The mythical and the meaningless
Husserl and the two faces of nature
In the course of his attempt to determine the idea of nature in Ideas II, Husserl encounters an apparent "vicious circle."1 The initial approach to nature "as the object of the natural sciences" shows itself to be "in need of supplementation" (IV: 172/180) to account for a certain "surplus" (IV: 140/147) that exceeds the naturalistic consideration of the lived body. But then this supplement—the whole domain of "spirit" and the personalistic attitude—swallows up the naturalistic starting point, as nature and the lived body become "something constituted" (IV: 210/220). Are persons "component parts of nature," then, "subordinated" to it, or does the very constitution of nature presuppose the non-natural realm of spirit? The whole structure of Husserl's text is oriented toward demonstrating "The Ontological Priority of the Spiritual World Over the Naturalistic," as the final chapter heading reads. But the very moment Husserl prepares to announce that priority, nature emerges once more as the "obscure depths, a root soil" of the spirit, spirit's "lower life of feeling, the instinctual life," its "natural side" (IV: 279/292), the "obscure underlying basis" by which it is "dependent on nature" (IV: 276/289). Here, then, the circle is neither abrogated nor resolved, but internalized: not into an absolute transcendental consciousness, but into a Janus-faced creature, the Body as "the point of conversion" from spirit to nature (IV: 285/299).
Full citation [Harvard style]:
Crowell, S. (1996)., The mythical and the meaningless: Husserl and the two faces of nature, in T. Nenon & L. Embree (eds.), Issues in Husserl's Ideas II, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 81-105.
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