Science, Lifeworld, and Realism

An Ethical Critique of Scientific “Objectivism”
  • Sami Pihlström
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 320)


The picture of science as aiming at empirically supported descriptions and explanations of an objective, mind-independent, and value-neutral reality is deeply rooted in our culture. This picture has, however, been severely criticized by major thinkers representing various philosophical traditions: Edmund Husserl on the basis of transcendental phenomenology,1 William James and John Dewey on the basis of pragmatism,2 and Ludwig Wittgenstein (Investigations) on the basis of his conception of language-games as the location of all linguistic meaning — not to speak about the postmodernist and neopragmatist streams of thought fashionable today. The critique can be summarized as the thesis that a pre-scientific lifeworld — or “form of life”, or practice — is an a priori grounding, or a transcendental condition, of the scientific enterprise.3 The very idea of describing and explaining natural phenomena taking place in an objective, spatio-temporal reality is grounded in the deeper idea of there being certain structuring conditions for the world which human beings experience in the course of their actions. As Husserl writes:

Der Transzendentalismus [...] sagt: der Seinssinn der vorgegebenen Lebenswelt ist subjektives Gebilde, ist Leistung des erfahrenden, des vorwissenschaftlichen Lebens. In ihm baut sich der Sinn und die Seinsgeltung der Welt auf, und jeweils der Welt, welche dem jeweilig Erfahrenden wirklich gilt (Husserl, 1982, p. 75).4


Human Practice Transcendental Phenomenology Transcendental Idealism Transcendental Philosophy Transcendental Basis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sami Pihlström
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HelsinkiFinland

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