Husserl on the Task of Science, In and Of the Lifeworld

German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) speaks here of the work of science an philosophy in rising above the lifeworld in order to be able to see it better and to become freer to do more in it.

Husserl contrasts the work of science with the more casual and incidental knowledge of the lifeworld:

[I]n my naive self-consciousness as a human being knowing himself to be living in the world, for whom the world is the totality of what for him is valid and existing, I am blind to the immense transcendental dimension of problems … I am completely … bound by interests and tasks … [and] a certain habitual one-sidedness of self interest … I can, however, carry out the transcendental re-orientation in which … I now have, as a new horizon of interest … a new, infinite scientific realm—if I engage in the appropriate systematic work …

[One] kind of thinking … tries to bring ‘original intuition’ to the fore—that is, the pre- and extrascientific lifeworld … The proper return to the naïveté of life—but in a reflection that rises above this naiveté—is the only way to overcome [this] … naiveté …

[In science] we measure the lifeworld … for a well-fitting garb of ideas … It is … a method which is designed for progressively improving … through ‘scientific’ predictions, those rough predictions which are the only ones that are possible within the sphere of what is actually experienced and experienceable in the lifeworld …

Considering ourselves … as scientists … the manner of scientific thinking put[s] questions and answers them theoretically in relation to the world … Cofunctioning here are the other scientists who, united with us in a community of theory, acquire and have the same truths or … are united with us in a critical transaction aimed at critical agreement …

For the human being in his surrounding world there are many types of praxis, and among them is this peculiar … one, theoretical praxis. It has its own professional methods; it is the art of … discovering and securing truths with a certain new ideal sense which is foreign to [extra]scientific life, the sense of a certain ‘final validity’ …

[Thus,] a new way of experiencing, of thinking, of theorizing, is opened … here, situated above his own natural being and above the natural world, [the scientist or philosopher] loses nothing of their being and objective truths and likewise nothing at all of the spiritual acquisitions of his world-life or those of … historical communal life … [Yet, as a scientist or philosopher], I stand above the world, which has now become for me, in a quite peculiar sense, a phenomenon’ …

We find ourselves with the self-evident capacity to reflect—to turn to the horizon and to penetrate it in an expository way. But we also have, and know that we have, the capacity of complete freedom to transform, in thought [at least], our human historical experience and what is there exposed as its lifeworld.


Husserl, Edmund. 1954 (1970). The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. pp. 205, 59, 51–52, 110, 152, 375–375. || Amazon || WorldCat


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