Life-world: An ever-existing ground or a lost paradise? 
The Phenomenology of Life-world in Husserl and Blumenberg: A Comparison

Abbed Kanoor
Bergische Universtität Wuppertal, Germany

Life-world (Lebenswelt) is a central concept in Edmund Husserl’s late Phenomenology. It is of high philosophical relevance in Husserl’s critical approach to what he called The Crisis of European Sciences. The crisis of modern sciences is not related to their function – sciences never have been so successful in breaking the boundaries of human knowledge –, but to the fact that the scientific approach has lost its kinship to its root in subjective experience. The crisis of modern sciences is the crisis of meaning and orientation. The modern sciences work but in a quasi-autonomous manner in their independent different branches and not with regard to the meaningful human world. The objective scientific world has its foundation in a common life-world shared by culturally and historically situated subjects. Its objectivity is due to an idealization process totally legitimate for the theoretical projects. But the wrong step is to identify the common world and its corporeal objects with the constructed scientific objectivity. Insisting upon the relativity of the objective scientific knowledge in contrast to the evident general structure of life-world, Husserl calls the “independency” of modern sciences into question. His main point is that the life-world is to be considered as a given common “ground” always there in everyday experience.     

The concept of “life-world” however has the same destiny as many other philosophical concepts. It has been created in a specific context, which is to be forgotten when the concept finds its rigid place in the history of philosophy. Husserl’s “life-world” is supposed to be evident to all phenomenology scholars. In my paper I try to challenge this self-evidence through Blumenberg’s interpretation.

With Blumenberg (Theorie der Lebenswelt, Lebenszeit und Weltzeit) I ask if already the diagnostic context in which Husserl elaborates his “ontology of life-world” and the task which he defines for it, does not cast doubt on perceiving the life-world as an evident given ground. The life-world theory is supposed to present a solution to the crisis of modern sciences. In order to find this solution Husserl tries to find a preliminary situation, where the kinship between the subjective meaningful experience and the scientific objectivity has not been disrupted. The question is, if he discovers this beginning or just reconstructs it theoretically. Regaining the life-world presupposes its loss. To put it differently, we thematize the life-world, because we are not living in it anymore.

The question “what is the life-world?” must be replaced by the question “why the life-world?” Blumenberg has a preliminary answer to this question: Giving the philosophical rational thinking a room in raw pre-theoretical experience. Acknowledging this point leads us to the fact that Husserl’s philosophical theory of life-world is the failure symptom of his cartesianism. The idea of Philosophy as a rigorous science is not evident anymore. It needs a philosophical prehistory and justification.