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The Ethical Renewal or Phenomenology as Ethical Life in Husserl’s Phenomenology

Chapter IV: Chapter IV: Phenomenological Quest for the Inter-subjective Dimensions of Transcendental Subjectivity

5.6. The Ethical Renewal or Phenomenology as Ethical Life in Husserl’s Phenomenology


devastating aftermath of the First World War had shaken all aspects of human life, its existence in the world and relations with the others. While on the one way the War influenced Husserl‘s personal life at the same time he also suffered a profound philosophical and professional discouragement and as a result he was unwelcomed in his own land. It was such a situation of crisis where humanity lost its meaning, its belongingness, its interconnectedness or empathy. Husserl therefore, talks about the elevation of humanity, which he wrote in the Japanese journal The Kaizo written between 1922 and 1924 and advocated the ethical renewal of the humanity. So, now, it is necessary to discuss what Husserl meant by this ethical renewal in his phenomenology and how he tried to overcome this crisis situation in his phenomenological study.

5.6. The Ethical Renewal or Phenomenology as Ethical Life in Husserl’s


Husserl talks about the need for a complete renewal or re-birth of the ideal of science and most importantly of philosophy which will recuperate the autonomy, the notion of presuppositionlessness, or the attitude of self-reflection (ibid). According to Husserl, this re- birth or renewal of faith depends upon Philosophy. Thus, Husserl assigned that responsibility to all the human beings as members of humanity in order to form a better human world or human culture. As this is a renewal of the faith in ideals therefore, Husserl here seeks for ethical renewal but not for moral. Thus, by renewal Husserl asks for that scientific ideal which is rigorous in nature, which is unconditional, presuppositionless devoid of any dogmatism. And living without prejudice and presuppositions signifies of living an ethical life which Husserl termed as living in the life-world. By rigorous science Husserl emphasizes that science which includes the human condition or the human spirit in action. And then he gave the responsibility to human being to shape a better humanity. So, it can be stated that,

―Husserl goes on to describe this ought as the responsibility to start searching for the scientific paths that no other science up to now has managed to prepare, beginning with preliminary methodological considerations‖ (ibid, p. 17).

This new science which Husserl is emphasizing also includes a teleological motive within its sphere. This is the ‗telos‘ which keeps scope for an authentic humanity. It is teleological because it needs to search for its own endeavours, its own ideal from within rather than certain presupposed external norms imposed from outside. This is the ‗telos‘

which no other science had prepared before, a science with human spirit. But, at the same time it should also be mentioned here that by talking about human spirit Husserl never tried to restrict it only within the subjective sphere like the Descartean ‗Cogito‘ or Kantian

‗Reason‘. This is the science which is equally scientific rather than subjective; Husserl therefore, talks about phenomenological methods or techniques in order to remove all kinds of prejudices. By doing this he tried to elevate science toward that direction which will also keep room for value aspects. Therefore, he gives the responsibility to human being who according to him, should not be a fixed ‗I‘ like ‗cogito‘ but, always should keep the scope for the phenomena to disclose which always shows new horizons in the subsequent period. For Husserl, this process would definitely merge the gape among Ethics, Aesthetic and Science in near future. Thus, Husserl here talks about an absolute ethical demand in renewing the humanity for future generation. Husserl describes everything regarding this ethical value in his lectures on Ethics and Value Theory. Ethics here is not understood as normative morality


and cannot be reduced or identified with any normative morality because; Husserl does not talk about any ideal or path which is external or presupposed.

To say that the inquiry itself demands justification signifies that every step of the inquiry must be free from presuppositions and, therefore, can only be justified if it is intuitively given and, thus, meaningful according to the fundamental law of evidence. This already intimates a demand for freedom from prejudice, from dogmatism, a demand for meaningfulness that only the principle of intuitive evidence can satisfy (Ibid, p. 3).

In this regard there could be seen an opposition between Husserl and the other philosophers like David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, J. S. Mill, Immanuel Kant etc. According to Humean sentimentalist ethics, judgments are made by expressing sympathy for others which is psychological in nature. Therefore, according to Husserl the sentimentalist ethics unable to uncover the objectivity of moral values (Melle, 2002). Secondly, utilitarian or consequentialist ethics forwarded by Jeremy Bentham and J. S. Mill gives importance to the greatest good and thereby promotes a technique for calculating pleasure and pain. But, for Husserl in doing that or in calculating the amount of pleasure and pain it fails to consider the subjective aspect into its sphere (ibid). Then, more particularly Husserl criticised Kantian ethics which promotes practical reason at its best. As according to Husserl, morality of an action is more than the potential exercise of reason. For him, love or compassion plays a crucial role in the foundation of ethics. In this regard he also admits the role of empathy and calls for a ‗categorical imperative‘ i.e. ―do the better‖, but at a different level by grounding it on the material principle of love (Smith, 2007). ―This principle presupposes the ―constitution‖

of others as other subjects, fellow persons in our intersubjective world. For Husserl, recall, the region of Culture or Geist, the intersubjective or social world, is the domain of community and therewith of morality‖ (ibid, p. 379). It shows one important way of re- storing the human dimension of sciences by re-storing the lost foundation of the life-world which keeps room for intersubjective interaction at pre-logical level. Love for oneself and love for others can play a crucial role in this regard.

According to Husserl, the main reason of the demolition of the European humanity is the inability of sciences to inquire into the origin of their inquiry or for failing to


understand the ethical need of the society. Thus, Husserl with his phenomenology tries to unveil the most primordial or inner dimension of life through which according to him as (Borràs) 2010 writes:

humankind aims to understand the meaning of its own existence requires, above all else, the recovery of the autonomous and philosophical character of the inquiry itself; it requires a new rigorous science without which the spiritual life of subjectivity would never be unveiled. In other words, the uncovering of the spiritual and transcendental life of subjectivity can only be undertaken within a radical and self-reflective epistemological inquiry that is rooted in an ethical demand for self-responsibility and that, therefore, is teleological in nature. Phenomenology is ethical life (p. 18).

Thus, Husserl talks about human person who implies a unity, fullness or concreteness alongwith all the actualities and potentialities. S/he is not different from a mundane person but the same human being viewed from the phenomenological lens of the rigorous scientific ideals (Luft, 2005). Living without prejudices and presuppositions signifies living an ethical life. Husserl termed this living as living in the life-world.

In this regard an important reference could be made here who similarly like Husserl, tried to overcome the traumatic situation of crisis through his practices. Like Husserl Sigmund Freud, who was Husserl‘s contemporary also tried to heal the human fraternity through his psycho-analysis. Husserl while on the one way tried to overcome this crisis situation through epistemological and ethical renewal of humanity, Freud on the other tried to heal the worries of the people through his psycho-analysis. Both Edmund Husserl and Sigmund Freud were contemporaries, born in the same region of Europe, Moravia, which then belonged to Habsurg Empire. Husserl was born in 1859 and died in 1938 while Freud lived between 1856 to 1939. Both were Jew though Husserl was later converted to Protestantism. Freud‘s Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1900 at a time when Husserl published his Logical Investigations. Both Husserl and Freud attended the lectures given by Brentano but neither of them had much to say about one another. Despite having profound disciplinary differences both Husserl and Freud worked for the same cause or for the betterment of the life of human being in this world. Interestingly enough alongwith the


practical aspects they also share certain theoretical similarities among themselves. Thus, to understand their similarities first it is necessary to have an idea about psycho-analysis as advocated by Sigmund Freud.