2. Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie)

(Chapter Two, part 2 of Crisis Consciousness in Contemporary Philosophy)

by András Gedö

The way the crisis situation in the schools of life philosophy reveals itself is necessarily different from positivism. Here, a direct conflict with the development of scientific knowledge is hardly possible: in its "pure" form, life philosophy considers itself to stand outside of and above the sciences. Even where a consciousness of the questionability of their main ideas develops, it does not necessarily follow that these schools are openly discredited; the experience of the "cul-de-sac," the failure of thinking, care and dread are considered a natural element of



life and a confirmation of this philosophy. Here, the rapid and visible shrinking of their influence points to the crises of these schools, if their supporters become conscious of the insufficiency of their themes and solutions. The changes of form are characterized not so much by the philosophical controversies between the schools within this current (although there is certainly no lack of such controversies today and in the history of life philosophy), but by the temporary ignoring and forgetting of outdated schools. Thus the continuity of Sartre's existentialism and of Bergson's thinking became invisible, [77] the direct influence of Jaspers' philosophical work has paled today, or changes, such as the "turning" (Kehre) in Heidegger's work, appear to break the unity of a personal lifework. The differences and discontinuity among individual schools make it possible for their common essence to disappear altogether in the statements of the primary representatives of life philosophy, or the common essence is reduced to a minimum. This essence comes to light, however, in the reception of life philosophy.

The existentialist theologian and philosopher, Paul Tillich, pointed out as early as the midforties that "existence philosophy" is an international current of thought with a continuity from the late Schelling, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche to Bergson, James and Dewey, Simmel and Scheler, up to Heidegger.

The philosophers of existence ... tried to find that creative field of being which lies before the difference between subjectivity and objectivity and goes beyond it. If the experience of this layer of life is "mystical," then one can call philosophy of existence an attempt to regain a meaning of life with the help of "mystical" concepts, after this meaning had got lost both in the ecclesiastical as well as in the positivist concepts. [78]

(This actual continuity of life philosophy Tillich confuses—as do Löwith earlier and Fromm later—with a false continuity: it is an attempt to find a common denominator for Marx and Kierkegaard and thus to put Marx under the heading of "existence philosophy." The peculiarities of the reception of life-philosophy—its artistic-literary mediation and its effects on theology—and also the unevenness of its dissemination in the developed capitalist countries not only make its common content visible—in spite of the convictions and statements of some of its adherents—but also disguise the shifts and crises in the various schools. The French existentialist fashion of the forties obscured the meaning of Heidegger's modifications of life philosophy, and in the fifties and sixties existentialism in the English-speaking countries spread, despite the crisis of Sartrean existentialism. [79]

This Sartrean existentialism has no doubt failed. The detours


of Sartre's philosophical (and political) itinerary, his "adventures," groping for a way out but landing in a cul-de-sac, express the crisis of existentialism; Sartre is only one, but the most influential, representative of this school. Being and Nothingness, Sartre's basic philosophical work, conceived an extremely subjectivist existentialism. Sartre himself wrote about it at the end of the sixties:

L'Etre et Le Néant traced an interior experience, without any coordination with the exterior experience of a petty-bourgeois intellectual, which had become historically catastrophic at a certain moment. For I wrote L'Etre et Le Néant after the defeat of France, after all. But catastrophes have no lessons, unless they are the culmination of a praxis. [80]

The "exterior experience" was lacking: there was no room for it in his general philosophical conception, and philosophical thinking here did not directly reflect the given historical "exterior experience." The "interior experience" is made absolute, freedom is seen as a completely subjective "choice" and this "choice" was the fate and absurdity of human beings, it was a mirror of "exterior experience": to existentialist thinking, downfall, catastrophe and crisis experience appeared to be proof of the subjectivity of "existence," of the being-thrown-into-the-world of the Ego and of the absurdity of choice. The extreme subjectivism and individualism of this philosophical conception, its ahistoricism and its alleged position beyond society, the reduction of its subject to the fatal and absurd freedom of individual consciousness, reflect the historically given individual situation in life philosophy's version of bourgeois thinking.

According to this extremely subjectivist form of existentialism, the "in-itself" (the being outside of subjectivity) is indifferent, it is "an immanence which can not realize itself, an affirmation which can not affirm itself, an activity which can not act, because it is glued to itself." [81] The relationship between the "in-itself" and the "for-itself" (subjective-individual consciousness) is clothed in ambiguity. Determining, however, is that peculiar version of subjective idealism begun by Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard and developed in the bourgeois life philosophy of the imperialist epoch: "The For-itself, in fact, is nothing but the pure nihilation of the In-itself." [82] The ambiguity, however, remains:

The For-itself is like a tiny nihilation which has its origin at the heart of Being; and this nihilation is sufficient to cause a total upheaval to happen to the In-itself. This upheaval is the world. The For-itself has no reality save that of being the nihilation of being. Its sole qualification comes to it from the fact that it is the nihilation of an individual and particular In-itself and not of a being in general. [83]


This subjective-idealist tendency proceeds not so much from the subjectivity of knowledge as from the subjectivity of individual human "existence." Beyond, under, and against this "existence" is the "world," although with a certain ambiguity; it lies beyond individual-human subjectivity, but it is there insofar as it exists for this subjectivity.

The world is human. We can see the very particular position of consciousness: being is everywhere, opposite me, around me; it weighs down on me, it besieges me, and I am perpetually referred from being to being; ... I want to grasp this being and I no longer find anything but myself. [84]

The human being "exists" by going beyond and outside of himself, "by designing himself and by losing himself outside of himself," [85] but in the final analysis this transcendence is absurd, futile, and full of tragedy. The human being has been thrown into the "world" and does not want to know anything about it. "Our starting point is the subjectivity of the individual," [86] Sartre wrote, and his original conception wanted to extend this point into a circle, and here he rejected with positivist arguments the possibility of knowledge reflecting "objects" or of a scientific understanding of objective causal relations. [87]

A fundamental property of the subjectivity—and transcendence—of "existence," according to the philosophy of Sartre, is the "Other," which is seen as the alienated ego, and the conflict between both is understood to be the original and continual tragedy of "existence." This existentialist quasidialectic thought it was overcoming the opposition between idealism and materialism by establishing the "Other." While it expressed its dilemmas in paradoxical formulations, it did not do away with its individualist-subjectivist starting point: "It is I who by the very affirmation of my free spontaneity cause there to be an Other." [88] This existentialism wanted to be the philosophy of activity, but of an activity which did not originate in and aim at objective social processes, but was interpreted not as the consciousness of this activity, but rather as the activity of individual consciousness which remained caught up in contemplation and whose subject matter was, in the last analyses, itself—and the transcendence of itself. Thus, the basic principle is psychologism, which is now raised to a philosophical principle: "existential psychoanalysis"—and the conclusion is a promised ethic. However, the ethic Sartre announced was not written: not earlier, because not even an idealist ethic can be constructed on the basis of the subjectivity of the ego—with a radical rejection of its social nature—and not later because, although Sartre then saw the social conditioning of his thinking, he interpreted it existentially; he was disappointed by the possibilities of ethics, but was willing


to understand society only through the "for itself," the subjectivity of the individual.

During the mood of crisis in bourgeois thinking in the postwar years, "at the time of cellar candles and existentialist suicides," [89] the unbridled subjectivism basing itself on "being," the sudden shift from abstract rationalism—through Husserl's interpretation of "cogito"—to irrationalism, the cult of the unrestrained ego thrown into extreme situations, the prophetic announcement of the existentialist principles that pushed aside all ideas not corresponding to their own, found great response and became a philosophical fashion. For French and other bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intellectuals, this philosophy expressed their own experience: Sartre's existentialism reflected their own wartime encounters with what was for them senseless and incomprehensible history and their "choice" to reject German fascist occupation. It reflected also the postwar situation, which seemed to them a disintegration of objectivity, a tearing apart of the real determining bonds, a complete uncertainty of choice. The subjectivist view in Being and Nothingness gained almost hysterical popularity at just that time when it was becoming problematic to the author. According to his own autobiographical writings and the memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre felt "the power of circumstances" after the Second World War in his own personal destiny; "Hence I started to learn what I have called human reality among things: Being-in-the-world." [90] This "power of circumstances," in the fifteen years of class struggle following 1945, did not only pose a conflict with Sartre's political illusions. The conflict had philosophical consequences which made it impossible to uphold Sartre's original existentialist system of thought; it also thwarted the existentialist fashion. Merely registering the "power of circumstances" could be accepted by existentialism, but upon being compelled not merely to contemplate this power as given or as fate but to explain it, existentialist thinking began to be undermined. Sartre felt forced, sooner or later, to try to understand the historical constraints and dependency he recognized (according to Simone de Beauvoir), which meant attempting to grasp the historical process. At the end of the forties he no longer wanted to work out a new ethic, [91] but at the same time "he did not wish to abandon—and indeed, never has abandoned—the concepts of negativity, of interiority, of existence and of freedom elaborated in Being and Nothingness." [92]

Under the influence of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy, Sartre began to draw historical experience—including Marxism—into his thinking. [93] In the final analysis he never went beyond this interpretation of Marxism after MerleauPonty vehemently criticized Sartre for coming ideologically closer to the revolution-


ary working-class movement (which proved to be a passing phase) [94] and made a direct philosophical criticism of Marxism, thus bringing a form of life philosophy to the fore which differed from that of Sartre.

After the first half of the fifties, Sartre tried to construct an existentialist Marxism; this was one symptom of the crisis of existentialism. His interest in Marxism [95] was aroused by "the reality of Marxism," "the weighty presence of working masses who live Marxism as praxis." However, he interpreted his own experience through the prism of existentialism, which led to a double illusion: on the one hand Sartre believed that some categories of the Marxist view of history were needed to overcome the crisis of existentialism, and on the other that the alleged crisis of Marxism could be overcome only by accepting some basic assumptions of existentialism; in this way, existentialism would be made to embrace history and Marxism would be made to grasp the individual.

If existentialist thought (at least mine) reaches Marxism, and if it is willing to integrate with it, then this results from its inner drive and not par excellence from Marxist philosophy.... Wherever historical materialism directly takes hold of the human being who is directly dominated by materiality, it is an experience which everyone can have (and, in fact, has) regarding his praxis and alienation, it is at the same time the reconstructive and constructive method which makes it possible to grasp human history as a totality. In this way, the thought of existence is again thrown into the historical process. [96]

However, Sartre's solution merely reproduced the philosophical crisis because it did not question the basic ideas underlying it. The relatively coherent world of thought in Being and Nothingness crumbled; the first volume of A Critique of Dialectical Reason did not present a new, comprehensive conception to replace the old, but simply reformulated in an eclectic "totalization" the crumbling elements from Being and Nothingness. Sartre wanted but was unable, to construct history from the viewpoint of an existentially understood individual; Sartre's anti-Marxist opponents also noted this, whether it was Aron, with a tendency to the political right, or Gurvich, who tried to renew Proudhonism. Aron showed that the main ideas in A Critique of Dialectical Reason are largely taken from Being and Nothingness: "praxis" corresponds to the concept of "for itself" and just as in Sartre's original conception, the individual and subjective practice, the singular experience and situation, are seen as the starting point and conclusion; dialectics links up with "practice" and this, in turn, with the old existentialist concept "project"; "totalization,"


says Sartre, inevitably leads from "praxis" to "history," but this "totalization"—the action of individual subjectivity—can never itself achieve an adequate consciousness of history. [97] Gurvich reached similar conclusions. Like Aron, he supported Sartre's critique of Marxism-Leninism (particularly of dialectical materialism and of the idea of social determinism), but he criticized the form of Sartre's idealism, i. e., his extreme subjectivism and the dogmatism of his existentialist views, the identification of freedom and praxis, the barrenness of existentialist dialectics in the cognition of history. Sartre, he says, deals "with an imaginary social world, which as a whole is set by dialectical reason." [98]

The fate of the planned second volume of A Critique of Dialectical Reason points to the blind alley of Sartre's existentialism: at the end of the sixties, Sartre said that the first volume is an "abstract work" which deals with the possibility of history and its categories; "the object of the second volume is history itself." This second volume was to "prove that there is a dialectical intelligibility of the singular." As critical as Sartre was by then of some of his own views in Being and Nothingness, as much as he questioned the difference between objectivity and subjectivity through the "ontological" abstract generality of the thesis that' "everything is objective," he was still inspired by the tragic vision of existentialism for his second volume. Sartre accepted the view that "there is a specific reality of social facts," but he was convinced that "this reality implies precisely that every totalization of the individual in relation to this reality either fails, is deviated by it or is a negative totalization." [99]

Sartre did not write the second volume, however, and, pointing to the inadequacy of his historical knowledge, gave up the. project. Was it less the theoretical defeat and more the inadequacy of his knowledge that caused him not even to attempt "to prove the dialectical intelligibility of the singular"? Was he not forced to abandon this explanation of history, because history, as the first volume of A Critique of Dialectical Reason states, cannot be explained? Sartre's total thought crisis was expressed in the seventies in his feverish ultrarevolutionary activity which drove him to perform at political mini-attractions organized by leftist anti-Communist sects. It appeared in the resigned doubts with which he viewed his own intellectual work. At the time of the student movement in France, existentialism had a greater impact, [100] but later lost influence. The direction of its deterioration is obvious in the fluctuation of its attractiveness [101] and in the changes of Sartre's "situation": existentialism replaced political action, then a theatrical, moralizing political activity replaced Sartre's defeated existentialist philosophy.


Existentialism of Sartre's type is only one possibility for life philosophy. Merleau-Ponty, considered by the philosophical public as, next to Sartre, the representative of French existentialism, modified his pure anthropologism and subjectivism in the direction of a universal "philosophy of being"; this anthropologism and subjectivism had removed everything that lies beyond the "existence" of the human individual, i. e., nature and technology, the sciences, and finally also society, from its philosophical vision. While for some years after 1945 Merleau-Ponty declared his solidarity with Sartre and was considered a militant defender of existentialism, he had, although fundamentally in agreement, accepted the conception of Being and Nothingness only with reservations; his reservations and objections became more strongly accentuated in the fifties. Compared to the existentialism of the Sartre type, these reservations signal a change of form in life philosophy, even if a nebulous one, because Merleau-Ponty's principle of ambiguity [102] clouds his philosophy. Merleau-Ponty's philosophy maintained the existentialism of the Paris school, not as its own sole or main content, but only as a single motif in a conception which was approaching Heidegger's "philosophy of Being." [103] Merleau-Ponty, like Sartre, was of the opinion that the concept of "existence" lay beyond the basic epistemological problems, [104] and he continued to uphold this view later. He questioned Sartre's dualism of the "in-itself" and "for-itself " also at a time when they were allies, and alleged that this ambiguity would overcome the difference between subjectivity and objectivity, between consciousness and matter. Later, he objected to the merely anthropological definition of existentialism:

Even for Sartre, existence is not merely an anthropological term: in face of freedom, existence discovers the world in a completely new form, a world which is a promise and danger to existence, a world which sets traps for and tempts existence or succumbs, a world which is not a flat world of Kantian objects in science, but a picturesque land of obstacles and paths, at least a world in which we "exist" and which is not only the scene of our cognition and free will. [105]

This general "philosophy of Being" perspective, in which Bergson, Whitehead and Nicolai Hartmann also have their place, was influenced largely by the philosophy of Husserl and Heidegger (not only through the conception of Being and Time, but more and more through the Being-mythology of the older Heidegger). In Merleau-Ponty's thinking both the comprehension of reality as well as the interpretation of science—following in Husserl's footsteps—were always ambivalent; his philosophy was


permeated with the ambivalence of phenomenology. [106] He wanted to go beyond and overcome epistemology through the discussion of epistemonological problems—at first in the direction of an existentialist and later of a general "ontology" of life philosophy. While Merleau-Ponty thought about the themes in psychology, linguistics, ethnology, and even the natural sciences—he did not consider "analytical" knowledge irrelevant, like Sartre—he ascribed the ambiguity of his own concept of science to science itself. "Science manipulates things but refuses to live in them," [107] he writes in his last finished work, using Heidegger's terminology. Thus, he referred to the natural sciences in his lectures on natural philosophy, not in order to explain what Being is, but to explain what it is not. [108] Merleau-Ponty's neoromantic conception of nature, which was linked to the neoromantic epistemological fetishization of art (in particular, painting), led to the "ontology" of the "flesh." In his works published posthumously, he calls this the last concept; this "flesh," this "body"—"the body of the world" and "the body of the ego"—is not matter or mind, nor is it substance, but the visible "Being" (in the "philosophy of being" sense of this term). [109] Prepared to create an "absolute philosophy," he encountered insurmountable obstacles. In his drafts for a planned "philosophy of Being," he skirted the possibility of "ontology," the "metaphilosophical" problematic. Following up on Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty thought he was overcoming anthropology (and humanism) with his "Being" and language mythology, according to which "things possess us, we do not have things in our possession.... Language possesses us, we do not have language in our possession. Being speaks in us, it is not we who speak about Being." [110] The final instance—the "flesh," the "body," the visible "Being"—was, however, bound to human subjectivity; in his conception, nature does not appear as matter, but according to the view of philosophical anthropology solely as the "other side of the human being"; existentialist subjectivism and anthropologism were not eliminated, but simply subordinated to a universal and mythical concept of being. This version of life philosophy did not eliminate the antinomies of existentialism; it maintained them and added new ones.

Those who attempt today to revive life philosophy are attracted most to Heidegger's thinking, [111] which represents in a single life work the continuity, the difference, and the coherence of existentialism and the universal "philosophy of Being." Heidegger conceived the basic ideas of both versions of life philosophy earlier and more radically than the other present representatives of this direction. Being and Time (1927) was treated like the bible of existentialism, and although Heidegger's later works that followed after his turning (Kehre) towards "philosophy of Being"


no longer had such an effect, his direct and indirect influence can he noticed in most attempts at modification, in the synthetizations of positivism and life philosophy, in the philosophical fashions of bourgeois thinking—from the technology myths to "structuralistic" Freudianism. Heidegger saw early that the purely subjectivist philosophical anthropology of Being and Time leads thinking up a blind alley, and that the second volume, announced as the continuation of the first, cannot be written.

The failure of Being and Time expressed the crisis of the newly emerged existentialist anthropology, [112] and was a first sign of the later crises. Being and Time ends with the words, "something like 'Being' (Sein) is revealed in the understanding of being, which belongs as understanding to being-there (Dasein)," Therefore, the question:

How is a revealed understanding of Being (Sein) at all possible in relation to being-there (Dasein)? Can the question be answered in the return to the original constitution (Seinverfassung) of the Being that understands being-there? The existential ontological disposition of the totality of being-there (Daseinganzheit) is founded in temporality (Zeitlichkeit).... How should one interpret this mode of origination (Zeitigungsmodus) of temporality? Is there a path leading from the original time to the meaning of Being? Does time reveal itself as the horizon of Being? [113]

Heidegger, in his later philosophy, answers in the negative and turns the problem around; the older Heidegger does not want to go from "being-there" (which in his terminology means human subjectivity) and its "time" to "Being," but from "Being" to human subjective "being-there." Therefore he links "existence" to "Being" (the "Ek-sistenz" of the older Heidegger is the "ecstatic standing in the truth of Being"). [114] Heidegger thus departs from the pure subjectivism and anthropologism of "existential ontology," [115] which makes it possible for him to draw technology, science, and history into the subject matter of his philosophy. This "philosophy of Being" orientation, however, does not take him closer to a scientific-philosophical understanding of reality, but merely makes more radical the break with such a philosophy; it modifies the mere subjectivism and anthropologism through the introduction of a mystical pseudo-objectivity, that of Being. According to Heidegger, "Being" (Sein) is not "being" (Seiendes), not an object. "'Being' is by no means identical with reality." [116] "We cannot find Being anywhere among things." [117] "The thinking of Being does not seek a footing in being." [118] Nevertheless, the totality of "being" is determined by "Being"; [119] and not only "Being," but also its relationship to "being," becomes an incomprehensible mystery. Science—them


knowledge of the "being"—is given a place in Heidegger's late philosophy, but this place is outside of "thinking": for even the true essence of the "being"—nature, human beings, history language—is inaccessible to scientific, "objectivizing" cognition. [120] Finally, the "philosophy of Being" is negative about the technology, science, and history it includes in its subject matter (these belong, after all, to the realm of the "being"), and it goes beyond this negativity only insofar as it points to the mystery lying behind it, to the "Being" hidden in its essence, but governed and forgotten by it. In the final analysis, Heidegger's "philosophy of Being" deals with technology, science, and history only insofar as it needs the knowledge of their relationship to "Being" for the interpretation of the crisis. These changes of the philosophical themes in Heidegger do not originate in pure thought; they reflect the process of the general crisis of capitalism from the viewpoint of bourgeois apology, whose needs have led to greater attention being paid to technology and science since the thirties, and particularly after the Second World War. Heidegger's "philosophy of Being" conceives the lasting content of the life-philosophy aspects of bourgeois decadence on the level of extreme abstraction—making a myth of the crisis, an anti-intellectual critique of science, the rejection of the "essence of technology" coupled with the philosophically guaranteed acknowledgement and enjoyment of technology. [121] This lasting content is given an ahistoric'al appearance in the "philosophy of Being," but at the same time is expressed in modifications of content and theme which correspond to the main phases of the general crisis, to developments in science and technology.

For Heidegger sees the historical significance and even the "Being-historical" significance of his philosophy in that "Being," after having been forgotten for a long time, is now finding expression, opening the possibility of ending the rule of subjectivism and anthropology which push human beings into a tragic fate and a threatening crisis. Under the pretext of fighting subjectivism and philosophical anthropology the older Heidegger opposes humanism; his critique is more against humanism than against subjectivism and philosophical anthropology. He charges that humanism wants to grasp the essence of humanity as human beings without having asked about "truth of Being" beforehand.. "The human is 'thrown' by Being itself into the truth of Being, and existing in this Way, guards the truth of Being so that the being appears as the being that it is, in the light of Being. " [122] For Heidegger, the human essence lies outside the social and natural reality. Humanity is subordinated and exposed to a mystical, inaccessible, uncontrollable fate. The human is the "shepherd of Being"; the "shepherd," however, is exposed and


subordinated to the "Being" this shepherd guards. The anonymous, impersonal individual existence of people which in Being and Time was considered an "ontological" description of "being-there" and everyday occurrence is raised to the fate of "Being" by the older Heidegger: "Should, however, the human come close to Being once more, then the human must first learn to exist in the nameless." [123]

The idea of resigning oneself to an anonymous existence—the conditions of state-monopoly capitalism—of the individual's accepting the fate of "Being," is a counterpoint to the cult of the individual in Sartre's existentialism, a cult which suggests absolute revolt and indignation, but is a counterpoint within the framework of late-bourgeois life philosophy. The revolt and indignation leave untouched the bourgeois system which Heidegger's crisis myth recommends should be accepted; absolute existentialist indignation is possible only if it has a background of passive masses and, after the hangover, itself changes into submission. just as the human being of Sartre's exalted cult of the individual is abstract and anonymous, the philosophical anti-humanism of the older Heidegger maintains individualism. An obvious sign of the fact that they belong together is that the existentialist cult of the individual took its ideas firmly from the conception of Being and Time, but there is no break between the two stages of Heidegger's philosophy; the existentialism of Being and Time and his "philosophy of Being" in the "Letter on Humanism" are two phases of one and the same philosophical view.

The older Heidegger goes beyond philosophical anthropology and subjectivism only insofar as he does not see these as the sole principles and subordinates them to the concept of "Being"; he maintains them insofar as he tries to derive history from an abstract and unchangeable essence which he defined by "the truth of Being." The human essence lies in the mystery of "Being," set forth by "Being" that lies outside of historical and natural reality. "Being" is more or less anthropologized: Heidegger links "philosophy of Being" with, philosophy of language in such a way that "language is the house of Being and the home of the human being." [124] The social objectivity of language, which cannot be dissolved into the individual, here becomes mystified: the essence of language, he says, lies in "Being"; that something exists, however, depends on language. "So I sadly learned to do without: no thing is, where the word fails," Stefan George writes, and Heidegger raises George's abstract magical vision to a philosophical thesis: "No thing is, where the word, i. e., the name does not exist." [125] As language does not exist without human beings, "Being" then lives within human language, and


in the final analysis, then, within an anthropological housing. Thus, the crisis is subjectivized and anthropologized, although it stems from the nonhuman destiny of "Being"; the great failure of modern times can be explained through an ideal form" par excellence that, he says, is the essence of the crisis, "meanwhile, man today in truth does not encounter himself, i. e., his essence, anywhere." [126]

The insurmountable difficulties in Heidegger's "philosophy of Being" appear in the fact that the "hermeneutic" school, which strongly leans on this philosophy, tied itself to the concept of the "truth of Being"—one of the main ideas of the older Heidegger—and then silently dropped or openly revised this connection. The "truth of Being" means that in Heidegger's philosophy, truth is not connected to the relationship between knowledge and the known reality, but belongs to "Being" itself; in truth the hiddenness of "Being" becomes disclosed, in it "Being" unfolds and opens up (not through "objectivizing" knowledge, but through revelation) and human behavior consists of this unfolding "Being." [127]

Thus, the "philosophy of Being" becomes the surrogate of revelation (or in Bultmann's theology it becomes a viewpoint for interpreting religious revelation). For its claim to sole validity it must atone through its completely esoteric character and the obvious arbitrariness of the single and unique philosophical revelation. It claims to be the only revelation of "Being," and that is why it must exclude "being" from its validity, break off all continuity of content with the knowledge of "being"; for the sake of the "truth of Being," it must deny all possibility for a theory of knowledge. The "hermeneutic" philosophy of Heidegger continues the specific idealist tradition leading from Schleiermacher to Dilthey and Husserl, and interprets it on the basis of "philosophy of Being." The hermeneutic formulation of the problem announced in Being and Time, which links directly with Dilthey, is placed by Gadamer in the perspective of the the philosophy of Being" of the older Heidegger. In the hermeneutic conception of Being and Time, Gadamer argues:

a point had been reached at which the instrumentalistic sense of method of the hermeneutic phenomenon had to become ontological. Understanding is here no longer one of many kinds of attitudes in human thinking but the fundamental motion of human being there.... But when Heidegger recognized the transcendental basis of his fundamental ontology to be insufficient, and when in the thinking of his "turning" the "hermeneutic of facticity" turned into "clearing" the "Da" of Sein, the hermeneutic problematic of the idealist tradition once more came to the fore. [128]


The "understanding" interpretation of the text was considered by Schleiermacher to be the organon of theology; for Dilthey it was the general principle of the "humanities," in contrast to natural science; however, the present hermeneutic school gives it a universal philosophical validity: Gadamer says that "the model is an interpretation of texts and in truth the model of our world experience on the whole." [129] However, the "hermeneutic" school can only claim philosophical universality if it appeals to the "truth of Being"; this interpretation of the text which has swollen into "ontology," however, is anthropologically condition and epistemologically idealist.

No matter how much Gadamer, following Heidegger, claims "that understanding is not one among the modes of behavior of the subject but a mode of Being in being-there itself," [130] this "hermeneutic" method (which in Gadamer's interpretation includes acquisition of speech and translation, finding the correct expression and the theological interpretation of religious texts, the experience of works of art and the method of the "humanities" which deal with texts, communication bound to personal being and consciousness reflecting on the personal being) is of a universal character and validity, because the hermeneutic is "the mode of human world experience on the whole." [131] The hermeneutic approach, he says, is crucial for contemporary philosophy. The dispute around the true purposes of human society or the question about Being in the middle of the predominance of doing or the cognition of our historical origins and future, points to a knowledge that is not science, but which has the leadership in all human practice of life. [132] Where this hermeneutic school is willing to reestablish the link between life philosophy and the "humanities," it also tries to build up an epistemology on the basis of the fundamental ideas of the "philosophy of Being."

The philosophical conception and subject matter thus shift from the exclusivity of Being to the primacy of "hermeneutic" knowledge; insofar, however, as hermeneutic philosophy maintains Heidegger's starting points, it brings its idealism and subjectivist anthropologism to light; [133] as it reintroduced epistemology, it was forced to weaken or reject the claim to the absolute validity of "philosophy of Being." It cannot accept the indissoluble dualism of "Being" and "being" [134] if for no other reason than that of vindicated universality, and in order to completely overcome this dualism, it would have to break with the essence of "philosophy of Being" which, however, would again place doubts on the universality of "hermeneutics." For Gadamer, these antinomies usually remain in the dark—he tries to keep the Heidegger view of the "truth of Being" in the


background of the hermeneutic epistemology. That is why in his works the categories of truth and method, of understanding and knowledge, are purposely ambiguous. However, in the development of the hermeneutic school these antinomies appear in the form of failures and setbacks.

The starting point for Apel's conception is also Heidegger's "radicalization" of hermeneutics [135] —namely, the idea that hermeneutic understanding does not compete with the causal explanation answering the question why, but that "'understanding' as the mode of human being-in-the-world is already assumed for the constitution of empirical data and thus for answering the what-question in epistemology." [136] In this interpretation, however, Heidegger's "existential hermeneutic" is not far from the "constructive semantics" of Carnap and is parallel to the Wittgenstein analysis of language games seen as life forms. [137] An essential element of its unity is that in regard to the relationship of Being and Being-understanding both the "critical analysis of language" as well as "Heidegger's hermeneutics of Being" are determined by Kant's transcendental philosophy. [138]

Apel's version of hermeneutic philosophy places the epistemological motive of Being and Time into the foreground, emphasizes the continuity between the philosophy of the early Heidegger and Husserl's phenomenology, rejects the truth concept of the older Heidegger, the idea of "truth events," [139] and drops the universality of the hermeneutic approach. He places the complementarity of "scientistic" (in the positivist sense) and "hermeneutic" knowledge in the foreground and to mediate the two, introduces "ideology criticism" in which he combines elements of the sociology of "knowledge," of critical theory, and of Freudianism. [140] Apel proclaims a "theory of science," an "anthropology of knowledge" which mixes various directions of contemporary bourgeois philosophy, but whose approach essentially contradicts the philosophy of the older Heidegger. This "anthropology" of knowledge gives up the universality of the hermeneutic approach in order to make possible the universality of the hermeneutic philosophy, but it must note the lack of such a universal philosophy:

As yet, we do not, in my opinion, possess a philosophy which satisfactorily mediates the deep insights of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into the belongingness of human consciousness to Being be it from the social philosophy of a Marx up to Wittgenstein and Heidegger, with the eccentric claim of universal validity for the intersubjective logos of reflection. [141]

There is an obvious lack—and this lack needs to be overcome—of a comprehensive synthesis of life philosophy and that positivism


(tamed and subordinated to life philosophy), which guarantees a place for the individual schools and even includes the "neomarxistically" interpreted Marx. The neo-Kantian, pragmatic, universality, however, conceived in the sense of life philosophy, strives more for universal eclecticism than a comprehensive synthesis.

Behind the universality claim of hermeneutic philosophy lies not only Apel's "anthropology" of knowledge but the general intention of uniting the directions of present-day bourgeois philosophy; this, however, does not exclude a criticism of hermeneutic philosophy's rival schools, in particular of critical rationalism. Gadamer, too, who claims a universal validity for the hermeneutic method, notes that hermeneutic philosophy approaches "analytical" philosophy through its view of language. [142] Ricoeur says that "all philosophical research" —Wittgenstein's investigations, the English linguistic philosophy, the Husserl phenomenology, Heidegger's work, the Bultmann school of theology, the comparative history of religion, the anthropological works on myth, rites and belief, psychoanalysis—meet in the hermeneutically interpreted problem of language. [143] The eclectic efforts toward unity are close to other contemporary efforts which appear to overcome the basic structure of present-day bourgeois thinking, but, in fact, reproduce it. [144] The failure of the universality of hermeneutics and the search for a new universal philosophy give witness to the crisis of all forms of life philosophy and of the basic principle of hermeneutic philosophy.

The hermeneutic school is a continuation of life philosophy. Several of its representatives, especially Bollnow, in their arguments with existentialism, reflected the capitalist economic boom in West Germany and conservative hopes for a crisis-free development of state-monopoly capitalism. With a philosophy of a "new security," Bollnow tried to go beyond the absolute crisis of consciousness in existentialism, the mythology of homelessness, the idea of the fatal loneliness and defenselessness of the individual. The consciousness of the "new security" relativized the crisis experience, corrected the "excesses" and "onesidedness" typical of existentialism, that "crisis is the sole essential form of human existence and therefore human life must necessarily be oriented toward decision."

In their own essence, the crises are not permanent, but emergency situations. They are interruptions—and very significant ones—in the normal flow of life and only fulfill their real function if they lead further to a liberating solution. Between such crises, however, life often goes on over a very long time in calm continuity without demanding a


decision and without life necessarily being less "authentic" in the existence-philosophical sense, i. e. less real and less essential. [145]

Bollnow points out a few sore points in existentialism: there is no way out of the crisis experience now alleged to be universal , existence is the absolute zero point, there can be no content attributed to it. However, this criticism was based on an optimistic version of life philosophy, it set forth the illusion that present-day capitalism had overcome its general crisis in contrast to the existentialist myth of crisis. Although Bollnow knew that "such a new security could never simply remove the existential experience of threat, but must contain and can only overcome it on a higher level," [146] he still hoped that the experience of the "sound world" would already be overwhelming and generally extendable, that the feeling of homelessness and aloneness, of groundlessness and of a "broken world" could be defeated, that the consciousness of the accepted order and firm walls would prevail. [147] However, the universal experience of crisis remained too intense, even during boom periods, and during the apparently complete consolidation of the capitalist system in the midsixties, faith in the political and social stability of the system had been too severely shattered for the hermeneutic philosophy of Heidegger's origin to accept as a whole the ideology of the "new security." Hermeneutic philosophy not only kept a certain social and philosophical distance from Sartre's existentialism, but also pushed Heidegger's absolute crisis myth into the background (but it did not disappear). This school emphasized not so much the absoluteness of the crisis, but that human action or cognition is not capable of breaking its ties to the past [148] and this past necessarily leads to crisis.

Hermeneutic philosophy is usually conservative in a more prosaic way than the Heidegger "philosophy of Being" in which a resigned composure is given legitimation by a conservative pseudoradicalism. Through the partial reestablishment of Kantian subject matter and orientation, hermeneutic philosophy takes on the character of a school philosophy voluntarily isolating itself; but a predominant form of life philosophy in the intellectual life of West Germany and also partly of France. There is no doubt that Pöggeler exaggerates some things, but he does show the present role of hermeneutic philosophy, its ambitions and its continuity, linking it to earlier versions of life philosophy:

What once gave existentialism its influence has long ago been pushed into the background by other currents such as structuralism in France. Looking back, one can see clearly that that which is now considered to be existentialism con-


tinues the motives of life philosophy and has allied itself to phenomenological philosophy, that it could not receive its main imprint through the results of "private" boundary situations because the questions it dealt with were: How does science and technology shape our world? What is the role of art and the humanities in a largely technical world, etc.? If this philosophizing tries to understand and interpret how the particular spheres of our world encounter in various ways that which exists, and if, in the process, it tries to contemporize the history of philosophy, i. e., its own history, then one should speak of a "hermeneutic" philosophy rather than of "existentialism" or of existential ontology and phenomenology. In this hermeneutic philosophy one may see then one of those competing philosophical currents which have articulated themselves during our century and continued to exist in a relatively homogeneous form. [149]

The consciousness that philosophy is questionable, which comes to light very acutely in the crisis situations of the schools of life philosophy, remains the basic tenet of the changing forms of this relatively homogeneous form. The schools, existing both successively and parallel to one another, seek, proclaim, correct, and reinterpret a philosophy of "Being" and "life," which in its essence is defined by the conflict between the end of philosophy and absolute philosophical revelation. Not only in existentialism, but in all life philosophy, the idea of philosophy is primordially antinomian. "Kierkegaard proclaims that the more I think, the less I exist; despite that, he puts forth the existence of an idea in which thought and existence both unite and at the same time struggle against each other," writes Jean Wahl, who was himself a supporter of existentialism. "That is a question which can trouble consciousness and the existence of the existentialist. Does the existentialist not expose himself to the danger of destroying this existence which he first wants to maintain? Does he not have to choose between existentialism and existence?" [150]

Although this dilemma appears less dramatic in the non-Kierkegaard versions of life philosophy, the being of philosophy is no less doubtful in these. In Simmel's view, too, philosophy is pregnant with an insoluble antinomy: here, the issue is objective totality, but its universality does not come from things, but from the reactions of individual consciousness to things, and this universality of the individual consciousness must "be objectivized in a reasonable and conceptual way," must come to light in the false appearance of knowledge. [151]

Life philosophy (like every philosophy) , however, is a set of concepts, even though one cannot get at its actual content via concepts: the older Heidegger claims to have overcome this


dilemma, but he repeats it in a modified form by advocating "nonobjectivizing" thinking and conferring upon it the revelation of "Being." If, however, "philosophy of Being" affirms or negates anything of "Being," it "objectivizes" it and thus falls victim to the sin of the mode of thinking of natural science and technology. [152] The dilemma posed by Merleau-Ponty in his posthumous work returns again and again: "end or revival of philosophy?"; and this dilemma fits into the framework of the universal myth of crisis. As Merleau-Ponty stated, "the crisis in our nonphilosophical condition, was never so radical." [153] This diagnosis is as repetitive a theme in the various forms of life philosophy as is the dilemma about the end or revival, the possibility or impossibility of philosophy. The idea of the end of philosophy is directly interwoven with the experience of the loss of reality, [154] of the fatal ambiguity, of uncertainty and stress in the sought-after philosophy of "Being" or of "life." [155] It is directly interwoven with the consciousness of the fatal ambiguity, uncertainty and stress of the world. [156]



77. On similarities and differences, see J. Wahl, Les philosophies de 1'existence (Paris, 1945), pp. 145ff. "Existentialism strongly opposed the Bergsonian tendencies, even if today, many common features and tendencies between Bergson and the existence-philosophers can be noted." (J. Wahl, Tableau de la philosophie française [Paris, 1962], p. 150.) On the relation between Bergsonian philosophy and existentialism see also: J. Hyppolite, "Du bergsonisme à l'existentialisme," in Figure de la pensee philosophique (Paris, 1971), I, 443 ff. [—> main text]

78. P. Tillich, Existenzphilosophie, Vol. IV of Gesammelte Werke (Stuttgart, 1961), p. 170. What Tillich calls Existenzphilosophie is more or less the same as Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie). In philosophical literature the terms Existenzphilosophie or existentialism as well as life philosophy are applied in both a broader and a narrower sense. In their broadest sense, both terms describe the same current. Life Philosophy in its narrower sense refers to the school of Dilthey, Simmel, Scheler, etc.; existentialism refers to the philosophy stemming from Kierkegaard, oriented on the themes of individual existence, of "extreme situations" of individuals—represented in Heidegger's Sein und Zeit, and by Sartre, Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel. Jean Wahl narrowed down existentialism even more. "If one wishes to employ the word 'existentialism,' it is the philosophy of what one might call the School of Paris, that is to say, to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty." (Philosophical Interrogations, ed. S. and B. Rome [New York, 1964], p. 196.) Clarity of concept is something strange to life


philosophy and existence philosophy; their antirationalism did not accept Descarte's clare et distincte, so terminological unambiguity cannot be expected. The confusion becomes even greater in that philosophers of related schools try to express their differences of opinion terminologically (Jaspers, for instance, rejected the term existentialism for his philosophy in order to dissociate himself from the antireligious ideas of Sartre). However, it is not merely individual decision which determines through what school the whole current is described: when Sartre's or Jaspers' type of existentialism was in the foreground, the term was extended to the whole current. The term life philosophy appears to correspond more to present developments and to indicate more clearly the common essence of a current from Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, including Bergson, James, the older Husserl, and many ramifications existing today. [—> main text]

79. See particularly William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (London, 1961), and What is Existentialism? (New York, 1964). [—> main text]

80. "Itinerary of a Thought: Interview with Jean-Paul Sartre," New Left Review, No. 58 (Nov.-Dec. 1969), p. 45. [—> main text]

81. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (London, 1969; rpt. 1977), p. xli. [—> main text]

82. Ibid., p. 617. [—> main text]

83. Ibid., pp. 617-18. [—> main text]

84. Ibid., p. 218. [—> main text]

85. Sartre, L'existentialism est un humanisme (Paris, 1946), p. 92. This absurdity of existence is transposed in the "Being" of the existentialist philosopher where it appears as an indissoluble antinomy; in the genre most adequate to this attitude (introspective confession) Sartre describes this antinomy in detail and with exhibitionism. In La Nausée, "I managed to describe the unconfirmed, bitter-salty existence of my fellow human beings, but I left my own out. I was Roquentin [hero of La Nausée], I displayed the network of my life without mercy, at the same time I was the chosen one, the chronicler of hell who investigated my own protoplasma fluids as a photomicroscope made of glass and steel. Later, I happily declared that the human being is impossible; I differed from the others insofar as I was authorized to manifest this impossibility; but this glorified at once the impossibility, it became my most intimate possibility, the subject of my mission, the diving-board to my fame." (Les mots [Paris, 1964], p. 210.) [—> main text]

86. Sartre, L'existentialism est un humanisme, p. 63. [—> main text]

87. Ibid., pp. 132ff. "Contingency is what is essential. I want to say that by its definition existence is not necessity. Existing means being there; those existing appear, they make it possible to encounter them, but never to derive them. . . Thus, no necessary being is capable of explaining existence; contingency is not a false appearance, not phenomena to be dissolved; con-


tingency is the absolute and thus completely without cause. Everything is without cause ... this garden, this city, myself. When one realizes this, one feels sick and everything begins to float." (La Nausée [Paris, 1947], p. 171.) Fate manifests itself here in the unavoidability of the choice of the ego, in the course of the "world"; however, the "situation" in which the for itself encounters the "world" is given for the ego only by his choice, so that "in Sartre one cannot really speak of a genuine determination of situation. Each situation must first be chosen by me in freedom, if it is to be relevant for me. In the final analysis, Sartre does not accept Geworfenheit [being thrown into a world not of my making]. The fact of my birth, that I belong to a certain epoch or a certain situation, I must topicalize." (W. Schulz, Philosophie in der veränderten Welt [Pfullingen, 1972], p. 307.] [—> main text]

88. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 287. [—> main text]

89. Sartre, " Merleau-Ponty vivant," Les Temps Modernes, No. 184-185 (1961), pp. 319f. This response did not fully correspond to Sartre's political and moral intentions (see Simone de Beauvoir, Force of Circumstance, trans. Richard Howard [London, 1965], p. 47), but this changed neither the social nature of the existentialist fashion nor its connection to Sartre's philosophy. [—> main text]

90. Sartre, "Itinerary," p. 44. De Beauvoir describes this period: "Suddenly everything fell apart; eternity exploded into a thousand pieces; he found himself drifting aimlessly between a past of illusions and a future of shadows. He defended himself with his morality of authenticity: from the point of view of freedom, all situations could be salvaged if one accepted (assumed) them as a project." (De Beauvoir, p. 13.) [—> main text]

91. At that time, Sartre said that "the moral attitude appears when technical and social conditions render positive forms of conduct impossible. Ethics is a collection of idealistic tricks intended to enable us to live the life imposed on us by the poverty of our resources and the insufficiency of our techniques." (De Beauvoir, p. 210.) [—> main text]

92. Ibid., p. 15. [—> main text]

93. Sartre, "Merleau-Ponty vivant," p. 324. [—> main text]

94. M. Merleau-Ponty, Les Aventures de la dialectique (Paris, 1955). [—> main text]

95. Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique (Paris, 1960), I, 23. [—> main text]

96. "Une lettre de J. P. Sartre: Marxisme et philosophie de l'existence," in R. Garaudy, Perspectives de I'homme: Existentialisme, pensée catholique, structuralisme, marxisme (Paris, 1969), pp. 111f. [—> main text]

97. R. Aron, Histoire et dialectique de la violence (Paris, 1973), pp. 184ff. The positivist "analytical" view that Sartre condemns is not foreign to this existentialist individualism. On the Critique of Dialectical Reason Aron writes: "Expressed in analytical language, the Critique tends to the aim of proving the methodological individualism ontologically. Needless to say, both Sir Karl Popper as well as F. Hayek—if they read the


book—had to recognize their familiar world. Nevertheless, both certainly doubt the ontological reality of the collectives implicitly or explicitly. Sartre tries to reduce the whole social-historical reality to individual praxis which in his opinion is the only ontological reality or at least the ontological source of the practical ensembles or the counter-dialectic, where individual praxis is alienated and seems to disappear.... Sartre proves methodological individualism ontologically, from this he derives the decisive role of the teleological interpretation or the explanation through aims in the humane sciences; the analytical philosophers find this teleological interpretation in their own method." (Ibid., pp. 227f.) [—> main text]

98. G. Gurvitch, Dialectique et sociologie (Paris, 1962), pp. 170f. "This philosophy sublimates individual existence that, through its alienations in the world of nature and society, returns to itself and achieves freedom." (Ibid. pp. 173f.) [—> main text]

99. Sartre, "Itinerary," pp. 58-59, 57. [—> main text]

100. Some supporters of Sartre then had the illusion that existentialism had shattered France. (See Epistémon, Des idees qui ont ébranlé la France (Paris, 1968). Alfred Schmidt, an exponent of the Frankfurt School, stated: "That existentialism, academically finished and said to be dead, proved itself political dynamite in the late sixties capable of shattering the capitalist system, must have alarmed not only the rulers, but above all the communist parties of Western Europe." ("Statt eines Vorworts: Geschichte als verandernde Praxis," in H. Marcuse and A. Schmidt, Existentialistische Marx-Interpretation [Frankfurt/Main, 1973], p. 9.) Two illusions interweave in these statements: the unreal assessment of the students' movement and an exaggeration of the significance of existentialism. The political crisis which came from the objective contradictions of society in France broke out at the same time as the specific, acute crisis among students; there is no doubt, although it is less obvious, that the first moment dominated here; and if the spring of 1968 was seen as shattering French political and intellectual life, then this was above all (although not exclusively) the result of the strike movement and the political struggles of the working class. The events of May and June 1968 in France were an episode in the revival of class struggles, a symptom of the political instability of the bourgeois world, but only when mirrored in the false consciousness of the New Left—or the old anarchism—does it become a world-historic turning point. In the intellectual confusion of the "left" groups, bits of anarchism, neo-Trotskyism, Maoism, "Freudian Marxism" and a Marcusian "critical theory" with the terminology of Sartre's existentialism were all jumbled together. But this existentialism was more the sloganized philosophical phraseology of some "left" groups rather than their primary inspiration. Thus, Sartre was later able to state about his experiences in spring 1968: "I myself felt like an outsider: today a star, tomorrow a pensioned veteran." (Neues Forum, No. 245 [1974], p. 12.) [—> main text]


101. "Existentialism has largely lost its provocative force, the tendencies of more recent philosophy seem to push both existentialism and its advocates into the background." (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 27 Sept. 1974.) In the seventies, Sartre discovered the anarchist within himself (Le Nouvel Observateur, No. 556 [1975], p. 64) and thus a new tension within his activity; he stated that he was a "classical intellectual," although he realized that the intellectual had to give up his intellectual essence in anarchist-Maoist action (Le Monde, 17 May 1974). Subjectivist actionism and existentialist intellectualism isolated from revolutionary activity are not a contradiction between two types of intellectuals, but are two sides of the same pseudo-revolutionary petty-bourgeois attitude. [—> main text]

102. M. Merleau-Ponty, Èloge de la Philosophie (Paris, 1953), pp. 11ff. See also A. de Waelhens, "Situation de Merleau-Ponty," Les Temps Modernes, No. 184-185 (1965). [—> main text]

103. On changes and continuity of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy see: J. Hyppolite, Sens et existence dans la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty (Oxford, 1963) and G. Pilz, Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Ontologie und Wissenschaftskritik (Bonn, 1973). Merleau-Ponty's philosophy changed together with his political attitudes. [—> main text]

104. M. Merleau-Ponty, Sens et non-sens (Paris, 1948), pp. 143ff. [—> main text]

105. Merleau-Ponty, Signes, p. 196. In Being and Nothingness Sartre, too, did not exclude the possibility of a universal "ontology"; according to him, the aim continues to be the "metaphysical theory of being in general" (Sartre, L'être et le néant, p. 428). However, the existentialist view of the disinterest in the in-itself-and the disinterest in the existentialist view for the in-itself-and the sole validity of anthropologism, limited Sartre's ontology to a human existence taken only from the ego and the Other. (On the relationship of Sartre's conception to the "social ontologies" of Husserl, Heidegger and Buber, see M. Theunissen, Der Andere: Studien zur Sozialontologie der Gegenwart [West Berlin, 1965], pp. 187ff.) At the beginning of the sixties, Sartre comforted himself by saying that Merleau-Ponty had not come under the influence of the older Heidegger, their paths had merely crossed. However, he had to admit that Merleau-Ponty sometimes made statements that appeared "disquieting." "It is annoying if anyone today writes that the human being is not the Absolute," Sartre wrote. But he realized that this view of "Being" does not suppress anthropologization, because according to Merleau-Ponty's late philosophy "man is defined by the basic calling to take possession of being, but being is defined by the fate of fulfilling itself through man." (Sartre, "Merleau-Ponty vivant," p. 367.) Hyppolite registered—also from the position of existentialism—the differences between Sartre's and Merleau-Ponty's philosophies: that "Merleau-Ponty's philosophy rejects the dualism between in-itself and for-itself, between complete inertness and active project," that, according to Merleau-Ponty, people


"prolong an ambiguous, natural existence." He considered these differences, nevertheless, as secondary. (J. Hyppolite, "Existence et dialectique dans la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty," Les Temps modernes, No. 184-185 [1961], pp. 230f.) [—> main text]

106. "Phenomenology is research into the essence—all problems, it teaches, must be defined through their essence, for example through the essence of perception, the essence of consciousness. Yet phenomenology is just as much a philosophy that puts all essence back into existence and demands an understanding of human being and world in their 'facticity.' . . . Phenomenology is the aspiration of philosophy to be a 'strict science'—but at the same time it is a narrative of 'lived' space, time, and the world" (M. Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie de la perception [Paris, 1945], p. i.) [—> main text]

107. M. Merleau-Ponty, L'oeil et l'esprit (Paris, 1964), p. 19. [—> main text]

108. M. Merleau-Ponty, Résumés de cours: College de France, 1952-60 (Paris, 1968), pp. 118f. Sartre also became reconciled with this philosophy of nature when he reassured himself of its opposition to dialectical materialism. (J. P. Sartre, "Merleau-Ponty vivant", pp. 365f.) [—> main text]

109. M. Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l'invisible, suivi de notes de travail, ed. C. Lefort (Paris, 1964), pp. 184ff., pp. 302ff. On the relationship between the philosophies of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, see R. Boehm, "XIA[sigma]MA. Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger," in Durchblicke: Martin Heidegger zum 80. Geburtstag (Frankfurt/Main, 1970), pp. 369ff. [—> main text]

110. Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l'invisible, p. 247. [—> main text]

111. Pöggeler claims that "Heidegger's philosophy no longer belongs to the philosophical currents that are fashionable and topical." (Heidegger: Perspektiven zur Deutung seines Werkes, p. 12.) This acceptance of the untopicality shows the ahistorical pose of this philosophy rather than Heidegger's actual influence. The direct effects of Heidegger's philosophy fluctuate, but the basic situation still exists that Löwith described—with a certain exaggeration—at the end of the fifties: "Heidegger's word determines current philosophical thinking far beyond Germany" (K. Löwith, Heidegger. Denker in dürftiger Zeit [Göttingen, 1965], p. 107). Habermas noted that Heidegger's influence extended from Max Müller to Karl Löwith to Herbert Marcuse, beyond universities and the German-language territories, from France to Latin America and Japan. (J. Habermas, Philosophisch-politische Profile [Frankfurt/Main, 19711, pp. 76.) On the influence of Heidegger's philosophy see also: Martin Heidegger: in Europe and America, ed. E. G. Ballard and Ch. E. Scott (The Hague, 1973); J. Lacroix, "Le plus grand philosophe de notre temps," Le Monde, 28 May 1976. [—> main text]

112. "Being and Time was not finished through any external circumstances, but because the starting point bore the necessity of failure within it ... first it ensures the existence that being understands, and then presents historicity as the 'essence' of this existence. Thus, Being and Time was not only mis-


understood in the subjective anthropological sense, but the work itself was in danger, because it came from previous thinking, 'against its will' of 'becoming a renewed consolidation of subjectivity' ([Heidegger], Nietzsche II, 194f.)." (O. Pöggeler, Der Denkweg Martin Heideggers [Pfullingen, 1963], pp. 179 f.) [—> main text]

113. M. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tübingen, 1972), p. 437. [—> main text]

114. M. Heidegger, Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit, p. 69. [—> main text]

115. Heidegger criticizes existentialism, particularly Sartre's version, from the viewpoint of his "philosophy of Being" (Ibid.: P. 79). See also Heidegger, Vorträge und Aufsätze (Pfullingen 1954), pp. 233f. [—> main text]

116. Vorträge und Aufsätze, p. 182. [—> main text]

117. Zur Sache des Denkens, p. 3. [—> main text]

118. Wegmarken (Frankfurt/Main, 1967), p. 106. [—> main text]

119. Nietzsche, I, 436. [—> main text]

120. According to Heidegger, the fatal and inescapable narrowness of the "scientific technological mode of thinking" can be comprehended only from outside of science: "That thinking and speaking objectivize only in a derived and narrowed sense, can never be scientifically deduced from proofs. An insight into the essence of thought and speech can be gained only through an unprejudiced vision of the phenomena." (M. Heidegger, Phänomenologie und Theologie [Frankfurt/ Main, 1970], p. 45.) [—> main text]

121. M. Heidegger, Gelassenheit (Tübingen, 1959), p. 25. On Heidegger's view of technology, see also: M. Heidegger, Die Technik und Die Kehre (Pfullingen, 1962). [—> main text]

122. Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit, p. 75. [—> main text]

123. Ibid., p. 60. [—> main text]

124. Ibid., p. 115. [—> main text]

125. Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pfullingen, 1959), p. 164. [—> main text]

126. Vorträge und Aufsätze, p. 35. [—> main text]

127. Wegmarken, pp. 86. [—> main text]

128. H.-G. Gadamer, "Hermeneutik," in: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, ed. J. Ritter (Darmstadt, 1974), III, 1067. On the history and Marxist critique of hermeneutic idealism see: H. J. Sandkühler, Praxis und Geschichtsbewusstsein: Studie zur materialistischen Dialektik, Erkenntnistheorie und Hermeneutik (Frankfurt/Main, 1973), pp. 57ff. In his new works, Sandkühler questions the philosophical justification of the term materialist hermeneutic. See H. J. Sandkühler, "Die Geschichte besser verstehen—die Wirklichkeit besser gestalten," in Die Zukunft der Philosophie, ed. M. Gerhardt (Munich, 1975), p. 83. [—> main text]

129. In Verfall der Philosophie, ed. Grossner, p. 219. [—> main text]

130. H.-G. Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik (Tübingen, 1965), p. xvi. [—> main text]

131. H.-G. Gadamer, "Die Universalität des hermeneutischen Problems," in Philosophie, Hermeneutik, vol I of Kleine Schriften (Tubingen, 1967), pp. 110f. [—> main text]

132. H.-G. Gadamer, "Reply," in Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik, (Frankfurt/Main, 1971), p. 283. [—> main text]

133. In his diagnosis (from within) of present-day bourgeois


philosophy, W. Schulz notes that the antisubjectivisin that this "hermeneutic" vindicates actually makes subjectivism absolute. Thus, "it now seems a completely unsuitable approach to grasp hermeneutics from the philosophy of subjectivity in any way. But this unsuitability is founded—and here is the paradox—precisely in the absolutization of subjectivity." (W. Schulz , Philosophie in der veranderten Welt, p. 538). [—> main text]

134. First, "hermeneutics" refers to personal being, it argues that "here the objective categories fail, because the personal is not of the same kind as objects and cannot be objectified." (E. Coreth, Grundfragen der Hermeneutik: Ein Philosophischer Beitrag [Fribourg, 1969], p. 112.) The basis of this "nonobjectifying" knowledge is given in today's life philosophy by Heidegger's differentiation between "Being" and "being," but this very dualism makes questionable an understanding of personal "being-there" itself: "The thinking of the Being does not return to an understanding of the being; it no longer leads to a revelation and foundation of what being is ontologically—seen from Being in its essence; the mediation is torn asunder. But because the being is eliminated and devalued, Being appears as a completely independent Being-event, hovering within itself, quite separated from the being.... It is a dualism that rests in a new, quite Platonic hypostatization, and this is not the hypostatization of the general idea, but the hypostatization of the Being as a Being-event that reveals itself to us in time and history." (Ibid., pp. 169ff.) "Hermeneutic philosophy, which found its specific scientificness in hermeneutic, breaks asunder in thinking, on the one hand, and in science, on the other," Poggeler writes about the older Heidegger's philosophy. (Introd., Hermeneutische Philosophic, ed. O. Poggeler [Munich, 1972], p. 35.) [—> main text]

135. K.-O. Apel, "Heideggers philosophische Radikalisierung der 'Hermeneutik' und die Frage nach dem 'Sinnkriterium' der Sprache," in Hermeneutische Philosophie, pp. 212f. [—> main text]

136. K.-O. Apel, Transformation der Philosophie (Frankfurt/Main, 1973), I, 26. [—> main text]

137. Apel, Wittgenstein und Heidegger, p. 386. [—> main text]

138. Apel, "Heideggers philosophische Radikalisierung," p. 215. [—> main text]

139. Apel, Transformation der Philosophie, I, 43. [—> main text]

140. K.-O. Apel, "Szientistik, Hermeneutik, Ideologiekritik. Entwurf einer Wissenschaftlehre in erkenntnisanthropogischer Sicht," in Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik, pp. 7ff. Ricoeur is also willing to moderate the contraposition of "understanding" with "explaining" originating from Droysen and Dilthey, which makes a "hermeneutic" philosophical interpretation of "explaining" impossible. Ricoeur tries to bring "understanding" and "explaining" closer together; he sees "structural analysis" and "interpretation" as elements of the "hermeneutic arch." (P. Ricoeur, "Qu'est-ce qu'un Text? Expliquer et Comprendre," in Hermeneutik und Dialektik, ed. R. Bubner et al. [Tübingen, 1970], II, 182ff.) [—> main text]


141. Apel, Wittgenstein und Heidegger, p. 391. [—> main text]

142. H.-G. Gadamer, Hermeneutik, p. 1071. According to Gadamer, the process of approach takes place also from the other side: "At any rate the analysis of language, which developed through work on the problematic of logical artificial language in England and America, is visibly coming closer to the research attitudes of the phenomenological school of Husserl." (H.-G. Gadamer, "Die Natur der Sache und die Sprache der Dinge," Kleine Schriften, I, 64.) [—> main text]

143. P. Ricoeur, De l'interprétation: Essai sur Freud (Paris, 1965), p. 13. [—> main text]

144. The philosophies of the "ontological" fashion give the appearance of standing outside the fundamental directions of this thinking. The current revival of these ontologies, however, indicates that they do not go beyond the fundamental content of present bourgeois philosophy. The life-philosophy interpretation of the crisis of natural sciences is used as an argument to reestablish an ontology of the Hartmann and Whitehead type. "The crisis in the science of Being has now taken the paradoxical appearance of a crisis of Being itself. We must save Being. Since natural science has acknowledged its inability to account for it rationally, philosophy should take the matter in its own hands and resume the search for the foundations of Being." (E. Nicol, "The Return to Metaphysics," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 22, No. 1 [1961], 33.) No matter what specific features it may have, the Hartmann ontology is a motif in the "metaphysical" tendencies of contemporary bourgeois thinking. (S. Moser, Metaphysik einst und jetzt: Kritische Untersuchungen zu Begriff und Ansatz der Ontologie [West Berlin, 1958], pp. 61ff.) Arnold Gehlen's conservative-anthropological conception of society can refer to the Hartmann ontology because it is tied to life philosophy (A. Gehlen: Die Seele im technischen Zeitalter: Sozialpsychologische Probleme in der industriellen Gesellschaft [Hamburg, 1957], p. 117; Studien zur Anthropologie und Soziologie [Neuwied, 1963], pp. 142, 215; Der Mensch: Seine Natur und Stellung in der Welt [Frankfurt/Main, 1966], pp. 19, 67f.) [—> main text]

145. O. F. Bollnow, Neue Geborgenheit: Das Problem der Überwindung des Existentialismus (Stuttgart, 1960), pp. 42f. [—> main text]

146. Ibid., pp. 18f. [—> main text]

147. Ibid., pp. 145, 176ff. [—> main text]

148. "The existential meaning of hermeneutic history for the self-understanding of man ... simply lies in the fact that I recognize the past is always ahead of me, and that it affects me so strongly that in all my deeds and actions, above all through my interpretation of this past, I always stand in the spell of this tradition." (W. Schulz, Philosophie in der veränderten Welt, p. 540.) [—> main text]

149. Pöggeler, Introd., Hermeneutische Philosophie, pp. 9f. [—> main text]

150. Wahl, Les philosophies de l'existence, p. 158. [—> main text]

151. Simmel, Hauptprobleme der Philosophie (Leipzig, 1910), pp. 41f. [—> main text]


152. Heidegger, Phänomenologie und Theologie, pp. 39ff. [—> main text]

153. Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l'invisible, p. 219. [—> main text]

154. "The fundamental crisis of current consciousness must be sought by losing reality and entering into the world of feverish fantasy, into that chaotic decaying world in which the somnambulists are at home.... The unreason of technology showed up the absurd, the point of present-day irrealism." (Flam, La Philosophie au tournant de notre temps, pp. 172f.) [—> main text]

155. Abbagnano claims: "This real indetermination, this fundamental questionability is characteristic of all existential actions. Existentialism makes it possible to reconcile the problem of what a philosopher is with the problem of what we are now." (N. Abbagnano, Philosophie des menschlichen Konflikts: Eine Einführung in den Existentialismus [Hamburg, 1957], pp. 13, 25.) [—> main text]

156. R. König, who challenges the life-philosophy crisis idea from a positivist point of view, notes that "life and existential philosophy (and thus all those individual sciences constructed within its framework) in the way it constructs the intellectual world implies nothing more and nothing less than the permanent explanation of crisis. Becoming, growth, and change of life phenomena are grasped in accordance with the model of the crisis of life." (R. König, Kritik der historisch-existentialistischen Soziologie. Ein Beitrag zur Begründung einer objektiven Soziologie [Munich, 1975], p. 80.) [—> main text]

SOURCE: Gedö, András. Crisis Consciousness in Contemporary Philosophy. Translated by Salomea Genin; edited by Doris Grieser Marquit. Minneapolis: Marxist Educational Press, 1982. (Studies in Marxism; v. 11) [Original German edition: Philosophie der Krise. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1978.] Chapter Two, part two, pp. 34-52, plus endnotes (215-224).

©1982, 2002 Marxist Educational Press. All rights reserved. Web publication courtesy of publisher and author.

Crisis Consciousness in Contemporary Philosophy by András Gedö:
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: "Two Aspects of Bourgeois Crisis Consciousness"
Chapter 2: "The Contemporary Crisis in Bourgeois Philosophy"
1. Neopositivism: Linguistic Philosophy and Critical Rationalism

András Gedö — Vita (Bibliography)

"The Contemporary Attack on Science" by András Gedö

"The Historical Character of the Concept of Nature" by András Gedö

Why Marx or Nietzsche? ” by András Gedö


Marxist Educational Press / Nature, Society, and Thought

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