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International Phenomenological Society

The World as a Phenomenological Problem


Author(s): Ludwig Landgrebe
Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Sep., 1940), pp. 38-58
Published by: International Phenomenological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2103195 .
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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM'
"World" seems to be one of our most familiar and readily under-
stood concepts. The term is used continually, in ordinary conversa-
tion and in a great variety of sciences, without any apparent need of
stating its exact meaning. The "world" of this or that animal spe-
cies, "the world of primitive man," the "worlds" peculiar to various
periods in history-all these "worlds" have been precisely analyzed.
But the scientific descriptionof that which is "the world" for a par-
ticular species, or for a particular group of human beings, is not
equivalent to a philosophical clarification of the concept "world."
Indeed, such description already presupposesa certain acquaintance
with the concept.
The problem of clarifying the concept "world" was once so cen-
tral to philosophythat it determinedthe name of a specialmetaphysical
discipline. However, in the process of positivistic dissolution under-
gone by the traditional organization of philosophy during the nine-
teenth century, this fundamental problem-and many another-was
as good as forgotten. It reappearedin a central systematic connection
only with the emergence of Husserl's philosophy, where, especially in
the inquiriesof Husserl'slast period, it occurs repeatedlyand in various
forms.
The phenomenologicalinvestigations to which this problem has
given rise are significant in two ways. On the one hand, they help
to clarify and deepen the concepts of "world" that occur in the special
sciences; on the other hand, they help to reawaken an understanding
for the old philosophical problems concerning the world and aid us
in giving those problemsa new interpretation. In the future, anyone
who proposes to clarify the concept "world" should first become
acquainted with Husserl's results, see their presuppositions and
their limits, and come to terms with them. The relevant investigations
belong, for the most part, among Husserl's yet unpublished-and by
no means completely examined-literary remains. Thus it is still im-
possible to present an exhaustive or definitive account of them. One
can only bring out a few of their fundamental traits, so far as the
latter now seem to have been well established.
Already, in the period extending from the publication of the
Logische Untersuchungen (1900/01) to the publication of the Ideen
(1913), Husserl was led to undertake investigations that move, so to
speak, in the realm of the "world"-problem-investigations along lines
indicated by structures pertaining to the world-though the concept
1. Translated from the German by Dorion Cairns.

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 39

"world" had not, at the time, become a theme in its own right. He
approachedthese inquiriesin two different ways: first,'in the course of
detailed investigations undertakento clarify the nature of perception;
second, in connection with the problem of the phenomenologicalre-
duction. In the latter context one also finds the motives that, in the
period beginning about 1920, led Husserl to probe ever more deeply
and minutely into the problem of the world.
Let us, for the present, confine our attention to the approach
first mentioned-which was also the earliest to bring to light certain
world-structures.
While elaborating his Logische Untersuchungen, Husserl had al-
ready preparedto continue them by seeking, in the sphereof intuition,
for the "fullness" that, as the substrateof judgments, gives-them their
sense and is a presuppositionfor their "evidence." Thus perception,
with its modifications (rememberingand other "re-productive"acts),
became his theme. Analysis of the perception of a particular thing-
analysisof the synthesesin which the perception of a thing comes
about-shows that one cannot confine oneself to the thing-percep-
tion as an isolated phenomenon, if one intends to discover its concrete
sense. The perceptual thing is always a thing in front of its objective
background, a background of objects consciously and more or less
explicitly meant along with it. The concrete nature of that as which
the thing stands before our eyes always involves such co-meanings:
the table is "'atable in the room," "in front of the window," "in my
house"; the house "on the street," "in this town"; etc. Thus, every
particular datum involves references to perceptions that might take
place from thereon-references to them as potentialitiesof experience:
"I can go on from here and, if I do, I shall see this and that." These
references need not always become conscious as explicit themes; how-
ever, they can at any time become "actualized." Every particular
percept brings its horizon of possible further perceptions, not only
those perceptions in which it would itself become more precisely
known with respect to its constituents but also those relating to the
surroundingsin which it stands, the surroundingsthat we are always
conscious of as belonging to the thing. In other words, the thing has
its horizon: first of all as a spatialhorizon, which, taken in its full con-
cretion, is our surrounding world. On every hand this world we live
in offers open possibilitiesof further exerienceso that, as we apprehend
it, it is a part of "the" world-that part, namely, which is directly ac-
cessible to us. And, though it is a part, it is not rigidly limited. On
all sides it admits of enlargement, by which, as we say, new aspects
of "the" world become accessible to us. But the horizon of the per-

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40 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

ceived thing, is also a temporally extended horizon. The table that I


now see over there is, for me, the table that was already there on a
previous occasion, the table at which I intend to seat myself later.
With its stock of concrete determinations, the percept refers to the
past and the future. Thus Husserl's early analysesof the perception
of an individual thing disclosed-or, at least, began to disclose-a
structure that he eventually saw as a determination of "the world":
the world as the horizon of particular acts and, first of all, as the
horizon of acts of perception.
This insight became important when Husserl began to develop
his doctrine of the phenomenological reduction, a development that,
in turn, brought out a further determination of the world. The
fact that, even as a single act, each perceiving has its horizons, makes
it necessaryto exclude more than the doxic positing that takes place
in, and transcends,the single act of perceiving. Otherwise we do not
really isolate the latter's "meant object, as meant." That is to say,
a reduction performed on the single act itself is not enough to isolate
the act's intentional object, purely as intentional. Such a reduction
overlooks the horizon co-posited in every single act. The reduction
was first introduced as a general resolution not to cooperate in any
positing that oversteps the meant qua meant but, on the contrary, to
inhibit every such positing. Such a resolution cannot be consistently
carried out merely by inhibiting, one by one, the doxic theses of sep-
arate acts, separate believings. Their basis must also be affected by
the epoche; indeed, the epoche must relate primarily to their basis.
In the course of Husserl's analyses of perception, this basis too
had become visible in certain structures, namely, wherever perception
does not flow in unbroken harmony, wherever conflict and subsequent
negation occur in perception. In this way the thesis, already stated
in the Logische Untersuchungen, that conflict also produces a kind
of union, received its concrete confirmation. Every conflict, as a
special form of synthesis occurring even in sensuous perception, and
every "not," founded on such a conflict, presupposesa basis. While
one is looking at an otherwise uniformly colored thing, a "green"may
appear somewherein place of the expected "red." Then the conflict
(between expected "red" and actually seen "green") and the negation
(ccnotred") arising from it take place on the basisof the continuously
certain positing of the thing as somehow colored.2 The same is true
universally. Every conflict, every negation, presupposes a basis of
abiding doxic certainty. If, perchance, the whole thing is cancelled,
2. On this matter, see the most recent exposition: Edmund Husaerl, Erfshrung And Urtil. edited
by Ludwig Landgrebe, Prag, 1939, p. 94.

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 41

if we look and do not find the thing where we expected it, then we
find somethingelse there; every "not" is a "not so but otherwise." The
process of conflict and negation may go on thus without limit, but
even if we ultimately see ourselvescompelled to cancel whole sections
of our supposedlyperceptual life-to regard them as illusory with re-
spect to their supposedvalidity-still everything else in our surround-
ing world remainsas it was before. No matter how large the segments
that prove erroneous, there always remains a basis: ultimately and
underlying everything else, the basis which is our world. On that
basis not only every confirmed experience but also every negation,
indeed, every considering of anything as probable or possible, takes
place.
As a whole, our world, the world in which we find ourselvescon-
sciously living, remains certain, no matter how many details become
doubtful or invalid. Only particular parts of it ever undergo the
correction, "not so but otherwise." This means that every particular
positing or negating presupposesa universal basis: belief in the world,
certainty of the world. Every positing is a positing and every can-
celling is a cancelling on this basis,which we can never disturb in the
natural attitude. Therefore, if the bracketing is to be really universal
and not limited to particularacts and their meant objects qua meant,
it must embrace this basis of all particular positings: "the general
thesis essentialto the natural attitude" must be "put out of action."3
In this way, while developing the doctrine of the phenomenolog-
ical reduction, Husserl acquiredan initial definition of the concept of
the world, a clarification owing to his insight into the horizon-struc-
ture of every experience. The world is the all-embracing doxic basis,
the total horizon that includes every particular positing. If, in these
analyses,Husserl was primarilyconcerned with acts of believing (acts
of doxic positing as existence-positing) and acts of perceiving
(as doxic, existence-positing acts of a lower level), the reason
is that, according to his conviction, existence-positing acts and es-
pecially acts of perceiving (in the sense of immediate aisthesis) are
fundamental to acts of every other kind. If anything is to be the
object of a valuing or of a practical action (a striving, goal-setting act
of willing), it must be-first and fundamentally-something perceiv-
ed. Acts of believing, acts in which being is posited with doxic cer-
tainty, found all other acts.4 It follows that, in being the basisof every
doxic positing, the world is, at the same time, the basisfor all our atti-
tudes and acts of valuing or willing, which are built on our beliefs in
being, the acts in which being is posited. In brief, the world is the
3. Cf. Iden. ? 32. p. 56.
4. Cf. Erfahrung und Urtell, pp. 66ff.

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42 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

horizosi of our total attitude-the latter being understood as our in-


tentional directednessin all our diverse acts. Our belief in being is a
belief in the world and, in our natural discourse about being, it goes
quite without saying that our theme is "worldly" being.
Thus the "general thesis," the universally fundamental doxic
positing of the world, is not a definite act, explicitly performed at
some time or other, but rather the foundation for every definite act.
It is nothing other than the elemental fact that, from the first and
quite as a matter of course, the ego "lives in a world"-is intention-
ally directed towards the existent, which is always tacitly understood
as "mundanely" existent. Consequently, the universally fundamental
doxic thesis must not be interpreted as a blind "prejudice," an innate
or acquired habit. On the contrary, all the habits born in a man, or
acquired in the course of his life, belong to him as a man who already
stands on his belief in the world and, on that basis, is aware of himself
as one existing object among others.
Husserl had already reached these fundamental insights in the
years preceding the appearance of the Ideen. In that work, the doc-
trine of the "general thesis of the natural attitude"-and that means
the doctrine of the world as the doxic basis underlying every particular
experience-was presented for the first time. Now, when it is said
that the whole world is "bracketed," the universality thus claimed for
the method of phenomenological reduction yields consequences that
necessitate a further clarification of the concept "world." It is not
the purpose of the reductive method to be merely an improvement
on the method of analyzing consciousness: a suspending of judgment
concerning the being of what is meant in consciousness, merely to
ascertain that being and consciousness are always correlative. The
exclusion of all actual, potential, or habitual positings in which the
existent is given as truly thus and so, as having this or that value, etc.
-this exclusion is a preparation for showing that all these positings
are accomplishments on the part of transcendental subjectivity, ac-
complishments by virtue of which the world with all that belongs to
it, as we intend it and believe it, is there for us. But if we are to show
that all being is thus built up as a product of consciousness, we cannot
begin at an arbitrary point; rather, the existent, as it is given and
accessible to us, and in its experientially given order of founding, must
be taken as a clue. The correct initiation and performance of con-
stitutional analyses (analyses that trace being of every kind to its
origin as a posited product of transcendental consciousness) accord-
ingly require a preliminary explication of the world in its immediacy
as given us in experience: the formulation of a "natural world-con-

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TH.E WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOCICAL PROBLEM 43

cept," as Husserl, adopting a phrase from German positivism, occa-


sionally expressed it.5 This explication has the character of a pre-
liminary survey of the world-structures which, taken all together,
are to undergo "bracketing":first of all, the universalstructures,those
that must be present in every form of human surrounding world;
then, on the basis of such universal structures, the essentially possible
special types of surroundingworlds.
These matters occupied Husserl more and more in the nineteen-
twenties and 'thirties, when he was seeking a deeper insight into the
problem of the phenomenologicalreduction. During that period, the
concept of the world, which was at first defined very generally as the
all-embracing horizon of any experience, the doxic basis persisting
throughout all experiences,received a more concrete and fully differ-
entiated content. The merely preliminary character of these anlyses
(as analyses belonging to "mundane" phenomenology, i. e., a phe-
nomenology that does not yet operate on the basis of the phenome-
nological reduction) makes it clear that, for Husserl, the problem of
the world can find only its inception, not its solution, in them. For
Husserl, a real understandingof the world can mean only an under-
standing of it in its origination as a product of conscious processes,and
such an understanding can be attained only after the reduction has
been performed, only as the result of detailed constitutional analyses.
Not until we have examined Husserl's constitutional analyses shall
we be in a position to judge the scope of his conception of the world
and of his problem of the world.
Let us first picture to ourselves a few leading traits of the
"mundane"-phenomenologicalanalyses that Husserl devoted to the
structures making up the world especially during the last decade
of his life, when he was repeatedly finding new approachesto them.
The purposeof such analysesis to discover and explicate the structures
that make up the essence of the world, as the world that we exper-
ience, i. e., our world as present to us now and always. To acquire
knowledge of essences,Husserl had developed the method of starting
with an already given example and varying it freely.6 If our goal is
knowledge of the essenceof the experiencedworld, the initial example
must not be taken at random; it must be that phenomenal exem-
plification of the essence "world" which is immediately accessibleto
us. We must begin, accordingly, with our world as it is there for us.
This "our" means "belonging to the men of our time"; it is with their
"world" that the analysis must begir. As a result of having this
6. Cf. Ludwig Landgrebe, "Husserls Phdnomenologie und die Motive zu ihrer Umbildung," Revue
international de Philosophie. I. 2), (Bruxelles, 1939), pp. 303f.
6. Cf. Erfahrung und Urteil, ? 87, pp. 410ff.

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44 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

ttworld," we already have a certain-usually quite inexplicit-under-


standing of the essence "world," and this understanding provides the
horizon within which alone we can gain access to "worlds" structurally
different from ours, namely, by apprehending them as variants, each
having a set of invariant essential determinations that belong to any
"world" as such.
This understanding of "world" in general, this our "world-pic-
ture" (which is also, for Husserl, the obvious and determinative
starting-point for such inquiry), is especially influenced by two facts:
1. Our way of apprehending the world is determined by the
fact of science, by the fact that mathematical natural science has
explicated the world in categories that-although they undergo con-
tinuous development and correction-claim to define the world ob-
jectively, as a set of given objects and relationships, existing in them-
selves and capable of being grasped by exact methods. Our concept
of the world therefore involves, quite as a matter of course, the belief
that this is an objective, exactly determined and determinable world.
2. However, to this conviction, which has indeed become a
downright matter of course to "modern men," the broadening of our
historical, ethnological, and sociological knowledge has added the
awareness that the world-picture determined by exact science cannot
be regarded as the only one. Today, as in earlier times, we find human
communities whose understanding of the world has in no way been
affected by science. It is true that "exact" science, and the men
whose way of thinking is determined by it, always claim that their
world-picture is the only true one, the one that is valid objectively
and in itself, so that extra-scientific or pre-scientific world-pictures
are, at best, preliminaries to theirs or, in most cases, "subjective"
falsifications of the real world by the prejudices of tradition, super-
stition, or the like. This claim is opposed, however, by a conviction
that is likewise familiar to us all, the conviction of those who think
historically, the conviction of "Historismnus": This scientific world-
picture is itself only one among many and, like all the others, it has
been produced by a certain society under definite conditions. Thanks
to their position and capabilities, modern men have created this tool
called "objective natural science," as a means of intervening in the
world technically and controlling it. To this historical way of think-
ing, the claim that the world-picture formed by natural science is
absolute must appear naive. The consequence of such thinking is
rather a belief in the plurality and historical relativity of world-pic-
tures and a conviction that none of them may claim for itself a greater
truth-to say nothing of the whole truth-about the world.

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 45

How did these views, which determine the modern world-picture,


affect Husserl's point of departure when he undertook to define the
essence "world"?
First of all, with regard to the claim that the methods of exact
(mathematical) natural science give us access to a true, objective
reality behind the sensuously apparent world, Husserl had pointed
out earlier, in connection with certain epistemological deliberations,
the contradictions and pseudo-problemsthat result from interpreting
the methods of natural science in this way. Already in the Ideen, the
"impossibility of a world behind the world" is quite clearly stated:
It is always one and the same world that we are trying to grasp and
determine. Sometimeswe can be satisfied with what is accessiblein
sensuous experience; at other times, if the goals of knowledge and
the practices leading to them so require, we choose the path of
Imathematization." This is a special method, but its results always
lead back at last to the sensuouslyintuited world and find in it their
ultimate confirmation.
Accordingly, in Husserl's last period, when he attacked the
problem of the world, it was obvious to him from the outset that
the meaning-determinationsborne by the world thanks to the ac-
complishments of natural science-the explications to which the
world has been submitted by natural science-must not be regarded
forthwith as essential structures belonging necessarily to a world as
such. On the contrary, we must turn from the world as it is always
already there for us, with its sense as explicated by natural science,
and go back to the world as it is Prior to science, the immediate"life-
world" with its original givenness, which is the underlying basis for
scientific determination. Correlatively, we must go back to pre-
scientific experience, in order to comprehend the nature of the path
leading from the immediate cognitions and practical plans of pre-
scientific life to such a thing as a plan to determine the world "exact-
ly." Husserl's systematic and historical investigations concerning
the origin of the methods of exact natural science, and the sense of
the "idealization"involved in that method, belong in this context.7
The original givenness of the world-our "life-world"-depends
on the fact that, as men living in the world, having our experienceand
carrying on our practical activities in it, we are unities of body and
mind, such that all our experienceof the world is ultimately mediated
by our senses and the functioning of our sense-organs. For each of
us, his body with its organsis the absolute zero-point, the orientational
7. Cf. Edmund Husserl, "Die Krisia der europaischen Wissenschaf ten und die transzendentolc
Phdnomenologie," Philosophia, I (Beograd, 1936), especially pp. 97ff.

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46 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

center for every experience,the absolute"'here"correspondingto every


"there." Thus the first step in describingour immediate way of hav-
ing a world is the distinction between near and far, between near-
world and far-world, though these concepts at once involve more than
merely spatial relations. The fact that all experience of the world
involves the body and its organs divides the immediately accessible
part of our world from the part that can be experienced only medi-
ately, e. g., by way of inferences from the immediately given or by
way of communications from other persons. The absolute "here,"
first distinguishedas the locus of one's life, is further determined by
the fact that, with our bodies, we move on the earth or, at least, with
reference to it. "Here" is "here on the earth." The earth is the
primary basisfor our experience. It is not merely one among the other
objects of our experience; rather it is that, relative to which all other
objects are determinedwith respect to their loci and, more particularly,
are determined as at rest or in motion. Accordingly, for our imme-
diate experience, the earth is immobile. Our cognizance of its move-
ment does not derive from immediate experience; it is mediated by
scientific knowledge. Thus, in explicating immediate experience, the
experience of our world as a "life-world," Husserl effects a reversalof
the "Copernican Revolution," by the insight that every experience
necessarilypresupposesan ultimate unmoved basis, which is not itself
objectivated. For "us men," this basis is "our earth"-as an actual
exemplification of an essentialnecessity.
These most general essential structures are without possible ex'
ception; without them, an immediate experiencing of a "life-world"
by men, as psychophysicalbeings, is inconceivable. But more than this
is universally and essentiallynecessary to the "life-world." The life-
world is not only a world for me, the single individual; it is a common
world, a world for a particular human community. And it is not
only the world as given without our intervention, purely as Nature
with its natural determinations;it is a world fashioned and cultivated
by the men who live in it. This fact leads to a differentiationof sur-
rounding worlds, on the basisof the world as Nature, which, at least
in certain of its fundamental structures, remains the same through-
out-a differentiationdeterminedby the peculiarway in which its sur-
rounding world is shaped by a particular human community. The
differences among surrounding worlds are determined not only by
differences in the given natural situation-the geographicalconfigur-
ation, for example-but also by differences in aptitude, in develop-
mental level, and in the resultant customs and usages of particular
communities.

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 47

The task of describing the human "life-world" therefore in-


cludes a higher level. Having brought to light the all-pervading"aes-
thetic" structures of the world and world-experience the structures
pertainingto Nature as the basisof every surroundingworld-we must
look for the possibletypes of world, as the surroundingworlds of par-
ticular human communities. This may be conceived as an empirical
enterprise, namely, as the task of reducing to types the environing
worlds and the world-pictures that have in fact been produced by
past or present communities of various levels, and investigating their
developmentand the evolutionary levels to which these worlds belong.
But the empiricaltask is, iniitself, secondary to the task of elaborating
the essential possibilities and fundamental structures, the essentially
possibletypes, of surroundingworlds. Until this primarytask has been
accomplished,we lack the concepts for an empirical graspof the kinds
of worlds that have actually occurred. It goes without saying that
Husserl confined his efforts to the primary task and that all his descrip-
tions of possible types of human environment claim the character of
essential descriptions, though naturally their underlying intuitional
material must derive from our historical awareness of different or
"more primitive" forms of human life and experienced environment.
This whole line of inquiry not only signifies a break, on Husserl's
part, with one of the tendencies present in our modern understanding
of the world-namely, the tendency to absolutize the world-picture
determined by exact science-but also involves a close consideration
of the opposed insight into the plurality of possible world-pictures.
The often-expressed opinion that Husserl was blind to the problems
raisedby Historismusare therefore unjustified. Indeed, Husserl'sown
problem can be understoodonly as having arisen on the basis of His-
torismus. It need hardly be emphasized,on the other hand, that Hus-
serl could never regard historical relativism as an ultimate and tenable
point of view.
The difference between near and far, with its ultimate reference
to the body and the functioning of bodily organs, is also important
for the elaborationof the fundamental types of life-worlds, as worlds
surrounding typical human communities. It is this difference that
originally delimits the circle of other people from whose communica-
tions and instructions each of us derives his knowledge of the world,
so far as the latter is not immediately accessible to him in his own
experience. First of all, in the most immediate sense, this circle is
made up of others as fellow-members of the community in which
one was born and grew up. These "others" are marked off from the
"strangers," the members of a strange or alien community. Now

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48 PHILOSOPHY
AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL
RESEARCH

"foreignness"or "strangeness"is a matter of degree: To the little


child, still living in the family circle, those who stand outside the
latter are "strange"; to those who belong to a certain clan or people,
other peoples are "strange," "foreign"; and to the inhabitants of a
certain part of the earth, provided they are aware of being united
by a consciousnessof belonging together, the inhabitants of "foreign"
parts are "foreign." Thus, the all-pervading difference between near
and far, a difference relative to the absolute "here" of our bodily ex-
istence, functions as the basis for a differencebetween near and far in
a transferredsense, namely as a difference relative to our community
and its particular surrounding world, which is marked off from the
world surrounding any other community. This difference is the
ground for a differentiation of the concept "world" according to the
essential distinction between home-world and alien or foreign world.
As we have seen, the line between the home-world and the alien
world is not rigidly fixed; their relationship is fluid and constantly
changing. For the child who has never left the neighborhoodwhere
he was born, for the inhabitantsof a lonesome and inaccessiblemoun-
tain valley, the limits of the home-world are naturally not the same
as for him who has become acquainted with all parts of his "native
land" (an expression,incidentally, for a home-world on a higher level)
and feels at home in them all. Despite this relativity of the difference
between home-world and alien world, the corresponding concepts
point to an absolute and essential difference: The members of any
community, whatever its nature or extent, necessarily have their
home-world as their original basis and point of departure for acquir-
ing a broaderexperience,for appropriatingand learning to understand
-more or less intimately-that which is strange, for making the
acquaintance of "alien worlds." To be sure, under certain circum-
stances an individual or an entire community may stand, with respect
to this home-world, in the relationshipof one who has lost something.
But this constitutes no exception, since losing is essentially a deficient
mode of having, and "having lost the home-world" can be understood
only as a modification of the essentiallynecessarystructure of "having
the home-world."
None of these categories ever refers to objectively present situ-
ations or relationships-purely geographicalrelationships,for example.
They all signify forms of our self-understanding, ways in which we
consciously find and know ourselves in the world. The home-world
comprises everything that is immediately familiar by acquaintance:
the familiar surroundings, the scene and one's fellows with their
familiar manners, customs, and ideas, the home state with its familiar

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 49

laws and regulations. A home-world is never the home-world of only


a single person; it always belongs to a community-a tribe, a people,
or the like dwelling in their "territory," where they have their his-
tory, their past that, in the form of tradition, has its influence in the
present. Within the home-world, everything has its structure of
acquaintedness. The attitudes and conduct of the individual are gov-
erned by the repeatedly fulfilled expectations accompanying this
acquaintednessof things: "One" behavesthus and so in such and such
situations; this is the custom and it is also to be expected from others
with whom we have dealings. In these typical forms human dwellings
are arrangedand the land has been fashioned into a scene of culture.
Outside this spherelie "foreign parts" and nothing is predelineatedin
this way. Men may conduct themselvesaccording to other rules, rules
unknown to us; the houses are differently arranged;our expectations
are repeatedly disappointed. The fixed pattern of the home-world
is missing and its place is taken by a pattern far less definite. But our
understanding could not penetrate such an alien world if it did not
bring with it a set of familiaritiesfrom the home-world, familiarities
that now, to be sure, become altered, yet in such a way that certain
of their most general structures and predelineationsremain: These
are men of some kind, with needs the most general nature of which is
familiar to us, with ways of satisfying such needs; they act and react
somehow, in ways that we do not yet know but that we can learn to
understandif we penetrate further into their world.
From this beginning, Husserl tried to develop, as limiting con-
cepts, the idea of a closed home-world and, correlatively, the idea of a
"closed society" as the genetically original types: a community that
remains inside a home-world completely shut off from every foreign
world. A closed home-world is indeed a limiting concept-a device
for making the structure of a home-world particularlydistinct-since,
as a matter of fact, that would be a type nowhere to be found, cer-
tainly not in connection with any group now in existence. Every-
where the foreign projectsinto the home-world; the worlds surround-
ing different social groups are tied together by countless threads.And
this means, for each individual, at least an incipient extension of his
experiential horizon beyond the limits of his home-world; it means
an antecedent awareness,however vague, of other worlds and world-
pictures, and consequently a richer pattern of definite expectations
than would be at the disposal of a person locked in his home-world.
This is the very situation that determinesour modern understand-
ing-including our pre-philosophicaland pre-conceptual understand-
ing-of the world. Though each person and each community has,

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so PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

first of all, a home-world as the sphere of most intimate familiarity,


there is always at least a vague awareness of the presence of alien
worlds, no matter how little they may be understoodin their details.
Regardlessof the fact that our actual ability to understandis limited
by the more or less narrow home-world from which we start, we are
always aware that our home-world is not the "whole" world but only
one among various "segments" of the world. That is to say, our
"natural"world-concept, the one we have unquestioningly, as a mat-
ter of course, includes an awarenessof the multiplicity of surrounding
worlds, such that all the latter are understoodas belonging to one and
the same world as the total horizon of possibleexperiences-our own
actual and possibleexperiences,which can be had directly by us, and
the experiencesof others who stand, or may be conceived as standing,
in connection with us. To speak of alien "worlds," worlds not di-
rectly accessible to us but possibly accessible to somebody or other,
is significant only if we assumeat least the essential possibility of a
course of experience leading from our world to those alien worlds and
the men who experience them. Alien worlds must be conceived as
standing in a nexus of possible continuous (direct or indirect) ex-
perience with our own, in such a manner that all such "worlds"com-
bine to make up the unity of the all-embracingworld. Accordingly,
the world cannot have for us the senseof being a self-contained world
(like, perhaps, the rigidly limited disk of antiquity); we must take
it to be a world unlimitedly open on all sides. In this opennessit pro-
vides free space for all the different home-worlds of the most diverse
human communities. It becomes the infinitely open universe as the
whole of existence, the completely open horizon in which, ideally at
least, our experiencescan always be extended ad infinitum. To be sure,
the predelineation of these possible experiences is, for us, extremely
vague; it is restricted to a very general pattern of what still might be
encountered there, beyond the limits of any world already known to
us. Finally it becomes merely the expectation that "somehow or
other, things must always keep on this way": there must come along
some scene or other, some human beings; some planet or other, perhaps
like the earth, with some living things upon it; etc. The concept of
infinity that is involved here has nothing yet to do with the mathe-
matical conception, which arises from "idealization"; it is, however,
the presuppositionfor the latter.
But the multiplicity of actual and possiblealien worlds is not all
that this total horizon of the world, as the universe, encompasses. In
our differentiated modern way of living, particular spheres of life
have acquired a certain independence and even the familiar world

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 51

surrounding us-as the total horizon of our subjective and objective


experience-embraces many separatehorizons,e. g., the horizon of
vocational life alongside the horizon of one's experience as a citizen,
as the head of a family, etc., all within the immediately superordi-
nate total horizon of the home world, and the latter, in turn, within
the total horizon of "the" world.
As has already been said, it is characteristic of this horizonal
structure of the world that, as such, it is usually not thematic. To
live in the world is to live within its present horizons, to orientate
oneself and have one's experienceswithin them. Our thematic object,
the object of our perceiving, the goal of our willing, whatever we are
directed towards at the time, is usually some particular object within
the horizon. The horizon itself becomes thematic only where the
referencescomposing it are disturbed-only where we encounter some
limit to our understandingof things, e. g., an "alien world" that pro-
jects into ours. Only in such cases will "our world" itself become
thematic, as the horizon that delimits and includes all that we can
understand. Accordingly, that awarenessof a world which we have
even before any properly philosophical deliberation, is different in
kind from the awarenessof particular "worldly" existents. A world
is lot one object among others;rather it is that which embraces all
possibleobjects of our experience, and functions as the basisfor every
particular experience. For this reason it does not attain original
givenness in the manner characteristicof particular objects. But we
do indeed understand and use this expression "world" and therefore
there must also be a manner in which the world too is given, a con-
sciousnessof a world that bestows sense on such language. That is to
say, even before any philosophicaldeliberationor thematizing of the
world, there must exist an experienceof the world. Now, for our
consciousness,distinguishedas it is by an awarenessof the plurality of
possiblesurrounding worlds and the unity of the universe embracing
them all, this experienceof the world is precisely the above-mentioned
consciousnessof the possible r"and-so-forth"of our experience, our
consciousnessof its possible extension without limit-as an extension
not into the utterly uncertain and indeterminatebut into an infinity
of possibledata pervaded by a most general style of being (and a cor-
relative style of experience) that is essentially necessaryto a world as
such. To form an idea of the world requires,therefore, a "systematic
construction of the infinity of possibleexperiences."8
The "idea"of the world that is to be acquired in this way is, like
all the above-indicated elaborationsof structures belonging to "the"
8. Nachlassmanuskript A VII 1, 14f.

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52 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

world (home-world, alien world, etc.), precisely an explication of


what is tacitly and inexplicitly contained in our pre-philosophical
awarenessof the world. Accordingly, the results of these explications
are, in the first place, useful in making clear what we "really mean"
when we use the term "world" in any given context, whether in every-
day speech or in scientific-but non-philosophical--discourse,when a
"world" is somehow the theme. Let us suppose, e. g., that the his-
torian speaks of the "medieval world." The concept includes the
range of experience commonly enjoyed in the Middle Ages, and the
medieval "world-view," i. e., the set of categories by means of which
the existent was explicated. But it also includes the whole set of cus-
toms and rules of conduct, the standardsof value, in accordancewith
which men acted and passed judgment, as well as the ways in which
they gave the world external form-in short, everything that, as part
of his life-horizon, was familiar and matter-of-course to anyone living
in that era. The sense is quite the same as when, in ordinary conver-
sation, we speak of the "world" in which a certain person lives, e. g.,
his "narrow world" with the prejudices peculiar to his station, etc.,
or the "broadhorizon" that he possesses.
Let us remember, however, that since these clarifications of our
pre-philosophicalunderstandingof the world are attained in connec-
tion with the mundane-phenomenological explication undertaken
prior to the reduction, they are, for Husserl, rather incidental. The
chief purpose of that explication is, after all, to gain clues to follow
in the transcendental-phenomenological,constitutional clarification of
the world. Only in the course of the latter clarificationcan the strict-
ly phenomenologicalconcept of the world be acquired.
What can the analysesalready made contribute to the initiation
of this problem of clarification? To what extent may they become
clues for constitutional investigations?
These mundane-phenomenologicalobservations are limited by
only being able to ascertain that, wherever men are found living to-
gether in a community, their life is already a life in a surrounding
world of a certain, more or less limited, type. This world is always
there already for the individual who reflects. He was born into it;
then he grew up in it-was educated in its traditions and conceptions;
and thus he has acquired his world-picture. By absorbing the exper-
iences of earlier generations, elaborating them, having new experien-
ces on their basis in community with his contemporaries,he contrib-
utes to the continuation and development of this world-picture, either
to its conservation within traditional limits or to a revolutionary dis-
ruption of the tradition, a disruption by which new tables of values

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 53

are set up, new insights won, new standardsof action established. But
no matter how far we go-not only back into actual history and pre-
history but also in that free varying of the conditions of human ex-
istence which affords us a survey of the possibleforms of living with
one another in a world-we still find communities living in a world.
It is essentially impossible to find men in any "pre-worldly" state,
becauseto be human, to be aware of oneself as a man and to exist as
a human self, is preciselyto live on the basisof a world-at first quite
as a matter of course and without any cognizance of the fact; then,
perhaps, reflectively, with an awarenessof the limits of that world,
an awarenessof its horizontal character. The world has always been
there already, as a presupposition for the possibility of particular
experiencesin it, a presuppositionfor anyone anywhere finding him-
self as a human being. And this having-already-been-theremeans, on
the other hand, that men have already been at work fashioning such
a world-horizon and have transmitted their awarenessto those who
followed after. Accordingly, this possession of a world points to
previous subjective accomplishments. It does not mean simply that
something ready-given was there; rather, what is alreadythere is there
precisely as what one has learned from others to apprehend. And
this continues to be the case, no matter how far back we inquire. Such
analysesare significant because they show, on the one hand, that any
surroundingworld, with its form at any particular time, is functimn-
ally dependent on, and inseparablefrom, the community of men who
shape it, and, on the other hand, that intentional analysis is also a
method by which the historical development of surrounding worlds,
and of the communities of men living in them, can be understood
from the inside, as a subjectivelyproduced result. Analysis of this sort
is what Dilthey envisagedwhen he required that the human-historical
world be comprehendedas a tissue of effects (Wirkungszusammen-
hang); it is what he himself initiated at several points. Its goal is to
comprehendhistorical processesas completely human, and that means
comprehendingthem as processesthat can, as it were, be relived from
the inside in other words, the goal is to acquire deeper knowledge
of the kind striven for in any cultural science, by an intentional
analysis of the essential structures of human world-shaping co6per-
ation.
But this way of considering things-i. e., the "mundane" way,
which, when carried over into the empirical sphere, is also the way
characteristicof the cultural sciences-is limited in that it can bring
to light only this correlation between a particular form of world and
a particular community of men. In so doing, we always presuppose

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54 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

the world. And this means,ultimately, that we presupposethat some-


thing is always there already, out of which men can fashion their sur-
rounding world. Men live in their geographicalenvironment and are
dependent on the formation given it by Nature; ultimately, as the
whole human race, they depend on the earth with what it provides
by way of plants and animals, by way of "material" for them to
fashion. We find these things, not as human creations but as pre-
given "Nature," the lowest stratum underlying every human fashion-
ing of the world; the Nature "in" which we have our place and which
is effective in us as psychophysical beings with "nature-given" apti-
tudes and inclinations; the Nature that not only surrounds us but
also governs within us. In all human surrounding worlds, no matter
how diversely fashioned, Nature, as the simple pre-given "material"
for any historically formative living, has the same general traits. This
fundamental "material" of every historical process interests the cul-
tural sciences only so far as it is worked and fashionedby men, or has
an influence on their way of living; thus, e. g., the geographicalen-
vironment is of interest so far as it helps determine the development
of a particular kind of social life, culture, etc. But the cultural
sciences do not investigate the further significance of man's depend-
ency on the Nature that is alreadythere, this "minimum" world which
is always presupposed wherever human life, as historical life, can
begin. That means, however, that the world as a whole is always
presupposed wherever human life is conceived as beginning, no
matter how primitively.
On the other hand, if the world as a whole is "bracketed"by
means of the phenomenologicalreduction, the first task is to under-
stand precisely those subjective accomplishments by which this al-
ways-ready-given fact of the world as Nature, as the purely sensu-
ously pre-given substrate for any human efficacy, is built up for us.
And the result of the above-stated explication of immediate world-
experience, and of the natural world-concept, is the insight that the
proper clue to these subjective accomplishments is this pre-given
world, not as it has been determined by natural science but as the
world of immediate sensuous experience, with all the structures in-
dicated above, i. e., the natural structures belonging to the world as
a life-world.
However, if we examine the way in which Husserl actually per-
formed this task of bringing to light, by constitutional analysis, the
very origin of the world (not merely its further development on an
already given basis), we encounter difficulties owing to the fact that
he had already completed most of these constitutive analyses during

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THE WORLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 55

a period when he did not yet possess the clues eventually unravelled
by his mundane-phenomenologicalanalysis of the world. Thus his
initial constitutional analyses were guided by an as yet unclarified
awarenessof world-structures, and this circumstance imposed limi-
tations that were only gradually, and perhapsnever completely, over-
come. This meant that Husserl's early analyses were guided not by
such elaborated clues but by what is most immediately given in ex-
perience. And a world as a whole, as the horizon of every possible
particularexperience-even though it be conceived as the above-men-
tioned "minimum" world of Nature, still in no way formed by men
but ready-given as a basis for all their deeds-is precisely not the
pre-given existent that lies most immediately at hand in experience.
As has been shown, no "world" is an immediate object of experience;
the eventual experiencing of a world is mediated and complicated in
many different ways. In our experiencing we are directed first of all
towards the particularexistent,as given in perception. (As already
said, all other attitudes or acts are built on "perception," in the sense
of aisthesis.) Therefore, the particular object of perception and the
togetherness of perceivable things became the immediately available
clues for Husserl'sconstitutional analysis. They determined the path
that he followed beyond what is at first given immediately in natural
experience, as his inquiry penetrated gradually into the deeper layers
of constitutive accomplishment. For this very reason, the question
of the world in its above-formulated sense, as the total horizon of
experience and as something of which the community is conscious-
something that is pre-given as the basis for every communal accom-
plishment and yet is itself formed through communal accomplish-
ments-this question could not arise at the outset. In the constitu-
tional analysesthat lie closest at hand, the world is encountered chiefly
in the guise of the immediate horizon of perception, the perceptual
situation, and Husserl did not go on immediately to raise the problem
of the world as a whole. Therefore the question of this horizon as
always already there, and the fact that these predelineationsalso are
products of subjective accomplishments, could not enter his field of
vision at the outset; subjectivity, as producing this horizon, could be
in no way comprehendedforthwith.
To understand this, let us consider how Husserl's reflective in-
quiry proceeded,starting with the thing given in perception, the per-
ceptually Meant as such.
After analyzing all the intentional accomplishmentsthat provide
an initial understanding of the character of a perceived thing as
standing before us-its givenness in adumbrations (Abschattungen),

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56 AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL
PHILOSOPHY RESEARCH

the cooperation of kinaesthesisand data belonging to the different


sensuous fields, and the apprehendings built on what is sensuously
given-all conceived as in the "primordialsphere,"i. e., without tak-
ing into account the fact that the thing, as objective, as veritably
existent, is always, according to its own sense, intersubjectively con-
stituted-we reach the insight that these accomplishments,taken all
together, involve a first level of activity on the part of the ego, an
active receiving of what is passively pre-given. First of all, this
activity is adversionto something in the sensuous fields that "affects"
the ego, and, when the result is apprehensionof a concrete material
thing with all its sensiblequalities-not merely its optical but also its
tactile and, perhaps, its acoustic qualities-the ego-activity is an
adverting to what is passivelypre-given in the cooperationof a plural-
ity of sensuous fields. Any active grasping presupposesthis passive
pre-givenness,presupposesthat something is already given there in the
sensuousfields and stands out in them. To stand out is to stand out
from a backgroundof what does not stand out, does not stimulate to
adversion and is not grasped,but neverthelessis also there, as a back-
ground. But, in addition, this advertent receptive grasping is always
a grasping within a horizon of an acquainted type. Even the newly
grasped is always something already in some way familiar; it can be
grasped only if this horizon is there in advance, to indicate the direc-
tion that further experience will take.9 The constitutional investi-
gations that Husserl carriedout along this line were, in the first place,
investigations relating to the constitution of what exists within this
horizon, to make the given existent understandablein its being-for-
us as a result of constitutive accomplishments, in the way it is built
up as a product of the latter. Thus, if we use the term "world" to
indicate the whole set of horizons in which experience of what exists
takes place, and within which alone such experience is possible, we
must say that Husserl was tracing the constitutive origin of the
"worldly," i. e., of what exists "in" the world, rather than the origin
of the world itself. To be sure, Husserl did not stop with the fact
that what exists stands out, in its sensuous qualities, from a sensuous
field and affects the ego. He also investigated the associative and
affective structure of such a sensuous field itself-but precisely the
structure within the field, the principles governing the outstanding-
ness of single '"data"within it. He did not undertake the previous
search for the constitutive accomplishments, thanks to which a sen-
suous field is already given in advance, whenever one grasps a par-
ticular datum.
9. On this whole analysis, see Erfahrung und Urteil. 1l 16, 17, 25, and 26.

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THE WoRiLD AS A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROBLEM 57

Only in one direction did Husseri overstep this limit and inves-
tigate what subjectivity accomplishesnot only by way of constitution
inside the predelineatedhorizon but also by way of constitutively
forming the horizon itself. In this one direction, however, he did so
very early, namely in his analysesof the consciousnessof time. These
went back to his establishmentof the fact that even the simplest
sensuous "data" are not mere data but always unities of duration
which must first be constituted as unities in the temporal flow of con-
sciousness. According to the clear wording of these investigations,
the consciousnessof time accomplishes not only the production of
immanent unities of duration in inner time but also-in the structures
of primitive impression, retention, and protention-the constitutive
production of the possibilityof enduring and passing away in general,
the possibility of apprehendingsomething as enduring, becoming, or
remaining. The producing of the temporal horizon itself becomes
the theme when these structures are considered; they involve more
than the apprehendingof a temporal content and temporal relation-
ships. But the consciousnessof time is precisely an accomplishment
that produces a universalform; and this form is nothing, unless it has
a content. In the beginning, and for a long time after, "content"
meant for Husserl that which is passively pre-given-the sensuously
given and its arrangement in a field-which then becomes the basis
for every constitutive grasping of an object. If the world, in its
entire horizonal structure-which, after all, is not only temporal-
is to be understood as a constituted product of transcendental sub-
jectivity, then this ultimate pre-givennesscannot be allowed to stand
simply as such. Rather one must show how the distinction between
activity and passivepre-givennessis only provisional,how that which
at first we find as passivity has its constitutive origin in subjective
accomplishments,a task which Husserl seems to have attacked many
times during his last years.
On the other hand, the horizonal structure of the world implies
that everything apprehendedon the basis of something pre-given, no
matter how the latter has come about, is itself pre-given in a certain
manner as an acquainted object of some type or other, and that the
apprehending of it can be orientated and deepened only according
to the pre-given horizon. No matter how far back we go in tracing
the genesis of the world, no matter how greatly we impoverish the
predelineationof already acquainted types of existents, a ready-made
horizon always remains,if anything at all can still be grasped. There
must always be the horizonal anticipation that the object will be an
existent of some kind, "something or other" of the type "object- in-

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58 PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH

general," assuming that the latter should still be called a type rather
than an a priori condition for the forming of any type. It is always
presupposedthat, as a matter of fact, the passively pre-given "data"
are somehow united synthetically in a pole (which we subsequently
call an object) and, accordingly, that for every apprehending even
the first apprehending,guided by the poorest horizons-this at least
is pre-delineatedas a horizon: intentional pole, "unity of a manifold."
This cannot itself be an acquired type; it is a necessarypresupposition
for every intentional acquisition. Only when this predelineation is
also exhibited in its origin, as deriving from accomplishmentson the
part of the transcendentalego-only then has the task been completed.
Only then can we say that the origin of the world as horizon has been
clarified, and that our transcendentalconstitutional analysishas fully
displayed the sense of the world as something fashioned in transcend-
ental subjectivity.
The thoughts developed by Husserl in his last years must be
surveyed before we can see how far he progressed with this task;
until late in life he remained unaware of the problem. Only then
shall we be able to judge how far his concept of the world, as an in-
clusive a priori originating from subjectivity itself, is superior to tra-
ditional philosophical concepts, and whether the tradition, with its
conception of the a priori, involves something to which Husserl, fol-
lowing his own course, could not do justice.'0

LUDWIG LANDGREBE.
INSTITUT SUPERIEUR DE PHILOSOPHIE
LOUVAIN, BELGIUM.

10. A second article will follow.

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