The Adventure of Being a Person

  • James G. Hart
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 126)


The words Erfahrung, Erleben, “experience,” and “awareness” have suggestive etymologies. With a slight encouragement one might entertain Erfahrung and Erleben as journeys suggesting a weariness and an experience of peril. For transcendental phenomenology, the human being’s pursuit of authentic personal life is a medium for the adventure which is the self-realization of “the absolute” or all of monads. This adventure, which transpires through the experience and achievements of monads, has moments of activity and passivity, satisfaction and dissatisfaction, decline and improvement, success and failure. The focus of this chapter is on the elements of personhood. This occasions an abstraction from the social matrix in which persons come to be and in which personal being is cultivated. In the subsequent chapters these abstract considerations will be inserted in the more concrete whole of intersubjectivity.


Primal Presencing Motivational Context Passive Synthesis Ethical Reduction Total Intention 
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    See the rich discussion of R. Lauth in Die Konstitution der Zeit im Bewusstsein (Hamburg: Meiner, 1981), p. 49, but see also pp. 38 ff. et passim. Lauth brings together the themes of our present topic with the thesis: “The I makes itself a principle in such a manner that it is a renewed principle-making principle” (49).Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,412 ff. As is well known Gandhi’s social-political ethics made this coincidence of means and ends a central theme in regard to non-violence and respect for the opponent.Google Scholar
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    For Husserl, all theories of schemata of relevance and subliminal perception would therefore find their base in the general and specific senses of will. For a discussion of how what affects us or “makes a dent” must correlate with interest fields already constituted at the level of passive syntheses, see C 10, 8 and 12 ff. and C 3 V, 8 ff.Google Scholar
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    Of the numerous Husserl texts that support these formulations we mention here only Hua XIV,17 ff., 195–196, 201— 202, 210–211, 359.Google Scholar
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    I can be a person not only if I have abiding apperceptions and through them a non-egological world over against me which holds firm; but, further, I can only be a person insofar as I have abiding `convictions,’ self-acquired, self-initiated and achieved convictions through positions actively taken by the I, abiding appreciations, an abiding will, abiding in the sense that there is an identity constituted for me myself. For example this conviction that the Idea of the German enjoins an obligation on me, that I have to satisfy it, that I have to satisfy this direction of will. Yes, this abiding will directs us in each personal and in each ever so insignificant sphere wherever we are personally active. But it is not from without but from within and from the I that `the’ conviction, the `will’ is a unity, a given and directing unity and only through their mediation (i.e., of the will and conviction stemming from the I) that personal achievements, actions and works can come to be“ (Hua XIV,196).Google Scholar
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    Cf. Hua IV, 280. An instructive parallel discussion is to be found in T.H. Green’s theory that the identifying ego must be outside the flux of events and therefore eternal as the necessary condition for these self-relating, self-identifying and self-gathering acts. On another occasion we shall discuss the problem of the a-temporality of the I-source. For relevant discussions in Green on the character as constituted by acts by which the ego as a whole identifies with phases of the stream, see his Prolegomena to Ethics, 116–129; 143–144, 157, 163–166.Google Scholar
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    A V 34, 2a ff. Cf. Sören Kierkegaard’s discussion of how repentance and remorse belong to the atemporal in humans: Purity of Heart (New York: Harper, 1956), 39 ff.Google Scholar
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    Eugene Gendlin, “A Theory of Personality Change,” in Personality Change,P. Worchel and D. Byrne, editors, (New York: Wiley, 1964), especially 137–143; and Focusing (New York: Bantam, 1988), 75ff., especially 77.Google Scholar
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    See e.g., E III 9,1–7 (transcription). For the theory of the “wanton,” a concept devised by Harry Frankfurt, see above, §4. For a representative view of the self as a multiplicity of systems, see A. Rorty, “Belief and Self-Deception,” Inquiry, 15 (1972) 387–410 and her impressive Mind in Action (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988 ). The view of the self presented in Rorty’s book, which I came across after the writing of this chapter, is, in certain respects, an imposing foil to that found in this chapter. Yet the theory of virtue and community she presents offer many points of unity. A basic issue would seem to be whether the passive-synthetic general will can do justice both to the disarray/disunity as well as the ideal of unity.Google Scholar
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    E III 5, 1 ff.; quoted in Diemer, 101 ff. The text goes on to note the inner-subjective character of this drive: It always reaches out to the Other and in a filled empathic intentionality attains its own instinctual intentionality through that which is correlative in the Other. Cf. our discussions of the original intersubjectivity, Chapter III, §7. In general the text is dealing with this original intersubjectivity and Husserl’s theory of a primal sex drive. But we take the reference to Urmodus to apply to the “transcendental instinct” of primal presencing in all of its complexity.Google Scholar
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    Even refraining oneself or the active laming of will, the despair of willing, are modes of will. Such is a modalization of the will and of active doing. It is a kind of hindrance of the will which is still a mode of will. Just as despair of judgement is, so to speak, a hindrance to certainty, and thereby is a mode of judgement. But here we must note that judging is a mode of `willing’ in the widest sense.“ A V 22, 5.Google Scholar
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    See A V 22, 60; also Hua XXVII,34–37.Google Scholar
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    where Husserl paraphrases F. Jödl’s summary of this aspect of Fichte’s thought; see also Jödl, Geschichte der Ethik, vol. II, 83.Google Scholar
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    See F I 28, 204a; Husserl here speaks of a split between I’s! Cf. also Hua XXVII,35. We may here note that in some passages, e.g., E III 1, 4 ff. Husserl brings together with the theme of the constitution of authentic personhood the issues of sin, grace, and the effectiveness of the lure of the infinite ideal.Google Scholar
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    Plato, Republic, 689a; cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1122b, 5–7.Google Scholar
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    Summa Theologiae,II-II, Quaestio XXXV, Art. 1–4.Google Scholar
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    Quod pertinet ad rationem acediae, quae intantum convertit ad quietem indebitam inquantum aspernatur bonum divinum.“ S.T., II-II, quest. XXXV, Art. 4, ad 3.Google Scholar
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    See S. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and Sickness unto Death ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971 ) 189–193.Google Scholar
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    S. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Vol. II (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974 ), 193.Google Scholar
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    Either/Or,II, 254–255.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Fichte: “Thus they who had hitherto held themselves to be men of distinguishing preeminence would be found to belong to a lower race and instead of as before esteeming themselves higher than all others, they would be compelled thence-forward to despise and reject themselves. They cannot do otherwise than angrily oppose this conviction of a higher nature in man which brings only disgrace to them, and all phenomena which confirm this conviction; they must necessarily do everything in their power to keep such phenomena at a distance from themselves and even to suppress them altogether.” SW, V, 426; trans., 323–324.Google Scholar
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    Either/Or,II, 193.Google Scholar
  104. 104.
    Husserl mentions this frequently, see e.g., E III, 1, 5. Also in “PersönlicheAufzeichnungen,” op. cit.,300, we find: “Before everything else I need heavenly assistance: the good preconditions of work and inner concentration… how weak I am. I need the help of great souls. Out of the abundance of their power and pure will they must strengthen me. I am nursed on them completely and learn to turn my gaze away from the depressing business of the everyday.” In Hua XXVII,103 Husserl also finds occasion to claim that personal transformation is mediated by the perception of beauty in Others exemplifying the Good.Google Scholar
  105. 105.
    The theme of transcendental trust first caught my attention in W. Cramer, Die Monade, 89–90. Heidegger, in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983 ), §19 also makes it a theme. In Husserl it is scattered and throughout this work and the others mentioned in the text I call attention to where it is more or less explicit. For example, for transcendental trust in oneself, see F 124, 153.Google Scholar
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    Hermann Cohen, Der Begriff der Religion im System der Philosophie (Giessen: A. Topelmann, 1915), 59. In our day we may be grateful to the numerous writings of Ashley Montagu which challenge “the new litany of original sin” and innate depravity.Google Scholar
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    W. Cramer, Grundlegung einer Theorie des Geistes (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1975), 90. See Husserl’s conclusion to the Vienna Lecture: “Europe’s greatest danger is weariness.” See Hua VI,346 (Crisis,299).Google Scholar
  108. 108.
    E III 4, 23ab, p. 31 of transcription. “Installed with an eye” is a clear echo of Fichte, see SW, XI, 18; SW,II, 19 and 37. E III 1, 4–11 is another sketch dealing with the same themes.Google Scholar
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    Sr. Adelgundis, “Gespräche mit Edmund Husserl, 1931— 1936/1936–1938,” in Stimmen 199 (1981), 48ff.Google Scholar
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    See Theodor Lipps, Die ethischen Grundfragen,sixth lecture; Nicolai Hartmann, Ethik (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1926/1962), Ch. LI, 467; trans., 289 of vol. II.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Hua IV,194; Hua XIV seems to be the richest source for the theory of social acts. See Chapter III below.Google Scholar
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    See also the A V 21 texts cited in E. Marbach, Das Problem des Ich in der Phänomenologie Husserls (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1974), 327–329. The divine ideal merits the predicates of “providence” and “almightiness” in that this self-preservation requires an anticipation of a horizon of ideal agency. But it also points as well to the power to achieve, step by step, the endless approximation of this ideal agency. Although this power merits the ascription of “divine” it is clearly not divine for classical theology. Surely allegiance to the ideal need not require an absurd belief in individual human omnipotence. Nor need it posit omniscience in the classical sense as a human ideal. This regulative ideal is compatible with the darkness of finite knowledge and the obscurity of trust in the ideal; it is also compatible with setbacks and even a recalcitrancy in the material of agency. I hope on another occasion to do justice to the topic of the attributes of “the divine entelechy” in Husserl’s thought.Google Scholar
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    See Nicolai Hartmann, e.g., Das Problem des geistigen Seins (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1933/1962), 159–174.Google Scholar
  114. 114.
    What is at issue here ultimately for Husserl is the relationship between the divine entelechy and the hyletic facticity, or the relationship between Ideals and Stoff. Providence is a doctrine of a personalist theology; although the “ideal pole-idea,” i.e., the telos of the monadic universe, is a person of a higher order, to what extent and how the divine entelechy as formal cause of this universe is an analogous person is an obscure issue.Google Scholar
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    A VI 30, 38b; cited in Iso Kern, Husserl and Kant,294. From these kinds of discussions we see the legitimacy of Kern raising the question of the ground of the teleology and rationality of facticity within the “existential” context. In our “A Précis…” we have chosen to raise the theological principle in relation to the general issue of the rationality of the facticity. This move in part is encouraged by Kern’s own discussions in his excellent Idee and Methode der Philosophie,333 ff. For Husserl, it is clear that both the existential as well as the more ontological contexts, i.e., both the personal wrestle with destiny, fate and identity, as well as the more general (i.e., the metaphysical within the transcendental-phenomenological) contexts, occasion the consideration of the divine principle. Both are metaphysical in the sense of asking about the conditions of rationality. Nevertheless the reader may be advised of the inseparability of the theological issue and principle from the task of personal constitution. As with Kant, Fichte and many Neo-Kantians there is a coincidence of themes.Google Scholar
  116. 116.
    Husserl’s thought once took the following direction: If I am to live consistently there must be a nature, a world with consistent style. Yet the human community cannot establish nature or be held absolutely accountable for this. To live satisfactorily the human must not only be able to count on a nature, but also to affirm a life of infinite striving in the face of the ideal of infinite perfection. The human must thus affirm that which makes this affirmation possible. The human must bear a God within him/herself. See A V 21, 106a. In “A Précis…” and elsewhere we have indicated that the transcendental “self-trust” is a way of understanding how the human might be said to bear the divine within him-herself. As to the issue of the will to believe and “eutopian poetics” I here merely note that I prefer to interpret Husserl to mean that the use of postulation to justify ultimately action and research has validity within the parameters of the ethical reduction; the sense of postulation, the will to believe, etc., from the transcendental standpoint is so radically transformed that it is better to confine the Kantian sense to the ethical reduction and the natural attitude. The “trust” of transcendental “self-trust” approaches the equivocal pole of an analogy rather than the univocal pole. We postpone in this work a discussion of the sense of a phenomenological theology.Google Scholar
  117. 117.
    A V 22, 5, 9, 59 and Hua XV,211–214. In all likelihood Husserl was aware that traditionally these possibilities have been discussed as examples of idolatry and there is a sense in which he acknowledges the legitimacy of this interpretation. See the discussions in Hua XXVII,59 ff. of how Western religion develops to include not only transcendent beings but how this is inseparable from absolute norms. Yet it is not clear that this traditional formulation and ready-made solution have always contributed to genuine person-constitution or been without their own forms of idolatry.Google Scholar
  118. 118.
    A V 22, 61. This resonates with views of Fichte as we shall see in Chapter IV. Theodor Lipps’ Die ethischen Grundfragen, 169–177, also might well have influenced Husserl’s meditations here. For Lipps remaining true to oneself is the fundamental sense of moral action and personhood. For Lipps this means, first of all, to act in accord with one’s self-imposed requirements (what we are calling position-takings). Secondly, this means being wakeful to all relevant facts of the world-life so that one’s position-takings are such that one can always will the same with an inner necessity. This is at the same time an intersubjective requirement. I act always in such a way that the basis of my position-takings are, in important senses to be worked out in Chapters III—V, the same for everyone. For Husserl it is clearly necessary to act consistently and to take positions to which one can be faithful and thereby always be able to will the same fundamental contours of the world-life. But what is acutely problematic is how this is possible in the light of our presumptive knowledge of the world-life and in the light of the surds which afflict us. Lipps touches on this at the conclusion of his book, p. 327.Google Scholar
  119. 119.
    Gaston Bachelard, La dialectique de la durée (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963). Husserl’s historical relationship to Bergson has probably been settled by the observations of Roman Ingarden who reports that after reading to Husserl (in 1916 or 1917) the first chapter of his thesis on Bergson, Husserl exclaimed: “It is almost as if I were Bergson!” But Ingarden goes on to state that in all likelihood neither Husserl nor Bergson seriously studied one another’s works. See for this whole matter Peter Gorsen, Die Phänomenologie des Bewusstseinsstroms: Bergson, Dilthey, Husserl, Simmel and die lebensphilosophischen Antinomien (Bonn: Bouvier, 1966) especially, 197–199. Gorsen’s work is a rich discussion of the problem of “Lebensphilosophie” with questions of the Frankfurter School in mind, i.e., ideology, social justice, social change and the material conditions of human life. His massive verdict is that the phenomenology of the stream of consciousness involves a fated resignation through a flight from the world’s transcendences. This is rooted in phenomenology’s self-confident discovery of the founding stream of experience. As a result we have a subjectless philosophy of being which is rooted in a mythical transcendental non-subjective time in which humans can be content to abide because it is essentially more fundamental than and comprehensive of the transcendent world. (See the preface to Gorsen’s book.) Our work takes such a criticism seriously; see also §10 of “A Précis…” as well as the sketch of a Husserlian political philosophy in Chapter V. As to the “egolessness” we may note that at various stages we have made and shall make (albeit cursory) references to the egological intellectual principle as a correlate of the principle of the hyletic streaming. Some of the issues extensively raised by Gorsen are found in a clear, compressed form in Bachelard’s critique of Bergson. In this respect this section of our book is a response to Gorsen’s critique of Husserl. Yet Bachelard’s position is by no means the same as that of Gorsen. The fusion of dialectic, moral reproach, and occasional phenomenological detail makes Gorsen’s work, like that of his mentor Adorno, noteworthy, even if difficult to engage because of the sparsity of argument, evidence, and phenomenological detail. Most likely Gorsen’s own position would be directly addressed in a clarification of Husserl’s rationalism and his scientific perspectivalism. See my “Constitution and Reference in Husserl’s Phenomenology of Phenomenology”; also “From Mythos to Logos…” Google Scholar
  120. 120.
    See especially Hua XI,§§34–37. Bachelard himself has excellent discussions on the relation of relevant pasts to present hopes; yet he tries to account for this relevance in the absence of the passive synthesis of primal temporality.Google Scholar
  121. 121.
    La dialectique de la durée,127. How this is possible in the face of brutalizing or demeaning social structures which dictate disunities is not a theme in this work of Bachelard.Google Scholar
  122. 122.
    Ibid., 32. The text is not clear enough to determine whether Bachelard admits that there is fleeting blurred intuition.Google Scholar
  123. 123.
    Ibid., 8, 24. See Iso Kern’s Die Idee der Philosophie, especially §35. For another rich voice in this discussion with Bachelard, see Bernard Dauenhauer’s lovely study, Silence (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), which shows how predicative expressive acts build on the silent pre-predicative foundation and how post-predicative theoretical intuitions are the most meaningful silence. Finally, recently Raymond Duval in a half dozen or so articles has introduced a new level of depth and complexity into the problem of continuity in Husserl’s analyses of time-consciousness. Doing justice here to Duval’s work is out of the question. I merely note that Duval sees at the heart of Husserl’s theory of continuity of the primal passive syntheses a necessary discontinuity, i.e., absence, forgetfulness, etc., which, when given attention, poses great difficulties for Husserl’s theory. Thus we find here an echo of Bachelard’s critique of Bergson. And, furthermore, similarly for Duval continuity seems to require a kind of activity, namely vigilance with respect to what is absent and what we must forget if we are to experience continuities. See, e.g., among his articles: “La durée et l’absence,” Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 65 (1981), 521–572; “Analyse spectrale de la notion de temps: la non-univocité du temps,” Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 68 (1984), 513–548; “Traverse et traversées du temps: de la conscience à la vigilance,” Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 69 (1985), 169226; “L’avenir, le sens modal de l’être et la représentation du temps. Approches phénoménologiques et logiques,” Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 72 (1988), 31–76.Google Scholar
  124. 124.
    Hua III, 300; Gibson translation modified, 315–316.Google Scholar
  125. 125.
    Hua I, §38., trans. 79. For the essential inadequacy of personal knowledge, see Ideen II, 104–113.Google Scholar
  126. 126.
    Nagel, 74. The discussion in this paragraph of the body of the text is occasioned by a reference to Bernard Williams’ critique of John Rawls in Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character (South Bend: Notre Dame, 1981), 232, n. 14. Hauerwas believes that Williams’ critique instructs Rawls on the point that “autonomy” depends on accepting responsibility for what “I have not, strictly speaking, `done.”’ It will become evident in later chapters that personal agency and responsibility must take account of luck and the Others and in this sense a doctrine of autonomy implies a theory of solidarity and collective responsibility. But I do not think that Williams’ position on this point is the best guide to this fuller sense of autonomy. See Chapter III ff.Google Scholar
  127. 127.
    See Charles Taylor, “Responsibility for Self,” in A. O. Rorty, ed., The Identities of Persons ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976 ), 293.Google Scholar
  128. 128.
    Taylor, 296.Google Scholar
  129. 129.
    See Nagel, 22–23 and Taylor, 298.Google Scholar
  130. 130.
    J.N. Mohanty, “Consciousness and Existence: Remarks on the Relation between Husserl and Heidegger,” Man and World, 11 (1978).Google Scholar
  131. 131.
    Cf. Georg Lichtheim, The Concept of Ideology, 43–46; also in History and Theory, I V (1965).Google Scholar
  132. 132.
    Manfred Sommer, Identität im Übergang: Kant ( Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1988 ), 14–15.Google Scholar
  133. 133.
    Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982 ), 59.Google Scholar
  134. 134.
    Ibid.,139–140.Google Scholar
  135. 135.
    Helmuth Plessner, Die Grenzen der Gemeinschaft: Eine Kritik des sozialen Radikalismus (1924); now republished in Plessner’s Gesammelte Schriften V ( Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1981 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • James G. Hart
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Religious StudiesIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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