Husserl’s Concept of the Vorwelt and the Possible Annihilation of the World

In: Research in Phenomenology
Author: Matt Bower 1
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Central Florida

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In this paper I explore a curious phenomenon discussed in Husserl’s later manuscripts under the name “pre-world.” This notion arises in the context of his ongoing development of a genetic phenomenology, i.e., a phenomenology that is concerned with the dynamics of conscious life, concerning both the generation of new meaning for consciousness and new dimensions of conscious life. The pre-world is one such dimension. I explore it here in two stages. First, I consider the initial unsavoriness of the very idea of a pre-world, whose metaphysical implications are suspect, on the surface. Nevertheless, I show that the pre-world puts the subject in contact with reality in a very special sense that should remedy this worry. Second, I show how the notion of the pre-world re-opens Husserl’s thought of the possible annihilation of the world from Ideas i. In fact, it explains the possibility, by revealing its experiential ground.

  • 1

    See Sebastian Luft, Phänomenologie der Phänomenologie: Systematik und Methodologie der Phänomenologie in der Auseinandersetzung zwischen Husserl und Fink (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002), 192–93. Husserl makes this clear also in Hua Matviii: 223–24. For bibliographic details for Husserliana (Hua) references, see Abbreviations list at end of this essay; Hua citations give volume number followed by first the German, and where available, after the forward slash the English translation page numbers.

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  • 2

    Anna Pugliese, “Triebsphäre und Urkindlichkeit des Ich,” Husserl Studies 25, no. 2 (2009): 141–57, here 142.

  • 4

    D. Zahavi, Husserl’s Phenomenology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 48.

  • 19

    See A. Steinbock, “Affection and Attention,” Continental Philosophy Review 37, (2004): 21–43.

  • 22

    Concerning this idea, see Christian Lotz, From Affectivity to Subjectivity (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007), 43–48.

  • 25

    James Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (New York: Psychology Press, 1986).

  • 27

    On this point, see Robert Sokolowski, “Husserl on First Philosophy,” in Philosophy, Phenomenology, Sciences, ed. Filip Mattens, Hanne Jacobs, and Carlo Ierna (Dordrecht: Springer, 2010).

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  • 29

    On this notion, see Held, Lebendige Gegenwart: die Frage nach der Seinsweise des transzendentalen Ich bei Edmund Husserl, entwickelt am Leitfaden der Zeitproblematik (Dordrecht: Springer, 1966) and James Mensch, Husserl’s Account of Our Consciousness of Time.

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  • 30

    L. Rodemeyer, Intersubjective Temporality: It’s about Time (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006), 34, and Tetsuya Sakakibara, “Phenomenology in a Different Voice: Husserl and Nishida in the 1930s,” in Philosophy, Phenomenology, Sciences, 680–81.

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  • 31

    L. Rodemeyer, “Developments in the Theory of Time-Consciousness: An Analysis of Protention,” in The New Husserl, ed. D. Welton (Bloomington, in: Indiana University Press, 2003), 125–55, here 141–43, and Rodemeyer, Intersubjective Temporality: It’s about Time, 97–98. Sakakibara’s analysis suggests this as well; see Sakakibara, “Phenomenology in a Different Voice,” 683–84, and “Reflection upon the Living Present and the Primal Consciousness in Husserl’s Phenomenology,” in On Time: New Contributions to the Husserlian Phenomenology of Time, ed. D. Lohmar and I. Yamaguchi (Dordrecht: Springer, 2010), 251–71, here 260–61, 265–66.

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