequately described by including them. Moreover, the sub-categorial stratum
of the shared and taken-for-granted cultural character of a consocial situation


Ibid. When this essay was presented at the Hong Kong conference, Steven
Crowell resisted considering persons as well as tables, chairs, and conference halls as
cultural. But by this passage and assuming that persons can be taken for granted, they
are also basically cultural insofar as they are constituted with value and use in habitual
and traditional valuing and willing. A druggist has it in common with an automobile to
be used for a purpose. A moral standpoint is required to differentiate them.
Forthcoming in Zukunft PhnomenologieThe Future of Phenomenology, eds.
I. Blecha, R. Christin, H.R. Sepp, and H. Vetter (Orbis Phaenomenologicus
Perspectiven) (Freiburg/Mnchen: Karl Alber, 2002).
In his last essay, Some Structures of the Lifeworld (III), and probably under
the influence of his old friend and New School colleague Dorion Cairns, Schutz does
finally show a systematic place for valuing and values, but this is absent previously,
even in his essays on Scheler.



can affect social relations and interactions even if not captured in

common-sense typifications.
Schutz is clear that the consocial situation is spatial. Thus it can have
natural and sociocultural objects, such as tables and people, located in or
moving about within it. His emphasis is on how other things are in front,
behind, above, below, to the right, or to the left, near and far, within and
beyond manipulatory zones, etc. for a self, but he recognizes that the same
things relate in different but analogous ways to each consociate, something
that can be extended to Us, You, and Them, i.e., to groups, within the situation.
What the cultural objects and consocial others are related to in this situation is
the body or bodies of the self or selves or of the other or others. But how is this
possible? A distinction between what can be called objective and
subjective needs to be made (and these words kept between so-called scare
quotes because they are so polysignificant). Objectively, the location of a
book can be described in terms of distances from other objects, e.g., a book is
on the table, two feet from the belly of the speaker on a line between that belly
and the main door of the conference hall. Thus much can be said without using
subjective terms such as in front of, to the left, etc. Locating things by
longitude and latitude on the surface of the planet is also done this objective
Yet subjective terms are not meaningless, they refer to something. One
might contend that something being in front of ones body is also describable
in objective terms since the front of a body can be determined objectively.
One could also determine the motion of moving things in relation to the door
knob, the center of the room, etc. But here something interesting can also
emerge. If one shortens ones attention while a colleague walks toward or
away from where one is located (or one moves toward her or both move
together or apart at once), her appearance, as we phenomenologists call it,
gets larger or smaller. The colleague we perceive through the appearances does
not change her size but her appearance does. Similarly, the one objective
floor, table, walls, door, windows, and also embodied consociates has as many
systems of private appearances from as many standpoints as there are
perceivers in the room, and this is to ignore the imaginary standpoints by
which, e.g., one might feign peeking down at the conference through a hole in
the ceiling.
Likewise, a thing first on the left, then in front, and then to the right
changes not only its objective place relative to the floor and other objects,
but also its subjective appearance or, rather, the system of appearances of
which its appearance is part changes. One might jump to the conclusion at this
point that this is all a matter of interpretation, i.e., of different categorial
formations bestowed on the same perceptual objects, but the level of analysis
here is sub-categorial and clearly what is here called appearance is not a



concept and does not necessarily include a concept, construct, or typification,

even though recognition of appearances can plainly be the basis for constructs
in thinking and language. Furthermore, that which is fundamentally called
here and there is also a matter of the systems of perceptual appearances
that center around the bodies of individuals or a groups.23
It needs furthermore to be recognized beyond what Schutz says (or at
least emphasizes) that the ways in which things appear to others, consociates
included, is or can be appresented sub-categorially. A self comes to appresent
not only the other psyche but also the appearances that are relative to that
psyches body and directly presented to her, just as the selfs appearances are
relative to the selfs body and presented to her. Speaking of what is
appresented, while the front of the body of a consociate facing a self is
presented, the back and also the inside of that consociates body and, beyond
that, her inner life are appresented. Furthermore, the bodies of others and also
cultural objects, floors, walls, ceiling, tables, chairs, doors, and widows or, in
the out of doors, trees, mountains, bodies of water, sky, etc. that are behind the
self who is presenting her paper at a conference are in addition appresented by
her at the same time that they may be presented to her audience.
Besides appearances, there can thus be perception of the whole consocial
situation, some of it presented and some appresented and in different
combinations for different consociates and groups of consociates. The
difference between a conference presentation outdoors and indoors has been
mentioned. There is thus more to the space of a consocial situation than one
can get the impression of in Schutzs account and this is relevant to
understanding not only how people interpret common-sensically but also to the
social-scientific understanding of that interpreting in terms of typifications and
the methodological understanding of that scientific interpreting. How social
interaction goes on is not unaffected by the situation in which it goes on.
Speaking and hearing belong to one species of such interaction,24 but Schutz
also explicitly mentions making music together, playing tennis, making love,
and dancing together as non-linguistic activities.25
Besides being structured spatially in objective as well as subjective
ways, the consocial situation is structured temporally. In this respect, it might
be an interesting change to analyze matters no longer from the speakers side
but from the side of an audience member in the We-relationship of a
professional conference. What has been said above about appresentation and
Schutz does mention how an object, fact, or event will have a different
appearance as to the direction, distance, perspective, adumbration, etc., seen from the
center of my coordinates. . . in the passage from I, 315 quoted above, so that much of
what has been said here about sensuous appearances may amount to explication rather
than refinement of his account.
I, 203.
Ibid., 324 & 174.



appearances holds equally in this perspective, can also be related to the

common-sense idealization of interchangeable standpoints, etc., and does not
need to be repeated. While the speaker can indeed be and regularly is
interpreted with common-sense typifications, if the interest is in what obtains
sub-categorially, then the consociates facial expressions, gestures, posture,
gait, and so on, which are also of course perceived through appearances,
appresent the audiences central consocial other, who is now speaking, as the
psyche of the soma making gestures whether or not in order to communicate.
Normally, an audience member attends what is referred to by the statements in
the paper, but she can instead focus on the expressing of the statements, which
the statements indicate.
Among those objects [of] which we have experience in the vivid present
are other peoples behavior and thoughts. In listening to a lecture, for
instance, we seem to participate immediately in the development of his
stream of thought. . . The Others speech and our listening are
experienced as a vivid simultaneity. . . Now he starts a new sentence, he
attaches word to word; we do not know how the sentence will end, and
before its end we are uncertain what it means. The next sentence joins the
first, paragraph follows paragraph; now he has expressed a thought and
passes to another, and the whole is a lecture among other lectures and so
For Schutz the important thing is that the hearing and seeing of the
speaker that occur in the conscious life of the audience member are not only
simultaneous with the sounds that are made and also any gestures that
accompany them in the speakers body but also with the efforts at speaking
that occur in the speakers conscious life. But there is more to it than one
persons awareness of another embodied consciousness.
While the face-to-face relationship lasts we are mutually involved in one
anothers biographical situation: we are growing older together. We have
indeed a common environment and common experiences of the events
within it: I and you, We see the flying bird. And this occurrence of the
birds flight as an event in outer (public) time is simultaneous with our
perceiving of it, which is an event in our inner (private) time. The two
fluxes of inner time, yours and mine, become synchronous with the event
in outer time (birds flight) and therewith one with the other.27


Ibid., 173.
Ibid., 317.



Only in the pure We-relation can we grasp the individual uniqueness of

our fellow-man in his unique biographical situation. 28 Contemporaries,
predecessors, and successors are necessarily typified and grasped through
types, and this contrasts with consociates encountered in their uniqueness.
Schutz distinguishes between inner and outer time and speaks of the vivid
present, also called, in Jamess words, the specious present since it has its own
temporal duration and is not a line between past and future.29 How does the
vivid present relate to inner and outer time?
We experience our bodily movements simultaneously on two different
planes; inasmuch as they are movements in the outer world, we look at
them as events happening in space and spatial time, measurable in terms
of the path run through; inasmuch as they are experienced together from
within as happening changes, as manifestations of our spontaneity
pertaining to our stream of consciousness, they partake of our inner time
or dure. What occurs in the outer world belongs to the same time
dimension in which events in inanimate nature occur. It can be registered
by appropriate devices and measured by our chronometers. It is the
spatialized, homogeneous time which is the universal form of objective or
cosmic time.
On the other hand, it is the inner time or dure within which our actual
experiences are connected with the past by recollections and retentions
and with the future by protentions and anticipations. In and by our bodily
movements we perform the transition from our dure to the spatial or
cosmic time, and our working actions partake of both. In simultaneity we
experience the working action as a series of events in outer and inner time,
unifying both dimensions into a single flux which shall be called the vivid
present. The vivid present originates, therefore, in an intersection of
dure and cosmic time.30
One final passage also fits the consocial situation of a conference:
My participating in simultaneity in the ongoing process of the Others
communicating establishes therefore a new dimension of time. He and I,
we share, while the process lasts, a common vivid present, our vivid
present, which enables him and me to say: We experienced this
occurrence together. By the We-relation, thus established, we bothhe,
addressing himself to me, and I, listening to him, are living in our


Ibid., 18.
Ibid., 172.
Ibid., 215, paragraphing modified.



mutual vivid present, directed toward the thought to be realized in and by

the communicating process.31

IV. Summary
This essay has gone beyond the letter but in the spirit of Alfred Schutz to
express and clarify the category of consocial situation. Various passages have
been quoted and commented upon in order to show that consocial situations
include selves and others who can be groups as well as individuals provided
only that they are directly perceived and actually or potentially influenced
directly because within direct sensory reach whether within or beyond the
manipulatory zone of direct somatic contact. The consocial situation is where
the tuning-in relation in so-called face-to-face relations and direct social
actions, reactions, and interactions and direct observation occur. It is also
where shared vivid presents are most originally constituted.32 Besides other
humans, consocial situations may include plants and nonhuman animal and
physical as well as artifactual objects, all of which, the human persons
included, are cultural for Schutz by virtue of being common-sensically
interpreted and taken for granted by a cultural group at a given time in its
history. He also mentions appresentations and appearances, but more attention
has been paid to them here. Finally, the sub-categorial constitution of objects
as basically cultural due to their uses and values constituted in habitual and
traditional willing and evaluating has been added to his account. Overall, the
effort has thus been to extend and balance his account and to do so with
reference not so much to his texts ultimately as with reference to the matters he
refers to, i.e., phenomenologically. From here one might go on to specify
different types of consocial situations. Teaching a class, visiting a doctors
office, etc. are different from delivering a paper at a conference, but would be
easier to describe with the generic features delineated here in view.


Ibid., 219.
Indirect understanding and influencing of contemporaries can be accomplished
through writing and reading, over the telephone, television, etc., where a
quasi-simultaneity obtains (Cf. I, 219 & 324). At the presentation of this essay at
Waseda University, Murata, Junichi brought up the mixed case of a rock concert where
the performers are not only directly experienced in person on the stage but also
indirectly experienced through television projections on giant screens. Schutz did not
comment on such a situation, that technology not having been developed, but he might
have described the encountering of a baseball game from the stands with a commentary
on a portable radio listened to at the same time, but did not. His account is easily
extended to cover it.


Intersubjectivity and Phenomenology of the Other:

Merleau-Pontys Contribution

LAU Kwok-ying
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

It is now a well-known fact that one of Merleau-Pontys basic and
enduring contributions to the phenomenological movement resides in his
detailed thematization of the body proper. In contrast to both Husserls Ideen
I and Heideggers Sein und Zeit, in the Phnomnologie de la perception the
phenomenal field is structured through and through by the carnal subject, to
the effect that for Merleau-Ponty corporeity plays a pivotal role not only in
the constitution of the perceptual world but in that of the cultural world too.
By adopting his own genetico-phenomenological approach which draws upon

meticulous observations from child psychology followed by careful analyses,

Merleau-Ponty succeeds in showing that the cultural world has a carnal basis:
It is first of all an intersubjective world composed of a plurality of anonymous
subjects, i.e. subjects which are at the same time a self and an other. It is upon
this primordial level of intersubjectivity that a second level of
intersubjectivityintersubjectivity of the intellectual consciousnesses
emerges. The latter is composed of distinctive self-conscious individualities.
One of Merleau-Pontys greatest merits consists in showing that it is only at
the second level of intersubjectivity that the problem of intellectual solipsism
(in the manner of Hume) or existential solipsism (in the manner of Heidegger
in Being and Time) arises. The pages below propose to demonstrate MerleauPontys specific contribution to the explication and articulation of these two
levels of intersubjectivity. If this attempt is successful, it can serve to arbitrate
the dispute between the social scientist, to whom intersubjectivity is a first
evidence, and the philosopher, to whom solipsism is a recurrent problem.
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 135-158.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. .



1. The Importance of Corporeity

in the Constitution of the Cultural World
1.1 Intertwining of the Natural World and the Cultural World
What is the relationship between the natural world and the cultural
world? If there is no doubt that the primordial Nature is at the basis of the
cultural world, as Merleau-Ponty first outlined in The Structure of Behavior,1
the author of the Phenomenology of Perception never underestimates the
enigma of the transition from nature to culture, nor, in the terms of The
Visible and the Invisible, that of the transition from the flesh to the idea. First
of all, the cultural world and the natural world are not two distinct layers or
strata of the world in its phenomenal appearance. If on the one hand the
human world is always established on the basis of an inhuman nature, the
natural world, on the other, always shows through itself across the cultural
world, and this happens in such a way that the relation between the two is
neither that of one beside the other nor one superimposed on the other. Their
relationship is rather that of one in the other, which the later Merleau-Ponty
calls intertwining (entrelacement). Just as Nature penetrates down to the
core of my personal life and intertwines with it, likewise behaviors settle in
Nature and are deposited there in the form of a cultural world.2

1.2 The Cultural World is an Intersubjective World as

Community of Anonymous Subjectivities
Indeed the cultural world shares the pre-personal and anonymous
character of the natural world. However, in relation to the latter, the former
comprises the following characteristics: all cultural objects bear with
themselves a more or less subjective character as objects created by human
beings of a determinate community. Taking tobacco as an example: as a
cultural object it was originated by American Indians. The latter have a
determinate way to consume it such that their own way of consumption
Merleau-Ponty writes that the primordial Nature is that pre-objective
sensible field in which the behavior of other persons appears, which is prior according
to its meaning to the perception of other persons just as it is prior to the Nature of the
sciences, and which transcendental reflection could discover. Maurice MerleauPonty, La structure du comportement (SC hereafter) (Paris: 1st ed. 1942, 2nd ed.,
Presses Universitaires de France, 1949), 180, note; The Structure of Behavior (SB
hereafter), trans. A. L. Fisher (Boston: Beacon Pr., 1963), 245, n. 82. For the English
translations, the page number is given only as a reference, whereas the English
quotations are often modified by the present author without further notice.
M. Merleau-Ponty, Phnomnologie de la perception (PhP hereafter) (Paris:
Gallimard, 1945), 399; Phenomenology of Perception (PP hereafter), trans. C. Smith
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), 347.


becomes, in the eyes of the Indians themselves, nearly part of the nature of
tobacco. But once tobacco was introduced into other countries, the way it
was consumed had been diversified. For example, before the manufacture of
cigarettes, Europeans smoked the pipe, whereas Chinese used bamboo trunks,
bronze or porcelain snuffboxes. There is a certain subjective character
inherent to tobacco as cultural object. But this subjectivity is an anonymous
subjectivity known under the mode of the one (on in French or man in
German): one smokes the pipe in Eighteenth Century France; one uses
bamboo trunks to smoke at the same epoch in China. The French word on
and the German word man, more than the word one in English, express a
plurality of anonymous subjects presupposed by the cultural world. In the
cultural object, I feel the close presence of others beneath a veil of

1.3 The Body of the Other as the First Cultural Object

In each civilization, there is a common mode of usage for each utensil
such that the simple handling of a utensil is already a human behavior loaded
with cultural significance. As bearer of human behavior, the body of the
Other as anonymous subject is the one to which I refer explicitly or implicitly
every time when I handle utensils. Consequently, all cultural objects
presuppose necessarily the body of the Other, and we can say that the body
of the Other is the first of all cultural objects and the one by which they [all
cultural objects] exist.4
However, if the body of the Other is presupposed by the cultural world,
how is it perceived? How can it appear neither as a mere thing nor simply as
a cultural object among others but genuinely as an incarnated consciousness?
From my point of view as a perceiving subject, is not an object seen from the
outside simply an object perceived?

1.4. The Irrefutable Presence of the Other in Human Dialogue

When Husserl tried to understand the transition from raw materials at
hand to the ideality of geometry as object of exact science, i.e. cultural object
of the higher theoretical order, he encountered the unavoidable problem of
language,5 which he recognized as playing a fundamental role in the question

PhP, 400; PP, 348.

PhP, 401; PP, 348.
Edmund Husserl, Die Krisis der europischen Wissenschaften und die
transzendentale Phnomenologie, Husserliana VI, Beilage III, Ursprung der
Gerometrie, ed. W. Biemel (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1st ed. 1954, 2nd ed. 1962), 369
370; The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, Appendix



concerned. Likewise, for Merleau-Ponty language plays an essential role in

the perception of others and thus in the edification of the intersubjective
world and the cultural world. The author of the Phenomenology of
Perception draws our attention to the fact that in the experience of dialogue,
the presence of the Other is irrefutable. During the dialogue,
there is constituted between the Other and myself a common ground; my
thought and his are interwoven into a single fabric, my words and those
of my interlocutor are called forth by the state of discussion, and they
are inserted into a shared operation of which neither of us is the creator.
In this situation there is a dual being (un tre deux), and the Other here
is for me no longer a simple behaviour in my transcendental field, nor I
in his neither; we are collaborators one for the other in a perfect
reciprocity, our perspectives merge one into the other, we co-exist
through a same world.6
One may object that what Merleau-Ponty describes is only a particularly
successful case of human dialogue. In everyday reality, communication is
never perfect and there is always possibility of misunderstanding. When I am
faced with someone who speaks a foreign language that I do not speak, no
dialogue is possible. And even when two persons debating on a subject speak
the same language, their respective positions can be so far away from one
another that they are in a dialogue of the deaf (the French say: un dialogue
de sourds). But all these examples have a common basis: exchange of words.
Once engaged in this exchange, I can attest to the fact that the words that I
heard aim at some meaning. This meaning may be obscure to me. But I can
nevertheless be sure that it comes from a speaking subject. And I can very
well distinguish between the voice emitted from a speaking robot and a
human voice, even if the two voices are transmitted by a loudspeaker. In
listening to a human voice, we say at once: there is somebody, even though
the person in question may not necessarily be present in our visual field. All
this confirms the privileged role played by language in the evidence of the
existence of others and our co-existence in the same socio-cultural world.

1.5 The Problem of the Other does not exhaust the entire
Problem of the Cultural World
However, is language not itself a cultural object? If the cultural world
presupposes the existence of others on the one hand, and the perception of the

Other in the dialogue presupposes language as cultural object on the other, is

VI, The Origin of Geometry, trans. D. Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Pr.,
1970), 357359.
PhP, 407; PP, 354.


there not a circularity of the problem? For Merleau-Ponty the key to the
problem of the cultural world consists precisely in the following: to
understand how something perceived in space, be it historical vestiges or the
body of the Other, is not simply perceived as some still and dead object (the
French say: la nature morte), but as bearer of a certain sense such that it
becomes the speaking trace of some individual or collective existence (and
the former is necessarily linked in one way or another to the latter). Inversely
we have to understand how an intention, a thought or a project can detach
themselves from the personal subject and become visible outside him in his
body, in the environment which he builds for himself.7 The clarification of
the cultural world requires the preliminary clarification of the intersubjective
world. However, if the latter should open onto the social world, it should not
be reduced to an existence involving two or even three people, but rather
be the co-existence of an indefinite number of consciousness.8 That is why
for Merleau-Ponty, the constitution of the Other does not solve by itself the
entire problem of the constitution of the cultural world. By way of his
conception of the body proper as subject destined to the world (sujet vou au
monde),9 Merleau-Ponty contents himself with providing merely, as he says
with modesty in the Phenomenology of Perception, a beginning of the
solution to this problem.10

1.6 Merleau-Ponty has combined the merits of both Husserl and

Heidegger but avoided their shortcomings
In the analysis of the perception of the Other, the way Merleau-Pontys
approach differs from those of Husserl and Heidegger consists precisely in
the importance accorded by the author of the Phenomenology of Perception
to the role played by corporeity. Not only does the Other presents
herself/himself necessarily by her/his own body, but language, the privileged
cultural object through which the existence of the Other is an irrefutable
evidence for me, is at first understood as linguistic gesture, i.e. as expression
of the body proper in the Phenomenology of Perception, 11 and as
anonymous corporeity which I share with other organisms in MerleauPontys later writings.12
For Husserl, others always co-exist already with me in the empirical
reality of everyday life. The empirical field, i.e. the world in the natural

PhP, 401; PP, 349.

PhP, v; PP, xi.
PhP, 401; PP, 349.
PhP, 209; PP, 179.
M. Merleau-Ponty, La prose du monde (PM hereafter) (Paris: Gallimard,
1969), 195; The Prose of the World (PW hereafter), trans. J. ONeill (Evanston:
Northwestern University Pr., 1973), 140.



attitude is always already an intersubjective world.13 The question at stake is

to show that the phenomenologically reduced field, being the field of
transcendental subjectivity in the first place, is also the field of transcendental
intersubjectivity, that transcendental phenomenology, in the terms of the
Cartesian Meditations, should not be branded as transcendental
solipsism.14 Husserls effort in the Fifth of these celebrated meditations is
generally recognized as the most elaborated effort undertaken by the master
of Freiburg to constitute the Other as alter ego within the framework of
monadic transcendental egology established preliminarily in the Fourth
Meditation. In Husserls own terms, this involves the task to bring into
evidence in what intentionalities, in what syntheses, in what motivations the
sense of alter ego comes to be formed in me and, how, under various titles, a
concordant experience of some other proves herself/himself as existing and
even as existing herself/himself there in her/his own manner.15 However,
this laborious effort is also generally recognized as unsuccessful by many
remarkable commentators.16 Given the limited scope of the present work, we
are unable to go into the details of the related critical discussions. To present
our own view in a schematic way, we would say that the essential reason for
the failure of Husserls attempt lies not only in the logical but also the
phenomenological impossibility to conceive the Other as an alter ego who is
at the same time a constituting subject and a constituted object, an alter ego
who is the absolute origin of all constitution but at the same time at the
antipode of this origin. The impossibility to maintain two absolute poles of


Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phnomenologie und

Untersuchungen zur Konstitution, Husserliana, Band IV (Hua IV hereafter) (The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1952), 7984; Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a
Phenomenological Philosophy, Second Book, Studies in the Phenomenology of
Constitution (Ideas II hereafter), trans. R. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer (Dordrecht:
Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), 8389.
Edmund Husserl, Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vortrge,
Husserliana, Band I (Hua I hereafter) (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1950), 121; Cartesian
Meditations (CM hereafter), trans. D. Cairns (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1973), 89.
Hua I, 122; CM, 90.
Among the most penetrating critical discussions, cf. Alfred Schutz, Le
problme de lintersubjectivit transcendantale chez Husserl, in Husserl. Cahiers de
Royaumont (Paris: Minuit, 1959), 334356; Eng. version The Problem of
Transcendental Intersubjectivity in Husserl, in Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers III,
Studies in Phenomenological Philosophy, ed. I. Schutz (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1966),
5184; Paul Ricoeur, La Cinquime Mditation Cartsienne, in A lcole de la
phnomnologie (Paris: Vrin, 1986), 197225; Eng. version Husserls Fifth
Cartesian Meditation, in Paul Ricoeur, Husserl. An Analysis of His Phenomenology
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), 115142; Jean-Toussaint Desanti,
Introduction la phnomnologie (Paris: Gallimard, new edition 1994), 115150.


constitution within the egological immanence results in the impossibility of
Einfhlung (rendered usually as empathy) in the transcendental field
secured by the phenomenological reduction.
Heideggers approach in Sein und Zeit is opposite to that of Husserl.
Einfhlung is not the basis of the constitution of the Other. On the contrary,
for the successor of Husserl in Freiburg, Dasein, as being-in-the-world, is
already with Others. Einfhlung does not first constitute being-with; but
only on the basis of being-with does Einfhlung become possible: it is
motivated in its indispensable necessity by the dominant deficient mode of
being-with.17 Daseins being-with is an existential constituent of being-inthe-world. It is this mode of being which renders possible Daseins encounter
with other Dasein and all beings within-the-world. That is why Dasein is
always already a being-with-one-another, a mode of being which cannot be
conceived as a summative result of the coming together of several
subjects. 18 In the lecture course delivered a year after the publication of
Sein und Zeit, Die Grundprobleme der Phnomenologie (The Basic
Problems of Phenomenology), Heidegger is more explicit:
The Dasein is not at first merely a being-with others so as thereupon to
emerge from this being-with-one-another into an objective world, to
come out to things. This approach would be just as unsuccessful as
subjective idealism, which starts first with a subject, which then in some
manner supplies an object for itself. To start with an I-thou relationship
as a relationship of two subjects would entail that at first there are two
subjects, taken simply as two, which then provide a relation to others.
Rather, Dasein is with equal originality being-with others and beingamong intraworldly beings. The world, within which these latter beings
are encountered, isbecause every Dasein is of its own self existent
being-with othersalways already world which the one shares with the
In short, the world is part of the ontological constitution of Dasein, in
such a way that the self of Dasein and the world together constitute the
structural unity of being-in-the-world which is the basic condition of
possibility of the selfs being a possible thou in being-with others.20
Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (SZ hereafter) (Tbingen: Max Niemeyer
Verlag, 15th ed., 1979), 125; Being and Time (BT hereafter), trans. J. Macquarrie & E.
Robinson (New York: SCM Pr., 1962), 162.
SZ, 125; BT, 163.
Martin Heidegger, Die Grundprobleme der Phnomenologie, Gesamtausgabe
Band 24 (GA 24 hereafter) (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1975), 421; The Basic Problems
of Phenomenology (BPP hereafter), trans. A. Hofstadter (Bloomington & Indianapolis:
Indiana University Press, 1982, revised ed. 1988), 296297.
GA 24, 422; BPP, 297298.



However, Heidegger makes clear in the second part of Sein und Zeit that
this mode of being of Dasein as being-with others is only a mode of the
everyday Dasein, i.e. the one or they (das man) of Dasein in the
inauthentic mode. When Dasein comes back to its authentic selfhood, it is
in original isolation. 21 Dasein in its authentic mode would even be
deprived of the use of language, since communication in speech in the
everyday world, understood as idle talk, is already the sign of fall. 22 The
authentic Dasein, at the same time as it assists at the decomposition of the
worldhood of the environmental world, is in a state of existential solipsism.23
Seen from the above discussion, the originality of Merleau-Ponty
consists precisely in combining the merits of both Husserl and Heidegger
while avoiding each ones shortcomings in the analysis of the Other. In
refusing Husserls theoretical framework of monadic transcendental egology,
Merleau-Ponty has retained from the author of the Cartesian Meditations the
phenomenon of pairing (Paarung) as the key to the constitution of the Other.
To recognize the phenomenon of pairing as playing the central role in the
perception of the Other is equivalent to taking corporeity as its pivot. At the
same time, in accepting to understand the subject as being-in-the-world after
Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty avoids enclosing the subject in egological
immanence in the way Husserl has done in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation.
However, in distinction to Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty does not accept the
radical dichotomy between the authentic and the inauthentic modes of subject,
the dichotomy which is at the origin of existential solipsism in Sein und Zeit.

1.7. There are Two Levels of Intersubjectivity

If Merleau-Ponty shares with Heidegger the understanding of the one
(the On in French or the man in German) as anonymous subject, he never
considers it as the sign of inauthenticity. Contrary to the author of Sein und
Zeit, the On for Merleau-Ponty is rather expression of the facticity of the
human subject. He even envisages an on who has its own authenticity,24
that is a primordial one [On] thatnever ceases but continues to uphold the
greatest passions of our adult life and to be experienced anew in each of our


SZ, 322; BT, 369.

SZ, 168; BT, 212.
SZ, 188; BT, 233.
In her critical study on the existential philosophy of Heidegger, Edith Stein,
Husserl earliest assistant, thinks that the one (man in German), which signifies a
community and the social life, can have an authentic mode: In fact, the one and the
other, social life as well as solitary life, have their authentic form and their degraded
form. Phnomnologie et philosophie chrtienne, French trans. Ph. Secretan (Paris:
Cerf, 1987), 107. She also refuses the radical dichotomy made by Heidegger between
the man and the authentic selfhood (ibid., 9293).


perceptions.25 In expressing the character of generality and anonymity of the
subject, the On designates our common belonging not only to a primordial
Nature, but to a common socio-cultural world and a shared history too. The
On is then the expression of intersubjectivity at the primary level prior to
the distinction between the I, the first person subject, and the Other. The
syncretic sociability in the first phase of infantile existence is the eminent
example of this level of intersubjectivity where the individual consciousness
is still unaware of itself, where the child lives rather a kind of intercorporeity
(We will return to this point in greater detail in a later section).
It is in a later stage of development that the ego arises, with the
consciousness of the indeclinable subject. At this moment, the subject comes
out of anonymity. But at the same time, the subject experiences the Other by
the presence of the body proper of some Others consciousness. The body
proper of the Other, like my own body proper, is not a body-thing but a
body-subject; it is because the latter incarnates a system of kinesthetic
possibilities and is the zero point of orientation of this system. The
experience of the Others body proper is irrefutable; it is the basis of
intersubjectivity of the second level and is presupposed by the habitual sociocultural world of adults. It is from this second level of intersubjectivity,
isolated from the first, that a philosophy of pure immanence constructs a
solipsist philosophy in neglecting the very basic fact that a subject belongs
necessarily to a common socio-cultural and historical world.
Husserls transcendental phenomenology contains an idealist aspect in so
far as it manifests from time to time the temptation to conduct all explication
of sense of being back to the transcendental consciousness as absolute
subjectivity. But what distinguishes it from traditional transcendental
philosophy, for example Kantian critical philosophy, is that it starts from the
phenomenological evidence that the meditative ego is always already inherent
in an individual subject. The transcendental egology of Husserl is obliged to
confront the problem of the Other, and whose irrefutable experience imposes
a more radical awareness from the part of the father of the phenomenological
movement. Driven by his care of methodological vigour, Husserl was lead to
reinsert the subject into the primordial world which he wanted to reduce in
the first instance. The radicalism of Husserls phenomenological approach
requires the taking into consideration of these non-reduced elements, and it is
this radicalism which ultimately contributes to breaching resolutely the
framework of monadic transcendental egology in its access to the problem of
the Other. This is precisely one of the great merits of the egological approach
of Husserl. On the contrary, Kantian critical philosophy never considers the
basic fact that the meditative subject is a subject destined to the world. The
M. Merleau-Ponty, Signes (Si hereafter) (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), 221; Signs
(S hereafter), trans. R. C. McCleary (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964),



transcendental apperception in Kant is a purely formal pole of unity which

overhangs with tranquillity the world as if it were a pure spectacle.
Commenting on the Kantian approach, Merleau-Ponty says, This is why the
problem of the knowledge of the Other is never posed in Kantian philosophy:
the transcendental ego which it discusses is just as much the Others as mine,
the analysis is from the start placed outside me, and has nothing to do but to
extract the general conditions which render possible a world for an ego
myself or others equallyand never comes up against the question: who is
meditating?26 For Merleau-Ponty, this approach is unacceptable because it
forgets its anchorage in the world by virtue of its bodily existence but settles
at the altitude of the universal transcendental subject right from the beginning
without asking how it can arrive at that point. The distinction made by
Husserl between the natural attitude and the transcendental attitude shows
precisely that there is a problem of the becoming of the transcendental
subject. Husserls effort to constitute transcendental intersubjectivity gives
the best evidence of the necessity to understand how an individual subject,
arising from the terrain of natural experience to the transcendental field, can
be assured that this latter field is not solipsist but intersubjective, and is thus
able to guarantee the objectivity and universality of all transcendental
operation (Leistung). It points towards the task of genetic phenomenology,
and Merleau-Pontys distinction of two levels of intersubjectivity is precisely
a masterpiece of this sort.

2. Merleau-Pontys Two Levels of Intersubjectivity

2.1. No Single Subjectivity has the Privilege of the Actual
Possession of the whole World
We have said earlier that in his analysis of the perception of the Other,
Merleau-Ponty has united the merits of both Husserl and Heidegger but
avoided their shortcomings. Let us return to Husserls Fifth Cartesian
Meditation for a short while. The results of this meditation show that the
Other is perceptible by me only by way of its carnal presence: the bodily
presence of the Other is irreducible to my primordial sphere of ownness as
the field of immanence. We have then to recognize that the Other, like
myself, is also a subject destined to the world. But if the alter ego is a kind of
original absence for me, how can I get rid of the priority of my proper ego
cogito in relation to the ego cogito of the Other? How to recognize that this
body in front of me is not simply a corporeal thing but really the body proper
of another person?

PhP, 75; PP. 62.


For Merleau-Ponty, we have to retain the importance of the
phenomenon of pairing in the perception of the Other as shown by Husserl.
The phenomenon of pairing is the simple but principal fact of incarnation. As
being-in-the-world I am never a transparent consciousness, my subjectivity
always drags behind itself a body: my body proper. 27 It is under this
condition that the body of the Other is not reduced to a mere object for me,
and neither my body a mere object for her/him. The two bodies are both
behaviours as bearers of sense. As being-in-the-world instead of a mere thing
within the world, the two bodies are in equal position.
The perceptual subject approaches a thing of the world by a determinate
perspective. The perceived thing is always situated within a whole set of
things to which it belongs. Not only a particular aspect of the thing perceived
is referred to other perceptible aspects of the same thing in its temporal
unfolding, it is also referred to other things which form with it a structural
whole in the environment, such that if there is a radically isolated perception
of a single thing of the world, it is only the result of a voluntary but
secondary act of abstraction. That is why an actual perception is only the
starting point of infinite possibilities of exploration in relation to the thing
perceived. An analogical situation exists between my cogito and the cogito of
the Other. The infinity of possibilities of exploration of the thing perceived
and the world deprives me of the monopoly and the privilege in relation to
the Other in the perspective givenness of the thing. If the thing perceived is
accessible not only from one single perspective, its being given is not,
moreover, monopolized by the perspective of a sole subjectivity. It is in this
way that a path of communication between individual subjectivities in a same
world can be traced out. In reality, the Other is not enclosed within my
perspective upon the world, because this perspective itself has no definite
limits, because it slips spontaneously into the Others, and because both are
brought together in the one single world in which we all participate as
anonymous subjects of perception.28
In recognizing the finitude of my subjectivity, I recognize at the same
time that my perspectives can never be the totality of all possible perspectives
of the thing perceived, that I can never by my sole perceptions possess
actually the world in its totality. The Other, being carnal subject too, is in the
same situation as me in relation to the world. For the Other too, the world is
accessible by her/his body proper. Within the local space nearby, my body
has perhaps a momentary privilege in comparison to the body of the Other in
so far as my body occupies a here not shared by the body of the Other. But
this privilege will be neutralized shortly when the body of the Other, as a
system of kinesthetic possibilities, comes to occupy in turn the here
occupied by me a moment ago. Consequently, in the situation where I find

PhP, 405; PP, 352.

PhP, 406; PP, 353.



myself as being-in-the-world, I do not enjoy any privilege in comparison to

the body of the Other nor does she/he in comparison to mine. Thus I
understand that the other body is no more a mere fragment of the world, but
the place of a certain process of elaboration and as the place of a certain
view of the world. Over there takes place a certain treatment of the things
which hitherto belongs to me.29 In short, seen from the one and same world,
my perspective on the world and the perspective of the Other are
complementary, my body and the body of the Other co-exist in connivance.

2.2. Intercorporeity as the Carnal Basis of the Intersubjective World

The understanding of the connivance of my body with the body of the
Other leads towards a primordial understanding of the situation of the carnal
subject within the intersubjective world. In fact, if I come to understand that
my perspective on the world and the perspective of the Other are two
complementary perspectives, I understand at the same time that her/his
perspective of the world over there is the extension of my perspective here.
That means the body of the Other over there, as perceptual subject too, is
genuinely the extension of my body here, and vice versa.
If my perspective views of the thing perceived on the whole aims at the
unity of this very thing, this is because the parts of my body form together an
intentional system which projects itself towards an identical objective pole.
Likewise, when I experience my own body as the power of certain conducts
and a certain hold onto the world, and when, in perceiving the body of the
Other I find in her/him the miraculous extension of intentions which
animate my body proper and reciprocally, I understand that the body of the
Other and my body form a unity too, that they are the two sides of one and
the same phenomenon, and the anonymous existence of which my body is
the ever-renewed trace henceforth inhabits both bodies simultaneously. 30
This anonymous carnal existence is the primordial level of intersubjectivity.
It is the anonymous corporeity which I share with other organisms,31 or
even intercorporeity which Merleau-Ponty designates later as the basis of
the community of incarnated subjects. 32 In short, intercorporeity is the
carnal basis of the intersubjective world.


PhP, 406; PP, 353.

PhP, 406; PP, 354.
PM, 195; PW, 140.
M. Merleau-Ponty, Rsums des cours. Collge de France 19521960 (RC
hereafter) (Paris: Gallimard, 1968), 115; Themes from the Lectures at the Collge de
France 19521960 (TL hereafter) (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970),
82. Cf. Si, 213; S, 168.


2.3. Carnal Intersubjectivity and the Childs Syncretic Sociability

As intercorporeity, the primordial level of intersubjectivity is carnal
intersubjectivity. It is the level of intersubjectivity where self-consciousness
is still unaware of itself, just as in the case of children of early age. And it is
precisely by virtue of this unawareness or forgetfulness of the self of the
carnal intersubjectivity that, according to Merleau-Ponty, who joins Husserl
here once again, logical and scientific objectivity can be established.33
In fact, the child lives in a world which she/he believes
straightforwardly to be accessible to all those who surround her/him but
without the consciousness of private subjectivities. The psychological studies
undertaken by Jean Piaget on childrens development of intelligence have led
him to conclude that the child accomplishes the cogito towards the age of
twelve years old. At this age, the child discovers that she/he is at the same
time a sensible consciousness and an intellectual consciousness, that she/he is
a point of view about the world and is called upon to transcend this point of
view, and to construct an objectivity at the level of judgment.34 However,
this level of intersubjectivity is already that of the individual consciousnesses
which aims at some intellectual objectivities. This is intersubjectivity of a
higher level, with the emergence of the consciousness of the indeclinable
subjectivity. If this consciousness feels the need to aim at objectivities with
logical or scientific character, it is because she/he is at the same time
conscious of her/his belonging to a unique and intersubjective world in
which she/he is situated. Even if what Hegel describes in the Phenomenology
of Spirit as the struggle of different consciousnesses following the
appearance of the cogito is to be true, in order that the struggle can
begin, they must have a common ground and be mindful of their peaceful
co-existence in the world of childhood.35The anonymous corporeity is the
level of intersubjectivity which is on this side of the level of intellectual
consciousness. It shows itself during the state of psychogenesis where the
child does not yet make the distinction between the ego and the Other, where
the perception of the Other and the intersubjective world is not yet a problem.
This level of intersubjectivity is that of syncretic sociability.

2.3.1 Mimetism and Transitivism as Social Syncretism

It is in the lecture course on Les relations avec autrui chez lenfant
(The Childs Relations with Others) 36 given in 195051 that Merleau-Ponty

Si, 218; S, 173; Hua IV, 55; Ideas II, 60.

PhP, 408; PP, 355.
M. Merleau-Ponty, Les relations avec autrui chez lenfant, in Maurice
Merleau-Ponty la Sorbonne. Bulletin de psychologie (MMPS hereafter), no. 236,



explains in details the concept of syncretic sociability. 37 This is a

characteristics of the psychic state of the child at a low age in which the child
is experiencing a kind of interworld where there is no egological
perspective,38 where the distinction between me-others, or mine-alien is still
absent. It is a kind of experience which gives way progressively to
experience of the reflective consciousness, i.e. the consciousness which
discovers the difference of perspectives between my experience and the
experience of the others. The phenomenon of syncretic sociability is thus
inaccessible to static analysis. It requires a kind of ontogenetic investigation
or genetic phenomenology in order to pierce its secret. For Merleau-Ponty,
the childs relations with others have the value of a genuine structure: it is a
system of relations within my experience.39 In order to understand this, we
should not ask the question: how the child begins to recognize the Other as
an alien consciousness? But rather: how the child learns to distinguish
herself/himself from the others, each one being separated, within the same
sphere of experience which is at this side of the distinction me-others. The
question then is not: how the child can transcend the self-consciousness
towards the consciousness of the Other?, but: how she/he transcends social
Syncretic sociability shows itself first of all in the phenomenon of
contagion of cries among babies during the first three months of their life and
which disappears later. This phenomenon is a kind of mimetism in which the
child assimilates to herself/himself experience perceived from the outside.
On the other hand, the child at this age lives a kind of transitivism in which
she/he attributes her/his personal experience to others. The most common
example is the one in which the child projects her/his anguish onto her/his
sister, brother or playmate.40

Vol. XVIII, 36, pp. 294336. This text is now republished in M. Merleau-Ponty,
Psychologie et pdagogie de lenfant. Cours de Sorbonne 19491952 (PPE hereafter)
(Lagrasse: Editions Verdier, 2001), 303396. The English translation of the same
lecture course bearing the title The Childs Relations with Others included in The
Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the
Philosophy of Art, History and Politics, ed. J. M. Edie (Evanston: Northwestern
University Press, 1964), 96155, is based on a different but incomplete version of the
text. For this reason we only give reference to the original French text which has been
read through and approved by Merleau-Ponty himself.
MMPS, 299sq.; PPE, 312 sq.
J.-F. Lyotard, La phnomnologie (Paris: P.U.F., 1954), 81; Phenomenology,
trans., B. Beakley (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1991), 102.
MMPS, 302; PPE, 320.
MMPS, 304; PPE, 324.


2.3.2. Infantile Existence as Pre-personal and

Pre-individual Existence
The phenomena of mimetism and transitivism show that the first phase
of infantile existence is that of a kind of pre-communication, of anonymous
collectivity, without differentiation, a kind of existence of the several.41 The
kind of perception which corresponds to this stage is one in which there is
no distinction between what is perceived as hers or his and what is perceived
as belonging to others.42 The thinking at this phase is generally pre-personal
and pre-individual. Even if the child begins to speak in a more or less
articulated way, the use of the personal pronoun I properly speaking
appears only in a later stage, later than the acquisition of the proper name and
only when the child understands that everyone can say in turn I and can be
considered as you and when she/he has the consciousness of the relation
between the different names and their transition from the ones to the others.
The fact that the child takes a long time to make the distinction between
herself/himself and the circle of persons around her/him, and that the
acquisition of proper name is achieved only from other persons, show that
the appearance of self-consciousness in the full sense of the term is posterior
to the perception of the Other.
Does the childs social syncretism mean that infantile existence is a preconscious existence or even unconscious existence? The answer to this
question depends entirely on the meaning attributed to the word
consciousness. If the meaning of the term is limited to that prescribed by
traditional intellectualism, i.e. one can only talk of consciousness in the form
of intellectual consciousness, there is perhaps no sense to speak of infantile
consciousness. However, from the strictly descriptive point of view, infantile
consciousness shows the following structure: indistinction of different
temporal moments; syncretism of space; generally speaking inaptitude to
conceive time and space as comprising distinctive perspectives by one
However, to speak of syncretism in infantile consciousness does not
mean to reduce it to a merely psychophysical being without intelligence. The
term syncretism emphasizes rather the primordial openness to the world in
the pre-reflective consciousness of the child. At the beginning, the child is not
closed onto herself/himself Egocentrism is the attitude of an ego which is

MMPS, 299; PPE, 312.

MMPS, 304; PPE, 324.
MMPS, 304; PPE, 325. It is of relevancy to report here the present authors
observations concerning the acquisition of the personal pronoun I by his two
daughters. When they sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at the age between 2 to 3,
both of them just sang out how wonder what you are every time, omitting the word
I which is in the original lyrics.
MMPS, 304; PPE, 324.



unaware of herself/himself Individual consciousness appears only later, as

objectivation of the body properestablishes a watertight closure between
others and me, as well as the constitution of an other and a me as human
beings in a reciprocal relation. 45

2.3.3. The Childs Intelligent Activities and

Pre-linguistic Consciousness
In fact, the child is capable of intelligent activities because she/he is
endowed with the corporeal schema which is a latent knowledge in which
acting is at the same time understanding. This is shown in the childs
extraordinary ability of mimesis since the first phase of her/his life. The child
responds easily to a smile by her/his own smiles. Merleau-Ponty remarks that
if we play with the child in pretending to bite her/his fingers, she/he opens
her/his mouth and repeats the same gesture.46 This mimetic behavior cannot
be explained by analogy, for this is a kind of hypothesis which presupposes
the accomplishment of an analogical reasoning by the child. In order to
effectuate an analogical reasoning, the child ought to have already some
knowledge of the internal relationship between her/his interior motor
functions and her/his facial expression such that she/he can produce the same
expression in repeating the same gesture. Now, the child is far from having
acquired such knowledge and such reasoning capacity at this age. Yet, the
childs capacity of mimesis can be understood by the corporeal schema.
Without going into the details of the discussion on the concept of
corporeal schema,47 we can say that it is at the same time the tacit knowledge
which the body proper acquires from its position in the ambient world and
the system of sensori-motor equivalence of the body. By the corporeal
schema, the child understands her/his action at the same time when she/he
acts, not only without passing by the reflective consciousness, but also
without visualizing expressly her/his action in the way one looks at an
external object. Now the childs mimetic behaviour is precisely the eminent
example of such an action which is accompanied by an immediate
understanding. And the very term of behaviour, understood in a nonbehaviourist way, means that it is bearer of sense.
In order to give an ontological explication of the tacit knowledge
involved in the concept of corporeal schema, Merleau-Ponty has proposed in


MMPS, 299; PPE, 312.

PhP, 404405; PP, 352.
Please refer to my doctoral dissertation: Merleau-Ponty ou la tension entre
Husserl et Heidegger. Le sujet et le monde dans la Phnomnologie de la perception
(Universit de Paris I, 1992), Part I, Ch. 3.


the Phnomnologie de la perception the concept of tacit cogito.48 It is well
known that when Merleau-Ponty reconsiders this concept fifteen years later
in a note of 1959, he remarks that it is impossible.49 Many commentators
extrapolate from this note that Merleau-Ponty would have given up the
problematic of consciousness, and consequently he has simply given up
phenomenology. This is a kind of interpretation which transgresses largely
what the text itself allows us to assert. The note in question runs as follows:
What I call the tacit cogito is impossible. To have the idea of thinking (in
the sense of the thought of seeing and of feeling), to make the reduction,
to return to immanence and to the consciousness ofit is necessary to have
words. It is by the combination of wordsthat I form the transcendental
attitude, that I constitute the constitutive consciousness. 50 This note is
situated in a very clear context: it has a double target. On the one hand, it
aims at the intellectualist interpretation of the cogito for which each
perception is the thought of seeing and of feeling. On the other, it aims at
the transcendental idealism of Husserl which presupposes already language
as something indispensable for the phenomenologist each time when she/he
accomplishes the reduction. But is this not the very target that the whole
Phnomnologie de la perception aims at in its critical parts? However, all
those who claim to have detected a radical rupture between the Visible and
Invisible and the Phenomenology of Perception remain often silent on the
later part of the same note. In fact, it affirms that yet there is a world of
silence, the perceived world, at least is an order where there are nonlanguage significationsyes, non-language significations, but they are not
accordingly positive.51 If Merleau-Ponty still affirms in 1959 that there is a
world of silence as a world of non-language significations, it is because he
considers it a positive and enduring acquisition of phenomenology. The
childs syncretic sociability is precisely an eminent illustration of this world
of silence, and the infantile consciousness is an eminent illustration of the
tacit consciousness. The childs mimetic behaviour reveals not only a prereflective consciousness, but also a pre-linguistic consciousness. It shows at
the same time that it is an incarnated consciousness: it is by his bodily
movements, even rudimentary, and her/his facial expressions that a child
expresses a pre-linguistic sense, for example smiles for expressing joy or
satisfaction, cries for expressing contrary sentiments. The present authors
own experience with his two children reveal that a baby of three months can
express herself/himself by cries among which we can clearly distinguish

PhP, 462; PP, 403.

M. Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et linvisible (VsI hereafter) (Paris: Gallimard,
1964), 224; The Visible and the Invisible (VI hereafter), trans. A. Lingis (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1968), 171.
VsI, 224225; VI, 171.
VsI, 226; VI, 171.



between those asking for food from those for toilet, those for cradling from
those for amusement. The act of getting hold of an object in her/his
immediate surrounding is another example of action endowed simultaneously
by understanding. A baby from about three to twelve months comes to
know an object by putting it into her/his month and tasting it. All these are
irrefutable, i.e. positive, results of description. What is important is that we
have to understand them in a non-positivist way as a primordial experience:
experience of the corporeal reflexivity in which the body plays the role of the
anonymous subject of motricity and latent knowledge.

2.3.4. Intercorporeity as Carnal Syncretism and

Syncretic Spatiality
The central role of corporeity in the perception of the Other and in the
genesis of self-consciousness can be shown by the behaviour of a child
placed in front of a mirror. The most remarkable phenomenon is that the
childs distinction between the specular image of the Other and the real Other
(the Other in its carnal presence) is achieved posterior to the recognition of
the specular image of the Other as well as to the recognition of her/his own
specular image.52 For example, when a girl sees the image of her father in the
mirror, she smiles. But when she hears the voice of her father and turns
around, she is surprised to see her father himself there. It is because in the
first phase of life, a child does not yet have a clear awareness of the
difference between the image and the original, between the specular image
and the visual image of the person in herself/himself. A child at this stage
still considers the two as each having a proper and independent existence.
For Merleau-Ponty, this means that the image is never a simple reflection
but a quasi presence, that the image is in a certain sense an incarnation.53
But why is the childs acquisition of the specular image of her/his body
proper later than that of the Other? It is because for the body of the Other, the
child can have access to two different kinds of image, e.g. the visual image of
her father in himself and the image of her father in the mirror. This
recognition is easier in so far as it is a kind of identification in indistinction.
Whereas for the child herself, she has only one complete visual image of her
body, that of the mirror. A child comes to grasp her body by interoception.
She has an interoceptive consciousness of the body proper which is a felt selfconsciousness, i.e. consciousness of the pre-reflective order. In order that the
child can recognize her own specular image, she has to take the visual image
as a spectacle and has to be able to become the spectator of herself. She
acquires the experience of spectacle first of all by the visual image of the

MMPS, 3010; PPE, 315316.

MMPS, 301; PPE, 317.


Other (either by the bodily presence of the Other in person, or by the
specular image of the body of the Other). The perception of the Other is thus
a constitutive element of the perception of the body proper as spectacle.
However, in so far as the child does not yet make the distinction
between the specular image and the visual image of the person present in
herself, the child sees her specular image as a kind of self-projection, and she
thinks that the image is a double of herself. For example a child plays with
her own specular image. Here there is not only a kind of indistinction
between the visual image and the specular image, but also an indistinction
between interoceptive givenness and visual and external givenness. In
commentating the observations of the French psychologist Henri Wallon,
Merleau-Ponty says that for the child at this stage there is not a felt body
and a visual body in two distinctive persons It is rather the question of a
second body in the mirror, a kind of identity at distance, a ubiquity of the
body. 54 This ubiquity of the body is a carnal syncretism in which the
interoceptive body, the visual body and the Other form a system.55 And this
system is nothing other than that of intercorporeity.
Intercorporeity as carnal syncretism in the child corresponds to a mode
of syncretic spatiality very different from that of the adult. By indistinction
between the interoceptive body and the visual body, the child believes that
he is where he feels himself and where he sees himself[He] can think that a
person can be in several places where he has already seen this person.56 It is
thus a question of syncretic spatiality which adheres to images. Syncretic
spatiality will be progressively reduced as intellectual development teaches
us to refer our specular image back to our body proper and to recognize that
image is just a kind of pre-space, to admit that our specular image is nonreal, to overcome this spatiality adhering to images and to substitute for it an
ideal space with redistribution of spatial values.57 From the point of view of
geometrical science, this spatial syncretism is primitive. But from the
aesthetic point of view, this primitivism in the sense of a-perspectivism is at
the origin of the artistic revolution of the Twentieth Century. For example,
one can only think of the scandal of Cubism, and in particular Picassos
Les filles dAvignon during its early reception. Infantile sketches often
reveal a conception of perspective very different from that of the adult, and it
is not at all surprising that children usually can appreciate modern art much
more readily that adults for whom modern art works are often
With the reduction of syncretic spatiality, social syncretism is not at all
entirely suppressed, it is rather postponed. Indistinction between myself and

MMPS, 302; PPE, 320.

MMPS, 301; PPE, 318.
MMPS, 300; PPE, 316.



the Other reappears at another level in adult age. An eminent example is love.
To love is to accept to be under the influence of the Other and also to
exercise influence on the Other. Likewise, the adult cannot adopt an attitude
of non-intervention towards the child. 58 And adult sexuality is the
syncretico-carnal phenomenon proper. That is why Merleau-Ponty concludes
that transitivism is overcome in the order of habitual life, but not in the
order of sentiments.59


Intersubjectivity of Individual Consciousnesses and the

Habitual Social World of the Adult

If the observations on the psychogenesis of the child reveal that the first
phase of human existence is marked by syncretic sociability, that we are
always already open to an intersubjective world by a kind of identity at
distance with others as intercorporeity, all these are indispensable
acquisitions in order that there is a unique and intersubjective world for the
adult. We can thus take up again for ourselves the remarks of the young
Jean-Franois Lyotard apropos Merleau-Pontys concept of syncretic
sociability: If there is a social realm for me, it is because I am originarily of
the social; and the meanings that I inevitably project onto the behavior
patterns of the Other, if I know that I understand them or I have to
understand them, it is because the Other and I have been and remain
understood within a unique network of behaviour patterns and in a common
flux of intentionalities.60
However, when I come to adulthood and reflect on my own experience,
I observe that any affirmation, any engagement, and even any negation or
any doubt take their place in a preliminarily open experiential field; all these
experiences testify that there exists of a self without which there would never
be actual communication with others.61 That is why, while insisting on the
pre-givenness of the intersubjective world, the author of the Phenomenology
of Perception always defends the position of the indeclinable subjectivity
which is a lived-through subjectivity. In the same vein Merleau-Ponty
accepts also the problem of a lived-through solipsism. This is a legitimate
problem in so far as it is nourished by the awareness of the finitude of our
subject as individual subject.


MMPS, 305; PPE, 327.

J.-F. Lyotard, La phnomnologie, op. cit., 82; Phenomenology, op. cit., 103.
PhP, 411; PP, 358.


2.4.1. The Lived-through Subjectivity and the Awareness of the

Finitude of the Individual Subject
As subject situated in the world, the awareness of my finitude persuades
me that I am constitutive neither of the natural world nor of the cultural
world. I observe even that I am immersed in the generality of the body. But I
observe too that there exists a generality of my inalienable subjectivity: it is
still by my first perception and not that of the Other that the world is given to
me, and this happens not only in a purely passive way, but in my own
projects too, such that the world is also incessantly being taken up by me. By
virtue of my projects, there is place to speak of a world for me. Understood
in this way, my subjectivity is thus a lived-through subjectivity. To pretend
that we can overcome this lived-through subjectivity in the pure reflection of
the overhanging consciousness would mean that we install ourselves
hypothetically in the situation of an impartial being before which I and all the
others were spread out in perfect equality. In this way I would have elevated
myself to the status of a God. But I am not God. My pretension to divinity in
affirming myself as universal subject does not prevent that in actual
perception of the Other, the Other soon takes away this pretended
universality. In other words, the irrefutable experience of the Other always
reminds me that I am an individual consciousness and as such a finite subject.
The individual consciousness is the self-consciousness which enables
me to emerge from anonymous existence. It is always because of the
incarnated consciousness that we can understand how self-consciousness and
the consciousness of the Other can come forth from the background of
primitive indifferentiation represented by the social syncretism of infantile
existence. In the lecture course on Consciousness and the Acquisition of
Language (La conscience et lacquisition du langage) given in 1949-50,
Merleau-Ponty gives credit to Max Scheler for bringing this question under
reflective consideration in understanding consciousness as inseparable from
its expression, thus inseparable from corporeity. 62 To render possible the
consciousness of the Other, Scheler generalizes the cogito in order that it can
be applicable to others as well as to one-self. Understood in this way, the
cogito is undeniably a conquest of culturebecause it was subordinated to a
whole series of cultural conditions which have allowed this self-awareness: it
[the cogito] is expression in the same way as any consciousness.63 However,
for Merleau-Ponty, if consciousness were entirely invested in its expressions,
it would become totally opaque; in this way any consciousness of the self
would be impossible, just as any consciousness of the Other as alter ego
would be impossible. Henceforth we would only perceive behaviour patterns,

MMPS, 240; PPE, 4142.

MMPS, 241; PPE, 44.



but never persons. That is why Merleau-Ponty criticizes Scheler for

minimizing the self-consciousness to such a degree that the latter supports a
kind of pan-psychicism in the midst of which there is no individuation of
consciousnesses. How could a subject who would not be self-consciousness
(in the Husserlian sense of the term) emerge as subject from this common
Thus we have to take into consideration experience of the consciousness
of the self as much as that of the consciousness of the Other, because they are
all lived-through experience. It is never a question of deducing the Other
from an internal selfhood and vice versa, because the others maintain with
me a relation which is not a logical relation but a relation of existence.
Husserls very notion of pairing is precisely able to catch a glimpse of this
pre-logical dimension of existence which is the dimension of primordial coexistence.

2.4.2. Solipsism as Thought-Experiment on the Basis of

a Social World
But then how does solipsism come forth? What gives birth to the feeling
of solus-ipse? Once again, it is Husserl who had already given the answer in
the Ideen II which was then taken up by Merleau-Ponty. 65 According to
Husserl, solipsism has been taught by us through thought-experiment
(Gedankenexperiment).66 Strictly speaking, the solus ipse is unaware of the
objective body in the full and proper sense, even if the solus ipse might
possess the phenomenon of its bodyin just as perfect a way as the social
man The solus ipse does not truly merit its name, because it is the
subject constructed by us.67
In the social sciences there is never a question of solipsism, because
their domain of thematic study is the field of collective human experience. It
is in philosophy that solipsism comes forth in the most radical manner. But
the construction of a solipsist philosophy presupposes already a
philosophical community to which this philosophical theory communicates in
using a philosophical language more or less common and articulated on the
basis of the natural language. The conviction expressed by the solipsist on its
truth may during a moment push her/him to suspend any communication with
others. But this voluntary abstention of communication never annihilates the
Other. In his solitary meditation, David Hume was profoundly convinced of
the truth of his radical scepticism to the degree that he denied his own
identical self. But this did not stop him from the decision to publish the
results of his meditation later. This decision has not only connected him again

MMPS, 241; PPE, 44.

Si, 219; S, 173.
Hua IV, 81; Ideas II, 86.


to the philosophical community of his epoch, but also has inscribed him into
the community of great Western philosophers in the history of humanity. The
solitary thinker can well imagine that the world does not exist. But every
reflection is an act of thinking conducted by means of language and the
meanings which are deposited and remain there as sediments. As a
consequence every reflection is a kind of dialogue even if its interlocutor is
indeterminate. Following Husserl, Merleau-Ponty thinks that solipsism
would strictly be true only of someone who managed to be tacitly aware of
her/his existence without being anything and doing anything, which is
impossible, since to exist is to be in the world.68 But to be in the world
means nothing other than that I am given, that I find myself already
situated and involved in a physical and social worldthat this situation is
never hidden from me.69
That is why transcendental subjectivity is a revealed subjectivity:
revealed to itself and to others. But it presupposes already the lived-through
subjectivity, and for this reason it is an intersubjectivity, since, once more, in
my natural life, the existence of the others upon the background of a common
world is so evident that it is never doubted in my natural attitude. Thus it is
on the basis of the intersubjective world in which my natural life is anchored
that transcendental reflection is possible and has effectively taken place. This
intersubjective world is first of all the social world which forms the
permanent field of human existence.70 Our relationship to the social is, like
our relationship to the world, deeper than any express perception or any
judgmentby the mere fact that we exist. In short, the social is attached to
us before any objectivation.71 With this statement of Merleau-Ponty, both
Husserl and Heidegger would agree.

3. Conclusion
Let us recapitulate the above discussions. For Merleau-Ponty,
intersubjectivity means the inherence of any individual subject to the
generality of a world. This generality appears at two different levels. The
first is the level of carnal existence or intercorporeity where the child lives
syncretic sociability in an anonymous way. The second level is that of
plurality of individual consciousnesses where each one lives her/his
inalienable subjectivity in emerging from anonymity. For each individual
subject, the relation with others is at the same time reciprocal and
asymmetrical. Without reciprocity, there is no alter ego, since the world of
the one envelops then that of the Other, so that one feels alienated to the

PhP, 414415; PP, 361.

PhP, 413; PP, 360.
PhP, 415; PP, 362.



profit of the Other. 72 But as carnal being, each subject possesses the
individuality of its own perspectives. 73 My lived-through situation is a
situation appresented for the Other, whereas the lived-through situations of
the others are situations appresented for me.74 In the final analysis, what we
mean by communication is nothing other than the communication of
individual perspectives which can in part be tallied with one another but
never be superposed totally. There is for sure a common world shared by me
and the others in order that communication can take place. But from the fact
that the world is always taken up by each individual subject, that the project
of the world is made from the subjectivity and the perspectives of each one,
Merleau-Ponty prefers to speak of an interworld where not only I live with
others, but where I conclude a pact with them too.75
The term interworld sums up the double relation that I weave with
others. This line of thought is never denied in the later works of MerleauPonty. 76 In The Visible and the Invisible, Merleau-Ponty returns to the
asymmetric relationship between me and the Other. By virtue of this relation
the perspectives of the others, being not simple equivalents of mine, are
complementary with my own perspectives. Together they form a system
which is that of the ones for the others and not only the one for the other
(les uns pour les autres et non pas seulement lun pour lautre). 77 As
intersubjective world, this system is not in front of me like an object, but at
the intersection of my views and at the intersections of my views and that of
the others, in such a way that the sensible and the historical worlds are
always interworlds. 78


PhP, 410; PP, 357.

PhP, 408; PP, 356.
PhP, 409; PP, 356.
PhP, 409; PP, 357.
That is why we are surprised by the strong statement by my friend Renaud
Barbaras on the failure of the Phenomenology of Perception in his otherwise
excellent book Ltre du phnomne. Sur lontologie de Merleau-Ponty (Grenoble: J.
Millon, 1991), 5158. In this book Barbaras reproaches Merleau-Ponty for having
failed to account for the phenomenon of the Other since for the author of the
Phenomenology of Perception the body of the subject is always a proper or own
(propre) body. According to Barbaras, the very use of the word proper or own
is the sign that its author is still imprisoned by the language of consciousness, and that
he would be condemned, such is the message it seems to convey, to subjectivism and
solipsism. For our part, we believe that we have amply demonstrated that each carnal
subject is an individual subject on the background of corporeal generality. That is the
reason why we do not feel embarrassed at the use of the term body proper to express
the experience of the consciousness of the self which, as lived-through experience in
the same way as the experience of the Other, occupies at the right place its status
within the intersubjective world.
VsI, 113, n. 1; VI, 81.
VsI, 116; VI, 84.

Personal Givenness and Cultural a prioris

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

The problem addressed in this paper concerns the constitution of culture
as intercultural experience. More precisely, it concerns how, in the face of
todays emphases on intercultural relations, which are captured by the postmodern catchphrase, multiculturalism, is it not only possible but necessary
to describe the nexus of interpersonal relations in a way that is decisive and
yet not definitive.
Appealing to a plurality of lifeworlds, as did Habermas,1 is of no avail,
since we are left with a subjective-relativism of normatively reducible worlds
that is overcome by the process of idealization (intersubjective or
otherwise)a resolution that Husserls Crisis already left in its wake. This
has to be more than saying, as MacIntrye did, that there are fundamental
disagreements about the character of rationality, where a conception of
rational enquiry is embodied in a tradition, and from which tradition, the
standards of rational justification emerge. 2 In the first place, this would
presuppose, wrongly, that the fundamental issue is rationality, second, that
standards or norms are the key features, third, that norms arise from the past,
and finally, that historicity could be contained by history, committing an
inconspicuous but all the more insidious form of violence.3
To get at the problem mentioned above requires an appropriate
understanding of cultural a prioris. For it is by being guided by essential a
priori structures, which are not thereby universal, that historical cultures
emerge, giving a special and irreducible nuance to those leading insights. The
See Jrgen Habermans, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Vols. 1 & 2
(Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1987).
See Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1988).
See my Temporality and the Point: The Origins and Crisis of Continental
Philosophy, in Self-Awareness, Temporality, and Alterity: Central Topics in
Phenomenology, ed. Dan Zahavi (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998), 151
167. And my Totalitarianism, Homogeneity of Power, Depth: Towards a SocioPolitical Ontology, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 51/4 (December 1989): 621648.

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 159-176.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



challenge is not to reduce or to overcome the distance between cultures;

rather, it concerns addressing the realm of essential a prioris in a manner that
is necessary and decisive, that does not reduce this decisiveness to mere
historical or cultural difference (i.e., multiculturalism), and that does not
resolve the essential tension through which one way of seeing is called into
question by another. In addition, it has to bear on the possibility that even the
entire way of being open to being called into question is itself called into
question. And yet in a way that remains decisive.
To arrive at such an understanding of cultural a prioris, I treat the
phenomenological notion of givenness, and in particular, the necessity of
taking into account personal givenness where culture is concerned (I). After
examining the notion of person and describing culture in terms of the
collective person (II), I take up the notion of cultural a prioris (III). Finally, I
develop the issue of intercultural a prioris with an example of an intercultural
relation of West and East, respectively, in terms of the personal structure of
Generativity and emptiness (IV).

I. Givenness and Personal Givenness

Taking experience as a touchstone for reflection, and bracketing our
presuppositions about this experience, phenomenology describes not merely
what is there in experience, but how meanings are given in order to
understand the structures of those meaningful experiences. At issue for
phenomenology most radically are modes of givenness.4
The fact that phenomenology is distinctive by virtue of its attention to
givenness makes it all the more imperative for us not simply to presuppose
the type or model of givenness in play or to exclude arbitrarily other possible
modes of givenness.
There is one mode of givenness that has been dominant among modes
of givenness, what I call, presentation. Presentation is the way in which
objects or aspects of objects are provoked into appearance as they come into
appearance in relation to a perceiver or a knower. As things or objects come
into an affective relief more or less fully against a background, their
meanings get determined only within a context. A context is precisely the
interplay of perceivers and explicitly or implicitly perceived objects, and
whose senses are determined according to the interplay of appearing and
Objects that are presented are given through functions and acts
peculiar to this very order of givenness, namely, through perception, moving,
thinking, believing, remembering, anticipating, etc. In each instance the
object is presented in conjunction with the perceiver or thinker who
orchestrates a schema of possible presentations that are, in turn, concordant
with those aspects or those objects already presented. What is presented,

And not necessarily the subject, transcendence, the Other, etc. See
Edmund Husserl, Die Idee der Phnomenologie, ed. Walter Biemel, Hua II (The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1958). And Edmund Husserl, Erste Philosophie, ed. Rudolf Boehm,
Hua VIII (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1959). See a similar point made by Jean-Luc Marion,
tant donn: Essai dune phnomnologie de la donation (Paris: PUF, 1997).



however, is not reducible to the subjective aim since the objects themselves
function as allures and affectively motivate my turning towards them so that
they can be ushered into appearance. In fact, in order for something to come
into being as prominent it must be affectively significant and exercise an
affective pull on the perceiver or thinker, whether or not it actually comes
into being as an explicit theme. 5 As far as this order of givenness is
concerned, it is legitimate in its own right.
The difficulty has been and continues to be that presentation is
assumed to be the only mode of givenness. This restriction means (1) either
presentation applies to anything and everything that has the potential of being
given: animals other than human, the other person, culture, God, etc. in
which case they would all share the same kind of evidence and
modalizations that we find in the case of perceptual objects. Or (2) matters
that do not conform to presentational givenness and that are not in principle
accessible to perception or thought are merely described as being accessible
in the mode of inaccessibility, given as not being able to be given, and hence
as on the limit of phenomenal givenness.6
If culture is to be a theme for us, we also have to ask what mode of
givenness is peculiar to it. How does it give itself? Can it be given in the
mode of presentation? I think it possible to conceive of culture in two
interrelated ways. First, one can understand culture to be a system of ideas,
an historical nexus of literary and aesthetic works. In this regard, culture
would be susceptible not to presentation, but to what I term elsewhere,
manifest givenness. In manifest givenness things can give or manifest an
absolute (infinite absolute, i.e., the Holy or a finite absolute, the human
person), and in this giving, themselves remain relative to historical contexts.
Second, we can also mean by culture a geo-historical communal setting in
which the person is given to him- or herself as a member of a community of
persons, whether or not we consider this community in the succession of
generations or in the simultaneity of existing persons.7 While one can speak
of cultural objects in the first instance, it would be impossible to do so in
the second. Culture is experienced primarily as an interpersonal sphere of
experience, and for this reason, it is susceptible to yet a different mode of
givenness, what I call revelatory givenness. Revelatory givenness is a
mode of givenness in which the finite person is given as absolute (never as
relative) and as such evokes the infinite absolute in and through its own self-

See Edmund Husserl, Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis:

Lectures on Transcendental Logic, trans. Anthony J. Steinbock (Dortrecht: Kluwer
Academic Publishers, forthcoming), esp., Part 2, Division 3.
See my Limit-Phenomena and the Liminality of Experience, Alter: revue de
phnomnologie 6 (1998): 275296.
This is how Husserl understood the sense of culture in the context of his
generative phenomenology, namely, in terms of homeworlds and alienworlds. And
still operating on the basis of perceptual and epistemic givenness (i.e., presentation),
he understood the alienworld to be accessible in the mode of inaccessibility and
incomprehensibility. See Edmund Husserl, Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt.
Texte aus dem Nachla. Dritter Teil, ed. Iso Kern, Hua XV (The Hague: Nijhoff,



revelation. In order to address the dynamic of intercultural qua interpersonal

experience, it is necessary to clarify briefly the nature of person.
Following Max Scheler, by virtue of the emotional life (and most
profoundly through loving) the human being is qualified as person. Further,
the person as living in and through acts develops creatively and historically
as an intrinsic coherence of dynamic orientation.8
Loving is an act as distinct from a function because it is a
movement peculiar to the level of spirit in which the person is given,
revealed, as absolute, as unique (never relative or reducible to contexts);
loving is initiatory, spontaneous, expressive, and oriented, not in the sense
of being in control, exercising freedom of choice, or exerting power over
another, but in the sense of being creative, of being improvisational. As a
dynamic orientation toward a bearer of value such that the bearers intrinsic
value is not exhausted in the loving, as allowing it to unfold of itself, loving
is open toward infinity such that this other toward which loving is directed
realizes the highest possible value peculiar to its own being. But loving does
so precisely where the quality of this higher value is not and cannot be
given in advance because it is only revealed in and through the movement
of loving.9 We love the other in the fullness of what the thing is or who the
person is, i.e., as an opening of possibilities, an invitation to become.
Moreover, person is given immediately as interpersonal. This means
more than the nave fact that we are always part of a group, that no one is
ever alone, etc. Phenomenologically, this statement expresses that we, as
finite persons, are given to ourselves, and in this givenness, are immediately
in a relation (an absolute relation) to infinite Person.10 By infinite person we
understand person whose core is to be self-giving such that this self-giving
(understood most deeply as loving) is unconditional. By finite person we
understand the concrete person who can reverse this giving, or in other
words, can commit idolatry. This relation to the Holy through which I am
given to myself places me in this immediate relation, uniquely, in terms of an
ought which comes to me and to me alone and which can neither be
exchanged for another ought, nor transferred to another person; it is a
call, a vocation, or a way, indeed, the way, that as experienced is
experienced in reference to me as a good-in-itself-for-me; it is given
independently of my knowledge of it and in such a way that I can have a prereflective eidetic value-insight into my person which, while decisive and
necessary, is not thereby universal.11 As received, it can only be realized in
and as the unique life who is the person.
See A. R. Luther, Persons in Love (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1972); hereafter cited
as Persons.
Max Scheler, Wesen und Formen der Sympathie (Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 7),
ed. Manfred Frings (Bern: Francke, 1973), 164, 191; hereafter cited as Sympathie.
English translation, The Nature of Sympathy, trans. Peter Heath (Hamden, CT: Archon
Books, 1970), 165, 192; hereafter cited as Sympathy.
Only where we understand relation to mean this generative movement is it
possible to characterize verticality as an absolute relation to an absolute.
Max Scheler, Formalismus in der Ethik und die Materiale Wertethik,
(Gesammelte Werke Vol. 2), ed. Maria Scheler (Bern: Francke, 1966), 482; hereafter
cited as Formalismus. English translation, Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and



This is perhaps the most basic instance of what will be called below the
operative dynamic of eidetic insights (functional also on the level of the
cultural collective person) which guides our apprehension of reality in a
unique and irreducible way and structures our orders of loving (on the level
of the collective person, the ethos). It is also because the dimension of
experience peculiar to person is initiatory or improvisational that this
operative dynamic can be disordered, and can be done so without cause.
A finite person, because primordially given to him or herself, is a
myself before being an ego or subject. Accordingly, person is absolute,
unique, and is qualified as such, on the one hand by being given to him- or
herself. On the other hand, person is unique, absolute, in and through the
directedness of the life that he or she takes up creatively. Because the
person as such is constituted through emotional acts, the principle of
individuation of the person is spiritual, not material or spatio-temporal.
For this reason we can speak meaningfully of both individual and collective

II. Individual and Collective Persons

Person is inherently interpersonal as being given to him- or herself, and
thus already finds him- or herself in a movement vis--vis infinite absolute
person. Such a primordial interpersonal relation of the infinite to finite person
is the framework within which we can speak of the constitution and
givenness of collective and individual persons.
The individual and the collective person are differentiations within the
concrete finite person without one being the foundation of the other. For
example, the collective person is not a concept (like the concept of humanity);
it is not made up of individual persons in the sense that it is the sum total of
individuals or in the sense that its existence is reducible to a plurality of
individuals. Nor is the collective person a more broadly conceived individual
person or a higher synthesis of individuals, as if individuals would be the
collective persons first stage. On the other hand, the individual is not derived
from the collective person; it is not won by a process of abstracting from a
pre-existing communal life such that the individual would not have any value
of its own apart from being a member of the community. Accordingly, the
individual person is not a particular being encompassed by an overarching
universal person. Rather, the finite person is given both as the individual
person and as a member of the collective person.13
Non-Formal Ethics of Value, trans. Manfred S. Frings and Roger L. Funk (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1973), 490; hereafter cited as Formalism. See Martin
Buber, Ich und Du, in Das dialogische Prinzip (Heidelberg: Lambert Schneider,
1965), 112.
Although Husserls generative understanding of homeworlds and
alienworlds implies such an understanding (cf. my Home and Beyond: Generative
Phenomenology after Husserl [Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995]),
typically and generally, and at least where his monadology is concerned, the principle
of individuation is understood spatio-temporally.
Sympathie, op. cit., 188; Sympathy, op. cit., 189. Formalismus, op. cit., 511
514; Formalism, op. cit., 521525.



If the differentiation of individual and collective persons is not a

differentiation grounded in the distinctness of the lived-body, and if it is not
based on the notion of hypostatized soul-substance, then how do we account
for the distinctness and relation between individual and collective persons?
Phenomenologically, we have to ask, how are individual and collective
persons given? How are they constituted as such?
The finite person is differentiated as an individual person by being
given as individual through special singularizing or self-centering acts like
authentic self-love, reflection, examining ones conscience, self-esteem, pride,
etc. 14 But even these acts are not enacted outside of the fullness of finite
person. The finite person is given as interpersonal through acts that are
inherently (and not incidentally) social, since these acts only find their
fulfillment in a possible person or community of personsacts like loving,
sympathy, co-feeling, pity, promising, commanding, obeying, etc. So, strictly
speaking, even if a person were factually alone, the individual could never be
conceived as separate or isolated (even though one can have experiences of
exclusion or being ostracized from a group; in fact even isolation
presupposes an intention toward others). 15 Because singularizing acts (or
even functions that occur on the level of the lived-body) take place within
concrete finite person, even they are not entirely without a social significance.
This inherent social character of acts, especially acts peculiar to the
emotional life, means that through a co-experiencing of persons, a collective
person is given by virtue of the dynamic orientation or direction of this coexperiencing. Accordingly, the collective person itself is given fully but
inexhaustively in its acts such that there is no act whose performance does
not enhance or diminish the content of the collective persons being.16
The collective person is given in such a way that the directedness of the
collective person is given with the acts of the individual.17 This orientation of
the collective person, which qualifies it as unique and absolute, and this coexperiencing are not necessarily given in a conscious or reflective manner to
the individuals. Rather, the orientation or directedness of the collective
person can be identified in terms of what Scheler calls its ethos. An ethos is
a system of concrete value orientations, like loving and hating, as well as
value-preference and value-depreciation. Defining the structure and content
of ones world-view and of ones knowledge and thought of the world, the
fundamental root of this ethos is nevertheless not the things and properties of
which we can have knowledge, but rather the order of loving and hating that
guides the way one sees the world as well as his or her deeds and activities.
This order of loving and hating, or the ordo amoris, can vary from time to
time, from group to group, can involve deceptions in the emotional life or
subversions in the relation between values. It does not necessarily (and in fact
rarely does) correspond to a system of judgments about the style of loving,
and it does not demand conscious reflection on this ordering in order to be
efficacious for a collective or individual person. For even if an ethics did

Formalismus, op. cit., 511; Formalism, op. cit., 521.

Formalismus, op. cit., 525526; Formalism, op. cit., 537.
Formalismus, op. cit., 512; Formalism, op. cit., 523.



completely coincide with an ethos, this would not preclude the possibility of
value deception in the formation of the ethos.18
Beneath the expressed wishes, desires, needs, customs and
achievements, it is the ordo amoris that reveals the core of the person,
individual or collective, and how the person exists morally over time through
the unique history of its ethos. Governing the acts of the person and the
persons stirrings and emotions, the ordo amoris animates the person such
that even what becomes affectively significant perceptually and epistemically,
to some measure, is guided by the order of loving and hating.19
I will address how this co-experiencing and directedness play out in
terms of intercultural a prioris below. Here let me note that since the
collective person is given as something beyond the individual even though
the individual is a member of it, the collective person can never be
completely experienced by the individual person. On the one hand, the
collective person extends to contemporary individuals such that individual
persons are born into and die out of collective persons, both literally and
figuratively: in the sense of rites of passage, induction, or rebellion and
generation gaps. Here, collective persons can supercede the individuals birth
and death.
On the other hand, the collective person also has a generative density
such that it can include individual persons who have passed on in some form
or another, or can be appropriated into the collective person retroactively, as
it were. Since the collective person does not have its origins biologically, a
collective person like a family can include the dead parent or grandparent; it
can include the adopted child. One can speak further of a Jewish collective
person that is not confined here and now, since it can extend over the
generations. 20 Further, a contemporary organization (say, the American
Medical Association) can align itself in its orientation with a past figure from
a different time and place, like Hippocrates, allowing him to belong to the
same collective person of the medical community (even if he cannot be
granted membership today into the AMA).
For these reasons, collective persons have durations that do not entirely
coincide with individual persons and are not exhausted by a set of them.
Further, the same individual persons can simultaneously belong to different
collective persons: parties, classes, castes, professions, peoples, circles,

Max Scheler, Ordo Amoris, in Schriften aus dem Nachla, Vol 1,

(Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 10) ed. Maria Scheler (Bern: Francke, 1957), 347; hereafter
cited as Schriften. English translation, Max Scheler, Ordo Amoris, in Selected
Philosophical Essays, trans. David R. Lachterman (Evanston: Northwestern
University Press, 1973) 9899; hereafter cited as Essays. And see Formalismus, op.
cit., 312 f.; Formalism, op. cit., 308 f.
See my Interpersonal Attention through Exemplarity, Journal of
Consciousness Studies: Beyond Ourselves, ed., Evan Thompson (2001): 179196. See
Scheler, Schriften, op. cit., 348; Essays, op. cit., 100.
Because Judaism understands the chosen people as those who assume the
responsibility for the creation of the world with others and with God, the Jewish
people cannot be understood as a racial notion: qua collective person, it is open to
converts to this co-responsibility, and for this reason cannot be understood as



nations, etc.; and while they might be conceived as being ever more
encompassing (like ever bigger concentric circlestown, city, nation), they
need not be and may even stand in conflict with each other at one time and
not another (a German Jew, a gay republican, etc.).21
Finally, because it is not the community that has value over the
individual, or vice versa, but it is the person that is both individual and
collective which is of absolute value, the value of one over another cannot be
based on size; the love of family is not inherently less than love of country,
self-love not inferior to friendship. As Scheler writes, the love for the greatest
number is really hatred: hatred for the different forms of collective person
bearing positive values. To put love for the so-called mass of mankind
before any other collective person is evil, immoral, and really the outcome of
a reversal of values in which the value of spirit is subordinated to the
numerical value of the group as group, or in which the singular uniqueness of
the person is subordinated to generality of a concept. Let us call to mind the
story recounted about a doctor in Dostoveskys The Brothers Karamazov: I
love mankind. . .but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in
general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually as separate
By persons seeing with one another in specific directions, guided by
the orders of loving or hating, member-persons can act together according to
norms that conform to the same values that are given to and exemplified by
persons. In this way, an ethos is constituted that in turn identifies the
directedness of the collective person and allows there to be differences, even
essential differences among collective persons.23
The extent to which we can speak of pure types of social units is the
extent to which we can identify essential types of collective persons that may
never be realized in actual experience in an unalloyed manner. According to
Scheler, there are four, the Liebesgemeinschaft or loving-community, lifecommunity, society, and the mass.24

See for example, Formalismus, op. cit., 512; Formalism, op. cit., 523.
Fyodor Dostoveskys The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Richard Pevear and
Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 57.
The true love of human kind, writes Scheler, is rooted in the act of loving all
things in God, or amare in Deo. See Sympathie, op. cit., 190; Sympathy, op. cit.,
Cf. Formalismus, op. cit., 514; Formalism, op. cit., 525. This requires an
explication of the relation between person-exemplars and norms, and how the latter
are founded in the former. See my Interpersonal Attention and Exemplarity.
Such an analysis is missing from Husserls investigations into the constitution
of homeworlds and alienworlds. While he does speak of appropriation and
disappropriation, communication, etc. as constitutive modes, and suggests a profound
account of the constitution of home and alien through the process optimalization as
the very constitution of norms, he does not account beyond this for a sharing of norms,
or he only does so to the extent that we happen to live in the same place, speak the
same language, etc. See Home and Beyond, especially, Sections 3 and 4.
Scheler does not consider all kinds of social units to be collective persons
insofar as he reserves the expression, collective person for the most profound kind
of being together, and the term social for the most general, undifferentiated
combinations of human beings. Nevertheless, I think it consistent with and demanded



The most profound sense of a social unity that historically realizes the
absolute value of the person is what Scheler calls a Liebesgemeinschaft.
Since the highest value is that of the person, not that of the individual or the
community, and since among values of the community the highest value
belongs to the collective person, it is the Liebesgemeinschaft that is the most
profound form of community; for it realizes or exemplifies the very personal
orientation of collective persons. In relation to it, all the other forms of social
unity can be characterized as non-personal. Thus, a Liebesgemeinschaft, a
loving-community, does not mean something like a social unity of free
love (as in the Oneida utopian experiment), but a type of community in
which the value of person is not only given, but lived as the foundation of the
collective person.
Here the finite person not only is but experiences him- or herself as an
individual person and simultaneously as a member of a collective person. In
the Liebesgemeinschaft, every individual within the collective person and the
collective person itself are self-responsible, and every individual is also coresponsible for the collective person and for every individual who is a
member of it.25 Further, the collective person is co-responsible for each of its
members. In terms of responsibility, the individual is neither subordinated to
the collective person, nor the collective person subordinated to an individual
or individuals.26 This is possible because one lives along with others by same
orientation, and not in a relation of copying or imitation. Again, because the
principle of personal individuation is rooted in the emotional life, the
collective person can extend beyond the present, and both individual and
collective person are responsible to infinite person in terms of self- and coresponsibility. While neither of the differentiated forms of finite person, the
individual and the collective person, are subordinated to the other, both forms
of finite person have a moral subordination to Holy.
This entails what Scheler calls an unrepresentable solidarity with the
Holy as infinite Person and with finite persons: (1) unrepresentable,
because no one and no office can take my place, as person, in the collective
person as such; (2) solidarity, because where being responsible for all
persons and all persons being responsible for one person is the constitutive
structure of the collective person, the realization or non-realization of the
good-in-itself-for-me qualifies the moral world as a whole positively or
negatively, without its good, evil, merit or guilt being the sum total of the
individuals good or evil, etc.; (3) with the Holy as infinite Person and with
finite persons, because as unique and irreducible (absolute), finite persons
by Schelers thought to argue that all social units are only given by virtue of being
collective persons; it is rather their particular orientation, their ethos, that qualify
them as being (or not being) directed as a whole toward personal values, instead of,
e.g., vital or instrumental ones. This directedness will qualify the particular collective
persons generally as a mass, a life-community, a society, or a loving-community. So,
even though all social units, whatever their form and orientation, presuppose as their
constitutive foundation collective persons, and even though we can say that all social
units are most profoundly collective persons, not all social units realize their highest
potential or deepest meaning as personal.
Formalismus, op. cit., 514515; Formalism, op. cit., 525526.
See Formalismus, op. cit., 514; Formalism, op. cit., 525.



can be directed toward others in a personal manner, which is to say, to love in

the manner of the Holy. Loving in the manner of the Holy is the process of
becoming divine and the process of the Divine becoming. Loving in the way
the Holy loves, that is, loving others as an implicit moral invitation to
become person, individually and collectively, is the participation in the
Holy, infinitely (directed in some way to all types of values, with some
consciousness of them and consideration for them, in some way to all
collective persons embodying those value affirmations and preferences).
Accordingly, one is not only with this unique individual or collective
person as my home person, but simultaneously with all persons in their
absolute uniqueness as with the Holy.27
As personal, the Liebesgemeinschaft is the most profound realization of
the collective person. It is not constituted or continued by ritual, by authority,
or by obedience to normssince norms are grounded in the person as
exemplarbut is transmitted and sustained in the personal shape of its
members. Without this current and successive personal, i.e., creative
appropriation and orientation that makes the collective person just what it is,
one cannot speak of a Liebesgemeinschaft. It is possible that this particular
personal formation vanish historically, becoming a mere life-community or
In distinction to the Liebesgemeinschaft, and as levels of abstraction
from it, Scheler enumerates three other possible social units that presuppose
the latter and are irreducible to it: The life-community (Lebensgemeinschaft),
society (Gesellschaft), and the mass. In lieu of giving a detailed account of
these other modes here, let me note only their distinctive characteristics.
Corresponding to the vital values of well-being and the noble is the lifecommunity. A life-community is constituted by a co-experiencing in which
the member does not co-experience his individual personhood, let alone himor herself as ego qua the originator of acts. The experience here is of an
immediate sort in which there is no division of any kind between the
experience of self and that of the other, or between bodily expression and the
intelligibility of the other member. In the absence of a personal nexus, one is
linked in the life-community merely through consanguinity, or merely
aesthetically, through the unity of space (territory), time (tradition).
Rather than an unrepresentable solidarity, which would presuppose the
experience of the uniqueness and irreplacability of each individual person,
here the special form of solidarity is representable. The bearer of
responsibility is the whole of communal reality, and unlike the lovingcommunity in which every individual and the collective person are self27

What will be referred to below as the operative dynamic of eidetic insight

has to be rooted, here, in the givenness of the Holy, since this is ultimately what is
guiding the apprehension of essential a priori structures, which yields the constitution
of historico-cultural reality. This is also why cultural experience is ultimately founded
in religious experience, though the former can serve as a leading clue to the latter.
See Formalismus, op. cit., 522523, 532533; Formalism, op. cit., 534535,
544545. And see Max Scheler, Schriften aus dem Nachla, Band III: Philosophische
Anthropologie, ed. Manfred S. Frings (Bonn: Bouvier, 1997). See also Persons, op.
cit., esp. 148160.



responsible, here the individual is only co-responsible for the lifecommunity.28

This is not to say that the individual does not experience his or her own
experiences, but that their variation is completely dependent upon the
variations of the collective experience in a unison of striving and aversion,
subconscious preferring and rejecting of values in the form of traditional
mores, customs, cults, etc. In fact, when the experiences of an individual are
given to the individual as such, they are given as segregating him or her from
the communal whole.29
Whereas the life-community is based on a kind of natural living with
one another, society (Gesellschaft) is established through the insight of the
value of the individual. 30 Whereas in the first instance we saw the value
dimension of the person, and in the second, the value dimension of life, here
we see the value dimension of the useful and the agreeable, and hence
experience social unity through the unity of a collective purpose. In this
instance, the individual ego is experienced as fundamentally separate from
the community, and who has to be linked to others through artificial means,
like contracts and conventions. While competition is strictly speaking an
impossibility in the collective person as realized in the Liebesgemeinschaft,
here we see the (abstract) condition for the possibility of competition
between others, where these others cannot be taken as persons: hence the
violence of capitalism as a moral evil, since in order to thrive, it must impose
a non-personal order on persons, which is to say, negate the person as such.
When collective persons are experienced as society we do not
experience an ethical, legal, and original coresponsibility; rather, all
responsibility for others is grounded unilaterally in self-responsibility.
Whereas the life-community presupposes people of all ages, society
presupposes a social unit of mature, self-conscious individuals, but
exclusively as the individual who is related to the value-modalities of the
agreeable (society as sociability) and the useful (society as the bearer of
Finally, where the mass is concerned, there is no responsibility
whatsoever, and there is no possible solidarity because the individual does
not exist at all as an experience and therefore cannot possess solidarity with
others. The unity of the mass is constituted by principles of association, on


Formalismus, op. cit., 523; Formalism, op. cit., 534.

Formalismus, op. cit., 515; Formalism, op. cit., 527.
Society is the possibility of the single being as single being, and not as an
element of the society, perfecting an awareness of his or her incomparable
individuality. See Scheler, Formalismus, op. cit., 518; Formalism, op. cit., 530.
The emergence of society cannot be self-grounding, for even the duty to keep
mutual promises that are specified in a contract, which is the basic form of the
formation of a uniform will in society, does not have its source in another contract to
keep contracts. It has its source in the solidary obligation of the members of the
community to realize the contents that ought to be for the members. Without this, the
contract is nothing but a hypothetical readiness to do something on the condition that
the other do the same. See Formalismus, op. cit., 519521; Formalism, op. cit., 529



the basis on common, sensible complex of allures, and in contagion and

involuntary imitation devoid of understanding.32
Since every collective person, as person, is unique, the plurality of
collective persons in terms of cultural units is irreducible to factors of race,
milieu, and nationality; for these could be overcome by history and possible
progress in methods and social organization. Instead, plurality, differentiation
belongs to the essence of culture understood as collective person. For it is not
decided in advance which values are to be realized in preference to others.
The idea of a plurality of individual cultural collective persons as the bearers
of individual collective cultural values is an idea that is constitutive of values
of this type. The idea of one so-called world culture is therefore a priori
contradictory; it is not a goal (not even a utopian one) that our spirit is
supposed to posit for a form of history.33
We are seemingly left here with a plurality of collective persons, and if
this is where the matter ended, our understanding would be too simplistic to
account for the complex reality of our lives together; it would also fail to
account for how we are able to address the whole intercultural nexus of
relations from within a particular perspective without it claiming to be allencompassing, precisely as an interpersonal relation.
To see how the intercultural nexus qua an interpersonal relation is not a
mere plurality of differentiated collective persons, I show how the
differentiation of collective persons unfolds in terms of cultural a prioris.

III. Cultural A prioris

I began this paper with a set of queries concerning multiple cultural
realities, our access to them, and our attempt to make sense of our lives
together in the face of different or even irresolvable cultural differences.
Max Scheler has accounted for the possibility of incommensurate
world-views by what he calls the operative dynamic of eidetic insight.34
Operative dynamic of eidetic insight designates a process by which essential
or a priori structures guide our take on reality. The a priori is a given
where this givenness functions implicitly in our experience of the world, and
explicitly in what Scheler calls phenomenological experience. The a priori
is not a product of the understanding or constructed through reason, since it is
precisely given; it is not a law of objects, since it is the very way in which
acts and functions apprehend objects in the first place. 35 Finally, a priori
givenness is not altogether independent of the experience and perception of
objects, since it only takes place through them; but it is independent of the
quantity of experience.
Self-evidence is not necessarily restricted to the sphere of rational
cognition, which potentially has universal validity. By reducing objective

Formalismus, op. cit., 516; Formalism, op. cit., 526.

Formalismus, op. cit., 532533, 541542; Formalism, op. cit., 544545, 554.
Funktionalisierung der Weseneinsicht. See Max Scheler, Vom Ewigen im
Menschen, ed. Maria Scheler (Bern: Francke, 1954), 198; hereafter cited as Vom
Formalismus, op. cit., 6667; Formalism, op. cit., 4849.



cognition to the mere universal validity of knowledge, one arbitrarily rules

out the possibility that certain a priori entities such as values are accessible
only to one particular individual person or to a particular collective person
like a civilization or a culture, or to a certain phase of historical
That an a priori essential structure is not equated with universal validity
means that it is possible for the self-evidence of the a priori to be given
individually and personally, whereas I have tried to clarify above
individual and personal does not at all mean subjectivistic. Subjectivism
only becomes conjoined to the a priori when one interprets the a priori as a
law of acts stemming from an ego or a subject. It is quite possible for there to
be an a priori for only one individuals insight or for there to be an a priori
that only one person can have. A proposition or a law is universal only
for those subjects who can have the same insight.37
How is it the case that persons (or in some cases only one person
individual or collective) can have an a priori essential structure? One
response to this was already suggested above in terms of the given good-initself-for-me and pre-reflective eidetic value-insight into my person. Where
collective persons are concerned, there is not a reduction of the a priori to an
innate supply of essential knowledge (knowledge of the a priori is not a
priori knowledge), to inherited dispositions based our phylogenetic ancestors,
or to traditional ideas that became fixated during historical evolution which
won out because they were particularly useful or pragmatic.38 Rather, we
account for the givenness of the a priori through a type of insight in which
the a priori essential structures guide the ways in which we conceive things,
analyze them, regard or judge facts about our world. The latter become
determined in accordance with the principles concerning the a priori
essential interconnections. A priori essential structures given through eidetic
insights are functioning in a guiding manner and they guide in a way that
does not demand our explicit cognizance of them. They are operative when
we do or think something according to a principle without concluding from it,
when, e.g., we obey aesthetic norms without the intellect possessing the
formulation of the rule. Only when we sense a deviation (that something is

Vom Ewigen, op. cit., 18. Contrary to how we usually conceive of a priori
essential structures, they do not have universal validity (though they do have
necessity), since neither universality nor particularity belong to a priori essential
structures. See Formalismus, op. cit., 94; Formalism, op. cit., 76.
Essence, as we mentioned earlier, has nothing to do with universality. An
essence of an intuitive nature is the foundation of both general concepts and intentions
directed to particulars. It is only when we refer an essence to an object of observation
(the essence of something) and inductive experience that the intention through
which this reference occurs becomes something that pertains to either a universal or a
particular. Formalismus, op. cit., 481, 6869; Formalism, op. cit., 489, 4849.
See also Max Scheler Das Ressentiment im Aufbau der Moralen, in Vom
Umsturz der Werte, Gesammelte Werke, 3, ed. Maria Scheler (Bern: Francke, 1955),
esp., section 5. And see Phnomenologie und Erkenntnistheorie, and Lehre von
den Drei Tatsachen, in Schriften, op. cit.
Formalismus, op. cit., 94; Formalism, op. cit., 76; Vom Ewigen, op. cit., 18.
Formalismus, op. cit., 9697; Formalism, op. cit., 7879.



not right) do we have an inkling that an insight has been guiding us all along.
But even if we only become cognizant of the fact that something has been
functioning in leading manner through the violation of the principle, the
negation of it is only possible because an insight into the a priori structure
has been operative all along.39
Since the a priori is irreducible to a universal, innate, and immutable
human rational disposition, since it is not derived from nor does it guarantee
the logical identity of the rational mind in all communities, the eidetic
insights that undergo a operative dynamic in this way yield different
spiritual and mental structures that can lead to a genuine growth or
diminution of the individual or collective persons spiritual powers and
This process, viewed historically and intersubjectively, stylizes and
typifies the very way of seeing and the very reality seen. Eventually, it
would be possible to speak of cultures and groups of peoples that, on the one
hand, share basic presuppositions of reality and, on the other, have different
paths of access from the realm of facts to the essential structures of reality.
So, while we do acknowledge that a priori insights can come to us through
tradition or even heredity, they do not thereby lose their a priori character,
abandoning us to historicism. For something does not become an a priori
insight because it comes to us through tradition or heredity.41 Scheler writes,
for example, that since the arenas of matters of fact are different for all
human beings and all groups, the groups of eidetic insights that belong to
different subjects (like peoples, races, etc.) can also be different in kind
without doing damage to or diminishing the a priori, self-evident character of
these insights and their validity. For even if there is a realm of essences on
the basis of which is fashioned all possible worlds and actualities of matters
of fact, we can expect that spiritual functions and their laws, which have been
formed by the operative dynamic of eidetic insights, will be structured
differently with respect to everything that goes beyond the purely formal
fundamental determinations of objects as such, since everyoneand all the
more so where large groups of humanity are concernedhas a different path
of access from contingent facts to the realm of essences.42
The movement of concrete events, historical situations, gender, and the
like, serve as springboards for eidetic insights such that collective persons
become differentiated; through the implicit and explicit renewal of these
insights, the collective persons become so distinctive, their systems of
knowledge so peculiar that one collective person cannot be substituted for


Vom Ewigen, op. cit., 197198.

Ibid., 198199.
Formalismus, op. cit., 9697; Formalism, op. cit., 7879; Vom Ewigen, op.
cit., 199200. Just as the color sense represents a disposition without the a priori of
the geometry of colors being affected by it, so too can we say, and in this respect only,
that a priori insights become factually realized in multiform ways, through heredity,
gender, dispositions, and tradition. Formalismus, op. cit., 9697; Formalism, op. cit.,
Vom Ewigen, op. cit., 199.



another. Here, concludes Scheler, the impossibility of substituting one

human being or a group for another is an absolute basic principle.
Not only would it be essentially impossible to mask these differences or
to substitute one path of access for another, as if the different worlds and
world-views would be reversible, but according to Scheler, if a particular
path of access were lost, e.g., by a people being annihilated or culturally
assimilated; if a collective person only adapted to its natural milieu and did
not creatively renew its essential epistemic acquisitions, etc., these insights
might not ever be gained again, not just factually, but in principle, due to the
loss of the generative density of that unique and irreducible way of seeing
and living. Schelers point is not that we cannot and do not share cultural
invariants, but that given this dynamic, generative structure, we might be
unable to see what other peoples and other ages have seen, and the loss or
exclusion of a way of seeing would constitute a diminution in the spiritual
growth of humanity.
Of course, one can always attempt to understand another culture. But
instead of this amounting to putting oneself in the others place, it would
require discerning behind the express judgments, conscious beliefs, and selfassertions of an individual or a collective person, those prevailing operative a
priori essential structures that are guiding, governing, and moving the
person.43 The differentiation of course might be so profound, and the selfevidence of a world-view or ethos of one person so non-negotiable for
another, that all possible ways of co-seeing are just plain exhausted. Here the
universality of the a priori would be confined to the specific quality of
In such an instance, we have the deepest conflict there is, what Scheler
calls a phenomenological conflict (or a conflict rooted in the very modes of
givenness and operative dynamic of eidetic insights), which is socially
irresolvable. Rather than reverting to the untenable rationalistic principle that
there must be a universally valid knowledge, or to the conviction that we can
in principle persuade another person of its validity, or finally, that selfevidence can be subordinated to a putative higher principle of provability
or demonstration, we take the incommensurability given in experience as the
ultimate givenness. The only thing left to do in such a case, writes Scheler, is
to leave the other persons be and to allow them to ago their separate ways.
This points not only to the necessity for collaborative inquiry where
epistemology is concerned, but for the love for others in solidarity where the
religious and moral life is concerned.44

IV. Generativity and Emptiness

In the previous section I attempted to show in what way a person,
individual or collective, has a priori structures that are irreducible and not
necessarily universal; by interpreting these structures phenomenologically
through the operative dynamic of eidetic insights, we can account for the
possibility of radically incommensurable world-views and cultures. In this

Ibid., 176177.
Ibid., 201204.



final section, I want to illustrate this point with an example of intercultural

experience. By implication this will speak to our situation when,
philosophically or otherwise, we attempt to articulate certain truths about the
structure of existence as co-existence precisely when this articulation is
guided by differentiated ways of seeing.
I frame this section in terms of an encounter that I think is irreducible,
an West/East encounter, where by the West I understand the cultivation
of the insight into the personal structure of Generativity, and where I take
as an instance of the East, the insight into what is known in Zen Buddhism as
emptiness or sunyata.
By Generativity I mean a movement that gives itself sensibly, vitally,
and ultimately personally qua interpersonally, though it may have many
different historical permutations. The point of Generativity is the generation
of the meaning, ultimately in solidarity with others and with the Holy through
Despite many, many attempts in the later half of the 20th century to
compare the West and the Eastwhere East is understood here in the
particular form of Zen Buddhismand to take them as two variations of the
same theme, these two insights are ultimately irreducible. In the case of the
East, the point of emptiness, if one can even speak like this, is the
annulment of suffering through the realization [genjo] of non-attachment,
and the emancipation from the delusory character of the meaning of ones
own being (personal or otherwise). Most profoundly, meaning does not go
anywhere, for there is not discrimination or non-discrimination among
meanings; the person as person is not absolute, but precisely no-thing as
reflecting myriad things; while something does emerge, its directionality does
not (and cannot) make a decisive difference. Dogen writes, To study the
buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To
forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by
myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others
drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues
endlessly.45 Through practices of detachment and acts of compassion for all
sentient beings, not excluding or desiring anything, one realizes the
essential voidness of ones own being and the fundamental non-distinction
between persons.
From the perspective of the personal structure of Generativity, which
gets articulated as the generative structure of collective persons, Generativity
isin a certain respectboth a structure of the whole, and is
simultaneously only peculiar to the West. Let me explain.
The personal structure of Generativity was indeed given in the West
and is the very process by which there are normatively significant structures
that have a unique and irreducible orientation, and that through their
difference, make a difference, permitting not only the experiences of
anticipation, disappointment, crises, but also of overcoming them. When we
speak of the generative framework as personal, we are describing the
movement of Generativity, and hence experience the whole generative
Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen, ed. Kazuaki Tanahashi,
trans. Robert Aitken, et. al. (New York: North Point Press, 1985), 70.



framework from this personal giving. The whole generative framework,

however, is not described from an objective, third person perspective, but
from within a collective person, call it the home, in this case, within
The personal structure of Generativity as I have expressed it here does
not merely account for differences that would be alien to a particular
collective person, but for the possibility of something radically alien even to
personal structure of Generativity itself! But this can only be articulated in
this way precisely from within the generative structure, which is peculiar to
Generativity. Thus, Generativity takes the form of interpersonal collective
persons, and understands this way as home. But in doing so, it allows for
the very possibility of being called into question as the structure of the whole.
From within the a priori insight as the guiding one, it allows not only for a
similar, but for a radically different, incompatible insight that may not from
this other perspective even be seen as an a priori structure.
Thus, I would go so far as to say that there is a decisiveness that makes
the way necessary for a filmmaker like Robert Bresson (say, in his Le
journal dun cur de campagneThe Diary of a Country Priest), in his
articulation of the structure of reality as most profoundly interpersonal,
whose meaning is ultimately, as the priest says at the end of the film, a matter
of grace. The Holy becomes present in the everyday or the mundane as a
gift (e.g., in the countess who finds her peace through the priest giving
what he does not possess, or in the Pickpocket, in the liberation from the
obsession of pickpocketing provoked by the presence of an innocent child
from whom it is impossible to steal). But at all events it is an interpersonal
event that takes place as a miracle whose force one must either accept or
reject. Even the actors themselves function in their simplicity and nonexpressive faces for Bresson as models or exemplars, simultaneously
pointing evocatively to the Holy in the manner of an icon.
From the perspective of emptiness, the blossoming of Buddha nature
could be described as what Nishida called the self-identity of absolute
contradictories. In this perspective, there is a process that is essentially
impersonal. There is coming into appearance in this structure, but since the
affirmation is at its core void of own being, and the negation is void of
own being, one can have a self-identity. But since something comes into
being, affirms itself, it can do that vis--vis the emptiness, but since it itself is
void of own being, in negating itself, the other is affirmed, absolutelyactive
negativity reflecting. So, when the poet negates himself the mountain appears
fully, and when the mountain negates itself, the poet appears fullybecause
there is no other reflecting in the emptiness; there is no distortion in the
appearing, there is no density in the process. Everything comes into being
and passes away.46
Similarly, I would go so far as to say that there is a decisiveness that
makes the way necessary for a filmmaker like Yasujiro Ozu (say, in his
Tokyo monogatariTokyo Story), in his articulation of this structure, not in
A. R. Luther, A Dialectics of Finite Existence: A Study of Nishida Kitaros
Buddidhhist Philosophy of Emptiness (unpublished manuscript).



terms of exemplarity and interpersonal grace, but from within an everyday

event that takes place now, as acceptance and compassion (e.g., in the
Fathers selfless non-attachment to tradition in relation to the possibility of
his daughter in-law, Noriko, remarrying), as non-permanence and as nonintrusive coming into being and passing away, (exemplified in the scenes of
smoke issuing from the smoke stacks, the passing trains, boats, buses,
children), the cyclical process of birth and death (the Mother dies without
suffering as the sun rises), the empty spaces and poignant silences, and in the
manner in which the story is simply presented with minimal editorial
Generativity and emptiness are radically different givennesses; and they
are experienced respectively as the way such that each respective way can
be experienced as decisive without being definitive. Like all true teachers,
writes Buber of the Buddha, he desires not to teach a view among views, but
the way.47 It is not necessary, and in fact, it is futile to try to account for
this by being exhaustive in terms of multiculturalism, becausein terms of
Generativitya way of seeing can only be decisive by opening up to infinity
as not being definitive. From the perspective of the Liebesgemeinschaft,
opening up to infinity would amount to living the Generative framework
fully as inter-personal, but without resolving the tension of those interpersonal relations, and thus closing off the unique modes of expression
peculiar to other persons. As I suggested above, this would mean not only
that one is with this or that individual or collective person, simply, but that
one is simultaneously with all persons in Generativity even if and when their
insights call Generativity into question. Only by living the personal
Generativity fully, decisively, are we able to encounter the
incommensurability of, for example, emptiness.
Historical culture is not the foundation, but the result of being guided by
insights into what we might call ultimately reality. But this implies further
that religious/spiritual experiences and religious communities are
foundational for cultural experiences and cultural communities. A priori
structures (even when misunderstood as rational standards) cannot be
derived from traditions even if they help structure that seeing. The same
reason that a way is decisive is the same reason that a religious or cultural
tradition cannot be definitive or that we are not locked into a tradition.
Conversion remains an inherent possibility. But then conversion could not
amount to a matter of belief or adherence to doctrine; rather, it would have to
be understood (from personal Generativity) as a revolution of the order of
loving, taking on and literally cultivating a new way of seeing, even if on the
other side of conversion, it could no longer be understood as conversion or
as a participation in personal Generativity.


Buber, Ich und Du, op. cit., 92.

Lifeworld, Cultural Difference and
the Idea of Grounding

YU Chung-chi
Soochow University

I. Introduction
That there exist different cultures in the world is an indisputable fact.
Relating this fact to the phenomenological concept of lifeworld we might
raise two questions: Do we live in the same lifeworld despite cultural
difference? Or else, do we live in different lifeworlds because of cultural
difference? The first question implies the singularity of the lifeworld,
whereas in the second question the lifeworld can be lifeworld only in the
plural. How is cultural difference related to the lifeworld after all? For
Edmund Husserl (18591938), the founder of phenomenology, the lifeworld
seems to be conceived of as the bare ground of the natural sciences and
therefore valid for all mankind regardless of cultural differences. In contrast,
for Alfred Schutz (18991959), who is more concerned with the foundation
of human and social sciences than that of natural sciences, the lifeworld
involves cultural difference because he comprehends lifeworld as the field of
praxis with social and cultural characteristics.
In the following I will inquire into the problem of the lifeworld and
cultural difference in the context of Husserls as well as Schutzs theories
especially with regard to the idea of grounding (Idee der Grundlegung) with
which Bernhard Waldenfels (1934 ) criticizes Husserls lifeworld theory.1
My point of view is that in spite of the apparent difference between Husserl
and Schutz they are both affected by the idea of grounding. I inquire into the
consequences of the rejection of this idea in relation to the problematic of the
lifeworld and cultural difference and in the end I reflect on the meaning of
universality in the context of cultural difference.

Bernhard Waldenfels, Die Abgrndigkeit des Sinnes. Kritik an Husserls

Idee der Grundlegung, in In den Netzen der Lebenswelt (Frankfurt/Main.: Suhrkamp,
1985), 1533.
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 177-187.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



The lifeworld is, in the transcendental approach of Husserl, not the
object of direct description, but something that has to be gained back by way
of asking back (Rckfrage). This asking back has, according to
Waldenfels, three goals:
1. the grounding of the sciences in the lifeworld and the overcoming of
the objectivism stemming from the natural sciences developed in the
modern age;
2. the opening to transcendental phenomenology from the lifeworld,
which is subjective-relative;
3. the acquiring of an encompassing perspective on different historical
worlds, because all such worlds presuppose the one lifeworld.
The lifeworld thus fulfills three functions: the grounding function
(Bodenfunktion), the guiding function (Leitfadenfunktion), and the uniting
function (Einigungsfunktion).
But how is the lifeworld to be understood with respect to content?
Husserl has offered three versions of the lifeworld in the Krisis2: (1) the
concrete lifeworld; (2) a relative specific world such as vocational world or a
certain cultural world; (3) a world-nucleus of nature to be distilled by
abstraction, namely, the world of straitforward intersubjective perception. In
his eyes only the third version can fulfill the three functions mentioned above.
This world is composed of the world of space-time and natural objects, which
are not yet culturally interpreted and reconstructed. Thus understood, this
world represents that which remains the same for everyone despite cultural
differences of whatever kind. Waldenfels stresses that this world is, on the
one hand, given first (erstgeben) in the bare perceptual presence and on the
other hand, functions as regulating principle (letztregelnd) in the universal
structuration. As given first, it is the ground of all meaning-constructions
(Sinnbildung). As regulating principle, it is the horizon of all meaning
Edmund Husserl, Die Krisis der europischen Wissenschaften und die
transzendentale Phnomenologie, Hua VI (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1976), 136; 171.
Niklas Luhmann treats this combination of ground and horizon as
incompatible and confusing: Einerseits heit es, die Welt sei ein Horizont, eventuell
Horizont aller Horizonte. Anderseits wird die Lebenswelt als der Boden beschrieben,
auf dem alles Beobachten und Handeln bewegt. Aber ein Horizont ist kein Boden. Auf
einem Horizont kann man nicht stehen. Man kann sich auf ihn bewegen, nicht aber
sich auf ihm bewegen. Luhmann finds that both terms of ground (Boden) and horizon
(Horizont) are metaphorical and [d]as Unglck ist, da Husserls Metaphern
einander widersprechen (Niklas Luhmann, Die Lebensweltnach Rcksprache mit
Phnomenologen, Archiv fr Rechtes- und Sozialphilosophie 72 [1986]: 177).



Accordingly, the lifeworld comprehended as ground means the ground

of meaning constructs of higher levels; in particular those in the objective
natural sciences, whereas the lifeworld understood as horizon means that
from which we are conscious of something as given. It is namely the
pre-given condition for the appearance of things.
So far as horizon is concerned, some explications need to be added.
When we understand the horizon to be the pre-given condition for the
appearance of things, this does not mean that it is background. A background
is something that might turn out to be the theme of our consciousness,
whereas the horizon can never become definite or thematic. The horizon
escapes so to speak substantial thematization. In this respect, the horizon is
beyond the background. It is indeterminate. But indeterminacy does not mean
infinity, because infinity can be applied to something which can itself
become thematic, whereas indeterminacy cannot. The world-infinity, Husserl
contends, is peculiar to the astronomical-physicalistic infinity, i.e., the
infinity of endlessness. Such conception of horizon does not apply to the
horizon that Husserl understands to be the lifeworld. The lifeworld as horizon
is indeterminate only in the sense that it is open to new possibilities.
Certainly new possibilities happen only in a certain frame or a leeway
(Spielraum), which can never be expanded endlessly.
Understood as horizon and as ground, the lifeworld is regarded as the
indispensable foundation of the constructs in the science, those in the
positivistic natural sciences. Besides, the lifeworld is understood primarily as
the world of perception, which reveals itself as the common ground of all
possible human experiences, or put in a different way, it goes beyond the
boundaries of cultural differences. Husserls conception of lifeworld is
obviously guided by the idea of grounding.
Some recent discussions of Husserls notions of homeworld (Heimwelt)
and alienworld (Fremdwelt) have shed new light on his conception of the
relation between lifeworld and cultural difference. The notion of homeworld,
scattered around in Intersubjektivitt Band III (Hua XV), indicates the
normal lifeworld of the home comrades. The normality is the result of
tradition, which formulates itself from generation to generation. Generativity
(Generativitt) is the key notion in the Husserlian descriptions both of
homeworld and alienworld. The alienworld is thus understood as the world,
with which the homecomrades have no common tradition, i.e., no common
forerunners through generations.4 Since tradition and history shape cultural
characteristics, the difference between homeworld and alienworld can be
viewed as the difference in culture.
One question can be raised in this context: Is cultural difference to be
surpassed? Husserl seems to be optimistic by introducing the idea of the one
world (die eine Welt). According to Klaus Helds interpretation this one

Edmund Husserl, Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt III, Hua XV

(The Hague: Nijhoff, 1973), 431 f.



world is constituted in the same way as the intersubjectivity clarified in the

Cartesian Meditations V. Just as the other subject (alter ego) is to be
recognized through his body, especially through the similarity of his body
and mine, so is the forerunner of the other cultural world recognizable
through the basic human phenomena such as birth and death. The experience
of generativity creates so to speak the bridge between culture and culture.5
Theoretically the relation between the one world and the different
homeworlds is analogue to the identity pole (Identittspol) of the intentional
object and all its different perspectives (Abschattungen). Since the basis of
the synthesis of all the divergent perspectives lies in the identity pole of this
object, so is the one world a self that functions among all different
homeworlds. Besides, since the identity pole of an intentional object is an
idea, which can be reached only by way of idealization, so is the one world
also an idea.6
Historically, the world as an idea appeared first in the thought of the
ancient Greece. The philosophy and science of that time provides the
institution (Urstiftung) to pursue the one world as an idea. This idea has
strongly influenced modern Europe and this one world has unfolded itself at
least partly in the modern age of world history. Thereby almost all human
beings encounter a new comprehensive homeworld, which affords a frame of
universally accepted norms and values.7
Cf. Klaus Held, Heimwelt, Fremdwelt, die Eine Welt, in Perspektiven und
Probleme der Husserlschen Phnomenologie: Beitrge zur neuen Husserl-Forschung
(Freiburg [Br.]/Mnchen: Alber, 1991), 323. Held stresses that the alienworld is that
to which the home comrades of a certain homeworld cannot get access directly. Only
through analogical association, in this case through urgenerativity, is the alienworld to
be reached. In this sense, the homeworld is constitutive of the alienworld. Anthony
Steinbock understands Husserl differently in this point. He holds that homeworld and
alienworld are co-constitutive. See Anthony Steinbock, Home and Beyond:
Generative Phenomenology after Husserl (Evanston: North Western University Press,
1995), 179. I am not yet in a position to judge whether his interpretation is closer to
Husserl than that of Held, but I find that his idea is similar to that of Waldenfels who
speaks of Verschrnkung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt. See Bernhard Waldenfels,
Verschrnkung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt, in Philosophische Grundlage der
Interkulturalitt (Studien zur interkulturellen Philosophie, Bd. I), Hrsg. R. A. Mall/D.
Lohmar (Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: Podopi, 1993); Reprinted in Waldenfels,
Topographie des Fremden: Studien zur Phnomenologie des Fremden I (Frankfurt/
Main: Suhrkamp, 1997).
Husserl, Hua XV, op. cit., 181f. In Helds interpretation, this one world
remains a cultural homeworld in spite of its character of universality. It is one cultural
world among many others. The consequence of this interpretation is that this universal
world is both universal and concrete. This confusion of Husserls theory of lifeworld
is also comparable to that resulting from his definition of lifeworld both as ground and
horizon. See Luhmann, Die Lebensweltnach Rcksprache mit Phnomenologen,
op. cit., 177; also see footnote 1.
Husserl, Hua XV, op. cit., 139; also see Held, Heimwelt, Fremdwelt, die
Eine Welt, op. cit., 324. The implication of Eurocentrism as a consequence of this
idea of one world will be discussed later.



Even though this new world is still in process, for Husserl its full
development is desirable. Understood in this sense, the difference between
cultures is something we as human beings should endeavor to surpass and,
accordingly, it is obvious that the problem of cultural difference has not
really been a matter of concern to Husserl. Routinely he speaks for the
universal ground for all different lifeworlds.

In contrast to Husserl, Schutz integrates cultural difference as part of
his lifeworld theory. The fact that he inherits the notion of lifeworld from
Husserl does not mean that he has the same conception as Husserl from the
beginning. Based on his concern to lay foundations for the social sciences,
Schutz first conceives of the lifeworld as the world of praxis and sociality
and then in his later writings due to his awareness of the significance of
culture, he reformulates the lifeworld as the practical and social-cultural
world.8 Since every lifeworld has its own particular culture, it follows that
the lifeworlds are different from one another.
With the help of the Husserlian concept appresentation Schutz
constructs a theory of lifeworld that involves culture and cultural difference.9
Every experience in a lifeworld is for him based on the appresentational
references; that is to say, people experience more than what they purely
experience. Let me clarify his viewpoint in a discussion between him and
Aron Gurwitsch.
After finishing the draft of Symbol, Reality and Society (later
published in 1952),10 Schutz sent it to his close acquaintance Gurwitsch and
received comments as follows:
[I]n various places you say that a thing is transformed into a cultural
object by appresentation. I am not so sure about that, although it is
good Husserl. . .
Behind all of these theories is Husserls idea of a level of pure
experience within the life-world, a level which is taken to be
fundamental and on the basis of which other levels are built up. I have
always had my doubts about this theory. If I take social-cultural objects,
I understand how they can become bodies by means of

YU Chung-chi, Schutz on Lifeworld and Cultural Difference, in Schutzian

Social Science, ed. Lester Embree (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic
Publishers, 1999).
Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol. I (hereafter CP I) (The Hague: Nijhoff,
1962); see also YU Chung-chi, Transzendenz und Lebenswelt im Sptwerk von Alfred
Schtz (Ruhr- Universitt Bochum Dissertation, 1996).
See Schutz, CP I, op. cit., 287356.


unbuilding[Abbau] or some similar process; but if I begin with bodies
as the fundamental level, there are difficulties in getting to the cultural

Gurwitsch does not mention the way a thing (ein Ding) becomes a
cultural object by means of appresentation. But one can see obviously to
what he refers. They are examples like the place where Jacob dreams of God
becoming Gods house and an oven is more than just a fireplace, etc.12
Gurwitsch wonders if such a conception of cultural objects might not remind
us of that of Husserl? That is, does there exist at first the level of pure
experience in the lifeworld and then the Aufbau of the cultural object? In the
eyes of Gurwitsch this is the way Husserl understands culture. For Husserl
the pure experience in the lifeworld is the perceptual experience of nature
that is valid for all cultures. For example, the fact that marble is hard cannot
be denied by whatever cultural interpretations. Such facts in perception are
what Husserl calls the fundamental level of pure experience that is the ground
of all different cultural experiences. Is the Schutzian conception of culture
also to be understood in this way? Is there no difference between Schutz and
Husserl, as Gurwitsch might suggest it?
Since Gurwitsch is in doubt about the validity of the Husserlian notion
of culture, he has doubts about Schutzs notion too. For Gurwitsch the
so-called fundamental level is not at all fundamental, rather it is the result of
abstraction; only through Abbau from the cultural object might we see the
grounding level. Schutz in his reply agrees with his colleague about this point.
Nor will he accept the idea that there exists in the first place the pure
experience and then the stage of culture. But he would not follow Gurwitsch
when the latter tries to explain cultural phenomena with notions like Aufbau
and Abbau. On the contrary he sees the crucial point in the social conditions
within which a thing becomes a cultural object. With the examples of
witchdoctors in the primitive societies and apparatus in the modern science
he explains: The contents of the bag of a primitive witch doctor or a
cyclotron is only considered to be a cultural object by the expert.13
Whether a thing could be treated as a cultural object depends
essentially on the social conditions. Only the members of the in-groupbe
it a nation, a social level or just an interest-clubwill be able to recognize
the cultural meaning of something. They are the experts in this field, if we
use expert in the broadest sense. Schutz says: [E]ach of us has precise and
distinct knowledge only about that particular field in which he is an expert.
Alfred Schutz/Aron Gurwitsch, Philosophers in Exile: The Correspondence
of Alfred Schutz and Aron Gurwitsch, 19391959, trans. J. Claude Evans Jr.
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 232.
Schutz, CP I, op. cit., 337, 353.
Alfred Schutz/Aron Gurwitsch, Philosophers in Exile: The Correspondence
of Alfred Schutz and Aron Gurwitsch, 19391959, op. cit., 237.



Among experts a certain technical knowledge is taken for granted, but

exactly this technical knowledge is inaccessible to the layman.14 For the
people who do not belong to this group these things have no cultural meaning
at all. If they want to understand it, then they have no other way than just
learning, especially by a process of acculturation.15
According to Schutz it is beyond question that every cultural object
involves material components, and hence can be viewed as a normal
object. For example, is a holy stone not just a physical object, a church or a
temple just a building? Yet a cultural object consists of something
transcendent. The cultural elements of a cultural object seem to be just as
natural as their physical components in the eyes of the insider of a social
group. These components might seem bizarre in the eyes of the outsider.
The involved cultural meanings might be treated as relative, yet the relativity
results only from the outsider-viewpoint, that is, only if one refrains from
recognizing these meanings as meanings. In contrast the insiders might
treat their own value-system as absolute and anyone who does not or cannot
share this system is seen to be a stranger.16
The problem of pure experience that Gurwitsch mentions should be
located in the context of the cultural difference between in-group and
out-group from the angle of Schutz. That is, it is a problem of sociocultural
reality. Because Gurwitsch does not catch this point, is he unable to
understand Schutz appropriately. I believe that Schutz himself should be
responsible for this misunderstanding since he has not explained his points
clearly enough in Symbol, Reality and Society. As a matter of fact the pure
experience of lifeworld in the sense of Husserl is not at all impossible from
Schutzs viewpoint. In the situation when people do not understand the
cultural meaning of a thing, the pure experience of the lifeworld might turn
up automatically. For example, a layman in art might wonder about what is
expressed in an abstract painting and come to the conclusion that there appear
nothing but certain lines, colors and shapes. The appresentational scheme on
this occasion dose not function at all. In addition, according to Schutz we
have to get acquainted with the necessary background if we wish to become
capable of appreciating the works of art; acculturation is apparently required.
To sum up, Schutz rejects the pure experience of the lifeworld that
transgresses cultural difference, as Husserl addresses it. Every experience in
the lifeworld is loaded with cultural significance and every social-cultural

Schutz, CP I, op. cit., 350.

Schutz says: . . .I have to learn the typical distribution of knowledge
prevailing in this group, and this involves knowledge of the appresentational,
referential and interpretative schemes. . .which each of the subgroups takes for
granted and applies to its respective appresentational reference. See Schutz, CP I, op.
cit., 351.
Even the people who leave their homeland for all too long may also become
strangers for the society in which they lived. Cf. Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol.
II (hereafter CP II) (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1964), 106 f.



group is necessarily segregated from alien groups by forming its own cultural
norms. Every lifeworld is accordingly different from others because of
cultural difference.
But is Schutz exaggerating the difference between cultures? A careful
reading reveals that he also speaks of some universal ideas almost in the tone
of Husserl. He introduces the concept of universal symbolism, which he
describes as follows:
Everywhere we find sex groups and age groups, and some division of
labor conditioned by them; and more or less rigid kinship organizations
that arrange the social world into zones of varying social distance, from
intimate familiarity to strangeness. Everywhere we also find hierarchies
of superordination and subordination, of leader and follower, of those
in command and those in submission. . . There are everywhere,
moreover, cultural objects, such as tools needed for the domination of
the outer world, playthings for children, articles for adornment, musical
instruments of some kind, objects serving as symbols for worship.17
Evidently Schutz thinks that there exists universal cultural foundation
in all human societies despite the cultural differences. This universal
foundation is common to all sociocultural worlds because it is rooted in the
human condition.18
There is, so to speak, some confusion in Schutzs articulation between
lifeworld and cultural difference, because, on the one hand, he speaks
emphatically of the importance of cultural difference for the lifeworld, on the
other he appeals to some cultural universals. My contention is that this
confusion stems from the idea of grounding of which he is not quite aware.
Consequently he shares with Husserl the thought that there exists an
universal foundation for all cultures, though for Husserl this may be
characterized as perception, whereas for Schutz it is cultural universals.

But why is the universal ground for all cultures necessary? Is this the
inevitable consequence of the phenomenological inquiry, i.e., the search for
eidetic essence?
Waldenfels rejects this conception by questioning the legitimacy of the
idea of grounding. He wonders how we can distinguish different orders as
well as levels of meaning and compare them without taking up a certain
position? As he puts it:


Schutz, CP II, op. cit., 229.




Selektive Ordnungen sind unvergleichbar in einem radikalen Sinne: es

fehlt uns der Ort, von dem aus wir sie berblicken und aneinander
messen knnen, und zwar deshalb, weil wir selbst in einer Ordnung
In the face of other cultures the Europeans have not been conscious of
their position taking and viewed the accomplishments from other cultures as
stages of development reaching to what the Europeans have accomplished.
Waldenfels characterizes this attitude as Eurocentrism. 20 But whence
comes the Eurocentrism? With help of the Husserlian notions, which we
also mentioned earlier, i.e., the notions of homeworld and alienworld
Waldenfels tries to find an answer by posing the following question: How do
the homeworld and the alienworld relate to each other? He explains that
Husserl, on the one hand, recognizes the essential difference between
homeworld and alienworld, but on the other he excludes this difference by
introducing the idea of one world for all. This world is common to
homeworld and alienworld and gives all experiences the first ground (erster
Grund) and the last horizon (letzter Horizon). The instrument for setting up
this grounding level of meaning is reason (Vernunft). Europe is for Husserl a
geographical name for reason itself, for a comprehensive form of rationality.
Europe understands itself as the guardian of the common world (Vorhut
einer Gemeinwelt) that is to be characterized by universality. The Europeans
have created the standards and ideals for all cultures, which creation also
manifests their right belief and right reason.21 Measured by this standard, all
the accomplishments of other cultures can be seen to be the pre-logical,
pre-rational or to put it directly, barbarian, pagan, or primitive. If their
accomplishments are not to be eliminated in the history of reason
(Vernuftgeschichte), the non-European could at least learn from the European
and become European.22 To this Eurocentrism Waldenfels comments:
Dieser Eurozentrismus bringt das Wunder fertig, mit dem Eigenen zu
beginnen, durch das Fremde hindurchzugehen, um schlielich beim
Ganzen zu enden.23

Waldenfels, Ordnung im Zwielicht (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1987), 164.
Selective orders are incomparable in a radical sense: we are lacking a position, from
which we can glance over them and compare them, just because we ourselves live in a
certain order (my own translation).
Waldenfels, Verschrnkung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt, op. cit., 61. Cf.
Footnote 5.
Husserl, Hua VI, op. cit., 320.
Waldenfels, Verschrnkung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt, op. cit., 61.
This Eurocentrism brings about wonder, beginning from the ownness, going through
the otherness, and eventually ending in totality (my own translation).



By such rational overcoming of otherness (Fremdheit) involved in the

non-European cultures, the Europeans lose sight of otherness, and
Waldenfels holds this blindness of otherness to be a considerable deficiency
in the European culture. He finds it questionable to treat the European order
as the only order and suggests that the other cultures could construct their
own standards and ideals and integrate the accomplishments of the European
as part of their orders.24

How is the rejection of the idea of grounding related to our topic? What
could the new conception look like concerning the relationship between
lifeworld and cultural difference without the idea of grounding?
Should we say that no lifeworld is universally valid for all cultures? Or
instead, it is still meaningful to speak of universality in spite of differences
between cultures? Waldenfels points out, the idea of universality is not at all
undesirable as long as we may assume the paradox of universalization in the
plural (Universalisierung im Plural),25 according to which no culture could
claim to have created the order. Based on this understanding of universality,
what is universal does not necessarily imply the idea of grounding. If
universality is a result by universalization and without exception yielded in a
certain culture, it cannot but remain contextual. If we see that every culture
has its way of universalization and its idea of universality, there is no reason
why this way of universalization should be rejected and its idea of
universality be not recognized. By way of mutual recognition of universality
we could avoid the nave understanding that only they or we have created the
true order of universalization.
In the age of globalization we seem to be marching toward a common
world with universally accepted norms and values. But should globalization
be realized at the price of cultural differences? If the globalization is
desirable, should it be the result of conquering rather than mutual recognition
and understanding? Should not different cultures learn from each other rather
than impose their ideas on each other? These are questions that obviously
deserve further and deeper reflections.

Waldenfels tentatively explicates this idea by introducing a dialogue
between two religious leaders from Judaism and Buddhism. Ibid., 63.



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.1987. Ordnung im Zwielicht. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.
.1993. Verschrnkung von Heimwelt und Lebenswelt. In
Philosophische Grundlage der Interkulturalitt (Studien zur
interkulturellen Philosophie, Bd. I). Hrsg. R. A. Mall/D. Lohmar.
.1997. Topographie des Fremden: Studien zur Phnomenologie des
Fremden I. Frankfurt/ Main: Suhrkamp, 1997.
Yu, Chung-chi. 1996. Transzendenz und Lebenswelt im Sptwerk von Alfred
Schtz. Ruhr- Universitt Bochum Dissertation.
.1999. Schutz on Lifeworld and Cultural Difference. In Lester Embree,

Empathy and Compassion as Experiential Praxis.
Confronting Phenomenological Analysis and
Buddhist Teachings

Natalie DEPRAZ
University of Sorbonne (Paris IV)
Collge International de Philosophie

I. Introduction
It is well-known that Husserls analysis of intersubjectivity is primarily
based on empathy. Now, such an experience of empathy is described in
Husserl as involving the peculiar spatiality of our lived body, a temporal
pairing of both lived bodies and a specific imaginative transfer of ones
psychic states into those of the other. I would like to confront such a
multilayered experience of the other with the way some Buddhist teachings
(which first appeared in India and were then transmitted to Tibet) present the
experience of compassion within what is called the Mahayana tradition.
Indeed, the tonglen praxis (as Tibetans call it), which is described very
concretely in such a framework, echoes in many ways the Husserlian
empathetic experience as far as the bodily rooting, the synchronizing timing
are concerned and above all as far as the way imagination is taken into
account. By comparing both praxis and analysis with regard to lived space,
time and imagination, we will be able to evaluate their affinities, their
differences and finally how they may enlight and even generate each other. 1
I am fully endebted and extremely grateful to Francisco Varela for having
oriented me into these practices and the relevant literature. For a first study on the
relation betwen tonglen and cognitive phenomenology the reader should consult: Fr. J.
Varela and N. Depraz, Imagining: Embodiment, Phenomenology, Transformation,
in Breaking New Ground: Essays on Buddhism and Modern Science, ed. A. Wallace
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2001). Concerning the practice itself it was
transmitted to me through formal instructions within the framework of the Shambala
center (Paris) in the lineage of Chgyam Trungpa. For a more general account of
samatha/vipashyana practices in relation with the contemporary background in the
cognitive sciences, let me recommend Fr. Varelas work (with E. Thompson and E.

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 189-200.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



For such a confrontation I will rely on very specific accounts: on the

Buddhist side, within the Mahayana tradition in which compassion represents
the core emotional feeling, two famous Indian Buddhist teachers have offered
an amazingly accurate and very specific meditation on Boddhicitta, this
genuine compassionate attitude towards others: first Shantideva (7/8th century)
with The way of the Bodhisattva,2 second Atisha (11/12th century) with The
Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind, which has been
unceaselessly commented upon along the centuries, 3 on the
phenomenological side, my main anchorage will be Husserlian. In his
intersubjectivity material and his peculiar account about passive synthesis4
Husserl provides a nice account of the layered experience of empathy. But I
will also take into account Schelers genuine view on sympathy and
empathy 5 as a useful ethical complement to Husserls methodic but onesidedly cognitive approach to empathy.

II. A First Step into Empathy/Compassion:

Sharing a General Background about
the Primacy of the Other(s)
Before embarking in the detailed comparative analysis of the technical,
either practical or methodic gestures which are both at work in the meditation
on Boddhicitta and in the Husserlian descriptive analysis of intersubjective
Rosch), The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press, 1991).
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva (Massachussetts: Shambhala
Publications, 1997), translated from Tibetan. The sanscrit text is still available, and
was transmitted to Tibet very early (8th century).
Atisha (9821054), The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind,
which is constituted of 59 quite aphoristic slogans that need to be commented upon in
order to get an understanding of them. The Kadampa teacher Lang-ri Thangpa (1054
1123) first wrote them down, and they became more widely known after they were
summarized by Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (11011175) in a text that bears the
above title. Chgyam Trungpa offers the slogans in English while commenting upon
them in his three month advanced teaching Seminary in 1975, now known as Training
the Mind. Cultivating Loving-Kindness (Boston & London: Shambala, 1981, 1986,
1993); see also on this matter Pema Chndrn, Start Where You Are (Boston:
Shambala, 1994).
E. Husserl, Husserliana (hereafter Hua) XIII, XIV and XV: Zur
Intersubjektivitt (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1973), no English translation is available;
French translation by N. Depraz (Paris: PUF, 2001) and Hua XI: Analysen zur
passiven Synthesis (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1966). English translation by A. Steinbock
(Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2001); French translation by B. Bgout, N. Depraz and J. Kessler
(Grenoble: Millon, 1998).
M. Scheler, Wesen und Formen der Sympathie, GW7, ed. Manfred Frings
(Bern: Francke, 1973); English translation: The Nature of Sympathy (Hamden, CT:
Archon Books, 1970); French translation: Nature et formes de la sympathie,
Contribution ltude des lois de la vie affective (Paris: Payot, 1971), above all pp.
3057 and pp. 193196.



empathy, I would like to focus on their common contention: the primacy of

the other.
Although Husserl is generally considered as having mainly insisted on
the objectifying acts of consciousness and as having promoted a
transcendental egology, his patient and detailed analysis of intersubjectivity
in the now better-known three volumes of the Husserliana series gives us
clear indications about the key-role the other is playing in the very
constitution of the self and, consequently, in the constitution of the object and
of the world. From a close examination of this rich material, we are able to
formulate two main Husserlian claims about intersubjectivity: (1) the other is
the very first transcendence, before any object or even the world, which
means as a feed-back effect that the other is inherent in the constitution of
myself as ego, as a originary self-alterity; 6 (2) in that respect,
intersubjectivity has a founding function for objectivity as such, which
involves a radically new concept of scientificity.
Within Buddhism, in contrast and as a complement to the schools
gathered around what is called the Hinayana path, which is mainly concerned
with an individual practice of how to obtain personal salvation by calming
down ones mind and ones body through meditation, the Mahayana
teachings, which were first delivered by the historical Shakyamuni Buddha in
the North of India, insist on a broader vision founded on compassion towards
each sentient being. These teachings convey the key-experience of
surrendering every aspiration to personal awakening in order to contribute in
the first place to the benefit (to the awakening) of the others. In short, they
suggest very concrete practices in order to allow a reversal of our natural
tendency to ego-clinging. In that sense, taking the Boddhisattva vow amounts
to recognizing the primacy of each other and the necessity to develop a
primary ethical commitment towards the others.
I would like to show now how such a common contention is rooted on
quite similar practical and methodic gestures. Although the broader context
of each investigation is of different nature and is nourished by specific
purposes (more epistemological/metaphysical in Husserl, mainly
ethical/spiritual in Buddhism, and I will come back to this in my third
conclusive step), it is astonishing to realize how intimately close both
accounts about the primacy of the other(s) are as far as the experiential praxis
is concerned.

A. Lived Praxis as a Core-Root: Tonglen qua Analogizing

In this second step, I will describe three interconnected levels of both
experiential praxis of compassion and empathy, first the lived bodily space

See on this matter my book Transcendance et incarnation. Le statut de

lintersubjectivit comme altrit soi chez Husserl (Paris: Vrin, 1995).



level, second the synchronizing pairing level, third, the imagination

transposal level. It is worthwhile noticing from the very start that when we
have to do with such a methodic practice dimension, each tradition uses
specific tool-technical words that refer more to a concrete doing, to a precise
gesture than to an general emotional feeling like empathy or compassion. So
the Buddhists will call such a practice tonglen, which has the joint-meaning
of sending out or letting go (tong) and of receiving, accepting (len)7
and thus corresponds to a concrete move from oneself to the other, and the
phenomenologists will describe such a methodic move as an analogizing,
which refers to reciprocal acts of perceptually and imaginatively moving
ones body from one place (my body understood as a here) to another (the
body of the other understood as a there).8
Just one more preliminary methodological comment: if both
descriptions are to enlighten and even to generate each other, it means of
course that they do not amount to the same but that they are able to gain
benefit from each other. A regular back-and-forth from one tradition to the
other makes each time clearer how much the phenomenological analysis can
profit from the concretely anchored pragmatic fruitfulness of the Buddhist
approach while the latter may take some insights from the accuracy of the
conceptual tools Husserl laid out in his analysis. As my first bath has been
a phenomenogical one, I will trust such a starting point, but will also allow
myself to begin with the buddhist account if it appears to provide finer clues
into the description of the phenomenon of empathy.

B. The Lived Bodily Space as a First Experiential Leading-Clue

One crucial evidence both in the buddhist teachings about the practice
of Boddhicitta and in the phenomenological analysis of intersubjectivity is
their initial experiential anchorage in the concrete reality of our lived body.
In both contexts, the lived body appears to be the unique and most precious
reference-point with which each practice and method has to begin with and to
ultimately return to.
In Husserl, the experience of embodiment clearly plays the role of a
necessary experiential presupposition of every intersubjective empathetic
move: the perception of the lived body is the prerequisite of the very
distinction between impressional perception and presentification, which
includes of course the presentification of the other.9 In short, if I were not a
lived body and did not appear at one moment in the perceptive field of the
other, there would be no empathy. Husserls contention goes even further
since he endows the lived body (as a zero-point of orientation) with the

Trungpa, Training the Mind. Cultivating Loving-Kindness, op. cit., 46.

Hua XV, Nr.15.
Hua XIV, 515 ff., Hua XV, Nr.16 and p. 648 ff. and 660 ff.



function of originarily constituting every physical body10 and all objects in

general. He also defines it as the universel medium of the originary givenness
of all the things.11 How does it happen that the lived body is given such a
privilege? As opposed to the physical body (Krper), which refers to an
quantitative object with material external properties, the lived body (Leib)
represents the unity of my being as a subject being aware of him or herself
and originarily open to the world. As a dynamic field of felt sensations, the
Leib is workable in the sense that I am able to develop through its intimate
inhabitation a gradually finer awareness of myself precisely as an embodied
subject. The experience of empathy therefore is clearly dependent on my own
embodiment, that is on the ability I have to get a genuine aperception of my
body as a lived body and not as a external physical body. Because I am
bodily self-aware I am able to consider the other subject as being also such a
lived body (incarnation), whereas the other makes me become aware at the
same time during such an intersubjective experience that I am also a physical
body (incorporation). There is therefore a dynamic antisymetric lived
analogizing of my body and of the body of the other as being both at the
same time Krper and Leib.12
In the Buddhist meditational practice, the first leading-thread of the
stabilization of the mind is the focusing on the body as the sole concrete
space to work with. The bodily rootedness of the practice is mainly the breath
along with a specific sitting posture. Indeed breathing is our most
spontaneous bodily activity. It occurs without our having a consciousness of
it and corresponds to our most concrete relation with the world. Each time we
breath in, we receive something from the outer world; each time we breath
out, we send something out from our inner self.13 As in the phenomenological
approach, and in a sense still far more concretely, my lived body is all the
more embodied that it is bodily self-aware and is also originarily open to the
world. In other words, my lived body is a unity both of my physical body and
my mind and of oneself and the world.14 The focussing on bodily breathing
therefore is the basis for being able to observe ones own thoughts as they go
to and fro in my mind: the goal of such an observation being to rest the mind,
therefore to tame it. Whereas shamatha refers within Tibetan Buddhism to
such a focused attention on both breathing and thinking processes,
vipasyana develops upon such a basis a broader view on the near outer


Hua XIV, 540, and Ms. D17 and 18.

Hua XV, 567.
Hua XIII, 267, and Depraz, Transcendance et incarnation. Le statut de
lintersubjectivit comme altrit soi, op. cit., 133.
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Informal talks on Zen
Meditation and Practice (New York: John Weatherhill, 1970, 1985).
I. Yamaguchi, Ki. Leibhaftige Vernunft (Mnchen: Fink Verlag, 1997).



space and world. 15 Now, such an individual Hinayanistic practice of selfembodiment of ones mind through breathing is the experiential condition of
possibility of every genuine move towards the others.

III. Moving towards the Other(s)

Building an embodied space is building a concrete framework within
which we are able to reconquer our self as a non-egoic embodied mind. Such
is the prerequisite for developing a compassionate empathetic attitude
towards the others. In the Mahayanist path the so-called tonglen practice
consists of two main mind-gestures, (1) Equalizing self and other, (2)
Exchanging self and other.16 Both are based on the breath as a concrete
leading-thread and should ride it as it is said in the seventh slogan of the
Root text by Atisha. 17 In the Husserlian phenomenology, the lived
analogizing experience of the other relies on two specific acts, (1) coupling
or pairing (Paarung) as a synchronizing passive synthesis; (2) imaginative
transposal (bertragung) into the other as a voluntary psychic transfer of
places. Both also presuppose as an experiential condition the aperception of
myself as being a lived body.

A. Passive Synchronizing Coupling qua Equalizing

Two things are to be practiced on the level of relative boddhicitta:
meditation on the equality of self and other, and the meditation of the
exchange of self and other. Without training the former, the latter is
impossible. This is why Shantideva says that we should first meditate
strenuously on equality of self and other; for without it, a perfectly pure
altruistic attitude cannot arise.18
Equalizing self and other is a specific mental gesture through which I
become aware of my clinging to myself as ego, that is, as possessing things,
as having a body, as being attached to other people. Once I realize that such
substantial possessions are totally contingent to my identity as a self, the
artificially created separation between myself and other results also an
illusion. In fact, both are only mental imputations without ultimate reality:
they are only functioning as a concrete polarity in the everyday life but refer
to no substantial identity. I am then able to have an access to the space like
Trungpa, 1979 Seminary Transcripts, 1980, Talk Five: Nine Techniques for
resting the mind in Samatha, and Talk Six: Four Categories of Vipasyana. (Paris:
Shambhala Publications, 1980).
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, op. cit., Appendix 2 and Appendix
3, 180186 and 187192.
Trungpa, Training the Mind, op. cit., 46 ff.
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, op. cit., Appendix 2, 180.



quality of egolessness.19 As soon as I succeed in not relating to myself as the

owner of a belonging, I stop identifying to myself, that is sticking to myself
and I am able to identify to the others suffering as being mine as well.20
Such an equalizing is exemplified in two different limit-contexts, the one of
the advanced Maitriyogin having attained the Boddhisattva grounds, who
did indeed felt the suffering of other beings as his own,21 but also the one of
the everyday relation between mother and child, who would better die than
letting her baby fall sick: Because she identifies with her baby, the childs
suffering is actually unbearable for her.22
Husserl provides us with quite a similar account of egolessness through
his analysis of passive synthesis. Contrary to the objectifying and identifying
synthesis through which I as ego actively get a knowledge of an object as an
identical unity by voluntarily producing a link of static stratified
identification between different objects, the passive synthesis is an affective
and associative coupling (Paarung) through which two sensory hyletic
unities get joined from themself without myself contributing to such an
immanent synthesizing process. The synthesis emerges by itself from the
spontaneous genetic self-associations of sensible data.23 Now, intersubjectivy
is such a passive coupling process through which both lived bodies
spontaneously enter into an associative link based on their initial concrete
bodily similar conformation. Such a bodily sensory and perceptual similarity
(hnlichkeit) allows for a concrete synchronizing between embodied selves,24
which gives way to a kind of dis-identification of myself as an isolated and
solipsistically individuated ego and to the promotion of a co-temporalizing
process of self and other. Now, one of Husserls ultimate limit-examples of
such a passive anegoic but not anonymous intersubjective and interbodily
coupling is the empathy between mother and child, which precisely offers
quite a similar case of nearly complete attuned synchronicity of sensations,
moves and feelings.25

B. Active Imaginative Transposing qua Exchanging

Contrary to the associative passive and synchronizing coupling process,
imaginatively transposing oneself into the psychic states of the other is a
voluntary act. But such a transposal would not be possible had I not become
familiar with the others bodily selfawareness including being affectively


Ibid., 181.
Ibid., 182.
Ibid., 209, Nr.132.
Ibid., 183.
Hua XI, third section, Association, and 330335; 664665.
Hua XIV, 523; Hua XV, Nr.35. See also I. Yamaguchi, Intersubjectivitt and
Passive synthesis (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1982).
Hua XV, 604604: Das Kind. Die erste Einfhlung.



coupled with him or her, which means that I then already surrendered my
own egoic defenses and resistances. Once each one knows oneself as being a
self-aware lived body (first step), once such a welcoming receptivity to the
other is operating as a passive synthesis, which undoes egoicity on both sides
(second step), the next and third step in Husserls analysis of empathy
consists in putting oneself in the place of the other: my embodied situated
self, which normally occupies the here (Hier) position whereas the other as
an embodied self occupies the there (Dort) position undergoes a complete
reversal since I am now in the place of the other (there) whereas he or she is
in my place (here).26 Of course such a mutual transposition (sich versetzen)
happens imaginatively, which does not mean that the voluntary act is weaker
at all. On the contrary, such an imaginative transfer into the others psychic
states (sich Hineinphantasieren as Husserl says27) provides imagination with
a real strength and happens to be all the more effective that it occurs from
mind to mind.28 In a sense, it is quite easy to take on the place of the other in
a spatial sense and to go to his or her own place. It is far more difficult to
transpose oneself into the others mind.
Now, it is exactly what is concretely suggested in the tonglen praxis of
sending out and receiving. Shantideva names such an imaginative
transposition exchanging Self and other and explains it as a feat of
sympathetic imagination: When you perform the meditation of exchange,
take other sentient beings who are your inferiors, superiors, or equals and
consider them as yourself, putting yourself in their position. Simply take their
place and entertain no other thought. 29 And again: Put yourself in the
position of the poor victims and take their sufferings on yourself. If you do,
the teachings say that you will come to recognize their sorrows. Compassion
for them will grow, with the result that you will not harm them anymore.30
Still more concretely, Trungpas commentary on Atishas seventh slogan
describes the tonglen praxis as relying precisely on the double activity of
breathing in and breathing out. 31 I first figure out while resting my mind
(samatha) a concrete situation where somebody I know (a close friend, a
family member, etc.) is facing a pain and I keep it in mind; at one moment, I
take on a deep breath in order to change my rythm: each time I breath in, I
take his or her suffering on me; each time I breath out, I send him or her
beneficient feelings. Whereas I keep my eyes open and directed (focused and
then more open) to the near space in front of me while doing
samatha/vipashyana, the tonglen praxis requires that you keep your eyes shut
in order to be able to concentrate on the individuated remembered situation I

Hua I, 53, Hua XV, Nr.15.

Hua XV, 250.
H. Spiegelberg, Doing Phenomenology (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1970).
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, op. cit., 187.
Ibid., 188.
Trungpa, Training the Mind. Cultivating Loving-Kindness, op. cit., 4664.



am imagining now of the other as he or she is undergoing such a suffering.

Exactly as in Husserls imaginary eidetic variation, I will be able after a
while to extend the individualized scenery to other similar situations and to
gradually get a universal vision of suffering, to which I am able through
equalizing self and other (synchronized coupling) to fully identify.

IV. The Limits of the Phenomenological Analysis of Analogizing

Empathy: Ethical-Emotional Openings
After having completed a detailed and mutually enlightened description
of empathy through a back-and-forth move from phenomenological analysis
to Buddhist accounts and vice-versa, it appears that there remains in the
Mahayanist experience of compassion more than what the till then
pragmatically enriched phenomenological description of empathy is able to
provide. So we still have to go one step further and to penetrate deeper into
the density of experience of compassion. Indeed, Husserls analysis is
cognitively directed in two main senses: first, it has to be reassured in its
embodied praxis, what the tonglen enlightement has been able to provide;
second, however, it has to be emotionnally and ethically situated. Indeed, in
the Mahayanist tradition, compassion is both a pragmatic methodic and
technical gesture and a deep-emotional ethical commitment. With Husserl we
are able to catch a glimpse into the methodic gesture and to conceptually
strengthen the Buddhist practice; with Scheler we may get a closer view of
the broader ethical context and an emotionally finely structured description of
the Mahayanist compassion.

A. Einsfhlung between Einfhlung and Gefhlsansteckung

Whereas Husserls concept of empathy (Einfhlung) remains a
cognitive intersubjective act relying on the mediations of sensory passive
synthesis and the thought imaginative transposal, the Boddhicitta practice
starts and ends with what is called in Tibetan dukka (suffering). The core of
compassion procedes from such a fundamental and universl emotion of
suffering (self-suffering and suffering of the others). In that respect, Schelers
emotional intuitionism seems to be more appropriate to catch the kind of
identification with the suffering of the other which is at work in the
equalizing and exchanging processes. Although it is affectively rooted with
the passive coupling, Husserls empathy is mainly cognitively mediated: in
this context, affection still means a cognitive receptivity. On the contrary,
Schelers concept of Einsfhlung (note the difference with Einfhlung thanks
to the s) is both more immediate and emotionally oriented. 32 As an
affective identification, Einsfhlung goes further than the still mediated

Scheler, Wesen und Formen der Sympathie, GW7, op. cit., 30.



associative synthesis in Husserl but nonetheless does not fall prey to the risk
of a symbiotic fusion. In that respect, Scheler makes a distinction between
such an emotional empathy (Einfhlung qua Einsfhlung) and two different
kinds of extreme symbiotic forms of empathy: Einssetzung, affective fusion,
and Gefhlsansteckung, affective contagion, which corresponds to the crowd
symbiotic pathology that Freud had analyzed in his Massenpsychologie.

B. Compassion: Mitleid or Mitfreude?

Seen from the level of Einsfhlung, compassion is more than a feeling
of Sympathie understood as a close friendship. Scheler concentrates on the
key-experience of Mitleid (pity) and considers that Mitfreude (rejoicing) is
not so deep as a compassionate feeling.33 Although Husserl did not dedicate
many pages to compassion as such, it is surprising to find in the second
volume of the intersubjectivity-material a remarkable account on this matter:
In the world human beings exert spiritual influences upon each other, they
enter into contact on the spiritual plane, they act upon each other, I to I; the
fact that I do this is known to the other and that determines him to orient
himself accordingly from his side. But they also act upon each other more
internally. I take upon myself what the other wants, I do what he wants. What
I do is not simply done out of myself, but the will of the other is
accomplished in my service, in my doing. In being compassionate, in
rejoicing with the other, I do not simply suffer as myself, its the others
suffering which lives on in my suffering, or again, inversely, I am absorbed
in the other and I live in his life; in particular, I suffer his suffering. In the
same way that I reach a conclusion with him about the conclusion he has
reached (not that, so to speak, I am in agreement with him to the extent that
the conclusion which I reached myself coincided, harmonized with the
conclusion he reached, but I evaluate with him the conclusion he reached by
understanding it and without necessarily sharing it), so I re-live his suffering
with him. It is not possible for me to will his willing in the same way that he
does, but I can be associated with his action, or again, I can be united with
him by doing what he wants or by exercising authority over him. And my I
can be united with another I (a Thou). Each I is in touch with itself, coincides
in a certain way with the I which confronts it, the action of the one and the
action of the other are not just separate actions running in parallel but form
one similar action, mutually adjusted in a harmonious way and uniting in a
unitary agreement. This unitary character can however take diverse forms.
The other with whom I empathize can remain external to me and not form
any unity with me. I take care of him, I understand him after the event, I can
think and feel with him by establishing contact with him and taking up a
position with him. But I can also live a part of my willful life in him, put my

Ibid., 193 sq.



will into him, to the extent that he is subjected to me and it then lives in
him in a conscious way in the extent of his duties or the sphere of his
service, inasmuch as it carries my will over into him, into his will, carrying
out my action in his action. I can also take the other into myself by taking
him as my model, a model which I have entirely built into my own I. In so
doing, I act as if he were in my place.34
Such an empathetic co-suffering inter-affection has to be distinguished
from any simple empathic relation by virtue of an analogising experience
(Analogisierung) by means of which I put myself imaginatively in the place
of the other, never ceasing to remain in my absolute here while the other
remains in his over there. 35 But it also has to be distinguished from a
simple pathos-with,36 where I am literally con-fused and so fuse with the
other, two affections reduced to the initial unity. Neither an analogization
which is experienced but still constructed because mediated, nor a pathic
fusion operating in pure immediacy are able to account for such an interaffection where the always unique and individual encounter of two selves is
played out.

C. Conclusion: Peculiar Features of the Mahayanist Compassion

Imagine yourself in the position of someone lower than yourself and
develop a sense of envy [i.e. toward yourself]. Consider yourself from
the viewpoint of someone on a par with yourself and generate an
attitude of rivalry or competitiveness. Finally, look at yourself from the
viewpoint of someone higher than yourself and cultivate feelings of
pride and condescension.37
Such a concrete imaginative emotional exchange between self and
other brings about a complete reversal of identities in so far as the I which
is spoken of is in fact the other. One peculiarity of the Mahayanist approach
with contrast to the phenomenological one is not so much the deep degree of
identification between self and other as the concreteness of such a cultivation
of compassion as applied to each particular negative emotion. The question
then is: how a phenomenological analysis can actually catch through
adequate categories such a detailed praxis? Correlative question: how such
multifarious cases of cultivating emotions can benefit from such key34

Hua XIV, Nr.13, 10 & 11.

Hua I, 53 and so on. See also, for example, Hua XIV, Nr.13 (1922), Acting
in a personal way, living in a familiar and harmonious way with others, 269: The
other for whom I experience empathy can remains external to me and not form any
unity with me.
M. Henry, Phnomnologie matrielle (Paris: P.U.F., 1990), third part. It is
important to notice that M. Henry uses as his exemplary model for pathic co-empathy
the mother-child relationship, as an originally non-intentional and so fusional empathy.
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, op. cit., 187.



concepts as lived body, coupling, imaginative transfer, but also affective

identification and analogizing?

Heng and Temporality of Dao:
Laozi and Heidegger*

James WANG Qingjie

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

In this paper, I shall do a comparative study of the understanding of

temporality in Laozi () and Heidegger. First of all, I shall start from a
newly discovered fact that in the book of the Laozi, the word heng (), a
key word in understanding Laozis concept of temporality of dao (), was
missing during the past 2000 years. In most editions of the text, a synonym,
chang (), was substituted, which may refer to a totally different understanding of the temporality of dao. Second, based on an etymological study
of the origins of the Chinese word heng and its philosophical use in the
Laozi, I shall claim that heng explores the temporality of Laozis dao as heng
dao. Unlike chang, which asks more for constant extension, and invariable
and non-changeable movement, heng in Laozis heng dao focuses more on
living longer ( )of the myriad creatures, and on the concept of never
dying ( )of dao as a natural way of giving birth. Third, in light of this
understanding of Laozis heng dao and comparison with Heideggers preliminary thinking of temporality of Dasein as anticipatory resolute beingtowards-death in Being and Time, I would like to argue that Laozis philosophy of dao is grounded on coming-from-birth. Thus, it is life-oriented
rather than death-oriented. Because of this, I propose that Laozis heng dao
as temporality of dao implies the concepts of other-ness and of yielding,
which lead to co-living longer of human beings and co-existence between human beings and nature.

I. Heng: A Missing Word in The Laozi

Let us begin by looking at the temporality of Laozis dao in the opening
sentences of the current and the most popular version of the Laozi. This wellknown sentence of the book says:

This article was originally published in Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy
I.1: 55-71. It is published here with the permission of its publisher, Global Scholarly

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 201-217.
All rights reserved.



The dao that can be told of (dao-ed) is not the constant dao;
The name that can be named is not the constant name.1
Here, Laozi seems to use the term constant to describe his authentic
dao, which cannot be told of and named. However, if we follow the ordinary
understanding of the Chinese word chang as invariable, everlasting, or
unchangeable, we will question whether Laozi really wants to tell us that
the authentic dao is a constant dao. This problem seemed to be solved
when the two silk manuscripts of the Laozi, the Mawangdui Laozi (
), were unearthed in 1973 in the suburbs of the city Changsha (),
China. These two manuscripts of the Laozi are the second oldest version of
the Laozi and could be dated as early as 186 BCE. In these manuscripts, the
chang dao () was written as heng dao (). We confirm again the
substitution of the word chang for heng in the oldest version of the Laozi,
the Guodian Laozi ( ), which was discovered recently in
Guodian, City of Jinmen, Hubei ( )Province, China, and could be dated
at least as early as 278 BCE. As we know now, this substitution was most
likely due to the fact that heng was the personal name of Emperor Wen of the
Han Dynasty, who reigned from 180 to 157 BCE. After the emperors death
the word became taboo in China, and heng was replaced by its near synonym chang in most texts during the time. 2
Since the discovery of the silk manuscripts of the Laozi, many Laozi
scholars have noticed the historical significance of the substitution of the
word chang for heng. However, very few have paid attention to the philosophical importance of the re-discovery of the word heng in Laozis philosophy.3 In another place, I tried to argue that the term is not simply a miss-

(Laozi), (Laozi), ch. 1., 139. As for the translation of the Laozi
in this article, I follow CHAN Wing-tsit, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 139176. In several places I have
modifications when necessary.
The substitution of the word of chang for heng in pre-Qin texts after Emperor Wen of the Han should be very common. For example, it happened in the Analects, e.g., 7:26, as KONG Yingda () mentioned in his commentary of the text.
It also happened in the Outer Chapters of(Zhuangzi) (see [WU
Zeyu], ( Huai Nan Zi Shu Lu , in[Wen Shi] [Beijing :Zhonghua Shuju (), 1963], 314). The other examples were the change
of the name of Mountain Heng () to Mountain Chang () and the change of
the name of the legendary girl in moon from henge () to change (), etc.
LAU D.C. () might be the first one in the West who has discussed this
change in the new introduction of his translation of the Laozi. But his discussion focuses more on its philological aspect rather than philosophical meaning. ZHANG
Songru ( )says that heng is an adverb and thus has no substantial meaning in
the Laozi. This saying ignores the fact that heng, at least in some cases in
(Daodejing), is used definitely as a noun, e.g., in ch. 2. It could be also read as a noun
and/or as a verbal noun in many other cases, such as in (Yijing) and
(Yi Zhuan) . RAU Zhongyi (), so far as I know, is the first one who dis-



ing word in the Laozi, but also one of the most important philosophical concepts in Laozis thought as well as in the whole ancient Chinese philosophy.4
For example, among the some five thousand Chinese characters in the Silk
Manuscripts of the Laozi, the word heng appears more than 30 times. Apart
from grammatical particles, that word frequency is exceeded only by those of
the key concepts in the Laozi such as dao () (67 times), wu () (85 times)
and de () (41 times). Besides in the Laozi, in Confuciuss Analects we find
that heng was understood as an important moral virtue of a Confucian gentleman. And in the Book of Change (Yijing,) and Commentaries on
the Book of Change (Yichuan,), as many of us know, heng is a key
hexagram and one of the most important philosophical categories in the
whole 64 hexagram Yijing system. Because a comprehensive discussion of
the historical and philosophical meaning of heng is not the primary purpose
of this paper, I will only focus on hengs meaning as temporality of dao in
the Laozi.

II. Chang and Temporality of Dao in Mozi

The meaning of temporality of Laozis dao can be seen first of all in a
comparison between the etymological meanings of the word heng and that of
chang in the Chinese language. In consulting several of the oldest Chinese
dictionaries and historical documents, I find that the origins of the words
heng and chang are different. One of the oldest meanings of the word
chang was a unit of measurement for length. It equals two xun ()
(79.64cm).5 In the Shuowen Lexicon (), one of the oldest Chinese dictionaries in ancient China, chang is interpreted as skirt (xia qun,
) and its meaning is similar to that of clothes. The connection between
these two meanings might be that chang was a standard measurement for a
tailor to make a skirt and other clothes. A similar concept can be seen in the
word ink (mo, ), which is often used by a carpenter and thus becomes a
unit of measurement for length during the pre-Qin () period.6 The originnal meaning of chang as a unit of measurement or as a standard of things
later attains its important philosophical significance. As a philosophical concept, chang may appear for the first time in Moism, one of the most important philosophical schools in Confucius and Laozis time. Mozi and his folcusses the philosophical meaning of heng after the discovery of the silk manuscripts
of Yijing and of The Great Appendix.
See James WANG Qingjie (), Heng Dao and Appropriation of NatureA Hermeneutical Interpretation of Laozi, Asian Philosophy 10/2 (2000): 149
According to WU Chengluo 1937, a zhou chi () is 19.01 cm. A chang ()
is two xun () and one xun is eight zhou chi. For example, in the Book of Rites (
), we read, A short spear should be one chang and four chi while a long spear
should be three xun.
For example, a mo () is five zhou chi (), and a zhang () is two mo, see



lowers introduced the term chang as a constant standard of dao in order to

solve the problems of right (shi, ) and wrong (fei, ), beneficial (li,
)and harm (hai, ), admissible (ke, )and inadmissible (bu ke,
). It is thus interpreted and translated as constancy.7
I think that this philosophical understanding of chang dao as constant
dao is grounded in Mozis understanding of the nature of time and space. For
example, in the Moist Canons and Expositions, we can see one of the oldest
interpretations of space and time in ancient China. There, Moists use enduring (jiu, ), place (suo, ), and movement (dong, ) to define and
explain their understanding of temporality and spatiality. Mozi said:

Enduring includes all particular times.

The former times and the present times, the morning and
the evening, are all combined together to form enduring.
Spatiality includes all the places.
East and west, south and north, are all enclosed in space. 8

As for movement, Mozi said:


Movement in space requires enduring. The reason is

given under earlier and later.
In movement, the motion must first be from what is
nearer, and afterwards to what is farther. The near and far
constitute space. The earlier and later constitute enduring.
A person who moves in space requires enduring.9

As HOU Wailu () pointed out, the concepts of space and time in

Moist Canons and Expositions are scientific and mechanical10 and they
belong most likely to the category of geometry.11 That is to say, space and
time in Mozi should be understood as something close to what we today
called the universal space-time continuum within which an infinite number of
local space-time units co-exist. Just like an infinite and endless line, the extension of this quantitative and mechanical space-time is objective and runs
forever. Following this reasoning, Moists reached their conclusion on the
nature of time and space.

Chad Hansen discusses Mozis concept of chang (). Although Hansen cautions us that chang is a more pragmatic concept and cannot be appropriately understood without a general philosophical context of dao as a guiding discourse in
China, it is by its nature a realistic term. See Chad Hansen, A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 110112.

(Mozi), (Mozi) in Joseph Needham, Time and Eastern Man

(London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain & Ireland, 1965), 1.
Mozi, Mozi, 2.
HOU Wailu (), General History of Chinese Thoughts (Beijing : Renmin Chubanshe [], 1957), 496497.
Ibid., 496.




Spatiality: the boundaries of space are constantly shifting.

The reason is given under extension.
There is the South and the North in the morning, and
again in the evening. Space, however, has long changed
its place.12

Clearly then, according to Mozi and his followers, time should be defined and explained by geometrical space and its nature should be nothing but
constantly shifting and extension. It is constantly passing from one moment to another while a things particular locations in space are constantly
As we know, in the history of Chinese philosophy, this Moist quantitative and mechanical understanding of the nature of space and time met a
strong challenge from the ancient Chinese Dialecticians and Taoists of the
time. For example, one of the famous paradoxes developed by the school of
Hui Shi () says, The sun at noon is the sun declining, the creature born
is the creature dying;13 and another one says: Going to the State of Yue
today, one arrives there yesterday. 14 Needless to say, Hui Shi here challenges the Moist objective conception of space and time from a relativist position. If we dont assume a universal and quantitative nature of space and
time, and if we take time and space as belonging to each of the concrete and
specific things in the world and allow the different perspectives of seeing
them, we will have some totally different or even contradictory pictures of
the things in the world and in life. In the brief moment of noon (for me), if
observed from different places on the Earths surface by other people, the sun
is declining. By the same token, to be born can be seen as the beginning of
life from one perspective, but from another, the beginning of death, etc.
A Daoist may not agree with Hui Shis relativist view of space and time,
but he or she wont agree with a Moist either. For a Daoist, neither the Moist
nor Hui Shis idea of space and time can reach the level of dao because both
are still on the level of the particular things. On the one hand, the Moist view
of time and space of dao cannot be the real constant or standard one. It
merely assumes one of the many perspectives, very often the one that the
majority in a society or that powerful men take to be the constant or standard as the absolute one. Because of this, as the author of the last chapter of
The Zhuangzi said, the Moists after Mozis death, argued with each other,
and each condemned the others as the traitor of Moism.15 On the other
hand, although Hui Shi saw the problem of Moism, his way of overcoming
Moism is to replace the Moist single perspective with a relativist perspective.


Mozi, Mozi, 3.
Zhuangzi, ch. 33. See (GUO Qinfan), (Collected Interpretations of Zhunagzi), in (Collected Works of Masters) (reprints), vol.
3 (Shanghai: Shanghai Shudian [], 1986),476.



It is still an anthropocentric perspective. In this way, he lost himself in the

superficial many and was also blind to the temporality of dao.16
If both Moists and Dialecticians like Hui Shi failed to catch the real nature of temporality of dao, what is the Daoist solution to the problem? The
way for a Daoist to solve the problem, I think, is to make a distinction between the temporality of particular things and the temporality of dao. Philosophically speaking, the latter cannot be reduced to the former, but it is the
latter which makes the former possible. This idea can be seen in Zhuangzis
definition of time and space. Space exists, but it cannot be reduced to locations; time is enduring, but it cannot be reduced to the temporal beginning
and end. 17 Zhuangzis idea of space and time, I think, is derived from
Laozis understanding of the nature of time. And that should be found in
heng, the missing word in the Laozi.

III. Heng and Temporality of Dao in Laozi18

In the ordinary Chinese language the word heng and the word chang are
always treated as synonyms. However, when we study the origins of these
two words, we find that they are different. Etymologically speaking, the
original meaning of heng may be traced to two other ancient Chinese characters: geng () and gen ( ). Geng means to wax full and to navigate.
In the oracle bone inscriptions, it is written as and .The primordial image
evoked by these variant characters may be the moving of the moon across the
sky, or the path of a boat on a river. Gen means to flow through and to
spread everywhere. Originally gen might be connected with another word
xuan (
). Xuan evoked an image of whirling water and was written in oracle bones as or . These two different but related meanings of heng can be
found in the two verses of The Book of Songs () : like heng-ing
(waxing) of the moon and like rising of the sun and Ju and Pi are heng-ing
(spreading) everywhere in the field.19
These two meanings of the ancient word heng are clearly related, directly or indirectly, to the movement of water: a boat moves on an earthly
river or the moon moves across the celestial river. Thus understood, the
original meaning of heng does not seem to have much to do with chang, if
chang means only constancy. Heng as movement on water suggests a range
of differentiated and even conflicting elements such as a new moon and a full
moon, or fast eddies and tranquil pools, shallow and deep water, movement
forward and backward, up and down, slow and rapid, and so on. Given this
original meaning of heng and the complicity of the world that the Laozi seeks

Ibid., ch. 23,347348.
In this section I revise section IV of Wang, Heng Dao and Appropriation of
NatureA Hermeneutical Interpretation of Laozi, op. cit., in order to expose the
philosophical significance of temporality of Heng Dao.
See (RUAN Yuan), (Commentaries and Exegeses of
the ThirteenScriptures) (reprints) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju [], 1963), 412
& 531.



to characterize, it is not surprising to see why Laozi favors heng over chang
in expressing dao.20
In the book of the Laozi we will find other philosophical discussions of
the meaning of heng as temporality of dao. In what follows I would like to
pick up three key terms of Laozi to illustrate. First, as many texts do in
Laozis time, the Laozi interprets heng as jiu (enduring). Defining heng as
jiu, Laozi calls dao heng dao (such as in ch. 1, 32, 37), and it is said that
being in accord with dao, one is jiu.21 As we have mentioned, Mozi defines
temporality as jiu, too. However, unlike Mozi, whose jiu is the constantly
shifting and extending of spaces, Laozi understands jiu as living
longer,22 and as [being] free from danger throughout ones whole life,23
etc. Here, Laozis idea behind jiu is to live ones life naturally without a
premature death. That is to say, if one lives ones life or realizes ones existence naturally, in using a Daoist word, ziran (), or it-self-so-ing,
one not only survives, but also flourishes and lives longer. If one does otherwise, one is in danger of losing ones life. Because of this, Laozi always
warns against danger (dai, ),24 disaster (yang, ),25 perishing (yi,
),26 etc. According to Laozi, dai, yang, yi, etc. are contrary to jiu as enduring or living longer, because they are conditions which damage life and
will lead to death, and thus they will be against dao as heng dao. That is why
Laozi said, To avoid danger to ones life is called following chang/heng;27
and Whatever is contrary to dao will not live out its natural life.28
The Laozis first meaning of heng as jiu provides a general picture of heng as
keeping oneself alive and flourishing while the second connotation of heng
is fan (). This word provides insights into how heng as jiu of dao is possible. According to traditional interpretations, the Laozis concept of fan has
two intertwined meanings under the same name.29 The first implication of fan
is dui fan (), which should be understood as either pairing (xiangdui,
) or being opposite (fan dui, ). It refers to mutual op20
There is no doubt that heng and chang have been synonymies since the
early time of the history of Chinese language. However, they are still two different
characters and each, as I have discussed above, has a unique etymological root. People often ignore the difference between them because they use them as synonymies in
ordinary language. But that does not mean that these two words are philosophically
the same and a philosopher like Laozi cannot use one of them in a special and a more
primordial way. As for an analysis of the ordinary use of the word heng in the preQin documents, see Wang, Heng Dao and Appropriation of NatureA Hermeneutical Interpretation of Laozi, op. cit., 150151.
Laozi, the Laozi, ch. 16,147.
Ibid., ch. 7 & 59,p.142 & p.167.
Ibid., ch. 16, 147.
Ibid., ch. 52, 164.
Ibid., ch. 30 & 55, p.154 & p.165.
Ibid., ch. 52, 164.
Ibid., ch. 30, 154.
See (QIAN Zhongshu), (Limited Views) (Beijing : Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe [], 1978), 446.



position and thus differentiation, and to the co-relativity or complementarity

of this differentiation. As we shall see, this characteristic makes Laozis heng
dao distinguished from Mozis conception of temporality, which is undifferentiated extension or linear, constant movement. In chapter 2 of the Laozi, we
can see how the Laozi defines heng in the sense of fan as pairing and being opposite.
When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, there arises the
recognition of ugliness. When they all know the good as good, there
arises the recognition of evil. Therefore, heng is how being-a-thing (you,
)and not-being-the-thing (wu, ) produce each other, the difficult
(nan, ) and the easy (yi, ) complete each other, the long (cang, )
and the short (duan, ) contrast with each other, the high (gao, ) and
the low (xia,) are distinguished from each other, music (yin, ) and
song (sheng, ) harmonize with each other, the pre- (qian, ) and the
post- (hou, ) accompany each other.30
In comparison with this first aspect, the second aspect of the term fan is
fu fan (), which refers to either a way of returning (hui fu, ) or
that of repetition (fan fu, ). It is the interactive relation between the
above mentioned two levels of fan that constitutes the temporality of dao as
heng dao. For Laozi, those mutually oppositional and mutually complementary interactions are possible only because of a deeper level of interaction.
Laozi calls it gushing forth (chong, )of dao. This gushing forth of dao
is the root, origin, or mother of all existing things. This movement of gushing forth is always and by its nature renewing and repetitive. For example, in chapter 4 of the Laozi, the author says:
The dao gushes forth (chong, ).31
It may be used but its capacity is never exhausted.
Profound! As if it were the first ancestor of the myriad things.
Abysmal! It sometimes appears to exist.
I dont know whose child it is.
It seems to be prior to the ancestral lord.
And in chapter 42:
The myriad creatures carry the vital force yin and embrace the vital
force yang.


See Laozi, the Laozi, ch. 2, 140. All traditional editions of the book after Han
Dynasty missed the word heng except the Silk Manuscripts of the Laozi. My translation is based on the latter.
See the definition of chong in(Shuo Wen Lexicon): Chong
means to gush forth and to wave interactively.



However, it is by virtue of gushing forth (chong, )

that these forces reach their harmonized consummation.
Chong as gushing forth of dao is the first ancestor of the substantive
myriad things and it, in the words of the Laozi, appears to exist prior to
substantive myriad things and even to the substantive ancestral lord. Obviously, the latter exists in the ordinary world of space and time while dao
seems to go beyond it. That is why we do not know and may not be able to
ask whose child it is. The only way we may approach it is to use metaphors
such as the gateway toward all the subtleties, 32 the root of heaven and
earth,33 the ancestor of the myriad creatures,34 the empty center.35 Thus
understood, heng dao as fan is actually the heng-ing of dao. This henging of dao expresses itself through opposition and differentiation in space
and time. Because of and through this way of heng-ing, everything in the
world is becoming itself, and keeps being itself. With these concepts of returning and gushing forth, we may reach a new level of understanding of the
first meaning of heng dao as jiu. Here jiu is not only living longer
(chang sheng, ), but also never dying or being immortal (bu si,
). As Laozi said in chapter 6:
The mystical giving birth and nurturing,
Never dying,
It is called the subtle and profound female.
The gate of the subtle and profound female,
The root of Heaven and Earth.
It is continuous, and seems to be always existing,
Use it and you will never wear it out.
This mystical giving birth and nurturing is the differentiating and repetitive gushing forth of dao. That is heng-ing of dao. The heng-ing of dao
will be never dying. However, you, I, and myriad things, who exist in this
world of time and space, will die. We are mortals and have beginnings and
ends. But dao does not. Here, Laozi seems to lead us to the understanding of
two kinds of time. One is heng-ing of dao while the other is heng-ed in dao
or the dao-ed. One is never dying while the other is living, dying and coming
to birth again.
We are mortals in space and time. Thus, the best we can do is to live
longer. But, how can we live longer or live without an early death? The answer to this question will lead us to the third meaning of heng as pu ().
Literally, the word pu refers to a block of wood which is not yet carved.
The Laozi uses the term philosophically. According to Laozi, pu is to stay in
and to keep oneself in the primordial status of dao. We will find this interpretation of heng dao in the chapter 32 of the Laozi,

See Laozi, the Laozi, ch. 1, 139.

Ibid., ch. 6, 142.
Ibid., ch. 4, 141.
Ibid., ch. 16, 147.



Dao is heng-ing (on the appropriating way of being itself).
It has no name and it is pu. 36

The word pu here could mean either the primordial way of dao itself or
the authentic way in which one responds to or follows dao. When it is understood in the second sense, it reveals to us how to preserve heng dao, so that
one can live longer and live without danger or disaster. In the four of five
chapters (see ch. 19, 28, 32, 37 & 57), where the word pu is used in the Laozi,
it is always associated with no name (wu ming, )37 and no desire (wu
yu, ),38 etc. That suggests that heng dao as pu in the Laozi is prior to and
resists any kind of artificial interventions. Any new or different way of being
or doing things must not only be tolerated, but also be appreciated and respected because it is out of heng-ing of dao. Such an interpretation of heng
dao as pu leads us thus to the Laozis other important concepts such as itself-so-ing (ziran, ) and non-coercive action (wu wei, ).39 Positively, the Laozis heng dao as pu suggests that everything should follow its
own natural and unique way of being born, growing, flourishing, ripening,
declining and dying. That is its natural way of existence or being, its ziran.
Negatively, dao of everything, in its way of heng-ing, opposes any kind of
interference, whether it is repressive coercion, arbitrary intervention, or even
well intended care. It calls for acting without a purpose (wuwei, ),
without desire (wuyu, ), without heart/mind (wuxin, ), without
struggle (wuzheng, ), etc. Otherwise we will mess things up and go to
an early death. That is why the Laozi says: Violent and fierce people do not
die a natural death;40 the sage is heng-ing himself in a way of having no
heart/mind. He regards the peoples heart/mind as his own;41 and if I (the
ruler) desire non-desiring, my people will keep being pu themselves.42
Although the Laozis heng dao as pu is prior to and resists any attempt
of naming (ming, ), forming (qi, ), desiring (yu, ), purposeful
acting (wei, ), it does not invite an interpretation of Laozis doctrine of
dao as an absolute laissez-faire philosophy. The concept of pu does suggest
some active roles of man and of the worldly creatures in responding to the
heng-ing of dao as differentiating gushing forth. Laozi calls it positive
responding activity fu (), meaning to help or to supplement. For example, when Laozi explains the meaning of non-coercive action, he says
that a Daoist sage helps all things in their natural state but does not dare to
It should be noted that my reading of chapter 32 of the Laozi is different than
the traditional ones. As I interpret heng in some other places, I read heng as a verb
rather than as an adverb.
Ibid., ch. 32 & ch. 37, p.156 & p.158.
Ibid., ch. 19 & ch. 57, p.149 & p.166.
As for more details of my discussion of Laozis concept of zi ran and wu wei,
see James WANG Qingjie, On Laozis Concept of Zi Ran, The Journal of Chinese
Philosophy 24 (1997): 291321.
Laozi, the Laozi, ch. 42, 160.
Ibid., ch. 49, 162.
Ibid., ch. 57, 166.



take any coercive action;43 and that a Daoist sage does not abandon all actions, and he is only to discard the extraordinary, to get rid of the extravagant and to avoid the excessive.44

IV. Temporality of Life and Death: Laozi and Heidegger

Laozis concept of heng as temporality of dao has an interesting resonance with Heideggers philosophical thinking of temporality of Being and
that of Dasein.45 For example, we find first that both Laozi and Heidegger
refused to give priority to the traditional objective and linear concept of
time. This tradition, as we know now, could be traced back to either Mozi in
the Eastern Asian or to Aristotle in the European West worlds. According to
this conception, which Heidegger calls the now-time (Jetzt-Zeit) and a
Daoist may call chang:
Time shows itself as a sequence of nows which are constantly present-at-hand, simultaneously passing away and coming along. Time
is understood as a succession, as a flowing stream of nows, as a
course of time.46
Second, both saw that primordial temporality must present itself through
the ecstatically finite-ness (Endlichkeit) (Heidegger) or the gushing (henging) (Laozi) of concrete existing things in the world. That is to say, things
always temporalize (zeitigen) themselves or get temporalized in between
their beginnings and ends. Because of this, both Laozi and Heidegger
thought that a study of the true meaning of life and death could provide the
key access to the very nature of temporality of being and dao. Third, both of
them took, or inclined to take, the original form of temporalization of being
or dao as cyclical rather than chronological. As Heidegger said of the eternity
of time later in his Beitraege zur Philosophie:
The eternal is not what ceaselessly last, but rather that which can withdraw in the moment, in order to return once again. That which can return, not as the same but as what transforms unto the new, the one-only
be-ing, such that in this manifestness it is at first not recognized as the
same. 47

Ibid., ch. 64, 169.

Ibid., ch. 29, 154.
It is commonly believed that the later Heideggers thought was greatly influenced by East-Asian thoughts, especially by those of Daoism and Chan Buddhism.
See Reinhard May, Heideggers Hidden Sources: East Asian Influences on His Work,
trans. Graham Parkes (London & New York: Routledge, 1996); and Heidegger and
Asian Thought, ed. Graham Parkes (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1987).
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 474.
Martin Heidegger, Contribution to Philosophy (From Enowning), trans. Parvis
Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,
1999), 259.



We may continue to list more similarities. However, a question of the

difference between these two thinkers seems more interesting because it will
force us to think the nature of temporality to a deeper level. One of the topics
worthy of further investigation might be the temporality of death. Very
clearly, death is at the center of both the Heideggers early and Laozis
thoughts on the temporality of human existence. But their approaches and
conclusions seem quite different.
As we know, in Being and Time, Heideggers existential analysis of the
temporality of Dasein (Zeitlichkeit) starts from his analysis of the phenomenon of death of Dasein. According to Heidegger, if we agree that death
means the end of everyones possibility of life and no one can escape from it,
then we seem to have no hope to exist authentically. Authentic existence
means to live with all possibilities as a whole, but death in its very nature
seems to destroy it, because death is the impossibility of all possibilities of
Dasein. Heideggers way out of this problem is to redefine the concept of
temporality of Dasein. According to Heidegger, our understanding of the
phenomenon of death is still grounded in the traditional concept of time. That
is to say, if we stop understanding time as a linear sequence of nows and if
we understand authentic temporality as ecstatic of Daseins existence toward
all dimensions of a timely being such as future, past and present, we will
cease to see the death of Dasein as the demise of an entity. In its authentic
temporality, Dasein is being toward its death in all moments of its existence.
Death understood in this sense is not necessarily an absolute end of a biological life, but moments of existence of Dasein. That is why Heidegger says,
[J]ust as Dasein is already its not-yet, and is its not-yet constantly as
long as it is, it is already its end too. The ending which we have in
view when we speak of death, does not signify Daseins Being-at-anend [Zu-Ende-sein], but a Being-towards-the-end [Sein zum Ende] of
this entity. Death is a way to be, which Dasein takes over as soon as it is.
As soon as man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die.48
As long as I exist, I am always dying and I die at all moments. Thus, to
die should be understood here philosophically and symbolically. It designnates the end and beginning of moments of Daseins finite existence. The
phenomenological analysis of our death experiences by Heidegger from section 46 to section 52 of Being and Time reveals a full existentialontological
conception of death: death, as the end of Dasein, is Daseins ownmost possibilitynon-relational, certain and as such indefinite, not to be outstripped.49 That is to say, the anxious experience of my being toward death
reveals the truth of my existence as being totally individualistic and free. The
death is my own death. No one can die for me. There is no one I can seek out
and depend on in this issue. Thus, this experience of being toward death, toward the impossibility of the possibilities of my existence reveals my inau-


Heidegger, Being and Time, op. cit., 289.

Ibid., 303.



thentic falling into das Man and thus also opens my own greatest possibility
of existence as the true self. Be thyself! The call of conscience exhibits an
existential attestation of Daseins own most potentiality-for-Being. Heidegger
calls the disclosedness (Erschlossenheit) of Dasein in wanting to have a conscience, i.e., wanting to be myself, anticipatory resoluteness (Entschlossenheit). Therefore, any moment of Daseins existence is Daseins being toward
its death, i.e., its own most possibility of being as a whole. Only in this way,
Dasein can go to its authenticity, that is, to bring the whole Dasein into our
fore-having (Vorhabe).50
Surprisingly, when Heidegger talks about the authenticity of Dasein as
Being-towards-the-end (Sein zum Ende) in Being and Time, he rarely mentions another end of Dasein, which is to be born, or the beginning of
Dasein. I think if we really want to explore Daseins authenticity of existence,
we also have to ask for a phenomenological and existential analysis of to be
born of Dasein. A careful reader of both Heidegger and Laozi may notice
that it was Laozi who first opens this philosophical dimension. As we have
discussed above, Laozis dao as heng dao focuses on living longer (chang
sheng, ), and being immortal (bu si, )rather than on beingtowards-death. Therefore, we may say that Laoszis philosophy is a philosophy of life rather than a philosophy of death, though Laozi also sees human
existence as a way (tu, ) from birth to death. In chapter 50 of the Laozi,
Laozi gives us a picture of the human way from life to death:
[Man comes] into life and goes out to death. Three out of ten are on the
way coming to life, three out of ten are on the way already into death,
while three out of ten are living, that means, moving towards death.
If the heng dao is a cyclical/repetitive returning (fu fan, ) between life and death, we, as the living people or Dasein, belong right now to
those one-third who are moving towards death. According to Laozi, human
existence as moving from birth towards death is a descending way of losing
possibilities of existence. That is a way from dao to dao-ed. If we also understand birth and death symbolically and philosophically rather than
merely biologically, we may say that, at any moment of my existence, I am a
creature not only being-towards-death, but also more, being-from-birth.
There is no doubt that Heidegger wont deny that I am being-frombirth. However, in Being and Time, his understanding of birth or rebirth arrives only through his existential-ontological analysis of Daseins
being-towards-death. That is to say, only through anticipatory resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) of being-towards-death, can I reach the disclosedness (Erschlossenheit) of Dasein and Sein, of the truth of my authentic
self or my existing as a whole potentiality-for-Being.51 Here, I myself and
myself only, not anyone else, should be the mother who gives my birth
and re-birth. As Heidegger says:

Ibid., 279.
Ibid., 309.



The certain possibility of death, however, discloses Dasein as possibility,

but does so only in such a way that, in anticipating this possibility,
Dasein makes this possibility possible for itself as its own most potentiality-for-Being.52
There seem to be two implications we can derive from the comparison
between Laozi and Heidegger. I believe that these two implications will make
Laozis coming-from-birth to be distinguished from Heidegger beingtowards-death. First, human existence as coming-from-birth will not lead
to whole-ness, as Heideggers being-towards-death does. Rather, it implies concepts of given-ness and other-ness. I cannot be my own
mother. Instead of being scared of death, I joyfully accept and celebrate my
birth. We celebrate our birth by saying thanks to mother or mothers. This
celebration indicates ontologically the finite or limited nature of the authentic
human existence as being-in-the-world-with-others. That is to say, if Heideggers being-towards-death reveals an absolute, free and non-relational
individual Dasein, Laozis coming-from-birth indicates that Dasein as a
given in time and space cannot be absolutely non-relational and individual.
Its very existence assumes an other or others. Of course, the first and the
most important other is my mother or parents, and then, possibly, my
siblings. Thus, the possibilities of my existence opened by my birth and rebirth cannot be the possibility of all possibilities, or the Dasein as a potential
whole. Rather, these possibilities are only possibilities of my finite and concrete existence as being-in-the-world-with-others at this specific moment
(Augenblick) of heng-ing of dao, i. e., at the moment of this specific time and
space. Second, related to the acknowledgement of given-ness and otherness in the very nature of human existence, Laozis coming-from-birth
implies also an attitude of being soft and yielding. This is almost opposite to the anticipatory resoluteness which is implied in Heideggers being-towards-death. In chapter 67 of the book, Laozi explains this attitude of
yielding with the idea of not to dare to be ahead of the world, and that of
to set a step back.
I have three treasures.
Guard and keep them:
The first is deep love,
The second is frugality,
And the third is not to dare to be ahead of the world.
If one forsakes setting a step back and is ahead of the world,
One dies.
And in chapter 76 Laozi said:
When man is born, he is tender and weak.
At death, he is stiff and hard.




Therefore, the stiff and the hard are companions of death.

The tender and the weak are companions of life.
Therefore, if the army is strong, it will not win.
If a tree is stiff, it will break.
The strong and the great are inferior, while the tender and the weak are
It should be noticed that this being soft and yielding do not mean
absolutely giving up. On the one hand, by not daring to be ahead of the world
and setting a step back, we fully acknowledge the limited and the finite nature of our own existence. That will give us more possibilities to live and to
live longer. On the other hand, by doing this we will acknowledge the existence of others and thus will allow others more possibilities to co-live and to
co-live longer. For Laozi, this idea does not apply only to human coexistence with each other, but also to our human beings attitude toward the
natural world, i.e., to our co-existence with nature. As we have mentioned
before, Laozi calls it fu (), meaning to help all things to live according to
their natural possibilities but not to dare to take coercive action.53 That also
reminds us of the well-known chapter 25, where Laozi mentions four greatnesses in the universe:
Dao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
And the king is also great.
There are four great things in the universe, and the king is one of them.
If we take king here to be the greatest man or a Daoist model for all
human beings, we will see that in this passage Laozi tries to define the unique
place of human beings in the universe. On the one hand, human beings are
not worthless creatures. We contribute to the birth and the living of the
universe as one of the greatness. On the other hand, we should always remember that there are three other greatnesses. The co-existence of these
four greatnesses and their yielding to each other allow the universe to live
forever, or to be immortal (bu si, )and allow us human beings to
live longer. That is the heng-ing or temporality of dao.
Some of us may wonder why many of these ideas sound very familiar to
us as if we listen to Heideggers talking about Being, truth, Ereignis, clearing,
four-fold, etc. during his later period of thinking after the famous Kehre.
But if we know the historical facts that Heidegger was attracted by the origin of eastern thoughts, especially by the thoughts of Laozi and Zhuangzi,

Laozi, the Laozi, ch. 64, 169. For an additional interpretation of fu see
Genesis of Water From the Great One, Guo-dian Chu-jian, in (LI Ling),
(Exegesis of Guodian Chujian), in(Research of
Daoist Culture), vol. 17 (Beijing : Sanlian Shudian (), 1998).



which were his favorites from the middle of the 1920s, we may not be surprised to hear some scholars54 talking about the hidden sources of Heidegger today. But my last question is: would this hidden source help us not
only to understand the so-called Heideggers Kehre, but also expose some
radical changes of Heideggers way which are still hidden in the Kehre?55

Chan, Wing-tsit. 1963. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Guo, Qinfan (). 1986. (Collected Interpretations of
Zhunagzi). In (Collected Works of Masters) (reprints),
vol. 3. Shanghai: Shanghai Shudian ().
Hansen, Chad. 1992. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie & Edward
Robinson. New York: Harper & Row.
. 1999. Contribution to Philosophy (From Enowning), trans. Parvis
Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Hou, Wai-lu (). 1957. General History of Chinese Thoughts. Beijing :
Renmin Chubanshe ().
Laozi (). 1963. (Laozi). In Chan, 139176.
Li, Ling (). 1998. (Exegesis of Guodian Chujian).
In (Research of Daoist Culture), vol. 17. Beijing:
Sanlian Shudian ().
May, Reinhard. 1996. Heideggers Hidden Sources: East Asian Influences on
His Work, trans. Graham Parkes. London & New York: Routledge.
Mozi (). 1965. (Mozi). In Needham.
Needham, Joseph. 1965. Time and Eastern Man. London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain & Ireland.
Parkes, Graham, ed. 1987. Heidegger and Asian Thought. Honolulu: University of Hawaii.
Qian, Zhongshu (). 1978. (Limited Views). Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe ().
Rau, Zhongyi (). 1993. (On the Idea of Da
Heng in the Silk Manuscript of the Great Appendix).


See May, Heideggers Hidden Sources: East Asian Influences on His Work,

op. cit.
This article was originally published in Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy I.1: 55-71. It is published here with the permission of its publisher, Global
Scholarly Publications.



(In Research of Daoist Culture), vol. 3. Beijing : Sanlian Shudian (

Ruan, Yuan (). 1963.(Commentaries and Exegeses of
the Thirteen Scriptures) (reprints). Beijing : Zhonghua Shuju ().
Sun, Yirang (). 1986.(Interpretations of Mozi). In
(Collected Works by Masters), vol. 4. Shanghai : Shanghai
Shudian ().
Wang, James Qingjie. 1997. On Laozis Concept of Zi Ran. The Journal of
Chinese Philosophy 24: 291321.
. 2000. Heng Dao and Appropriation of NatureA Hermeneutical
Interpretation of Laozi. Asian Philosophy 10/2: 149163.
Wu, Chengluo (). 1973.(History of Measurement
in China). Shanghai: Shangwu Yingshuguan ().
Wu, Zeyu (). 1963. (Huai Nan Zi Shu Lu). In
(Wen Shi). Beijing : Zhonghua Shuju ( ).
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Renmin Press ().
Zhuangzi (). 1986. (Zhuangzi). In Guo 1986.

Self-Consciousness (Svasamvittibhaga) and
Ego-Consciousness (Manas) in Yogacara Buddhism
and in Husserls Phenomenology

NI Liangkang
Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou

Modern philosophy from Descartes to Husserl is based on

self-consciousness and reflection, so that one could describe this period of
history of western philosophy, which had lasted about 400 years, with good
reasons as philosophy of self-consciousness and reflection. The elementary
motive of western philosophy in this periodwhich was called
transcendental by Kantconstitutes the basis for the formation and
development of the subject-object-model of thought and of the philosophy of
subjectivity or Epistemology. It is today an admitted fact that all these
elements have played a crucial role in the history of the west since 16th and
17th century and have also determined consequently the tendencies of
development of the world history.
Similar motives are also found in different cultures. For example, the
Buddhism in India had already developed its own epistemology or theory of
knowledge in the time between the 4th and 5th century. This
consciousness-theoryYogacara, literally the practicing of the Yoga, or
Vijnanavada, literally the school, which teaches the activity of
cognitionunlike western philosophy, has not, in the long run of its
evolution, developed a kind of subject-object-model of thought and this
happened not only in India, but also in the other Asian cultural areas, which
adopted the Buddhist influence and developed the Buddhist teaching.
I would like to make an attempt first to reconstruct the teaching of the
Eight-Types of Consciousness and the teaching of the Four-elements of
Consciousness in Yogacara, with an aim to point out a self-consciousness
(Svasamvittibhaga) and an ego-consciousness (Manas). Attention is then paid
to the multiple relations between the two kinds of consciousness. With the
description of the self-consciousness that runs through all eight types of the
consciousness, two points are taken into consideration: (1) The element of the
self-consciousness finds itself also in the ego-consciousness; (2) Before the
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 219-233.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



(reservoirs-consciousness or pure consciousness), the element of the
self-consciousness already exists. The analyses of this structure of
consciousness finally lead to the effort, which, compared with the attitude of
phenomenology, is to clarify the question: why a subject-object-model of
thought was never and could never be formed in Yogacara Buddhism. In
Yogacara Buddhism, its basic concept is not the Ego that is only temporary
and that therefore can never become a subiectum, but rather the Self, behind
which stands finally the selfness of the Buddha: Buddhata.

I. Theory of Eight Types of Consciousness in Yogacara

In our context, we note two theories in Yogacara-Buddhism: The first is
the theory of the eight types of consciousness (Vijnana). The Hinayana
distinguishes originally all kinds of consciousness in 6 types or bases.
Consciousness here refers to the ability of differentiation or identification. The
corresponding expression in western philosophy is consciousness, or
cogitationes as named by Descartes.1 The first five types of consciousness
are sensual functions of consciousness, consciousness of sight, of sound, of
smell, of taste and of touch; the sixth is then the intellectual, i.e., the
consciousness of mind (or the consciousness of heart), which could be
described as consciousness of rationality or understanding.
Afterwards, the Mahayana Buddhism further finds out another two types
of consciousness, namely the seventh (the Manas) as continuous
ego-consciousness, and the eighth (Alaya) as reservoir-consciousness, from
which all other types of consciousness originate and also only through which
they become possible.
The eighth type of consciousness, the so-called Alaya, could be described
in the sense of Husserl as transcendental or pure consciousness. It is obvious
that for a Buddhist scholar the eighth consciousness forms the most original
and also the most important in the Yogacara Buddhism. If one understands
Alaya, he understands all in the Yogacara Buddhism. On Alaya, all
sanctified and earthly principles are suspended, through Alaya, truths and
errors differ from each other, with Alaya, all baselines of the Yogacara

In Chinese, Descartes concept cogito is translated as think, just as denke

is translated from German. What W. Windelband said about the German translation is
also applicable to the Chinese one: Die uebliche Uebersetzung von cogitare, cogitatio
mit Denken ist nicht ohne Gefahr des Missverstaendnisses, da Denken im Deutschen
eine besondere Art des theoretischen Bewusstseins bedeutet. Descartes selbst erlaeutert
den Sinn des cogitare (R. Descartes, Meditationes de prima Philosophia, 3; Principia
Philosophiae, I., 9) durch Enumerationen; er verstehe darunter zweifeln, bejahen,
verneinen, begreifen, wollen, verabscheuen, einbilden, empfinden usw. Fuer das allen
diesen Funktionen Gemeinsame haben wir im Deutschen kaum ein anderes Wort als
Bewusstsein . See W. Windelband, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie
(Tuebingen, 1957), 335.



Buddhism get clear, etc.2 We first put aside the complicated Alaya, which
alone could form the topic of another lecture, and turn back to the remaining
seven types of consciousness.
The first five types of the consciousness, about which Hinayana and
Mahayana Buddhism have no dispute, can be called sensations, or in Husserls
words, the most primitive perception, 3 which always has to do with
sense-organs. They all belong to the so-called Rupa-Consciousness, namely
the consciousness of bodies, of the material world. Consciousness means
here the distinguishing, which lets the specific materials or seeds appear.
XIONG Shili (), the originator of the New-Yogacara-Theory, describes
consciousness in this sense as appearance, 4 which approaches the
terminology of phenomenology. Thus, the five types of consciousness are the
different appearance-manners or reality-manners.
The consciousness of mind (the Manas) differs from the first five in that
way and it distinguishes and identifies all laws. It is related not only to Rupa,
therefore matter, but to all things: physical as well as non-physical. Cheng wei
shi lun ( , The Completion of Mere-Consciousness by
Triptaka-Master Xuan-zang []), claims that the first five consciousness
distinguishes only the materials, but the sixth (the consciousness of mind) can
distinguish all laws and rules.5 Generally, the Yogacara-scholars claim that
the consciousness of mind is more important than the first five because the
consciousness of mind also represents the ability (Yi-Gen, ) to be aware of
the first five types of consciousness.
It is not easy to find a good translation of the consciousness of mind
(Yi-Shi, ). It is an expedient measure that I would translate the
consciousness of mind in Yogacara-Buddhism into Husserls concept of
intuition, which is therefore used in the broadest sense so that it includes not
only the sensual perception and the imagination, but also the supersensual
intuition, the so-called Wesensschau.
The reason for this translation is firstly that the consciousness of mind can
be subdivided into accompanying and not-accompanying. Accompanying
here signifies the together-emergence with the first five types of consciousness.
It exactly says that the consciousness of mind could arise accompanied as well
as unaccompanied by the first five types of consciousness.
We take the first case. If the consciousness of mind arises accompanied
by the first five types, it can be described as consciousness of the clarity. The
(Tai-xu), (On the Theory of Dharmalaksana-Yogacara)
(Shanghai: Shangwu Yinshuguan [], 1939), 446, 437.
Husserl, Manuscript D 5, 15-16.
(XIONG Shili), (A General Explanation of the
Buddhist Concepts) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju [], 1985), 113.
(Xuan-zang),(Vijnaptimatrasiddhi), vol. 7 and vol. 5 (Beijing:
Zhonghua Shuju [], 1998).



reason is: the determination of the first five types of consciousness will only be
possible when the consciousness of mind emerges. And the consciousness of
mind will only be clear in connection with the first five.6 The relation between
the first five on the one side and the consciousness of mind on the other side
resembles the one between the pure sensations 7 and the understanding
(apprehending, in German: auffassend) perception.8 The sensations are in fact
pure theoretical abstraction. Only they could not occur in the everyday life, or
not clearly at least. For example, I could not see pure color itself without
viewing them as the quality of an object. Only with the perception, i.e.
accompanied by the consciousness of mind, an integrated object comes out of
the sensations.
According to the subdivision of the accompanying and
not-accompanying, the consciousness of mind can therefore be formed alone,
i.e. unaccompanied by the first five types of consciousness. This
consciousness means unaccompanied consciousness (Bu Ju Yi Shi,
). It consists of three types: independent consciousness, dream
consciousness and meditation consciousness. The third consciousness
represents a consciousness during the meditation which thinks about nothing,
and the second is then called a subconsciousness. Now we concentrate on the
first, which is called hereby the independent consciousness: The word
independent signifies freedom from the sensations, from the first five types
of consciousness. 9 As XIONG Shili shows with examples, it consists of

Kui-ji ( ) said, The fifth type of consciousness occurs due to the

consciousness of mind; The former is clarified by the latter (cited from Xiong, A
General Explanation of the Buddhist Concepts, op. cit., 103).
In this sense Xiong Shili describes the first five types of consciousness as
sensuous consciousness or pure sensation. Here pure means that it would not be
mixed by such functions as memory (like Appraesentation of Husserl) and reasoning
(like Praesumtion of Husserl), and that it does not become perception yet. See
Xiong , A General Explanation of the Buddhist Concepts, op. cit., 104, and
(New Theory of Mere-Consciousness) (Beijing:Zhonghua Shuju [],
1985), 259.
See A. K. Warder, Indian Buddhism (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980), 2.
In his manuscript Husserl describes the Unbewusstes as transzendentale
Problematik der Konstitution. Cf. Hua XV (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1973), 608 and Hua
VI (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962), 192 or transzendentales Raetsel or Nebel. Cf.
Manuscript A V 20, 23-25. The explanation is carried out in some way by another
phenomenology scholar E. Fink in his analysis of Unbewussten: Die unter dem Titel
des Unbewussten sich meldenden Probleme sind in ihrem eigentlichen
Problemcharakter erst zu begreifen und methodisch zureichend zu exponieren nach der
vorgaengigen Analytik des Bewusstheit. Cf. E. Fink, Beilage zum Problem des
Unberwussten, in Hua VI, op. cit., Beilage XXI, zu 46, 473475.
On the side of Buddhism XIONG Shili has given a generalized description of the
discussion about dreaming consciousness in Buddhism in his A General Explanation
on the Buddhist Concepts. Cf. Xiong, A General Explanation of the Buddhist Concepts,
op. cit., 4748.



memory, taste, view and philosophical meditations etc. This consciousness of

mind does not include any sensation.
If we consider both sorts of the consciousness of mind, they remind us of
Vergegenwaertigung (representation), which together form the overall class
of the intuition, inclusive of the eidetic intuition.
Now lets come to the seventh type of consciousness: Manas. In the
buddhistical original text in Sanskrit, it has the same name with the
consciousness of mind, the sixth type of consciousness. For distinguishing
between the both types of consciousness, it is translated into Chinese
according to its sound: Manas. This consciousness is our present topic.
It is an interesting topic how we differentiate between the seventh
consciousness (Manas) and the sixth consciousness (the consciousness of
In one respect, Xuan-zang defines the consciousness of mind as changed
and interrupted in his fourth book of Completion of Mere-Consciousness, but
Manas as deep and nonstop. That represents an essential difference between
the both types of consciousness. Also as a result of the present
Buddhist-interpreter, the sixth type of consciousness should mean a thinking,
whereas the seventh a continuous and constant thinking.11 The crucial thing
seems here to be the meaning of constantly.
In the other respect, the second essential difference between both types of
consciousness is that Manas has constantly the object of Ego as the content of
the consciousness.12 Therefore we can say: The Ego originates in company
with Manas, which makes all first six types of consciousness unclear.13 This
establishment also justified itself in the fourth book of Completion of
Mere-Consciousness: The Ego exists constantly with Manas. All of these
declarations point out that from the birth of Manas the Ego originates and then
remains constantly in the consciousness. In this sense, the Manas is thereby
marked out for an ego-consciousness which it represents.
We could draw a concise conclusion: The consciousness of mind is to be
characterized as not-continuous and without-ego, while Manas does the
reverse. Thus, there is here a lack of the personal identity and the continuity
connected with it, which distinguishes one type of consciousness from another.
Manas has another important trait in itself: In the formative-step up to the
Manas, the four kinds of worries will originate in the same time: I am stupid

Cf. e.g. (OUYAN Jing-wu), On Viniscaya in Yogacara, in

(Anthology of OUYAN Jing-wu) (Beijing:Zhongguo Shehui Kexue
Chubanshe [], 1995), 9, 111 and (Yin-shun),
(Introduction to the Buddhist Dharma) (Shanghai:Shanghai Guji Chubanshe [
], 1998), 57.
Xuan-zang, Vijnaptimatrasiddhi, op. cit., vol. 5, part 3.
Xiong, A General Explanation of the Buddhist Concepts, op. cit., 114.
Ibid., 113.



(and dont suspect that I am really not); I am greedy (and take what I dont
own); I am conceited (and believe in my own importance), I love myself (and
hold onto myself).

II. Theory of Four Elements of Consciousness in Yogacara

In addition to the teaching of eight types of the consciousness, there is one
more school of consciousness analysis in Yogacara Buddhism which divides
the consciousness not according to its sorts, but to its structure into four parts
in the way of four elements respectively: the objectifying act, the objective
phenomenon, self-consciousness (svasamvittibhaga) and consciousness of
self-consciousness. According to the Yogacara, the objective phenomenon is
the knowledge-object of the objectifying act, which is then the
knowledge-object of the self-consciousness, which, originally speaking, is the
knowledge-object of the consciousness of the self-consciousness.
As Xuan-zang points out, this quadruple differentiation should also be a
result of historical development.
First of all, in Sthiramati (An Hui, ), it is only the self-consciousness
(Zizhenfen [], svasamvittibhaga) that appears. Vasubandhu (Shi Qing,
) then discovers the objectifying act and the objective phenomenon. Then
Dignaga (Chen Na, ) adds self-consciousness to the two. Finally, it is
Dharmapala (Hu Fa, ) which establishes all four elements in the structure
of the consciousness, which contains the consciousness of self-consciousness.
This theory of the quadruple differentiation was adopted by Xuan-zang and the
school of the Yogacara in China. 14 As a result it is nowadays generally
recognized by the Yogacara-Buddhists.
The first two elements, i.e., Jianfen, (act, darsanabhaga) and
Xiangfen, (phenomenon, nimittabhaga), are interpreted by the modern
Buddhist researchers as subjective function and objective object, which
respectively refers to subject and object. 15 Subjectivity and
objectivity in this sense signify not consciousness or something beyond
consciousness, but consciousness and its derivatives, like seeing and the
thing seen, hearing and the thing heard. With Husserls terminology, one can

Iso Kern, a contemporary scholar of phenomenology and Buddhism, translates
this quaduple differentiation with the phenomenological terms of Husserl as an
objectivating act, an objective phenomenon, self-consciousness and consciousness of
self-consciousness. Cf. Iso Kern, The Structure of Consciousness according to
Xuanzang, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 19, no.3 (1988):
Cf. (Hui-zhuang), (On the Theory of
Four-Partition in Yogacara), in (Papers on Yogacara 1) (Taibei:
Dachen Wenhua Chubanshe [], 1981): 315, 317 and Warder, Indian
Buddhism, op. cit., 434.



describe them as Noesis and Noema. This structural differentiation runs

through all eight types of consciousness.16
Now we consider the third element of consciousness, which is to be
understood as the self-consciousness. The second book of Completion of
Mere-Consciousness reads:
The self (sva), on which the first two elements, that is, phenomenon
(nimittabhaga) and act (darsanabhaga), depend, signifies the
self-consciousness (svasamvittibhaga). If it is lost, the act and the
phenomenon could not remember themselves, because it is possible that
one cannot remember what he has got at present.
The existence of the self-consciousness justifies itself here in two ways:
firstly, the self-consciousness, on which the act and phenomenon depend;
secondly, the self-consciousness, which forms the condition for the memory.17
This Buddhist concept of self-consciousness reminds one of the concept of
self-consciousness in the western philosophy, like the concept of the internal
consciousness or perception in F. Brentano, and the conceptions of
Urbewusssein in Husserl, etc.18 It therefore refers to nothing else but the
non-objective being which is aware of itself during its action.19
However, it is the fourth element which is added by Dharmapala (Hu Fa,
) and then adopted by Xuan-zang, namely the consciousness of the
self-consciousness that matters. Its appearance evokes more discussions than
the appearance of the other three elements in the history of Buddhism.
Generally speaking, the consciousness of the self-consciousness is only quoted
for the justification of the self-consciousness. Thus, as the second book of the
Completion of Mere-Consciousness remarks: Through more exact
differentiation, seeing and the thing seen should be divided into four parts.
How can the self-consciousness be demonstrated without the fourth element,
the consciousness of the self-consciousness? If we find out that the function
of the fourth element is first of all the demonstration, we will see to it that the
third element (the self-consciousness) does exist.
One will naturally ask the question: If the third element
(self-consciousness) is demonstrated by the fourth, what then can demonstrate
the fourth? It can be an arbitrary question, i.e., an infinite question, like the
XIONG Shili wrote as follows: The correlate of the consciousness of sight is its
own objectified thing seen. The correlate of the consciousness of sound is its own
objectified thing heard. This is applicable to the eighth consciousness, whose correlate
is also its own objectified thing. See Xiong, A General Explanation of the Buddhist
Concepts, op. cit., 129.
Cf. ibid., 131.
Cf. F. Brentano, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt I (Hamburg: Felix
Meiner Verlag, 1955), 180 and Hua X (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1966), 126127.
Cf. The writers article: Urbewusstsein und Reflexion bei Husserl,
Husserl-Studies 15 (1998): 7799, esp. 7879.



question of Descartes Cogito meditation, which is also raised at the time of

Descartes (How can I know that I think, and how can I know that I know that I
think. . ., so infinitely).20
Apparently Xuan-zang knows where the problem is. From the viewpoint
of Hu Fa (), (or Dharmapala, the teacher of Xuan-zangs own teacher)
Xuan-zang insists that the self-consciousness and consciousness of the
self-consciousness could verify each other and as a result the mistake, the
so-called infinite regress, could be avoided. In Completion of
Mere-Consciousness, he covers this in some detail, and he considers that as
basis for the Yogacara Buddhism. His argumentation follows a logical path:
On one hand, all parts of the consciousness should be confirmed. Therefore the
self-consciousness must too be confirmed. On the other hand, all activities of
the consciousness have consequences. So the ego must also have its
consequence. However the confirmation of the self cant be made with
superficial, indirect knowledge (anumana), but with immanent, immediate
knowledge (pratyaksa) if we understand that the existence of the fourth
element becomes necessary. Naturally, this fourth element is not an element
outside the third because there is only one self, which divides itself by its
externalization into two: the seeing act and the phenomenon seen. By its
introversion, the self becomes the consciousness of the self-consciousness. In
this quadruple differentiation, the seeing is only the object of knowledge. The
remaining three are however not only the object of knowledge, but also the act
of knowledge. Therefore the third and fourth elements confirm each other.
They are both the knowledge about each other, as well as the
knowledge-object of each other. Thereby the problem of the infinite regress
will be cleared away. We see here that the fourth element, the consciousness of
the self-consciousness, stands there for a special service to avoid the infinite
Now Id like to make a summary: the reasons for the demonstration of the
consciousness of the self-consciousness are firstly, for the confirmation of the
existence of the self-consciousness, and secondly, for insistence on the result
of its knowledge.22 Although this argumentation seems to be a substantiation
for an artificial theory of the consciousness instead of an immediate
Cf. Descartes, Meditationes de prima Philosophia, deutsch von A. Buchnau,
Meditationen ueber die Grundlagen der Philosophie mit den saemtlichen Einwaenden
und Erwiderungen, op. cit., 552524, also cf. K. Duesing, Gibt es einen Zirkel des
Selbstbewutseinsmodellen von Kant bis Heidegger, in Papers on German-speaking
Philosophy 16 (1997): 182222.
The phenomenological analysis will show that the fourth element, i.e., the
consciousness of self-consciousness is superfluous. But that is the topic of another
Cf. The detailed explanation of Kern about it, The Structure of Consciousness
according to Xuanzang, op. cit., 130132 and Hui-zhuang, On the Theory of
Four-Partition in Yogacara, op. cit., 327.



description and analysis of the consciousness, it is generally recognized and

adopted by the Yogacara-Buddhist of posterity and especially by the originator
of the New-Consciousness-Theory, XIONG Shili.23

III. Relations between Ego-Consciousness and Self-Consciousness

We, on one hand, take the Manas, the seventh type of the consciousness,
as ego-consciousness, and on the other hand take self-consciousness
(Zizhenfen [ ], svasamvittibhaga), the third element of the
consciousness as self-consciousness. Self-consciousnessthis word
corresponds to the buddhistical concept Svameans the continued,
non-objective considering of the act at its execution, whereas the
ego-consciousnessthe ego in Manas can be called the buddhistical concept
Atman, which originates in a definite phase of the development of
consciousness, signifies the objective seizing of a continued personal identity.
The difference between ego-consciousness and self-consciousness shows
up in various senses. For example, the self-consciousness runs through all
eight types of consciousness, i.e. therefore, a self-consciousness of
ego-consciousness (Manas) does exist. And that signifies furthermore that
self-consciousness goes principally ahead of the ego-consciousness.24 There is
still another question relative to these facts of consciousness.
Both Yogacara Buddhism and phenomenology have seen clearly the
essential differences between ego-consciousness and self-consciousness. It
will be shown in the course of investigation here that Yogacara Buddhism and
phenomenology of consciousness could be replaced by each other in some
self-consciousness, the question about human consciousness-structure has still
not been solved completely, even exactly as set out here for the first time.
From the above-mentioned, it becomes clear that the teaching of eight
types of consciousness relates to the genesis of consciousness, and that the
teaching of four elements of consciousness relates more to the structure of the
In regard to the genetic sequence of consciousness, Yogacara Buddhism
looks on the eight types of consciousness as having three moments
(parinnamika) of the consciousness: the Alaya (the pure consciousness) as the
first, Manas (the ego-consciousness) as the second, the remaining six (the
intuition and the sensations) as the third moment. This sequence of the
XIONG Shili also supported this idea, The third and the fourth elements are
the yardstick of cognition, and it doesnt need anything further, in this way the endless
regression can be avoided. See Xiong, A General Explanation of the Buddhist
Concepts, op. cit., 132.
In Vijnaptimatrasiddhi, op. cit., for example, the explanation of
self-consciousness stands before that of the ego-consciousness.



development is contrary to the sequence of the direction of the consciousness

in modern European philosophy. J. Locke has already determined the sequence
of sensation as primary and the reflection as secondary. Windelband says,
So sehr Locke die Selbstaendigkeit der inneren Erfahrung [reflection]
neben der aeussren [sensation] betont hat, so war doch die Abhaengigkeit,
in welche er genetisch und inhaltlich die Reflexion von der Sensation
setzte, so stark, da sie sich in der Entwicklung seiner Lehre als das
entscheidende Moment erwies.25
This sequence is upheld lately in continental rationalism. Some of the
present phenomenological philosophers, such as Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre
etc., unexceptionally looked on reflection as a type of Nach-Denken. The
difference between them is found in their answer to the further question:
Should one see this secondary after-thinking as one developed and advanced
step of the primitive thinking, or as a variety far from the original thinking?
Apart from this difference, they have common in one point, that is, the person
first lives ego-less in the world, which Husserl also describes as naive
Dahinleben regarding lives in the life-world. Only if the mental look is
directed back on itself, does the problem of the ego comes into view.
According to this, we have at first the world (outer experience), then the ego.
Finally through the phenomenological method and conforming with Husserl
we can seize a pure consciousness, pure without the empirical ego. We could
say therefore that this sequence runs contrary to the teaching of three
How does now this sequence of consciousness-development, which is
determined by the Yogacara Buddhism, stand in connection to the relation
between self-consciousness and ego-consciousness? Two points are here
worth mentioning:
The first one is: If the self-consciousness runs through all eight types of
consciousness, ego-consciousness has also contained the element of
self-consciousness. In the formative-step of Manas, self-consciousness should
be one of ego-consciousness. In other words, while consciousness inwardly
perceives an ego in its reflection on itself, consciousness is also self-conscious
at the execution of this inward perception.
After this manner, the meanings of the constancy (Heng, ) can
distinguish the constancy of the ego-consciousness and the constancy of
the self-consciousness from each other. The latter one is forthwith clear: The
constancy of the self-consciousness signifies that all eight types of the
consciousness must be self-conscious at their execution. The constancy of
the ego-consciousness is more complicated however, for it is equivocal at

Windelband, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie, op. cit., 388.



On one side, the constancy of the ego-consciousness means a

time-and-again executing consciousness of the ego. The ego therefore is
reflected, recognized and claimed over and over again since the formation of
Manas, and it exists in this way. The constancy in this sense means indeed
not always already or for always because the consciousness-act is not
composed of reflection and self-consideration respectively.
On the other side, the constancy of the ego-consciousness signifies its
permanence. As soon as the ego-consciousness is awakened, it works
constantly in a latent or patent manner.
In consideration of the latter, the concrete content of self-consciousness
before and after the formation of the ego-consciousness should not be without
differences. If self-consciousness is a considering of the objectifying act and
the objective phenomenon, it must be stained after the formation of the
ego-consciousness with my, it will become therefore my representations and
my representatives. Of course, the my here signifies only a pronoun but not a
subject (or substantive). This means: The word constancy of the ego in the
sense of the ego-consciousness doesnt signify that the ego after the formation
of Manas forms a continuous object of the consciousness, but only signifies
that the ego functions constantly after the formation of Manas, in the way of
the pronoun or in the way of the subject. Speaking more concretely, the ego
in this sense will belong to the non-objective type of consciousness, therefore
to the self-consciousness if it functions in the way of the pronoun, and to the
objective type of consciousness, therefore to the reflection (Manas) if it
functions in the way of the subject. So we finally can determine the two
meanings of constancy in the Manas: that is included in the essence of the
ego-consciousness (Manas), which is not the continuous running of the self
through all objectifying act and all objective phenomenon, but the continuous
considering of the ego of itself.
The above raised question here finds an answer. The ego in Manas is
therefore a subject, the self in the self-consciousness is however a pronoun;
both are relative to an identity.
If self-consciousness runs through all eight types of the consciousness, it
signifies therefore that Manas has already come into being before the
formation, i.e., already Alaya, the element of the self-consciousness. It means
that Alaya is also aware at its activity of its own execution. But this
self-consciousness must be essentially different from the self-consciousness in
Manas. In Alaya the ego-consciousness (Manas) has not originated yet.
Neither the ego nor the pronoun my should occur here. Alaya is pure
consciousness in the ego-less step, and the ego should consequently be a pure
consideration of its own execution of this pure consciousness.
As in Husserls phenomenology, we encounter here in the Yogacara
Buddhism also the problem of the pure ego, which Husserl tries over and
over again to clarify. If we regard Alaya as pure consciousness, the question,
which Husserl has always put to himself, is valid: Auf die blosse cogitatio in



sich selbst soll reduziert werden, auf das reine Bewusstsein, aber wessen
cogitatio, wessen reines Bewusstsein?26 In other words, if the seeing, the
objectifying act, the self-consciousness is not my seeing, not my act, to whom
should it belong?
In the history of Buddhism, such arguments about the chastity or impurity
of Alaya has already existed, therefore the question whether Alaya is with or
without the ego also occurs. Here another important meaning of Alaya should
be taken into account, namely, the reservoir-consciousness. The founder of the
New-consciousness-theory, XIONG Shili, also describes Alaya as continuous
reserving or inner ego. Alaya should belong to the so-called inexhaustible
three types of reservoir and recover the experiences of the individual life.
From this viewpoint, one could draw an inference that some elements of ego
must already be included in Alaya too. According to this, a difference between
the pure and impure Alaya should be inside Alaya. The first is also called
Amala (pure). The name Alaya (reserving) is devoted then more to the soiled
Admittedly another question could be put forward here: How could Alaya
distinguish itself from Manas, if in Alaya the elements of the ego are also
included? The answer to this could be as follows: The pure ego is lastly not the
empirical ego and could therefore be free from the above-mentioned four
worries, which every empirical ego must have. Once one regards the pure ego
as an abstract, formal, empty unit and continuity like Husserl, then it does not
really matter which side of the debate one takes regarding the ego in Alaya.
The continuity doesnt mean constancy of the empirical ego at all in this sense.
Here we remember: In his Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie, Th. W. Adorno
criticizes Husserls transcendental ego: Wird das tranzendental Ich
gaenzlich vom animus und Intellectus getrennt, so wird problematisch das
Recht, es ueberhaupt Ich zu nennen.28 This criticism would lose its validity
in the Yogacara Buddhism, because the constancy is surely recognized further,
but not as a personal identity of the empirical ego any more, only as the unit
and continuity of the consciousness itself.


Hua XIII (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1973), 155.

In this sense CHAN Wing-cheuk () said: We can mention Kui-jis
Adanavijnana (Amala) and Hussserls pure ego in the same breath. See CHAN
Wing-cheuk, (Wei shi xue yu xian xiang xue
zhong zhi zi wo wen ti, The Problem of Ego in Yogacara and in Phenomenology), in
(Magazine Legein) 15 (1995): 59. Although Chans analysis of Adona
from the perspective of ego-ful and ego-less is enlightening, its a pity that he, in a
conscious or unconscious way, made use of the two concepts pure ego and ego of
Husserl without differentiating them. This especially shows up in one part of his paper,
in which he tried to mention the pure ego of Husserl and the adanavijnana of Kui-ji
in the same breath. Cf. ibid., 5859.
Th. W. Adorno, Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie. Studien ueber Husserl
und die phaenomenologische Anatomie (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1990),



Concisely speaking, before the formation of the ego-consciousness, the

self-consciousness is not only aware of an integrated and continuous seeing
(Jianfen, ) and the thing seen (Xiangfen, ), but even a subject-less
and ego-less seeing and the thing seen respectively.

IV. Reflections on ConsciousnessTheories in East and West

In the ancient tradition of the Know yourself! (gnothi seauton) and in
the horizon of modern European philosophy, the relation between
self-consciousness and ego-consciousness becomes a central topic in
phenomenology. The difference of understanding those concepts represents
the so-called transformation of philosophy from modern times to the present
In Yogacara Buddhism, this relation between ego-consciousness and
self-consciousness was never taken into observation and contemplation,
although both facts were determined long before. An important topic in
Yogacara and in Buddhism altogether was the sva (the self) or svabhava
(the self-being, self-nature). Here we already have a subiectum-similar concept.
However, the religious bearings of Buddhism, which strives for an ego-less
rank, a definite basis for the Buddhist concept of the ego, could appear
principally only temporary and negative.
So we can understand why no theory like Cartesianism could originate
out of the Yogacara and why there are no guidelines justified ontologically as
well as ethically for individual life-forms. Yogacara is, strictly speaking, a preor post-Cartesian phenomenology, an un-egological theory of
The consciousness-theories in Buddhism and in phenomenology are both
strange teachings in world-cultures, which are employed specifically to the
structure of the human consciousness. It is really very admirable that both
theories in the different cultures could get the similar results without any
possibility of exchange and communication. They at least show us an example
that the forming of common knowledge between different cultures is not only
possible, but has already become a reality, too.



Adorno, Th. W. 1990. Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie. Studien ueber
Husserl und die phaenomenologische Anatomie. Frankfurt/Main:
Suhrkamp Verlag.
Brentano, F. 1955. Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt I. Hamburg:
Felix Meiner Verlag.
Chan, Wing-cheuk (). 1995.
(The Problem of Ego in Yogacara and in Phenomenology).
(Magazine Legein) 15: 4869.
Descartes, R. 1972. Meditationes de prima Philosophia, deutsch von A.
Buchnau, Meditationen ueber die Grundlagen der Philosophie mit den
saemtlichen Einwaenden und Erwiderungen. Hamburg: Felix Meiner
Duesing, K. 1997. Gibt es einen Zirkel des SelbstbewutseinsEin Aufri
von paradigmatischen Positionen und Selbstbewutseinsmodellen von
Kant bis Heidegger, Papers on German-speaking Philosophy 16:
Huang, Xianian (), ed. 1995. (Anthology of Ouyan
Jing-wu). Beijing: Zhong guoshhuikexue chubanshe (
Hui-zhuang ( ). 1981. (On the Theory of
Four-Partition in Yogacara). (Papers on Yogacara 1).
Taibei: Dachen Wenhua Chubanshe (): 313332.
Husserl, E. 1954. Hua VI. Die Krisis der europaeischen Wissenschaften und
die transzendentale Phaenomenologie. Eine Einfuehrung in die
phaenomenologische Philosophie, ed. W. Biemel. Den Haag: Martinus
. 1966. Hua X. Zur Phaenomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins
(1893-1917), ed. R. Boehm. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1973. Hua XIII. Zur Phaenomenologie der Intersubjektivitaet (Text
from posthumous work. The First Part: 19051920), ed. I. Kern. Den
Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1973. Hua XV. Zur Phaenomenologie der Intersubjektivitaet (Text
from posthumous work. The Third Part: 19291935), ed. I. Kern. Den
Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.
Kern, I. 1988. The Structure of Consciousness according to Xuanzang. Journal
of the British Society for Phenomenology 19, no.3: 282295.
Ni, Liangkang. (). 1998. Urbewusstsein und Reflexion bei Husserl.
Husserl-Studies 15: 7799.
Ouyan, Jing-wu. (). 1995. On Viniscaya in Yogacara. In Huang,



Tai-xu ( ). 1939. (On the Theory of

Dharmalaksana-Yogacara). Shanghai: Shangwu Yinshuguan (
Warder, A. K. 1980. Indian Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Windelband, W. 1957. Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie. Tuebingen:
J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).
Xiong, Shili. (). 1985.(A General Explanation of the
Buddhist Concepts). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju ().
. 1985. (New Theory of Mere-Consciousness). Beijing:
Shangwu Yinshuguan ().
Xuan-zang (). 1998. (Vijnaptimatrasiddhi, Completion of
Mere-Consciousness). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju ().
Yin-shun (). 1998. (Introduction to the Buddhist Dharma ,
Chinese: Fo fa gai lun). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe (


Natural Realism, Anti-reductionism, and

Intentionality. The Phenomenology of
Hilary Putnam

Danish National Research Foundation: Center for Subjectivity Research,
University of Copenhagen

The Centenary of Husserls Logische Untersuchungen is being

celebrated this year. On such an occasion one might look back at the first 100
years of phenomenology, appraising that which has already been achieved, and
taking comfort in the fact that phenomenology has been one of the dominant
philosophical traditions in the 20th Century. However, one might also use the
opportunity to reflect on the current status of phenomenology, and ask whether
phenomenology will be able to maintain its position in the 21st Century.
To strike a somewhat pessimistic tone, I think there are currently certain
obstacles to this. In somewhat simplified terms: Rather than engaging in
phenomenological philosophizing, rather than contributing with new original
thoughts of their own, too many phenomenologists seem content with doing
exegetical work. This criticism should not be misunderstood. I am obviously
not denying that there is still very much to learn from such authors as Husserl,
Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, etc. However, I do think that
phenomenologists to a much larger extent should engage in critical dialogue,
not only with empirical science, but also with other philosophical traditions. It
is exactly by confronting, discussing and criticizing alternative approaches that
phenomenology can demonstrate its vitality and contemporary relevance.
In the following, I wish to focus on the relation between phenomenology
and analytical philosophy. Fortunately, recent developments within analytical
philosophy currently make the possibility of a fruitful dialogue and exchange
look very promising. One obvious change concerns the fact that such issues as
subjectivity, phenomenal consciousness, and selfhood have once again
become central and respectable topics. After a long period of neo-behaviorist
functionalism, it has become increasingly evident to most analytical
philosophers that a satisfying account of consciousness cannot make do with a
D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 235-251.
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.



mere functional analysis of intentional behavior. It must also take the

first-personal or experiential dimension of consciousness into account.
Moreover, recently, a number of analytical philosophers have even started to
emphasize the importance of phenomenological considerations.1
In this paper, however, I do not want to pursue this experiential
tangent. Rather I wish to illustrate what I take to be the encouraging
development in analytical philosophy in a somewhat different manner, namely
by calling attention to some of Hilary Putnams recent reflections. Putnam
undoubtedly counts as one of the grand old men of analytical philosophy. His
writings have had an enormous impact and have frequently shaped the
Anglo-American discussion. Despite his fame, however, Putnam has never
been afraid of acknowledging former mistakes of his own, and of changing his
position accordingly. While this has made some accuse him of being a moving
target, others have seen it as a manifestation of his intellectual honesty, and of
his ability to reflect critically on our contemporary dogmas.2
A characteristic feature of Putnams recent development is that he more
and more frequently acknowledges a debt to such philosophers as Aristotle,
Kant, Dewey, James, Austin, Wittgenstein, and Husserl. Thus, in contrast to
many of his colleagues in the analytic camp, Putnam recognizes the rich
resources to be found in the tradition, and as he puts it in the beginning of his
most recent book The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World:
The besetting sin of philosophers seems to be throwing the baby out with
the bathwater. From the beginning, each new wave of philosophers
has simply ignored the insights of the previous wave in the course of
advancing its own. Today we stand near the end of a century in which
there have been many new insights in philosophy; but at the same time
there has been an unprecedented forgetting of the insights of previous
centuries and millennia.3
Let me in the following briefly present three of the themes that currently
concern Putnam; themes that should be dear to all philosophers with
phenomenological inclinations.

For a discussion of this recent development, cf. D. Zahavi, First-person

thoughts and embodied self-awareness. Some reflections on the relation between recent
analytical philosophy and phenomenology, Phenomenology and the Cognitive
Sciences 1 (2002): 726.
J. Conant, Introduction, in H. Putnam, Realism with a Human Face
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), xxxviiixxxix.
H. Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1999), 3.



I. Metaphysical Realism
For the past twenty years, Putnam has voiced a persistent criticism of
metaphysical realism, a criticism which in many ways resembles the criticism
of objectivism that can be found in phenomenology. According to Putnam,
metaphysical realism is characterized by its commitment to the following three
theses: (1) The independence thesis; (2) the correspondence thesis; and (3) the
uniqueness thesis. In other words, metaphysical realism takes reality to be
mind-independent; it argues that there exists a fixed truth-defining relation of
correspondence between the world and our beliefs; and it assumes that there is
one and only one true and complete description of reality.4 All of these three
theses are rejected by Putnam, and he conceives of his own alternativewhich
he originally dubbed internal realism, but which he in recent years has called
by various names such as natural realism, pragmatic realism or
commonsense realismas an attempt to find a third way beyond classical
realism and subjective idealism, and between reactionary metaphysics and
irresponsible relativism.5
According to metaphysical realism, there is a clear distinction to be
drawn between the properties things have in themselves and the properties
which are projected by us.6 One can illustrate this way of thinking by way of
the following metaphor: Whereas reality as it is in itself, independently of us,
can be compared to a dough, our conceptual contribution can be compared to
the shape of a cookie cutter. The world itself is fixed and stable, but we can
conceive of it in different ways. But as Putnam is quick to point out, this view
suffers from an intolerable naivet:
What the Cookie Cutter Metaphor tries to preserve is the naive idea that
at least one Categorythe ancient category of Object or Substancehas
an absolute interpretation. The alternative to this idea is not the view that,
in some inconceivable way, its all just language. We can and should
insist that some facts are there to be discovered and not legislated by us.
But this is something to be said when one has adopted a way of speaking,
a language, a conceptual scheme. To talk of facts without specifying
the language to be used is to talk of nothing; the word fact no more has
its use fixed by Reality Itself than does the word exist or the word

H. Putnam, Representation and Reality (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988),

107; The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 183.
Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 5.
Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, op. cit., 13.
H. Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism (LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1987), 36.
Cf. Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 114.



Thus, according to Putnam, it is an illusion to think that the notions of

object or reality or world have any sense outside of and independently
of our conceptual schemes.8 Putnam is not denying that there are external
facts; he even thinks that we can say what they are. But as he writes, what we
cannot saybecause it makes no senseis what the facts are independent of
all conceptual choices.9 This is not to say that our conceptual schemes create
the world, but they dont just mirror it either. 10 Ultimately, what we call
reality is so deeply suffused with mind- and language-dependent structures
that it is altogether impossible to make a neat distinction between those parts of
our beliefs that reflect the world in itself and those parts of our beliefs that
simply expresses our conceptual contribution. The very idea that our
cognition should be nothing but a re-presentation of something
mind-independent consequently has to be abandoned.11 As Putnam writes:
I have long argued that to ask which facts are mind independent in the
sense that nothing about them reflects our conceptual choices and which
facts are contributed by us is to commit a fallacy of division. What
we say about the world reflects our conceptual choices and our interests,
but its truth and falsity is not simply determined by our conceptual
choices and our interests. To try to divide the world into a part that is
independent of us and a part that is contributed by us is an old temptation,
but giving in to it leads to disaster every time.12
Given this outlook it cannot surprise that Putnam is skeptical when
metaphysical realists insist that there is a gap between epistemological and
ontological issues, and when they deny that epistemological distinctions have
any ontological implications. As Putnam retorts, the epistemological and the
ontological are intimately related, and any serious philosophical work must
respect their interconnection.13
Traditional (pre-critical) metaphysics has typically divided the world
according to the following dichotomy: On the one hand, we have reality, i.e.,
the world as it is in itself, and as it can be described by science. On the other
hand we have appearance, i.e., the world as it is for us in daily life. But as
Putnam points out, this division is based on the mistaken assumption that

H. Putnam, Renewing Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,

1992), 120.
Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism, op. cit., 33.
H. Putnam, Meaning and the Moral Sciences (Oxford: Routledge & Kegan
Paul, 1978), 1.
Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, op. cit., 28; Reason, Truth and History
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 54; The Many Faces of Realism, op.
cit., 77.
Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 58.
Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 120.



science has access to a concept-independent, non-perspectival reality.14 To

think that the scientists can provide us with an absolute description of reality,
that is a description from a view of nowhere, which is independent of any
conceptual perspective, is according to Putnam nothing but a grand illusion.15
In truth, one of the things that pre-scientific experience and scientific
exploration have in common is that both are concerned with the world of
appearance. The latter simply enlarges it. To put it differently, the world which
appears to us, be it in perception, in daily concerns, or in scientific analysis etc.,
is the real world. To claim that there in addition exists a hidden world, which
transcends every appearance, and every experiential and conceptual evidence,
and to identify this world with true reality, is for Putnam a momentous error.
Putnam obviously seeks to combine two insights. On the one hand, he
criticizes subjective idealism and relativism for failing to be true to our natural
realism, on the other hand, he thinks it is absurd to speak of an absolutely
mind-independent reality, i.e., he denies that it makes any sense to speak of a
reality which in a very radical sense transcends our experiential and conceptual
perspective. This combination is, I think, a combination we frequently find in
phenomenology as well.

II. Scientism
Let me next turn to Putnams criticism of the rampant scientism that can
be encountered in so much contemporary analytical metaphysics. As Putnam
himself puts it with an unusually scathing remark:
Most constructions in analytical metaphysics do not extend the range of
scientific knowledge, not even speculatively. They merely attempt to
rationalize the ways we think and talk in the light of a scientistic
Putnam regards the scientistic attempt to equate reality with that which
can be grasped and described by the exact sciences as one of the most
dangerous contemporary intellectual tendencies, and in words not unlike those
of Husserl he considers it a duty for any seriously working philosopher to
oppose it.17
More generally, Putnam contests the view that the only type of
understanding worth its name is a reductionist understanding, i.e., an
understanding that goes downwards and seeks to explain, say, the intentional
with the help of the non-intentional. As exemplified in the words of Jerry

Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, op. cit., 162.

Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 123.
Ibid., 141.
H. Putnam, Realism and Reason, Philosophical Papers III (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1983), 211.



Fodor: Its hard to see. . .how one can be a Realist about intentionality without
also being, to some extent or other, a Reductionist. . . If aboutness is real, it
must be really something else. 18 But although a reductionist
research-program that seeks to uncover the putative physical constitution of an
object might be useful in the physical sciences where we wish to understand
the nature of heat or lightning, it is by no means obvious that it is legitimate or
even intelligible in the social or behavioral sciences.19 Too often it is simply
assumed that an answer to the question What is the nature of X? must
necessarily take the form: How can X be reduced to physics, chemistry,
neurophysiology, etc.?20 But Putnam denies that the notion of intentionality
can at all be reduced in such a way. For some people this merely implies that
we need to abandon this notionthe assumption being that only that which
can be naturalized is realbut in Putnams view this is merely yet another
expression of the underlying scientism. Intentional explanations cannot be
reduced to physical explanations, but this does not make them less valid. As he
To me it seems that what we shall have to give up is the demand that all
notions that we take seriously be reducible to the vocabulary and the
conceptual apparatus of the exact sciences. I believe it is reductionism
that is in troublenot intentionality itself.21
I do not see any possibility of a scientific theory of the nature of the
intentional realm, and the very assumption that such a theory must be
possible if there is anything to intentional phenomena at all is one that I
regard as wholly wrong.22
In the end, some people would argue that it is not only intentionality, but
philosophy itself, that needs to be naturalized, that is turned into an exact
science. But as Putnam would reply: Although philosophy needs to be
informed by the best available scientific knowledge, we need to realize that
philosophical and scientific questions differ fundamentally.23
One of Putnams standard arguments against eliminativism is that the
position is even more counterintuitive than normally assumed. To reject
intentionality is not only to reject common sense psychology; it also implies a
rejection of the standard accounts of reference and truth as well.24 Few will be
willing to pay this price. Put differently, eliminativism has to go all the way if

J. Fodor, Psychosemantics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 97.

L.R. Baker, Explaining Attitudes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1995), 216.
Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 171.
Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 71.
Ibid., 109.
Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 34.
Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 70.



it is to be coherent. The motto reduce intentionality or eliminate it shouldnt

only be applied to psychological properties, but to all entities that in some way
or other presupposes intentionality, for instance artifacts such as clocks,
playing cards, or operas. As Baker puts it: For any kind of artifact A, the
property of being an A is never determined wholly by their local
microstructure, but rather something is an A only in the context of particular
practices, purposes, and usesall of which are intentional.25 But since no
reductive (i.e., non-intentional and non-semantic) account of the social
practices in virtue of which something is an artifact is forthcoming, we have to
choose. Either we have to give up the claim that artifactual properties need to
be reductively accounted for, or we should give up the claim that there are
artifacts (shoes, cars, brushes, telephones, computers etc.). The choice is easy
to make. But if we can accept the irreducible reality of artifacts why shouldnt
we accept it in the case of intentionality itself? 26 Alluding to a
phenomenologically very pertinent remark of Aristotle, Putnam suggests that
different discourses should each seek their own level of both certainty and
precision.27 In other words, we need to reject the metaphysical background
picture, according to which physics is the sole arbiter of what there is. This
outlook is, as Putnam puts it, nothing but a fad, but it is a fad which has become
much too influential in current thought.28
Putnams criticism of scientism acquires an interesting slant the moment
he (just like Nagel) starts accusing it of being too idealistic. Scientism defines
reality as that which can be grasped by a certain mode of scientific
comprehension. In other words, a certain restricted theoretical outlook is made
the measure of what counts as real. In itself this is an idealistic move, but the
really fateful step occurs the moment scientism starts denying the existence of
such everyday objects as tables, chairs, nations, economic crises, and wars,
with the argument that none of these entities can be adequately accounted for
by physics. 29 Although scientific realism was once heralded as a strong
antidote against idealism and skepticism, we are consequently confronted with
one of those cases where the medicine turns out to be part of the sickness it was
supposed to cure, and in the end just as deadly.
To a large extent Putnams criticism can be seen as a rehabilitation of the
lifeworld. He even explicitly acknowledges his phenomenological
predecessors.30 When Putnam insists that the metaphysical realists do not take
realism sufficiently seriously, and when he argues that it is the philosophers
traditionally accused of idealism, namely the Kantians, the Pragmatists, and

Baker, Explaining Attitudes, op. cit., 195.

Baker, Explaining Attitudes, op. cit., 202, 208. Cf. Putnam, The Threefold Cord.
Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 165.
Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 48.
Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 5556; Renewing Philosophy, op.
cit., 18.
Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism, op. cit., 12.



the Phenomenologists, who actually respect and honor our natural realism,31
he is once again following in the footsteps of Husserl. As Husserl declared in a
famous letter to mile Baudin: Kein gewhnlicher Realist ist je so
realistisch und so concret gewesen als ich, der phnomenologische

III. Intentionality and Representationalism

The final issue I wish to consider is Putnams more specific reflections on
the nature of intentionality. We have already seen that Putnam takes the
existence of intentionality to constitute a decisive challenge to any
physicalistic account of the world.33 This is, as Putnam himself acknowledges,
not exactly a new insight. After all, the very same idea can be found in
phenomenology. And as Putnam points out, thereby distancing himself from
the established view in analytical philosophy, It was Husserl, not Brentano,
who saw in the intentionality of the mental that it provided a way of
understanding how mind and world are related and how it is that in acts of
consciousness we come to be directed to an object.34
One of the contemporary attempts at a naturalization of intentionality
consists in trying to reduce it to a causal chain of the appropriate type. That
is, the glue connecting mind and world is taken to be a causal connection.
Putnam regards this attempt to reduce the minds directedness at an object to
the objects causal impact on the mind as completely misguided.35 Primarily
because the notions of causal connection or causal covariation utterly fail to
respect and explain a number of the crucial features of intentional reference.36
First of all, the notion of causality is much too coarse-grained to be able to
capture the aspectual nature of intentional reference. One is never conscious of

E. Husserl, BriefwechselWissenschaftlerkorrespondenz. Husserliana
Dokumente III/7, ed. K. Schuhmann (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), 16. For more on
Putnams realism see D. Moran, Hilary Putnam and Immanuel Kant: Two Internal
Realists? Synthese 123/1 (2000): 65104.
Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 108.
Ibid., 127.
At first sight, Putnams criticism of the causal account might be slightly
surprising. After all, Putnam himself is exactly known as one of the fathers of the
so-called causal theory of reference (cf. H. Putnam, Mind, Language and Reality.
Philosophical Papers II [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975]). However, in
recent writings Putnam has made it clear that this theory only implies that there are
causal constraints on some kind of reference, and not that reference as such can be
reduced to causation (Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 165, 221). Thus, Putnam
readily acknowledges that descriptions can play a role in the fixing of reference, and
even that we can refer to things that we have never causally interacted with (Putnam,
Representation and Reality, op. cit., 38; Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 162).
Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 23; The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body,
and World, op. cit., 34, 44.



an object simpliciter, one is always conscious of an object in a particular way.

One always intends something as something, i.e., under a certain conception,
description or from a certain perspective. Secondly, the causal account is
typically at a loss when it comes to explaining the fact that we can intend ideal,
absent or imaginary objects. (I can perform calculations with the number 2, I
can look forward to my next summer holiday, and I can be intrigued by the
shrewdness of Sherlock Holmes). But how are these ideal, future, and fictive
objects supposed to influence me causally? Finally, Putnam also calls attention
to the fact that the ordinary notion of cause far from being a purely physical
notion, is in fact deeply interest-dependent and context-sensitive.37 Putnam
illustrates this point with the following everyday example:
[I]f John eats foods high in cholesterol for many years and refuses to
exercise, against the advice of his doctor and even though he has been
told he has high blood pressure, and as a result suffers a heart attack, we
may say that (i) his failure to exercise and eat a proper diet caused the
heart attack, or that (ii) his high blood pressure caused the heart attack,
depending on the context and our interests.38
If we are interested in what would have happened to John if he had
obeyed the doctors orders, then we are likely to say that his eating habits
and lack of exercise caused his heart attack, but if we are interested in
what would have happened to John if he had not had high blood pressure
to begin with, then we are likely to say that his high blood pressure
caused the heart attack.39
Putnams point is simply that since the notion of interest involves
intentionality, the attempt to explain intentionality by way of causality turns
out to be circular. Thus, rather than attempting to provide a reductive account
of intentionality, trying to explain it by appeal to non-intentional factors,
Putnam ultimately chooses the same solution as the phenomenologists, that is
he accepts intentionality as a primitive and irreducible fact:40 It does not look
as if the intentional can simply be reduced to the non-intentional; rather, it
begins to look as if the intentional intrudes even into our description of the
non-intentional, as if the intentional (or, better the cognitive) is to some extent
Putnam is well known for his criticism of traditional internalist accounts
of meaning and reference. According to him they fail for several reasons. On
Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 47; The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body,
and World, op. cit., 154.
Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 47.
Ibid., 50.
Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 110.
Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, op. cit., 59.



the one hand, they dont consider what he calls the division of linguistic labor,
i.e., they overlook the fact that reference is in part a social phenomenon. On the
other hand, they persistently ignore the contribution of the environment, and
the role of indexicality, in the fixing of reference. Meaning is, as Putnam puts it,
interactive. That is, it depends not just on what is in our heads but also on
what is in our environment and on how we interact with that environment.42
Along with the so-called problem of multiple realizability, this is one of the
reasons why Putnam categorically rejects any materialist claim to the effect
that propositional attitudes are to be identified with some brain state that can be
investigated in isolation from the social and environmental context.43
According to a traditional view our mind cannot on its own reach all the
way to the objects themselves, and the typical claim has therefore been that we
need to introduce some kind of interface between the mind and the world if we
are to understand and explain intentionality, i.e., the typical claim has been that
our cognitive access to the world is mediated by mental representations.
On the traditional conception, what we are cognitively related to in
perceptions is not people and furniture and landscapes but
representations. These inner representations are supposed to be related
to the people and furniture and landscapes we ordinarily claim to see and
touch and hear, etc., only as inner effects to external causes44
On this view, the mind has in and of itself no relation to the world. It is in
fact like a closed container, and the experiences composing it are all subjective
happenings with no immediate bearing on the world outside.45 Putnam takes
this classical conception which gained prominence with the British Empiricists
to be fundamentally flawed.46 In his view, we can and do in fact experience the
external world, and Putnam therefore argues that we need to develop a theory
of perception that recovers, as he puts it, the natural realism of common man.47
We should consequently stop conceiving of perceptual experience as some
kind of internal movie screen that confronts us with mental representations.
Instead, perceptual experience should be understood in transactional terms, as
(in successful cases) an acquaintance with the genuine properties of external
objects.48 We are zunchst und zumeist directed at real existing objects, and
this directedness is not mediated by any intra-mental objects. The so-called
qualitative character of experience, the taste of a lemon, the smell of coffee,
the coldness of an ice cube are not at all qualities belonging to some spurious

Putnam, Representation and Reality, op. cit., 18, 22, 24, 73.
Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 36.
Ibid., 102.
Ibid., 155. This description clearly illustrates the close affinity between
representationalism, the causal account, and some kind of immanentism.
Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 20, 23.
Ibid., 24.
Ibid., 169.



mental objects, but qualities of the presented objects. Rather than saying that
we experience representations, we should as Putnam puts it, say that our
experiences are presentational, and that they present the world as having
certain features.49 I hardly need to mention the amazing affinities that exist
between this view (even when it comes to the terminology), and the kind of
reflections we find in phenomenology.

IV. Conclusion
Putnams defense of a natural realism, his attempt to rehabilitate the
lifeworld, his condemnation of metaphysical realism and scientism, and his
severe criticism of representationalism will all seem familiar to
phenomenologists. To some extent, Putnam is aware of this. In the preface to
Realism and Reason he writes that his reflections have led him to questions
that are thought to be more the province of Continental philosophy than of
analytical philosophy.50 And in Realism with a Human Face, he argues that
the great differences in style between Continental philosophy and
AngloSaxon philosophy conceal deep affinities.51
One of the fascinating things about Putnam is that his criticism of certain
tendencies within analytical philosophy to a large extent expresses exactly the
type of misgiving that many phenomenologists have had. Let me illustrate this
with one further example: Putnam often describes analytical metaphysics as a
parody of the great metaphysics of the past, and in Realism with a Human Face
he delivers the following verdict:
[A]nalytical philosophy pretends today not to be just one great movement
in the history of philosophywhich it certainly wasbut to be
philosophy itself. This self-description forces analytical philosophers. . .
to keep coming up with new solutions to the problem of the Furniture
of the Universesolutions which become more and more bizarre, and
which have lost all interest outside of the philosophical community. Thus
we have a paradox: at the very moment when analytical philosophy is
recognized as the dominant movement in world philosophy, it has
come to the end of its own projectthe dead end, not the completion.52
Yet another reason why Putnams writings might provide a good
entrance point for phenomenologists who would like to engage in a
constructive discussion with analytical philosophers is the following. If we
take a look at Putnams discussion of intentionality, it seems as if he has
considerably more to offer when it comes to a criticism of reductionist

Ibid., 156.
Putnam, Realism and Reason, op. cit., vii.
Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, op. cit., 105.
Ibid., 51.



positions, than when it comes to a positive elaboration of his own view.

Occasionally, Putnam attempts to defend himself against such a criticism by
saying that his direct realism is not meant as a theory of perception, but as a
denial of the necessity for and the explanatory value of positing internal
representations in thought and perception. 53 As he also puts it in The
Threefold Cord: Winning through to natural realism is seeing the
needlessness and the unintelligibility of a picture that imposes an interface
between ourselves and the world. 54 On the one hand, there is probably
something right in this, and I would even say that this argumentative strategy
does have affinities with certain tendencies in phenomenology. On the other
hand, compared to the rich discussions of intentionality that we find in
phenomenology, Putnams account simply isnt satisfactory. Another criticism
that might be raised against Putnams theory of intentionality concerns his
apparent inability to appreciate the existence of pre-predicative experience and
to discuss the realm of affectivity and passivity. And again, in this case there
would also be rich opportunities for a phenomenological contribution.
Actually, it is not difficult to spell out why Putnam has in fact had so little
to say about intentionality. Although he does by now acknowledge that it is
primitive in the sense of being irreducible, he has on former occasions
described intentionality as a mysterious power of the mind that solves
nothing and criticized the phenomenologists for advocating a magical
conception of reference, that is, for arguing that mental occurrences are
intrinsically intentional.55 Why has Putnam found reason to criticize this view?
Not only does it seem heavily indebted to a kind of internalism, but if the
occurrences in question are taken to be mental representations, the claim
would be that representations are intrinsically endowed with their
representational properties, and according to Putnam this view is not only bad
natural science, it is also bad phenomenology and conceptual confusion.56
However, it is obviously not enough simply to reject a certain conception of
intentionality, one also has to flesh out a plausible alternative, and Putnams
hasnt really done so. Recently, however, one of Putnams analytical
colleagues has tried to amend the deadlock. In a paper from 1992 entitled
Putnam on Mind and Meaning McDowell has argued that there is a way of
conceiving of the mind (a way that is actually quite congenial to Putnam) that
makes the notion of intrinsic intentionality far less objectionable. First of all,
we dont have to take mental occurrences to be representations (as if the mind
were populated with mental pictures, symbols, or sentences)and as we have
already seen Putnam himself has come to realize this (just as the
phenomenologists did long before him). Moreover, McDowell argues that an
externalist account of meaning should be complemented by an externalist


Putnam, The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World, op. cit., 101.
Ibid., 41.
Putnam, Reason, Truth and History, op. cit., 2, 3, 17, 21.
Ibid., 21.



account of the mind as well. Putnam is famous for having argued that
meanings just aint in the head, 57 but as McDowell adds, neither is the
mind. 58 But the moment both mind and meaning are taken to be
environmentally embedded, the major reason for keeping them apart
disappears. That is, meaning can once more be related to the workings of the
mind, and thereby a detailed investigation of intentionality is again viable. To
put it differently, as long as mind and world are seen as two separate and
independent entities, any talk of the intrinsic intentionality of the mind will
look like a magic postulate. But the moment mind is externally defined (and let
us just use the term being-in-the-world) there is nothing mysterious in
ascribing to it an intrinsic referentiality or world-directedness. As McDowell
writes, The need to construct a theoretical hook to link thinking to the world
does not arise, because if it is thinking that we have in view at all. . . then what
we have in view is already hooked on to the world; it is already in view as
possessing referential directedness at reality.59 Do I need to add that this view
is by no means foreign to the phenomenologists? Of course, it is one thing to
deny that mind and world are separate entities, it is something quite different to
articulate their interdependence in such a manner that none of them lose what
is essential to their being. But again, phenomenology is exactly in the position
to offer such an articulation.
At the beginning of my paper, I briefly referred to the rising interest in the
first-personal and experiential dimension of consciousness. It is all the more
surprising that very few analytical philosophers have taken the trouble to
investigate the resources to be found in phenomenology.60 Although Putnam
might be said to be an exception to this rule insofar as he does in fact
acknowledge the insights to be found in the phenomenological tradition,61 the
question remains whether he actually does realize to what large extent his
criticism of objectivism, scientism, and representationalism constitutes an
(unintended) repetition and rediscovery of themes already worked out by the
phenomenologists decades ago?
But let me anticipate a critical rejoinder. In the beginning of my paper I
made a somewhat critical remark about the current status of phenomenology.
But if one looks at the content of my paper doesnt its conclusion actually point
in the quite opposite direction? As my presentation has illustrated, analytical

H. Putnam, Meaning and Reference, in Naming, Necessity and Natural

Kinds, ed. S.P. Schwartz (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 124.
J. McDowell, Putnam on Mind and Meaning, Philosophical Topics 20/1
(1992): 36.
Ibid., 45.
Cf. Zahavi, First-person thoughts and embodied self-awareness, op. cit.
In fact, Putnam has even started to defend phenomenology against criticism
raised by his analytical colleagues. At one point, for instance, he defends
Merleau-Ponty against Ayers criticism by saying that this criticism is worthless since
Ayer simply failed to understand that Merleau-Pontys project was completely different
from Ayers own enterprise (Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, op. cit., 52).



philosophy is currently rediscovering a number of phenomenological insights,

and it is obvious that there are many areas where phenomenology could make a
valuable contribution. But if this is the case, why then claim that it is
phenomenology that is in trouble, and not rather analytical philosophy?
It is true that my presentation has mainly focused on those themes in
Putnam that would already be familiar to phenomenologists. My reason for
doing so, however, was definitely not in order to suggest that phenomenology
cannot learn anything from analytical philosophy. (I find such a suggestion
just as preposterous as its reverse). I simply wanted to demonstrate that the
much discussed gap between analytical philosophy and continental philosophy,
a gap which has often been taken to be so wide that it prevents any kind of
dialogue, is a fiction. One of the issues that this kind of talk constantly
overlooks is that neither analytical philosophy nor continental philosophy are
monolithic entities, but rather traditions each of which embraces a whole range
of very different and divergent approaches.
Thus, to repeat, not only do I think that analytical philosophy can learn
from phenomenology, phenomenology can certainly also learn from analytical
philosophy. To mention just a few areas: The discussion of indexicality, the
analysis of the first-person perspective, the arguments for and against the
existence of pre-linguistic experience, and the criticism of reductive
materialism that can be found in such a diverse group of philosophers as
Putnam, Searle, Nagel, Strawson, Baker, Bermdez, Cassam, Perry,
McDowell, Castaeda etc. should all be of great interest to
phenomenologists.62 Most importantly of all, however, the very attempt to
engage in a constructive dialogue with analytical philosophy might counteract
what is currently the greatest danger to phenomenology: its preoccupation with
One reason why a fruitful dialogue has hitherto proven so difficult has
undoubtedly been the persisting propagation of stereotypic caricatures. If one
for instance consults the entry on Husserl in the Oxford Dictionary of
Philosophy, one will read that Frege took Husserls initial work to be
characterized by an impenetrable fog, and learn that Husserl had a penchant
for an obscure terminology, but that he is well-known for having advocated a
transcendental idealism which bracketed all external questions, and took a
solipsistic, disembodied Cartesian ego as its starting point.63 Such a (flawed)
presentation might extinguish any initial interest. Another reason is that it
takes time to acquaint oneself with phenomenology. It has evolved as an
I have tried to substantiate this claim in somewhat more detail in Zahavi,
Self-awareness and Alterity. A phenomenological Investigation, op. cit. For a
discussion of the phenomenological pertinence of Castaedas work see the fine
volume by Hart and Kapitan. See The Phenomeno-logic of the I, eds. J.G. Hart & T.
Kapitan (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).
S. Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1994), 181.



independent tradition, with its own method, topics, and rather complex
Given this situation, I think much could be achieved if those trained in
phenomenology were to make more of an attempt to formulate their reflections
in a relatively untechnical manner. 64 Such a gesture would be bound to
facilitate constructive discussions with those figures in analytical philosophy
that more or less on their own have started to work on phenomenological
themes. And I think it is vital not to miss the opportunity for dialogue that is
currently at hand.65

Baars, B.J. 1997. In the theater of consciousness. The workspace of the mind.
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Baker, L.R. 1995. Explaining Attitudes. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Bermudez, J.L., A.J. Marcel, N. Eilan, eds. 1995. The Body and the Self.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Bermudez, J.L. 1998. The Paradox of Self-Consciousness. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press.
Blackburn, S. 1994. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Brook, A. 1994. Kant and the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cobb-Stevens, R. 1998. James and Husserl: Time-consciousness and the
Intentionality of Presence and Absence. In Zahavi, 4157.
Conant, J. 1990. Introduction. In Putnam: Realism with a Human Face.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, xvlxxiv.
Drummond, J.J. 1990. Husserlian Intentionality and Non-foundational
Realism. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Eilan, N., R. McCarthy & B. Brewer, eds. 1999. Spatial Representation.
Oxford: Clarendon Press.

I realize that it to some extent is an illusion to speak of a neutral language,

and that it could easily be argued that analytical philosophy makes use of just as
technical a language as phenomenology. But somebody has to take the first step.
For some attempts to make phenomenology more accessible without however
losing what is essential to it, i.e., without simply transforming phenomenology into a
subdiscipline of analytical philosophy, cf. J.J. Drummond, Husserlian Intentionality
and Non-foundational Realism (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990); E.
Marbach, Mental Representation and Consciousness. Towards a Phenomenological
Theory of Representation and Reference (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
1993); D. Zahavi, Self-awareness and Alterity. A phenomenological Investigation
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1999); R. Sokolowski, Introduction to
Phenomenology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).



Flanagan, O. 1992. Consciousness Reconsidered. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fodor, J. 1987. Psychosemantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gallagher, S. 1998. The Inordinance of Time. Evanston: Northwestern
University Press.
Hart, J.G. & T. Kapitan, eds. 1999. The Phenomeno-logic of the I.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Husserl, E. 1976. Ideen zu einer reinen Phnomenologie und
phnomenologischen Philosophie I, Husserliana III/12. Den Haag:
Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1984. Logische Untersuchungen II, Husserliana XIX/12. Den Haag:
Martinus Nijhoff.
. 1994. BriefwechselWissenschaftlerkorrespondenz. Husserliana
Dokumente III/7, ed. K. Schuhmann. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Linschoten, J. 1961. Auf dem Wege zu einer phnomenologischen Psychologie.
Berlin: de Gruyter.
Marbach, E. 1993. Mental Representation and Consciousness. Towards a
Phenomenological Theory of Representation and Reference. Dordrecht:
Kluwer Academic Publishers.
McDowell, J. 1992. Putnam on Mind and Meaning. Philosophical Topics 20/1:
Metzinger, Th., ed. 1995. Conscious Experience. Paderborn:
Schning/Imprint Academic.
Moran, D. 2000. Hilary Putnam and Immanuel Kant: Two Internal Realists?
Synthese 123/1: 65104.
Nagel, T. 1986. The View from Nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Natorp, P. 1912. Allgemeine Psychologie. Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr.
Putnam, H. 1975. Mind, Language and Reality. Philosophical Papers II.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
. 1977. Meaning and Reference. In Schwartz, 119132.
. 1978. Meaning and the Moral Sciences. Oxford: Routledge & Kegan
. 1981. Reason, Truth and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University
. 1983. Realism and Reason. Philosophical Papers III. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
. 1987. The Many Faces of Realism. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court.
. 1988. Representation and Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
. 1990. Realism with a Human Face. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
. 1992. Renewing Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
. 1999. The Threefold Cord. Mind, Body, and World. New York:
Columbia University Press.



Schwartz, S.P., ed. 1977. Naming, Necessity and Natural Kinds. Ithaca:
Cornell University Press.
Searle, J.R. 1983. Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sokolowski, R. 2000. Introduction to Phenomenology. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Zahavi, D., ed. 1998. Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity. Dordrecht:
Kluwer Academic Publishers.
. 1999. Self-awareness and Alterity. A phenomenological Investigation.
Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
. 2002. First-person thoughts and embodied self-awareness. Some
reflections on the relation between recent analytical philosophy and
phenomenology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1: 726.

Separation and Connection:
Phenomenology of Door and Window

CHEUNG Chan-fai
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Fig. 1
We chisel out doors and windows;
It is precisely in these empty spaces, that we find the
usefulness of the room.
Therefore, we regard having something as beneficial:
But having nothing as useful.1
Lao-tzu: Tao-te-ching: chapter 11
Te-Tao Ching, trans. Robert G. Henricks (New York: The Modern Library, 1993).

D. Carr and C.-F. Cheung (eds.), Space, Time, and Culture, 253-262 .
2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.


How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an
object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation, temptation, desire,
security, welcome and respect. If one were to give an account of all the
doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to
re-open, one would have to tell the story of ones entire life.2
Gaston Bachelard: The Poetic of Space
You stand on the bridge looking at the scenery,
A person up in the building looking at the scenery looks at you;
Bright moon decorates your window,
You decorate others dream.3
PIEN Chin-lin: Cutting/breaking the phrases into pieces

Doors and windows are most common things which we encounter in
everyday life. Our life is characterized by these architectural structures. We enter
into and exit from buildings through doors. We go to work through the entrance
door into our offices. We come back home through the doors and we feel safety
and security inside. Though we are kept inside we see the outside through
windows. As modern people, we live in cities. And this means that our lives are
determined by urban buildings. We move in and out of houses. Indeed the in and
out of all buildings is possible only because there are openings on the walls.
Doors and windows therefore define the inside and the outside of our existential
spatiality. They separate and at the same time connect our spatial lifeworld.
I am always fascinated by doors and windows. They belong to one of the
most important themes of my photographic activities. With the reading of Gaston
Bachelards the dialectics of outside and inside, and at the same time, looking at
the many photographs of doors and windows which I took in various places, I
come to realize that a phenomenology of outside and inside should be
elucidated together with a phenomenological analysis of door and window.
Bachelards meditation on the dialectics of outside and inside, in my
interpretation, is a poetic elaboration of Heideggers idea of dwelling. According
to Heidegger, dwelling is the ontological ground of building as well as thinking

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetic of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press,
1969), 224.
(PIEN Chin-lin), (Cutting/breaking the phrases into pieces), trans.
(WONG Kim-fan), unpublished manuscript. Cf. the Chinese text:



for us mortals. 4 Christian Norberg-Schutz, echoes this idea in the context of

architecture, Only when man has taken possession of space, defining what is
inside and what remains outside, we may say that he dwells.5 Door and window
are the ontic beings which constitute our dwellings as the concretization of the
possession of space, because they ontically separate as well as connect the inside
and the outside. Without door and window there is no placeno homefor us to

Georg Simmel contrasts the door with the bridge. The bridge and the door
are the concrete examples of the basic human activities of connecting and
separating. Whereas in the correlation of separateness and unity, the bridge
always allows the accent to fall on the latter, and at the same time overcomes the
separation of its anchor points that make them visible and measurable, the door
represents in a more decisive manner how separating and connecting are only two
sides of precisely the same act.6 Simmel thinks that the door has a much more
significant meaning than the bridge, inasmuch as the door forms, as it were, a
linkage between the space of human beings and everything that remains outside it,
it transcends the separation between the inner and the outer. Precisely because it
can also be opened, its closure provides the feeling of a stronger isolation against
everything outside this space than the mere unstructured wall.7 The door is the
opening of the boundary of a human creation, i.e. a cavity for dwelling, from the
infinity of space and nature. A piece of space was thereby brought together and
separated from the whole remaining world.8 The door closes the inside of the
cavity from the outside but at the same time it opens to the outside. It sets itself a
boundary, but with freedom, that is, in such a way that it can also remove this
boundary again, that it can place itself outside it.9 The purpose of the bridge is to
connect two separated pieces of land. Connection is more important for the bridge.
One may cross the bridge without coming back again. In contrast, the door serves
as an entrance to a house and whoever enters through it would come out from it
again. It separates the outside from the inside, but it also connects the inside to the
outside. Hence the door is the ambiguous boundary defining the inside from the

Martin Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking, in Poetry, Language, Thought,
trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
Christian Norbery-Schulz, Architecture: Meaning and Place (New York: Rizzoli
International Publication, 1986), 22.
Georg Simmel, Bridge and Door, in Rethinking Architecture, trans. Edward Shils,
ed. Neil Leach (London: Routledge, 1997), 67.



outside, the inner and the outer, the entrance and the exit, as well as the private
and the public.
The poetic imagination of Gaston Bachelard on the dialectics of outside and
inside brings a new phenomenological dimension of door and window. For
Simmel, the meaning of the door lies in the human nature. He says, Because the
human being is the connecting creature who must always separate and cannot
connect without separating. . . And the human being is likewise the bordering
creature who has no border.10 However, what and how this bordering nature
manifested in Daseins existence has not been elucidated. Connecting and
separating, or opening and closure, is precisely Daseins existential possibility of
disclosure (Erschlossenheit) and concealment (Verdeckung). The door is merely
the concretization of this possibility.
Apart from the instrumental use of the door as entrance and exit in our
everyday life, the door can be seen, among the possibilities of imagination, as the
image of daydream. Bachelard says:
But how many daydreams we should have to analyze under the simple
heading of Doors! For the door is an entire cosmos of the Half-open. In fact,
it is one of its primal images, the very origin of a daydream that accumulates
desires and temptations: the temptation to open up the ultimate depths of
being, and the desire to conquer all reticent beings. The door schematizes
two strong possibilities, which sharply classify two types of daydreams. At
times, it is closed, bolted, padlocked. At others, it is open, that is to say, wide
The daydreams incarnated in the door12 are only possible because the
human Dasein projects memories, expectations and emotions on it. When
Bachelard points to the many possible images of the door as hesitation,
temptation, desire, security, welcome and respect, the door appears to be an
enigma of the human spirit waiting to be unlocked or opened by man. Of course
the door does not necessarily have the positive images. It can be the door of
rejection, fear, anxiety and hatred. Yet the opening and closing of the door,
together with all daydreams, are the ways of Being of Dasein. A closed door
need not be opened in order to give us a nightmare instead of a daydream
emanating from the door. The horror inscribed on Rodins Gate of Hell keeps us
from trying to open it. Indeed the horror of hell should be kept inside the gate. But
without entering into it the agony and pain of the figures on the Gate have already
indicated the horror inside. All the allusions of Bachelards poetic imagination of
the door are reflections of the possible ways of Being of Dasein in relation to the

Bachelard, op. cit., 222.
Ibid., 223.



ambiguity of boundary and non-boundary, of the inside and the outside. He

knows that there are two beings in a door, that a door awakens in us a two-way
dreams, that it is doubly symbolical.13
Bachelard understands well that the dialectics of the outside and the inside
should lead to the problem of space. The experience of this dialectics is however
the problem of the spatiality of Dasein. Inside and outside are not abandoned to
their geometrical opposition. . . In order to experience it in the reality of the
images, one would have to remain the contemporary of an osmosis between
intimate and undetermined space.14
The door further delimits the existential place of dwelling as against the
public sphere of the others. For Heidegger, the door is not merely an architectural
artifact defining the outside and the inside. The door is the index of the spatiality
of Dasein. In Building Dwelling Thinking, Heidegger says: Rather, we always go
through spaces in such a way that we already experience them by staying
constantly with near and remote locations and things. When I go towards the door
of the lecture hall, I am already there, and I could not go to it at all if I were not
such that I am there. I am never here only, as this encapsulated body; rather I am
there, that is, I already pervade the room, and only thus can I go through it.15
The door is surely more than a boundary between the inner cavity and the
outer world. It is the linkage, an essential connection between various rooms. The
place as confined by the building walls is to be divided into functional areas
which are instrumental to the inhabitants. Doors separate and connect these rooms.
However, the doors map out the experiential world for me. Though some doors
are closed yet they are already opened. The doors are ready-to-hand to me
because they belong to my homemy Daseins dwelling. In Sein und Zeit, one of
the meanings of the Being of Dasein is the Being-in. Dasein is unlike other
inner-worldly beings. Being-in has the existential characteristics of dwelling.
Heidegger says: In is derived from innanto reside, habitare, to dwell.
An signifies I am accustomed, I am familiar with. . .Being, as the infinitive
of ich bin, signifies to reside alongside. . . , to be familiar with. . . Being-in
is thus the formal existential expression for the Being of Dasein, which has
Being-in-the-world as its essential state.16 To be in the world is to dwell in our
pre-reflective and pre-ontological understanding of the readiness-to-hand of
world involvement. Within the confined space of our dwelling, all the familiar
beings are encountered at the particular room. This giving space, which we
also call making room for them, consists in freeing the ready-to-hand for its
spatiality.17 Doors are making rooms for the given space so that we can dwell.

Ibid., 234.
Ibid., 230.
Heidegger, op. cit., 157.
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie (New York: Harper
and Row, 1962), 80.
Ibid., 146.



Obviously in our everyday life, doors are taken for granted in our dealing
with things and people in the world. However, sometimes a once familiar door
will turn into a strange one. The familiarity of the inside of the door is closed. The
memories and experiences that are once associated with the world inside are
locked up. The door has changed its readiness-to-hand into a present-at-hand
object. Emily Dickinson has beautifully written a poem on the changing meanings
of a door.
I years had been from home
And now, before the door,
I dared not open, lest a face
I never saw before
Stare vacant into mine
And ask my business there.
My business,just a life I left,
Was such still dwelling there?
I fumbled at my nerve,
I scanned the windows near;
The silence like an ocean rolled,
And broke against my ear.
I laughed a wooden laugh
That I could fear a door,
Who danger and the dead had faced,
But never quaked before.
I fitted to the latch
My hand, with trembling care,
Lest back the awful door should spring,
And leave me standing there.
I moved my fingers off
As cautiously as glass,
And held my ears, and like a thief
Fled gasping from the house.18

Emily Dickinson, Returning, in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed.
Thomas H. Johnson (Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1960), 299-300.



Warmth, love, joy, sorrow and homeliness, all these emotions that were once
the contents of the world inside the door are locked up and they can never be
experienced again. Only memories linger. With every re-presentation
(Vergegenwrtigung) of the past memories, the present from the past. Instead,
hesitation, regret and doubt remain as the images of the same door. Bachelard
might well respond to this poem by sighing: And how many doors were doors of

Windows are derivatives of doors: the function is to open and close a place.
Windows, like doors, are openings on the walls. The apparent difference is that:
whereas we move in and out of the door in body, we use eye-sight to look into or
watch our of the window. Georg Simmel thinks that the door has a more
fundamental significance than the window. The window, like the door, connects
the dwelling inside to the outside world. Simmel explains:
Yet the teleological emotion with respect to the window is directed almost
exclusively from inside to outsides: it is there for looking out, not for
looking in. It creates the connection between the inner and the outer
chronically and continually, as it were, by virtue of its transparency; but the
one-sided direction in which this connection runs, just like the limitation
upon it to be a path merely for the eye, gives to the window only a part of the
deeper and more fundamental significance of the door.20
The world kept inside the door is the private world. Hence the door separates
the outer, the public from the inner, the private. The window then serves as the
connection after the separation: through looking out of the window, the external
world is once again connected. Simmel thinks therefore the primary meaning of
the window is for the inside to have an exclusively one-sidedness direction to the
outside. Indeed, for most windows there are curtains, blinds, or drapes to protect
the inside from being looked or peeped from the outside. It is very often an
impolite act to look into some others window. Perhaps exceptions are the
windows of shops and show rooms, because the function of those is to invite other
to look inside. The window is then the boundary of the privacy against the open
public. The private home provided by the structured space enclosed by the walls
admits only two types of openings: the door and the window. Once entered into
the house, I am kept inside my home with my body. My connection to the external
world is by looking out of the window. Indeed I can close all the windows and

Bachelard, op. cit., 223.

Simmel, op. cit., 68.



curtains and confine myself within the walls. My private, undisturbed world has
then been created by making room to this enclosed space. This dwelling place,
together with my bodily existence, becomes the null point of my experiential
orientation. I can reconnect the outside world any time at my will by opening the
windows or I can walk out of my home back into the shared public world through
the door. At the same time, the window and the door bar the outside from
transgressing into my private world.
However, there is one important difference between the door and window.
While the door keeps people from entering, the window allows the natural light
and air to come in. Without windows the inside is uninhabitable for human being.
But this holds true until the modern building technology has changed the basic
function of ventilation of the window by installing artificial lighting and
air-condition system. In spite of this modern technological invention, separation
and connection of natural light and fresh air are still the major functions of
In Sartres No Exit, a sealed room without door and window is a metaphor of
hell. Human existence is thereby characterized by the ontological possibility of
transcending oneself to the world. A sealed room is no human room at all. The
openings on the walls, the door and the window, are but the embodiment of the
transcendence of Dasein. Only because the essence (Wesen) of Dasein lies in the
ecstatical unconcealment from the temporal horizon, are the separating and
connecting of the door and window possible. The inside and the outside are in fact
the same, depending on Daseins projection.

My fascination with door and window originated from the many cities that I
have visited in the past two decades. The different shapes and forms of doors and
windows in Hong Kong, Beijing, Venice, San Francisco, etc. are manifestations
of cultural diversities in architectural design. Every culture has its own model
door and window. I am not interested in describing the various meanings of these
objects here, but I would like to write about the phenomenological experience of
photographing these doors and windows. My theme of this paper is to describe the
phenomena of separating and connecting pertaining to door and window. And in
the course of taking these pictures of doors and windows, I have applied
phenomenological seeing as the way of showing the phenomena of separation and
connection. Photography, as I understand it, is an art of showing the given object
through the action of light. The word, photography, is derived from the Greek
photos (light) and graphein (to draw). Hence the task for the photographer is
to know the how and what to draw with light. It is a common erroneous belief that
the function of photography is to record reality. People want to take pictures of
what they see and believe that those pictures are true copies of the event,
happening or simply reality itself. However, the photographic images are never



realistic copies, but are the results of the conscious or unintentional act of
selecting what objects to be the images. Any photographic object can be
manifested a thousand ways, according to the lens, speed, depth of field and
aperture. The given object is to be transformed into a photographic image by the
act of the photographer. The task of a conscious photographer is to exercise a
particular kind of seeing the world, a kind of photographic seeing, and at the same
time, it is also a way of phenomenological seeing. The aim of photographic seeing
is to bracket the unnecessary elements of the given object. The consideration of
the background and foreground, contrast in light and use of color are the major
issues of the photographic reduction (a concept borrowed from phenomenology).
To let the given object show itself in the intended way through the camera is the
meaning of photography.
The doors and windows that I have photographed are the results of my
experiments in photographic seeing as well as phenomenological seeing. Two
photographs may serve as examples of the phenomena of separating and
Fig. 1 can be considered as a pictorial rendering of the poem by PIEN
Chih-lin, quoted on the first page. The girl walking on the bridge is looking at the
window whereas someone in the house is looking at the girl through the window.
The girl outside and that someone inside are separated by the window. In addition,
the photographer is also looking at the girl as well as the window. Hence there is a
complicated relationship between the three parties. However, only the girl on the
bridge is clearly seen. That someone behind the window is hidden. The
photographer on the other side is there, but his presence is only by deductive
inference: he must be present in order to take the picture. One important theme of
this picture is separation. Yet somehow all three are connected because they all
share the now and the space at the moment of photographing.
In Fig. 2, it is a completely different relationship. The picture is a window
which has the outside, the inside and the photographer all on the same plane.
Originally, because of sunlight, the window is a mirror showing image of the
street scene. Only when the photographer approached and stood in front of the
window, thus blocking the sunlight, is the inside revealed. The Japanese who is
apparently reading with all the books around him appears himself within the
shadow of the photographer. The inside, the outside as well as the photographer
are connected together on the window.

I agree with Bachelard in seeing doors and windows as images full of rich
meanings. Every door and window suggest a peculiar encounter human beings.
These most common architectural features on every building are taken for granted
in our everyday life. Only if we look at the doors and windows as they are then the
dialectics of the inside and outside is readily seen. Inside every door and window



there is a peculiar world of each dwelling Dasein. And from the inside of each
house there is the open world of freedom outside.
In this regard, Georg Simmels conclusion of the beautiful essay is most
appropriate: The enclosure of his or her domestic being by the door means, to be
sure, that they have separated out a piece from the uninterrupted unity of natural
being. But just as the formless limitation takes on a shape, its limitedness finds its
significance and dignity only in that which the mobility of the door illustrates: in
the possibility at any moment of stepping out of his limitation into freedom.20

Fig. 2


Ibid., 69.

Notes on Contributors

Purushottama BILIMORIA (PhD La Trobe University), was educated in

New Zealand, Australia, India, and has held fellowships at Oxford and
Harvard, and visiting professorships at State University of New York, Boston
and University of California (Santa Barbara). In UC-Berkeley Purushottama
held visiting chair in India Studies and Contemporary Ethics in the Fall of
'95. He was Visiting Professor at Emory University 1999-2000 where he was
also recipient of a Rockefeller Fellow with the Center for the Study of Public
Scholarship and a Ford Foundation funded nominee to work (with Renuka
Sharma) on Personal Laws in India for the Islamic Family Law International
Project in the Emory Law School. He has held other similar fellowships. He
will be a visiting professor at SUNY Stony Brook, Fall 2003.
Areas of specialist publications and teaching include Indian philosophy and
ethics, philosophy of religion and on cross-cultural issues in ethics, bioethics,
social thought and culture, with a major work on theories of testimony and
scriptural hermeneutics. Other interests and writings extend to Hinduism,
Indologism, Gandhian philosophy of moral training, art and nationalism,
emotions in East and West, and diaspora studies. He is also instrumental in
the current History of NIMHANS Project in Bangalore.
Dr Bilimoria also serves as Editor of the international journal `SOPHIA' a
platform for discourse on cross-cultural philosophy of religion, a/theology
and ethics. He is presently a Professor of Philosophy at Deakin University
in Australia (since 1980), and a senior fellow with the Department of
Philosophy, The University of Melbourne.
David CARR received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1966 and is Charles
Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy at Emory University, Atlanta,
Georgia, USA. He is the author of Phenomenology and the Problem of
History (1974); Time, Narrative, and History (1986); Interpreting Husserl
(1987); and The Paradox of Subjectivity (1999).
CHEUNG Chan-fai ( ) received his Dr. phil. from Freiburg
University, Germany. He is currently Professor in the Philosophy Department,
Director of University General Education and Director of Research for
Phenomenology and the Human Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong
Kong. His publications include: Der anfngliche Boden der
Phbinemenologie (1983); Humanities and General Education (in Chinese
1995); Heidegger and Husserls Phenomenology (in Chinese, 1996); and
Phenomenology of Interculturality and Life-world (co-ed. Ernst Wolfgang



Steven CROWELL is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department,

and Professor of German Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas, USA.
He is the author of "Husserl, Heidegger, and the Space of Meaning: Paths
Toward Transcendental Phenomenology" (Northwestern UP, 2001), as well
as many articles in various areas of continental philosophy. He edited "The
Prism of the Self: Philosophical Essays in Honor of Maurice Natanson"
(Kluwer, 1995) and, with Lester Embree and Jay Julian, "The Reach of
Reflection" ( He is currently working on issues of
representation at the interface of philosophy of history and aesthetics.
Natalie DEPRAZ teaches "Matre de Confrences" in philosophy at the
University of the Sorbonne (Paris IV). Her publications include Lucidit du
corps. Pour un empirisme transcendantal en phnomnologie, Kluwer, 2000,
and On becoming aware. An experiential pragmatics (with F. J. Varela and P.
Vermersch), (Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2003).
Lester EMBREE (Ph.D., New School for Social Research, 1972) is William
F. Dietrich Eminent Scholar in Philosophy at Florida Atlantic University,
President of the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology, Inc., and
has authored, translated, and/or edited approaching 200 essays and volumes
chiefly in Constitutive Phenomenology and including the Encyclopedia of
Phenomenology (Kluwer 1997).
KWAN Tze-wan () is Professor and Chairman, Department of
Philosophy, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is also the founding
Director of the Research Centre for Humanities Computing at the same
university. Kwan received his Dr.phil. degree from Ruhr-Universitt Bochum
with the dissertation Die hermeneutische Phnomenologie und das
tautologische Denken Heideggers (Bonn: Bouvier, 1982) and has since
published a book and some 50 articles or book chapters on Kant, Husserl,
Heidegger, Jakobson, Benveniste, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Unamuno and
various thematic issues. He translated (with elaborated annotations) Ernst
Cassirers Zur Logik der Kulturwissenschaften and a collection of essays by
Richard Kroner into Chinese. He also edited in collaboration with others the
collected works of CHEN Chung-hwan and LAO Sze-kwang. In regard to
humanities computing, Kwan has produced with his team numerous web
pages (etexts, lexical tools, dictionaries, thematic databases) many of which
have recorded millions of hit counts to date.
LAO Sze-kwang (), one of the most important living Chinese
philosopher, currently chair professor of philosophy, Hua-Fan University,
Taiwan; elected academician, Academia Sinica and retired professor of
philosophy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong after teaching more than
20 years. He has published more than 30 books and numerous articles, mostly
in Chinese. Representative works include: History of Chinese Philosophy. 3



volumes (1968-81); Essentials of Kants Theory of Knowledge (1957);

Essentials of Chinese Culture (1965); The Punishment of History (1971). His
most recent works are: Lectures on Philosophy of Culture (2002) and Illusion
and Hope: On Contemporary Philosophy and Culture (2003).

LAU Kwok-ying () born and educated in Hong Kong, has received

his Doctor in Philosophy in University of Paris I in 1993 with a dissertation
on Merleau-Ponty ou la tension entre Husserl et Heidegger. Le sujet et le
monde dans la Phnomnologie de la perception. Now Associate Professor,
Department of Philosophy and Associate Director of Research Centre for
Phenomenology and the Human Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong
Kong, he has published articles on Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault,
Derrida, Lyotard and Patoka, as well as edited and introduced Kants essays
on politics and history in Chinese published in Taipei, 1999.
LUI Ping-keung () is a Principal Lecturer at Department of Applied
Social Sciences, The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. He was trained
in Mathematics but has never worked in it. He had been wandering in
Statistics, Social Research and Social Demography, and is finally settling
down in Theoretical Sociology. He is closely associated with colleagues in
philosophy, and is currently the Chairman of Hong Kong Society of
Phenomenology. Most recently, one of his theoretical papers (The Ground
of the Social World) which is published in 2001 in Sociological Research (a
bimonthly journal published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)
was assessed one of the 31 distinguished articles published in the past 100
issues of the journal.
William McKENNA studied with Aron Gurwitsch in the late 60's and early
70's at the New School for Social Research in New York City and received
Ph.D from there in 1980. Since 1981 he has been a faculty member in
Philosophy Department at Miami University in Ohio, USA and is presently
Chair of the Department. He is Editor of Husserl Studies. His writings have
been mostly on epistemological aspects of Edmund Husserl's philosophy and
on epistemological issues from phenomenological perspective. His book
Husserl's "Introductions to Phenomenology": Interpretation and
Critique, Phaenomenologica 89 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982) is an
example of the former interest. The present paper is an example of the latter
interest and is part of a project of thinking and writing on the topic
NI Liangkang () is Professor in Department of Philopsophy at
Zhongshan University in Guangzhou/China. His subjects of Academic
Research include Phenomenology, Modern Western Philosophy, Philosophy
of Ecology, German Philology and Literature. His publications include



Phenomenology and the Effects (1994), Seinsglaube in der Phnomenologie

E. Husserls (1999) and Self-consciousness and Reflection (2002). He has also
translated E. Husserl: Logische Untersuchungen, I-II (in Chinese)
(1994-1999); Idee der Phnomenologie, (in Chinese) (1986). He is also the
Editor of The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Chinese Review of
Phenomenology und Philosophy, vol. I. (1995) and Selected Papers and Texts
by E. Husserl, vol. I-II, Shanghai 1996.
Anthony STEINBOCK is Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois
University at Carbondale. His book publications and editions include Home
and Beyond: Generative Phenomenology after Husserl (Northwestern,
1995), Back to the Things Themselves, Human Studies 20 (1997),
Phenomenology in Japan, Continental Philosophy Review 31 (1998), The
Problem of forgetfulness in Michel Henry, Continental Philosophy Review
32 (1999). He is the translator of the English critical edition of Edmund
Husserl, Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis: Lectures on
Transcendental Logic (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001). In addition to
numerous articles in social, political, and phenomenological philosophy, he is
the General Editor of the Northwestern University Press Series Studies in
Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), and Associate Editor of
Continental Philosophy Review. His current project is a monograph entitled
Verticality and Idolatry.
Mario RUGGENINI is Professor for Theoretical Philosophy at Venice
University; editor of the review "Filosofia e Teologia", member of the
Advisory-Boards of Ars interpretandi, "Neue Studien fr Phnomenologie/
New Studies in Phenomenology", "Alter"(Paris); many lectures in Italy and
abroad on phenomenology, hermeneutics, metaphysics, philosophy and
Main publications: Verit e soggettivit. Lidealismo fenomenologico di
E.Husserl, 1974; Il soggetto e la tecnica. Heidegger,1978; Volont e
interpretazione, 1984; I fenomeni e le parole.La verit finita dellermeneutica,
1992; Il discorso dell'altro. Ermeneutica della differenza, 1996; Il Dio
assente.La filosofia e lesperienza del divino, 1997; more recent: Linguaggio
e comunicazione; Tra l'essere e il nulla. L'evento dell'altro e il mistero della
morte (1998); L'esperienza del sacro nell'et della tecnica (1999); Veritas
e . La Grecia, Roma e lorigine della metafisica cristiano-medioevale
(2001); La verit del discorso; Trascendenza del vero, verit dellenigma; La
parola della responsabilit e il tempo dellinterpretazione (2002). German:
Phnomenologie und Alteritt; Was bedeutet es, einen Gott zu beweisen;
Wahrheit und Endlichkeit; Die Welt der Anderen und das Rtsel des Ichs;
French: Foi dans le Je et foi dans la logique. La question
ontologico-grammaticale du Je dans la pense de Nietzsche; La finitude de
lexistence et la question de la vrit: Heidegger 1925-1929.



James WANG Qingjie (), Associate Professor in the Department of

Philosophy at Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his Ph.D. from
Tulane University, U.S.A. and has previously taught at Oklahoma State
University and Montana State University. His areas of special interest include
Contemporary European Philosophy and East-West Comparative Philosophy.
He has published articles in International Philosophical Quarterly,
Philosophy East & West, Asian Philosophy, Social Sciences in China (in
Chinese), Studies in Chinese Phenomenology and Philosophy (in Chinese)
etc. He is also co-translator of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit (1987) and that of
Einfuehrung in die Metaphysik (1996) into Chinese.
YU Chung-chi (), born in 1961, got Ph. D degree in Bochum,
Germany with the Dissertation Transzendenz und Lebenswelt im Sptwerk
von Alfred Schtz under the guidance of Bernhard Waldenfels. He first
taught in Tamkang University from 1996 to 2002, now teaches as associate
professor in the Department of philosophy of Soochow University in Taiwan.
His major fields are social and cultural theory in phenomenology, philosophy
of religion and ethics. In recent years he has concentrated on the problematic
of cultural difference especially in the phenomenology of Husserl and Schutz.
Dan ZAHAVI (born 1967). Studies and research in Copenhagen, Wuppertal,
Leuven, Boston, Paris and New York. MA in philosophy from the University
of Copenhagenin 1991. PhD in philosophy from Katholieke Universiteit
Leuven in 1994. Dr.phil. from the University of Copenhagen in 1999. Zahavi
is currently professor at and director of the Danish National Research
Foundation: Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen. His
publications include five authored books: Intentionalitt und Konstitution
(1992), Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivitt (1996),
Self-awareness and Alterity (1999), Husserl's Phenomenology (2003),
Fnomenologi (2003). He has also edited/co-edited six volumes including
Self-awareness, temporality, and Alterity (1998), Alterity and Facticity
(1998), Exploring the Self (2000), and One Hundred Years of
Phenomenology (2002), and he has published more than 60 articles on topics
in phenomenology and philosophy of mind.

Index of Names

Adorno, Theodor W.: 97, 230
Apel, Karl-Otto: 54, 97, 100
Aristotle: 3233, 37, 38n, 44n,
45, 4748, 55n, 103, 211, 236,
Aron, Raymond: 77
Augustine, Saint: 42, 49

Dostovesky, Fyodor: 166

Durkheim, Emile: 76n, 8283
Einstein, Albert: 13
Empedocles: 33

Bachelard, Gaston: 254, 256257, 259,

Baker, Lynne Rudder: 240n, 241, 248
Barbaras, Renaud: 158n
Baudin, mile: 242
Becker, Oskar: 39n, 46, 49, 5154
Bergson, Henri: 56
Bermdez, Jos Luis: 248
Blattner, William: 64n, 65n, 67n
Blomfield, Jocelyn Dunphy: 106
Bollnow, Otto Friedrich: 39n
Bourdieu, Pierre: 83, 8586
Bresson, Robert: 175
Bultmann, Rudolf Karl: 41
Cairns, Dorion: 128n
Carr, David: 3, 6263, 67, 114
Casey, Edward: 45, 10
Cassam, Quassim: 248
Cassirer, Ernst: 31n, 39, 90
Castaeda, Hector-Neri: 248
Charibdis: 39
Darwin, Charles: 36
Derrida, Jacques: 103
Descartes, Rene: 18, 20, 26, 34, 58n,
77, 81, 84, 114, 219, 220, 226
Dharmapala (Hu Fa, ):
Dickinson, Emily: 258
Dignaga (Chen Na, ): 224
Dilthey, Wilhelm: 3536, 38, 43,
47, 58n, 90

Feuerbach, Ludwig Andreas: 97

Fodor, Jerry: 239240
Frankfurt, Harry: 68
Frege, Gottlob: 248
Gadamer, Hans-Georg: 60, 89,
93102, 104
Galilei, Galileo: 33, 44
Garfinkel, Harold: 84, 85
Gouldner, Alvin: 85, 87
Gurwitsch, Aron: 181183, 187,
Habermas, Juergen: 17, 89, 97
104, 159
Hansen, Chad: 204n
Haugeland, John: 68n
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich:
18n, 3436, 5859, 77, 8384,
91, 93, 9698, 108, 147
Heidegger, Martin: 23, 5, 11, 17,
31, 3436, 3855, 5871, 90
95, 97, 101104, 135, 139,
141142, 144, 157, 201, 211
216, 228, 232, 235, 254, 255, 257
Held, Klaus: 179, 180n
Hlderlin, Johann Christian
Friedrich: 29
Horkheimer, Max: 97
Hou, Wailu (): 204
Hui Shi (): 205206
Hume, David: 20, 35, 135, 156
Husserl: passim
Jasper, Karl: 44




Kant, Immanuel: 20, 33, 3536,

42, 47, 78, 81, 8384, 91, 144,
219, 236
Kepler, Johannes: 33
Kern, Iso: 224n, 226n
Kisiel, Theodore: 44n, 45n,46n, 47n,
Kong, Yingda (): 202n
Kui-ji (): 222n, 230n
Lao, Sze-kwang (): 1, 42,
264, 265
Laozi: 201203, 206215
Lau, D.C. (): 202n
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm,
Freiherr von: 20, 34n, 38, 42
Levi-Strauss, Claude: 7375, 7779
Levinas, Emmanuel: 5, 235
Levy-Bruhl: 82
Liefmann, Robert: 73
Locke, John: 20, 35, 228
Lwith, Karl: 70
Luhmann, Niklas: 178n, 187
MacIntyre, Alasdair: 6065
Marshall, Gordon: 76n
Marx, Karl: 82, 84, 9798
McDowell, John: 246248
Mehta, Jarava Lal.: 93
Meinecke, Friedrich: 49
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice:
1, 34, 57, 7380, 8286,
135136, 138139, 142, 144
148, 150, 151158, 235, 247n
Mink, Louis O.: 60n
Mozi (): 203205, 207208,
Nagel, Thomas: 111, 114, 241,
Newton, Isaac, Sir: 33, 42
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm: 18,
22, 26, 41, 49, 50, 5254, 57, 98
Norberg-Schutz, Christian: 255

Ormiston, Gayle: 90, 109

Ozu, Yasujiro: 175
Parsons, Talcott: 8485
Perry, Ralph Barton: 248
Plato: 33, 103
Pggeler, Otto: 45n, 52n, 54n
Popper, Karl: 49, 50, 53
Putnam, Hilary: 235248
Pythagoreans: 33
Rau, Zhongyi (): 202n
Ricci, Gabriel R.: 49n, 50
Riemann, Bernhard: 13
Rorty, Richard: 60
Sartre, Jean-Paul: 2, 116, 228,
235, 260
Sato, Masayuki: 12
Saussure, Ferdinand de: 7879
Scheler, Max: 128n, 155156,
162, 164, 166168, 170, 172
173, 197198
Schleiermacher, Friedrich: 90,
Schrift, Alan D.: 90
Schulz, Walter: 93
Schutz, Alfred: 8, 7374, 7982,
8486, 119133, 140, 177,
Scylla: 39
Searle, J.R.: 248
Shantideva: 190, 194, 196
Sharma, Renuka: 106
Simmel, Georg: 255256, 259,
Spinoza, Benedictus de: 34n, 38, 55n
Steinbock, Anthony: 45, 159
Sthiramati (An Hui, ): 224
Strawson, P.F.: 248
Taylor, Charles: 60
Thales: 33

Thom, Dieter: 6365, 6869
Troeltsch, Ernst: 49
Trungpa, Chgyam: 189n, 190n,
Varela, Francisco: 189n
Vasubandhu (Shi Qing, ): 224
Wacquant, Loc J.D.: 8586
Waldenfels, Bernhard: 177178,
180n, 184186
Weber, Max: 73, 75, 76n, 7778,
8183, 86
Windelband, Wilhelm: 3538, 40,
43, 55, 220n, 228
Wolff, Christian: 20
Xiong, Shili (): 221222,
225n, 227, 230
Xuan-zang (): 221, 223226
Zhuangzi (): 206, 215