Transcendence in Husserl’s Ideas I (1913)
InIdeas I (1913), transcendence is again discussed in a number of places from different points of view. As inThe Idea of Phenomenology lectures, the transcendence of the physical thing is contrasted with the ‘immanence’ of the conscious experience apprehending it (Ideas I § 42, p. 89; Hua III/1: 76). This transcendence is not merely the fact that the thing is not ‘inside’ the conscious experience. There is also the eidetic insight that a physical thing can never be captured by anyErlebnis and this distinguishes it essentially from any episode of consciousness. This is not the same as the transcendence in which another person’s conscious experiences are recognised in empathy, Husserl says.
The physical thing is said to be, in itself, unqualifiedly transcendent. (Ideas I § 42, p. 90; Hua III/1: 77)
There is an essential contrast between the ‘mode of givenness’ (Gegebenheitsart ) of something immanent and that of something transcendent. A physical thing is adumbrated while a mental process is not. For Husserl, is almost an article of faith that what is absolutely given in immanent consciousness cannot in principle be given in profiles or adumbrations.
However, it is at this point that Husserl’s idealist commitments enter the picture because he goes on to talk about the merely ‘phenomenal being’ of the transcendent as opposed to the absolute being of the immanent ((Ideas I § 44). A physical thing is ‘undetermined’ (unbestimmt ) as to its hidden sides, but it remains infinitely ‘determinable’ (bestimmbar ). The thing is graspable in a highly regulated series of possible perceptions but there always remains a ‘horizon of determinable indeterminateness’ (ein Horizont bestimmbarer Unbestimmtheit ,Ideas I § 44, p. 95; III/1 81). No God can alter that, Husserl remarks. In this sense, the physical thing is really an ‘Idea in the Kantian sense’ (Ideas I § 143, p. 342; III/1 297-8). The idea of a physical thing has ‘dimensions of infinity’ included in it (III/1 § 143, p. 360; 313).
As Christian Lotz has shown[^18] , Husserl applies the language of regulative ideas in a rather loose manner, namely, to the constitution of perceptual objects , to the unity of theErlebnisstrom (Ideas I § 83, p. 197, III/1: 166), to the world as such (Hua VII: 276; CM I: 98), to essences of exact types (Hua III/1: 6; also § 74, p. 166; Hua III/1: 138), and, finally, in a certain sense, to his own philosophy and the infinity of the phenomenological task. There are therefore many transcendencies in Husserl but a central intuition is that the experience of time is intimately wrapped up with the experience of the transcendent (Ideas I § 149).
Essentially correlated with the notion of givenness is the notion of a possible consciousness perceiving it (Ideas I § 142). Husserl more and more wants to examine the nature of the transcendental ego as that which is there to apprehend the givenness of thr world. The primary infinity, for the mature Husserl, is the transcendental ego itself, which he calls the most basic or ‘original concept’ (Urbegriff, Hua XXXV: 261) of phenomenology. Moreover, as he will put it in theCartesian Meditations , the science of
transcendental subjectivity is the sphere of ‘absolute phenomenology’ (CM § 35), the ultimate science (FTL § 103). Thus, in 1927, Husserl could write:
The clarification of the idea of my pure ego and my pure life - of my psyche in its pure specific essentiality and individual uniqueness is the basis (das Fundament ) for the clarification of all psychological and phenomenological ideas. (Hua XIV: 438, my translation)
Husserl’s analysis of the ego widened to include a range of related issues: the unity of consciousness, the nature of self, subjectivity, and personhood, the ‘communalisation’ of the self (Vergemeinschaftung , Hua I: 149) with the ‘open plurality of other egos’ (FTL§ 104), amounting to the whole ‘intersubjective cognitive community’ (FTL § 96), or what Husserl in his ‘reconstruction’(Hua XV: 609) of Leibniz, callsmonadology (see CM § 55).
FromIdeas I onwards, Husserl characterises the ego as an ‘I-pole’ (Ichpol ) or ‘I-centre’ (Ich-Zentrum ), ‘the centre of all affections and actions’ (IV 105). It is a ‘centre’ from which ‘radiations’ (Ausstrahlungen ) or ‘rays of regard’ stream out ortowards which rays of attention are directed. It is the centre of a ‘field of interests’ (Interessenfeld ), the ‘substrate of habitualities’ (CM Hua I: 103), ‘the substrate of the totality of capacities’ (Substrat der Allheit der Vermögen , Hua XXXIV: 200). This I ‘governs’, it is an ‘I holding sway’ (das waltende Ich , Hua XIV: 457) in conscious life (IV 108), yet it is also ‘passively affected’. In its full concretion’ (Hua XIV: 26), it is aself with convictions, values, an outlook, a history, a style, and so on: ‘The ego constitutes itselffor itself in, so to speak, the unity of a history’ (CM IV, p. 75; Hua I: 109). It is present in all conscious experience and ‘cannot be struck out’ (undurchsteichbar ). It is more than a formal principle of unity (in the sense of Kant’s unity of apperception), since it has a living, growing, unifying nature. It is also grossly misunderstood if it is treated as a ‘piece of the world’; it is not a ‘thing’ orres at all, rather it both asanonymous source of all meaningfulness and as a growing, developing self, with a history and a future, in relation to other selves, possessinglife in the fullest sense of the word. The transcendental ego covers ‘the universe of the possible forms of lived experience’ (CM § 36).
Husserl sees the ‘self-explication’ (Selbstauslegung XXXIV 228) of the transcendental ego as a set of ‘great tasks’ (CM § 29), but it is beset by paradoxes such as: How can the ego be that which constitutes the world and also that which is concretised, mundanised and corporealised in the world? How can the transcendental ego, the source of all meaning and being, inquire into itself as a meaning- and being-constituting entity? Part of the complexity stems from the very self-referentiality of the ego’s self-knowledge. How can I inquire into what founds me as a self? When I as investigator turn to examine the ego, I am in factdoubling back on myself, inquiring into what constitutes meas functioning self. This necessarily involves a ‘splitting of the ego’ (Ichspaltung ), and is extraordinarily difficult to carry out without lapsing into various forms of transcendental illusion. Indeed, Husserl acknowledges, even to say that I who reflects is ‘I’ involves a certain equivocation (VI 188). Yet, there is both identity and difference in this I. The reflecting ego is in a different attitude and different temporal
dimension from the ego reflected on, yet there is a consciousness of the unity or ‘coincidence’ (Deckung ) of the two.
Husserl’s transcendental idealism claims that the objectivity of the transcendent real world outside of us is an achievement of ‘transcendental intersubjectivity’. This is already articulated in his 1910/1911 lectures (e.g. Hua XIII: 184) but it is constantly reiterated in later works, e.g. the 1928Amsterdam Lectures :
Transcendental intersubjectivity is the absolute and only self-sufficient foundation (Seinsboden ). Out of it are created draws the meaning and validity of everything objective, the totality of objectively real existent entities, but also every ideal world as well. An objectively existent thing is from first to last an existent thing only in a peculiar, relative and incomplete sense. It is an existent thing, so to speak, only on the basis of a cover-up of its transcendental constitution that goes unnoticed in the natural attitude.[^19]
Everything we experience as transcendent has the ‘value’ written on it ‘valid for all’,für Jedermann . Everything I experience outwardly is in principle what someone else could experience. This is the very meaning of objectivity (note that Husserl reconstrues the assertions of ideality of LU into the language of intersubjective constitution in later works). The world of spirit coheres into a unity, for Husserl. It is a goal-oriented, rational, communicative world, a ‘community of monads’ (Monadgemeinschaft ), a ‘world of development’ (eine Welt der Entwicklung ), where, according to one lecture, as in Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy, everything takes place for the sake of the Good.[^20]
According to Husserl, the discovery of the transcendental brings with it a responsibility to live life on a new level. One remains a ‘child of the world’ (Weltkind , VIII 123; XXXIV 12), but one is also a disinterested spectator grasping this natural life as the unfolding work of the transcendental ego. The meditator must live thereafter in the very splitting of consciousness brought about by theepoché . There is no going back from theepoché , no healing of the split in consciousness. Genuine transcendental idealism requires livingboth in the natural attitude and in the transcendental philosophical attitude, and somehow achieving a ‘synthesis’ of these two attitudes (Hua XXXIV: 16-17). For Husserl the adoption of the transcendental attitude is like a person born blind who recovers his sight as a result of an operation (Hua VIII: 122). The newly disclosed world looks completely new and one cannot rely on any of one’s previous habits and convictions with regard to this entirely new landscape. We have left behind the childhood of naïve natural existence and have entered, to invoke Husserl’s own frequent religious imagery, ‘the kingdom of pure spirit’ (Reich des reinen Geistes , Hua VIII: 123).
In theCartesian Meditations it is precisely the realisation that all being and sense comes from the transcendental ego that provokes the profound meditation in the Fifth Meditation on the meaning of the experience of the other. How can the other in principle show itself within the horizons of my self-experience? Husserl here talks of an ‘immanent transcendence’ (CM V, § 47):
Within this “original sphere ” (the sphere of original self-explication) we find also a “transcendent world”… (CM § 47, pp. 104-5; Hua I 135).
The puzzle is that the objective world, the ‘first transcendence’ is always already there for me as fully formed, but at the same time it is somehow a result of constitution by the transcendental ego.
As I mentioned at the outset, one of phenomenology’s tasks is to explore ‘the sense of transcendence’ (Sinn der Transzendenz , FTL § 93c, p. 230; Hua XVII: 237). Again:
If what is experienced has the sense of ‘transcendent’ being, then it is the experiencing that constitutes this sense, and does so either by itself or in the whole motivational nexus pertaining to it and helping to make up its intentionality. (FTL § 94, p. 233; XVII: 240).
Husserl makes the very important point inFormal and Transcendental Logic § 99 that nothing (neither world nor any existent) comes to me ‘from without’ (he uses the Greek adverb:thúrathen ) Rather
Everything outside (Alles Aussen ) is what it is in this inside (in diesem Innen ), and gets its true being from the givings of it itself (Selbstgebungen ), and from the verifications (Bewährungen ), within this inside - its true being, which for that very reason is itself something that itself belongs to this inside: as a pole of unity in my (and then, intersubjectively, in our) actual and possibile multiplicities (Mannigfaltigkeiten ), with possibilities as my abilities, as ‘I can go there’, ‘I could perform syntactical operations, and so on. (FTL § 99, p. 250; XVII 257)
Transcendental phenomenology, according to theCrisis of European Sciences (1936)[^21] even expresses the inner essence of religion (Crisis § 53, Hua VI: 184) and provides Husserl as a deeply religious in unconventional Christian - with the only philosophically justified basis for comprehending God, given the ‘absurdity’ of thinking of Him as an item in the factual world (seeIdeas I § 51Anmerkung ). As he puts it in FTL:
Even God is for me what he is, in consequence of my own productivity of consciousness. (FTL § 99, p. 251; Hua XVII: 258).
Husserl goes on to insist that this does not mean that consciousness ‘makes’ or ‘invents’ (erfinde ) God, this ‘highest transcendence’ (diese höchste Transzendenz , XVII 258).
As we have seen, the concept of the transcendent in Husserl is multifaceted. In his mature writings it is most often encountered in relation to discussions of transcendental philosophy. InCrisis § 14 for instance, Husserl contrasts traditional objectivism in philosophy with what he calls ‘transcendentalism’. Here he defines transcendentalism as follows:
Transcendentalism, on the other hand, says: the ontic meaning of the pregiven life-world is a subjective structure [Gebilde ], it is the achievment of experiencing, pre-scientific life. In this life the meaning and the ontic validity [Seinsgeltung ] of the world are built up - of that particular world that is, which is actually valid for the individual experiencer. As for the “objectively true” world, the world of science, it is a structure at a higher level, built on prescientific experiencing and thinking, or rather on its accomplishments of validity (Geltungsleistungen ). Only a radical inquiry back into subjectivity - and specifically the subjectivity which ultimately
brings about all world-validity, with its content, and in all its prescientific and scientific modes, and into the “what” and the “how” of the rational accomplishments - can make objective truth comprehensible and arrive at the ultimate ontic meaning of the world. (Crisis , p. 69).
Husserl sees the traditional, Cartesian problematic of epistemology as the problem of transcendence (CM IV, p. 81; I 115): how can the certainties I arrive at in the immanent stream of my conscious life acquire objective significance? (CM IV, p. 82; I 116). How can evidence claim to be more than a characteristic of consciousness and actually build up to the experience of an objective world as a whole? What the reduction shows is that this is a non-question because all transcendence is constituted within the domain of transcendental subjectivity:
Transcendence in every form is a within-the-ego self-constituting being-sense. Every imaginable sense, every imaginable being, whether the latter is called immanent or transcendent, falls within the domain of transcendental subjectivity, as the subjectivity that constitutes sense and being. (CM IV, p. 83-84; Hua I: 117, trans modified).
The transcendental ego is the ‘universe of possible sense’ and hence to speak of an ‘outside’ is precisely nonsense (CM Hua I: 117).