Human Life And World

Human Life And World

I dispute the claim that the disclosure of the life-world by phenomenology is an accomplishment of 'permanent' significance. By briefly reviewing the meaning of the "world" and "life-world" in the writings of Husserl, Gurwitsch, Schutz-Luckmann, Ortega, Heidegger, Jonas, Straus, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, I show that they all treat the world, or rather the affairs which comprise it, as passively present whether viewed as a mental acquisition or as the "Other." But the meaning of the world-as that wherein are met physical demands upon us which must be satisfied if we are to continue living-cannot be considered either as a mental acquisition or as something that is "other" and over against us. A living being as living cannot fail to attend to the agency of the affairs of which the life-world consists, as well as one's own exploring and coping actions. If we are to really speak of life, then we must acknowledge the mutual and reciprocal activities of living beings and world.

Gurwitsch has written that "the disclosure of the life-world [by phenomenology is] an accomplishment of permanent significance." (1974, 12) But is such a claim justifiable? I believe it is not. I shall briefly examine first the way transcendental and then existential phenomenologists understand the meaning of "world" or "life-world" and how the "world" is to be experienced as such, and I shall critique the views of each in turn.

The appropriate philosopher with which to begin an examination of any major phenomenological theme is most certainly Husserl. We as objects and subjects find ourselves in our conscious activities in a pre-given world existing for all in common according to Husserl. This world, always already there, is the univ...

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