What is Husserl's lifeworld

Husserl's lifeworld concept: intentions, problems, possible applications

Table of Contents

0) Introduction

1) The world in which Husserl lived
1.1) Origin and function of the Husserlian lifeworld theory
1.2) Lifeworld and modern natural science
1.2.1) The lifeworld foundation of natural science
1.2.2) The mathernization of nature and the forgetting of this foundation
1.2.3) Possibilities of lifting the oblivion of the lifeworld
1.3) Lifeworld as a dazzling term in Husserl
1.3.1) Various aspects
1.3.2) Ambiguities

2) Possible applications
2.1) Thematization of the atypical through the plurality of special worlds
2.2) Constructive philosophy of science

3) Conclusion

0) Introduction

The concept of the lifeworld, developed by Edmund Husserl in his late work, was received late due to the adverse historical circumstances, but then all the more intensely and extensively. The inclusion was not limited to philosophy, especially phenomenology: the most varied of sciences: sociologists, cultural scientists, educators, ecologists - even politicians - spoke and speak of the lifeworld. Once a fashionable term was coined in this way, there was of course not much left of Husserl's considerations.

In contrast to this, this work aims to present the original conception of this term, as developed by Husserl in the 'Krisis' script, and its impetus. Since Husserl never clearly defined what he meant by lifeworld, and even made apparently contradicting statements about it, I would then like to work out the problems and ambiguities of his approach. References to possible applications under today's paradigms should conclude the explanations.

1) The world in which Husserl lived

1.1) Origin and function of the Husserlian lifeworld theory

"The Crisis of European Sciences and the Transcendental Phenomenology" from 1936 is the last work published by Husserl himself. The then 77-year-old dies two years later - so the problems in his lifeworld concept can also be explained by the fact that he could no longer systematically expand it.

The criticism of the development of modern (natural) science, which Husserl unfolds here, must be brought into connection with the historical background of the origin of this work. The present crisis caused by the dominance of scientific ideals caused the totalitarian systems of modernity to emerge, especially National Socialism, from which Husserl, as a Jew, had to experience repression.

Klaus Held[1] points out that considerations about the lifeworld were often misunderstood as

"Fundamental turnaround of Husserl's thinking in the last years of his life. In truth, this treatise is nothing drastically new, but is in continuity with the programmatic works that Husserl himself had previously published [...]. All of these texts revolve around one task [...]: the suitable way to the 'transcendental phenomenological reduction', that is to say more generally speaking: the introduction to the transcendental phenomenology "(p.79).

This also corresponds to the subtitle: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy '.

Held argues as follows: The lifeworld concept is to be understood as an extension of the world concept that appears in Husserl's earlier writings in connection with the problem of the transition from the natural to the philosophical attitude. The natural attitude, which underlies all other attitudes and is not recognized as an attitude, is characterized by a belief in the world and (connected with this) subject oblivion. In the general thesis of natural attitudes, the world - the whole encompassing all objects in their totality, the constant overall context of experienceability - is unreflected, unaccounted for, 'irresponsible', i.e., subject to oblivion, posited as being. The philosophical attitude, on the other hand, makes one aware that the natural attitude is also based on a decision, i.e. it is an attitude, and thus removes the subject's oblivion (I would like to exclude Husserl and Held's explanations of how the transition between the two attitudes is possible).

In the 'crisis' one finds a critique of the development of modern science instead of a critique of the natural attitude. Science, like philosophy (both were originally combined to form a universal science), arises from a break with the natural attitude, but science falls back into a kind of natural second-level attitude. Because it does not thematize the world - as necessary - as the athematical-as-such, in its horizon character as the how objects appear (which becomes the task of transcendental phenomenology), but as the epitome of objects like other thematic objects. So she gets special worlds, namely the professional horizons of scientists, but never the world as a universal horizon into view. Devotion to the objects of research leads to a new form of forgetting of the subject, which is passed off as objectivism and ultimately leads to the 'true' world recognized by science being juxtaposed with the 'false' natural attitude. However, Husserl now also calls this 'false' natural attitude the life-worldly one. The second natural attitude of modern science can be broken by recollecting - the task of philosophy - the life-world references of science, therefore rethinking its history and trying to renew lost foundations of meaning (more details below).

The continuity in Husserl's thinking consists in the fact that he always endeavors to prove, develop and find unquestionably carried out attitudes, natural or scientific. Only after the forgetfulness of the subject has been eliminated in this way is a transcendental phenomenological investigation of the achievements of subjectivity and its layers of meaning possible, as is necessary for a life of responsibility.

The lifeworld theory in the crisis has the function that

"From the lifeworld, Husserl [can] complete the main concern of his philosophizing, the implementation of the transcendental reduction, as required from the history of thought and as motivated by the givens [shaped by science] of the modern world of experience. The lifeworld concept falls hence the task of overcoming the failure that characterizes the previous history of thought in its attempts to establish a universal science, with its help the establishment of a universal science of the world can succeed, which is only possible as transcendental phenomenological idealism is. "[2]

1.2) Lifeworld and modern natural science

In the following I would like to trace Husserl's train of thought about the development of modern science with its lifeworld oblivion, as he developed it in the famous Galileo paragraph of the 'Crisis'.

1.2.1) The lifeworld foundation of natural science

The geometry, the method of which Galileo, for Husserl the key figure in the development of modern natural science (like Newton for Heidegger), wants to transfer to the whole of nature, has its origin in the practical (field) measuring art of the pre-scientific, intuitive environment (= lifeworld ). This has an "empirical-practical objectifying function"[3]. From a life-world perspective, the objects appear to us in a mere vague typology. Determinations by means of measurements only enable general judgments about things, as they are necessary for human coexistence, through intersubjectively and practically unambiguous determination of shapes.

The infinitely expanded inductance that modern natural science generates is based on inductive structures ("having in mind, thinking in front of") in the lifeworld. "All practice with its plans implies inductions" (Krisis, p.51). The origins of science lie in technical practice, the manual production connected with scientific theory. By going beyond this lifeworldly rootedness as a practical, horizon-bound self-knowledge, beyond its connection to partial horizons, whereby the theory becomes independent and the practice is degraded to a part of the theory (e.g. as geometric practice), it expanded the 'raw' foresight of such Practice to infinity.

The most fundamental form of pre-scientific foresight is the unthematic, self-evident belief in the world and objects. "The certainty of being induces every simple experience in the most primitive way." (Krisis, p.51) Already here, as in science in an exaggerated form, the object is deprecated by anticipating itself regardless of its givens; here there is already a tendency towards obscurity. Regardless of the perspective from which we perceive an object: in the natural, lifeworld setting, we designate it - anticipating other perspectives and transcending our perception - always as the same object, we are sure that we have this object in front of us and see from its specific one Appearance, which for us is atopic. We also regard the world as a connection between all objects for granted.

"The world is pre-scientifically given subjectively-relatively in everyday sensory experience. Each of us has his appearances and everyone regards them as what really exists. We have long since become aware of this discrepancy between our validity of being in our dealings with one another. But we do not think that it is many worlds. We necessarily believe in the world with the same things that only appear different to us. " (Krisis, p.20)

Science builds on this the substitution of this world by its 'true' world, in which all things also appear to be the same because they are ideal structures, identifiable through the elimination of material "fullness", whereby subject relativity is eliminated.

1.2.2) The mathematization of nature

At the beginning of modern philosophy is Descartes. His goal was the development of a universal science - philosophy traditionally claimed to be one. The found Euclidean geometry with its deductive, axiomatic-systematic, rational and evident methodology should serve as a model. So far it has only been used to solve "finite problems" in a "finitely closed a priori". The new thing was the "idea of ​​a rational, infinite existence with a systematically dominating rational science" (Krisis, p.19). This infinite world could only be thought of as a world of idealities.

In the visual environment, bodies can only be experienced as merely typically fluctuating. In this way, they can be perfected more and more, by removing bumps and the like. This is usually done in a purely practical interest. With advancing technical possibilities, the possibilities of perfection shift more and more, so that an "open horizon of imaginable improvement, which is to be driven further and further" emerges. If you continue this game, you come across what Husserl calls "Limes figures [...] as invariant and never to be reached poles" of the "Perfection Series" (Krisis, p.23). 'Pure' geometry operates with such ideal spatiotemporal shapes and has thus gained a precisely definable, objective field of work.


[1] Husserl's new introduction to philosophy: The concept of the lifeworld. In: Carl Friedrich Gethmann (Ed.): Lifeworld and Science. Bonn 1991. pp 79-113.

[2] Paul Janssen: history and lifeworld. The Hague 1970. S.XIX.

[3] The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Husserliana VI (Ed. Walter Biemel) [hereinafter also cited as 'Krisis']. P.25.

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