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The Absolute Ought and The Godly Person of a Higher Order

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

Abstract

We have seen that personal being is an identity affixed to the I as the source-pole of acts, an identity which these acts constitute. The formulation of the task of being a person approaches an analytic proposition: The human is capable of a substantial personal identity across the flux of changing experiences, i.e., is capable of true self-preservation, when he or she is capable of preserving the true self substantially, i.e., through position-takings which are irrevocable and unregrettable. Our discussions of the common life, the original primal encompassing “we,” and the analogy of love have urged that the true self to be preserved is a social self. In this chapter we wish to establish more firmly this claim. We shall see that what Husserl calls “the absolute ought” is, first of all, the general framework within which true self-identity gets sorted out as a matter of prudence, telos,and duty in conjunction with the interpersonal-social sense of the true self. Universal ethical love becomes the name of the intentionality of this overriding “must” (Soll); the divine personality of a higher order is the ultimate name of the true self-preservation which alone can fulfill the immanent ideal of the ethical reduction which gives rise to the inquiry into this overriding ought. We best start by returning to some aspects of the ethical reduction.

Keywords

Categorical Imperative Ethical Reflection Moral Point Impartial Spectator Transcendental Subjectivity 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cf. our discussion below in 14 for parallels with C.I. Lewis’ thought.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F I 24, 86; cited in Diemer; see also Diemer, 215–216.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cf. C.I. Lewis, An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation ( La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1971 ), 506–507.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    F I 24, 152. This raises the issue of social-political types of “world” which are more or less at our disposal to fashion. Social worlds wherein health-care, financial security, personal safety, communal acceptance, leisure time, educational opportunities, etc., are considered as prizes to be won in a battle with one’s neighbors or as fortuitous as natural catastrophes may be contrasted with worlds where other types of principles of organization prevail.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Die Anweisung zum seligen Leben, Werke V (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1971 ), 410–413, 417.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    F I 24, 153–154; see Roth, 162; for “reflective joy,” see F I 24, 152.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See, e.g., E III 2, 62–63; E III 4, 4–6, 27–28; A V 22, 57 ff.; F I 28, 198b ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    A. Mactntyre, After Virtue (South Bend: Notre Dame, 1984), 202–203; see also S. Hauerwas, A Community of Character,especially, ch. iv—vii.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    F I 24, 318; see Roth, 103–104. Roth (90–91) calls attention to Husserl’s view that in the realm of values it is an eidetic feature that values stand in a hierarchical relation when they stand within the same value-category. As being members of the same value-frame they are comparable. In the context of our concern with the absolute ought we can note that Husserl holds that the absence of categorial sameness does not mean that the values therefore are “equal.” Nor does it mean that there are isolated values which escape the encompassing determination of the absolute ought.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    The example Husserl uses for the latter case (of the essential enhancement of humanity) is Christ. For the former case there are likewise serious problems in conceiving it in detail. The best I can do is to imagine the dilemma of either saving my child or saving the scientist who alone could, e.g., through her knowledge of antibiotics, save the human race from a raging pestilence. How I would know these things would require quite a story. Husserl holds the parent can say in such a case: I assume the responsibility for the sacrifice of the child on the altar of a value which is so great that the child’s value vanishes in comparison. I can assume the responsibility for the child because when she would have reached adulthood she could not have forgiven me that I chose to save her instead of sacrificing her. I raise the child in the best possible way when I prepare her to be willing to sacrifice herself for something as elevated as this. See F I 21, 4 ff.; in Roth, 108. The notion that the child could not have forgiven me when she would have reached adulthood recalls Husserl’s theory of immortality as the “self-realization process of divinity.” See my “Phenomenological Time: Its Religious Significance.” I was belatedly able to study AV 21, 80a-82a. Here Husserl argues for pure tragedy, i.e. where the good one sacrifices remains good and is not absorbed in a higher good.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    I am not certain whether Husserl ever satisfactorily developed the relationship of these two strains of his ethics. What follows is an interpretation which subordinates the issue of the categorical imperative to that of the absolute ought; in Hua VIII,296 ff. they are nicely brought together in the direction of our “eutopian” ethics.Google Scholar
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    F I 24, 362; F I 21, 20; cited in Roth, 138.Google Scholar
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    Cf. J. Hart and J. Maraldo, The Piety of Thinking: Essays by Martin Heidegger, ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976 ), 125–126.Google Scholar
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    For the fuller sense of Gemüt,see, e.g., Hua XI and §4 of Chapter IV above; also for psychotherapy and “das Gemüt” see E. Holenstein’s study, Phänomenologie der Assoziation (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1972).Google Scholar
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    Franz Brentano, Foundation and Construction of Ethics,ed. F. Mayer-Hillebrand (New York: Humanities Press, 1973), §42 ff., pp. 130 ff.Google Scholar
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    See Robert Sokolowski, Moral Action, op. cit., ch. iii; also his “Moral Thinking,” in Edmund Husserl and the Phenomenological Tradition,ed. Robert Sokolowski (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1988), 235–248; and also “What is Moral Action?” in The New Scholasticism,LXIII (1989), 18–37.Google Scholar
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    Moral Action, 75–76. See also Sokolowski’s “Displacement and Identity,” Husserl-Ausgabe and Husserl-Forschung, ed. S. IJsseling ( Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990 ), p. 173.Google Scholar
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    Sokolowski, “Moral Thinking,” 244.Google Scholar
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    Sokolowski, “What is Moral Action?”, 30 ff.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Cf. C.I. Lewis, Values and Imperatives,29–36.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    The text continues: “However, if such an evidence ever was alive, in our time at any rate it has become weak, has lost its vitality.” See Hua VI,509–510; Crisis,391. E III I, 4 ff. wrestles with the various and deeper senses of “approximation” of the ideal.Google Scholar
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    See J.N. Findlay, Values and Intentions (New York: Humanities Press, 1968), 20. F I 28, 200a integrates these considerations.Google Scholar
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    Findlay, Values and Intentions,22.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 339; see also 332 ff. and 423–425.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 426.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander ( New York: Image Books, 1968 ), 96.Google Scholar
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    Leibniz, Theodicy, II,§194.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Husserl’s “process theology” is clearly if incompletely hinted at by reason of both the central concept of the divine entelechy as well as specific texts, such as Hua XXVIII,174–184, and especially 225–226. See my “EntelechyChrw(133)” A profound classical response to the project of a phenomenological theology from one of the most adept Husserlians is Robert Sokolowski’s The God of Faith and Reason (South Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 1982). Steve Laycock has attempted a kind of Husserlian rejoinder in his rich introduction to Essays in Phenomenological Theology ed. Steven W. Laycock and James G. Hart (Albany: SUNY, 1986), 11–15. The issue is reminiscent of the ancient theological discussion of “nature and grace.” Its present form is the tension between, on the one hand, the undeniable necessities of the phenomenological disclosure of the horizon of all possible experience and, on the other, the conceivability of making the phenomenological realm penultimate in favor of the believed-in creationist perspective for which the “natural” phenomenological realm is contingent. Or: for phenomenology God in some sense is part (a moment?) of the horizon of all experience; but is it conceivable (and if so, is the conceivability desirable) that God plus the world is not greater than God alone? See my remarks “Models of God: Evangelogic,” in Religion and Intellectual Life, V (1988), especially 36–37.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Here I wish to anticipate an objection. My interpretation might seem vulnerable in as much as I use often Husserl’s exposition of Fichte (Hua XXV,267) to render Husserl’s own position. But this “Fichtean Husserl” is very often Husserl’s own preference. In various Nachlass texts we find Husserl referring to the Fichtean position as a parallel. And in, e.g., Hua XXVII,28 we find him stating the Fichtean position completely as his own without reference to Fichte.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    We may also recall Aquinas’ notion of will being free with regard to the “material objects” of the will (the particular goods) but not in regard to the “formal object” (bon um simpliciter) or the universal aspect under which all goods appear as good. See, e.g., Summa Theologiae I,82,2; I—II, 10,3. The differences here are as noteworthy as the similarities. Neither our Husserlianism nor Thomas envisages a form of determinism which makes the external “thing” or cause a sufficient condition for agency. Acts are always of persons. In Thomas’ terms, the change from potential action to actual action always requires human agency. A major difference, however, is that in the formal object/world-life analogy, whereby each may be said to provide the ratio under which an object is intended (Thomas: that by which an object moves a power), in the former case we are dealing with the pre-existing creative finis ultima or beatitudo whereas in the latter case we are dealing with the result of the synthesis which we are calling the general will — but which is inseparable from the pole of the world — a concept approaching the finis ultima. The two points of view converge, however, when Aquinas discusses how the divine discloses itself as such to humans in via so that they may be invited to faith. Here we have a unique coincidence (as we do in Husserl’s divine vocation) of the divine and human wills. Here the divine, as transcendent, beckons; but this divine urging (“interior instinct”) must also be understood as immanent and constitutive of the finite will (cf. de Veritate,22, 9). Here a kind of necessity or “near necessity” arises by which the human will experiences implicitly and obscurely its divine calling as such. The “teleological determinism” and “blessed necessity” within the statu praesentis, statu viatoris,etc., (and not the teleological determinism in consummated state of the beatific vision) is suggested in II-II, 10, 1, 1: “It is not in human nature to have faith: but it goes with human nature that the human mind does not reject the interior instinct (immanent presence of the divine will) and external preaching of the truth.” For all this see J. Alfaro, “Supernaturalitas Fidei juxta S. Thomam,” Gregorianum (1963), Nos. 3 and 4, especially 747 ff.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Werke V, 533.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    A V 22, 39. This parallels Husserl’s claim in Hua VI,275 (The Crisis,341) that the desire to be reasonable is itself a form of being reasonable. Furthermore, the postulates and poetics which nurture that desire themselves would be rational; this is the work of “eutopian poetics” which we here only mention.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    F I 28, 200a; F I 20, 260 ff. See Roth, 39–40. Cf. Hastings Rashdall, The Theory of Good and Evil (New York: Kraus Reprint, 1971 ) I, 95–138.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    F I 28, 283; See Roth, 40. Thomas Nagel’s effort to arrive at an impersonal objective imperative would face the same criticism from Husserl. See our discussion below, §13.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    See Roth’s discussion and summary of Husserl’s views, 47 ff.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    See Hans Reiner’s Duty and Inclination for a helpful wrestling with these matters; also see my review of this work in Husserl Studies I (1984), 307–314.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    F I 28, 199a. Husserl thus would take exception to the Nagelian claim that if something is a practical imperative for someone, then it is a reason for everyone. But he would find Lewis’ description of moral evaluation as cumulative and consummatory to be congenial; see below §§13–14. Perhaps there are degrees of formalization of the “truth of will” so that eventually a generalization would be possible and a formal version of “a reason for everyone” and thus for “truth of will as such” with which both Husserl and Nagel could agree. See Hua XXVIII,138.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Findlay, Values and Intentions,219.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    This, in Hua XXV,289–290, is Husserl’s formulation of Fichte’s criterion. But see the formulation in Hua XXVII,28 where Husserl in his own voice gives, without mention of Fichte, the Fichtean position as his own. Fichte’s own formulation of the “external criterion of the divine world as delineated from the sensible world” is: “Whatever is a source of enjoyment in itself,and indeed of the highest degree of enjoyment, infinitely transcending all other degreesChrw(133) We may even describe it as the most perfect phenomenon of each particular moment, under the conditions of time; - provided we do not understand thereby such a perfection given through an immediate affection toward a determinate being.” Anweisung,Werke V, 526; Trans., 448.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Hua XXV, 290; and Anweisung, Werke V, 532–533. Husserl’s appropriation of this theology of “vocation” and personal identity will occupy us soon. Cf. Hua VIII, 15 ff.Google Scholar
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    J.G. Fichte, Nachgelassene Werke III, System der Sittenlehre ( Bonn: Adolph Marcus, 1835 ), 77–81.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    A V 21, 128b.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    The Wealth of Nations (New York: Modern Library, 1937), 423. For the “impartial spectator” see The Theory of Moral Sentiments (London: Bohn, 1853) Pt. III, ch. iii, especially 182–194. Ultimately it seems that the love of the noble which is the aspiration to assume the standpoint of the impartial spectator and by which we self-displace to every one else’s shoes in an ideally just way becomes in The Wealth of Nations the “invisible hand” for which impartiality is a blind guiding of each toward an “impartial” (blind) distribution of rewards on the basis of the separate pursuit by each of exclusively selfish interests.Google Scholar
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    William James, Principles of Psychology I (New York: Holt, 1890 ), 315–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Cf. Paul Pfuetze, Self, Society, Existence ( New York: Harper Torchbook, 1954 ), 84.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    G.H. Mead, Mind, Self and Society (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1974), 310. Also see n. 103. In American theology Shailer Matthews and Edward Scribner Ames developed theologies around a social concept of God which make use of the “generalized other” and approach the godly person of a higher order. For a discussion, see H.N. Wieman and B.E. Meland, American Philosophies of Religion (Chicago: Willett, Clark and Col, 1936), 272 ff.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Nicholas of Cusa, The Vision of God (New York: Ungar, 1960); see the Preface. Cf. Kurt Flasch, “Der Mensch als Mass Gottes,” in Gott Heute,ed. N. Kutschki (Munich: Kaiser, 1967), 20 ff.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    E III 4, 14a. This form of absolute universal life which must be absolutely loved is, we may say, the unity of humanity in a godly personality of a higher order. Cf. Hua XIV,181 ff. where duty is tied to one’s function in society.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    E III 4, 20; Also see E III 1, 4–9. Because universal ethical love is the answer to the question of the unum necessarium we may agree with Roth who holds that for Husserl love “discloses the ultimate sense of reality” (Roth, 119). We may properly speak of a disclosure only in so far as universal ethical love is a possibility apart from the transcendental attitude. This seems to be acknowledged by Husserl. Jesus, e.g., need not have been a transcendental phenomenologist.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Hua XV, 610; see my “Phenomenological Time: Its Religious Significance” for a more ample discussion of Husserl’s thoughts on death and immortality.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    E III 4, 21. These sentences attempt to paraphrase: “Und in eins damit (sein Lebensopfer) bejaht er das Leben der Menschheit als ein absolut gefordertesschönes and gutes in infinitum. Wie andererseits die Menschheit selbstdie ihres wahren menschheitlichen Sinnes and Lebenssinnes innegeworden istsich in infinitum im Leben willentlich erhalten musswie dieses Leben absolut zu wollendes ist.”Google Scholar
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    Nagel, The Philosophy of Altruism, op. cit., 83.Google Scholar
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    Wilfred Sellars, Science and Metaphysics ( New York: Humanities Press, 1968 ), 220.Google Scholar
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    Findlay, ibid.,217. At least in the early writings Husserl is at pains to give a tight analogy between the motivations of the heart and formal-logical implications. See Hua XXVIII.Google Scholar
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    Findlay, ibid.,218.Google Scholar
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    See Findlay’s article on “The Holy Spirit” in Essays in Phenomenological Theology, ed. Steven Laycock and James G. Hart (Albany: SUNY, 1986) as well as his systematic philosophical theology: The Discipline of the Cave, The Transcendence of the Cave and Ascent to the Absolute (New York: Humanities Press: 1966, 1967 and 1970, respectively).Google Scholar
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    Plotinus, Enneads V, viii, 3, 4; cited in Findlay, The Transcendence of the Cave, 158.Google Scholar
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    Findlay, Values and Intentions, 224.Google Scholar
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    See Findlay, Values and Intentions, 224; at 429–430 Findlay understands “we” to be the proper sense of impersonality. He cautions that he is unsatisfied with accounts of its aetiology in terms of empathy.Google Scholar
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    Findlay, Values and Intentions, 431.Google Scholar
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    Lewis, Values and Imperatives, 136–137.Google Scholar
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    Lewis, The Ground and Nature of the Right ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1955 ), 91.Google Scholar
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    Lewis, ibid., 91–93.Google Scholar
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    Lewis, Values and Imperatives, 76.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    J. Roger Saydah, The Ethical Theory of Clarence Irving Lewis (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1969), 90. Here is a good place to note that G. H. Mead has anticipated many aspects of the critique of formalism we find in Husserl, Lewis and Findlay. Mead insisted that humans are rational because [they are] social and the universality so prized by Kant arises from the capacity, and presumably the ideal, to self-displace to the entire community of all rational beings. According to Mead, Kant states that an act is immoral under certain conditions but we do not learn from him what a moral act is. Acts are moral which lead to the realization of our social being. “It is only in so far as you can identify your own motive and the actual end you are pursuing with the common good that you reach the moral end and so get moral happiness.” The categorical imperative is the heeding of the larger social self which is one’s true identity, thus self-displacing ourselves to all the interests involved in the doing of the present act. But this larger truer self is not necessarily identical with the actual interests of the present community because its interests conflict with the ideal of the community. For all this see Mind, Self and Society,Appendix IV, “Fragments on Ethics,” 379–389.Google Scholar
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    An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation 495–496.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 542. See Saydah’s discussion in Saydah, 11 ff.Google Scholar
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    Findlay, Values and Intentions, 221.Google Scholar
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    See C 17 V, 21 ff. and the lengthy text quoted later in this section.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    See, e.g., Hua VI (Crisis), §28.Google Scholar
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    C 17 V, 25–26; cf. Mead, Mind, Self and Society, 386.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Cf. for all this Findlay, Values and Intentions, 212–226.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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