4 Nov 2008

An Annihilatable World for Consciousness Alone in Husserl Ideas I §49

by Corry Shores
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Previously Husserl noted that if there were actual worlds, they would be intersubjectively linked such that no transcendent reality would outlie them. However, this fact does not imply that there necessarily must be some world or physical thing in existence (§49 109bc).

Although the world’s existence must correlate to our experiences, our consciousness could flow forth without the existence of a world [CS: given the transcendence of the ego]. It is possible that instead of seeking harmonious experiences, we tend toward conflictual ones that create illusions concealing no deeper truths, and we may no longer have cause to constitute physical things: “in short, that there might no longer be any world” (109c.d).

However, despite an annihilated world, vague but unstable objects might be constituted, although they are no more than “mere analogues of intuitions of physical things” that are “incapable of constituting conservable ‘realities’” (110a).

Yet, even if the world be annihilated, consciousness would remain, so long as it perseveres, even if in a world of illusion. Although, such a consciousness would be modified (110b). At any rate: “no real being, no being which is presented and legitimated in consciousness by appearances, is necessary to the being of consciousness itself” (110c).

Immanent being thus is indubitably absolute being, because it cannot be nullified. However, a transcendent world always refers to some actual consciousness (110c).

Husserl wonders if the transcendent world exists, taking into account the presupposition that it is given-to and refined-by a stream of consciousness and also that this consciousness is operating normally (110-111).

It seems that even a transcendent world would be inherent to consciousness’ processes, rather than merely correlated to it (111b). Both an immanent and a transcendental being are still both being, and “things which are essentially akin, the respective proper essences of which have a like sense, can become connected in the true sense of the word, can make up a whole” (111b). But despite their common category, when we conceptually distinguish these two types of being, “a veritable abyss yawns between consciousness and reality” (111c).

For this reason, pure consciousness “must be held to be a self-contained complex of being, a complex of absolute being into which nothing can penetrate and out of which nothing can slip, to which nothing is spatiotemporally external and which cannot be within any spatiotemporally complex” (112a).

Thus the spatiotemporal world, which contains human Egos as subordinate realities, nonetheless is no more than an intentional being for those Egos: it is a “being for a consciousness...beyond that it is nothing” (112b).

Husserl, Edmund. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book. General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology. Transl. Fred Kersten. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982.

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