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Persons and Personal Identity

Understanding of Intersubjectivity and Life in Theodors Celm's Philosophical Works

Maija Kúle
University of Latvia

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ABSTRACT: Theodors Celms (1893-1989), a prominent Latvian philosopher, was one of Husserl's best students. Intersubjectivity was an important theme in the "psychological" reading of phenomenology when Celm turned to the problem of the transcendental "I" and to a living-rather than logically defined-subject. Celms concluded that Husserl's phenomenology could not address the question of intersubjectivity because in the course of its development it merely substituted pluralistic solipsism for monistic solipsism. What is most essential in phenomenology-the process of sense (or meaning) formation-remains hardly noticed in Celms' work. Contemporary phenomenology has developed as a philosophy of new thinking-a phenomenology of life that can be applied in different ways toward solving various problems of intersubjectivity.

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Professor Theodors Celms (1893-1989) was the most prominent Latvian philosopher. He has published significant philosophical works in Latvian and German. His philosophical heritage is: "Der phânomenologische Idealismus Husserls", Riga, 1928; "Vom Wesen der Philosophie", Regensburg, 1930; "Lebensumgebung und Lebensprojektion", Leipzig, 1933; "Subjekt und Subjektivierung. Studien über das subjektive Sein", Riga, 1943. All these works are republished now in Germany, under the title "Der phänomenologische Idealismus Husserls and andere Schriften", Verlag Peter Lang, 1993.

In 1922-1925 Celms went to Germany and took up courses in philosophy conducted by Rickert and Husserl. Husserl recognized him as one of the best pupils in phenomenology. At the University of Freiburg he obtained the doctoral degree in philosophy. Later he became a research assistant in the "Deutsche Literaturzeitung für Kritik der internationalen Wissenschaft". His main philosophical book on Husserl was translated in Spain, Madrid, 1931. This work has not lost significance up to this day. "Garland" in New Your in 1979 recognized it as important but no longer available book. Celms became famous as one of the deepest critics of Husserl's transcendental phenomenology, who tried to find a way out of the phenomenological discrepancies.

In the thirties Celms wrote reviews in German on M. Heidegger's and M.Scheler's philosophies and published volumes in Latvian: "Tagadnes problèmas" (The Problems of Today), Riga, 1934, and "Patiesìba un øæitums" (Truth and Appearance), Riga, 1939 as well as separate articles in papers, magazines and encyclopaedias. The themes of Man, subject, life, consciousness, culture, society occupy a most prominent place in T.Celms philosophical articles and lectures in the University of Latvia.

At the end of the Second World War Celms emigrated to Germany, then moved to the USA (1949). He worked at Augustana College in Rock Island (Illinois) until the retirement in 1963. In the USA he continued philosophical studies and wrote a book "Phänomen and Wirklichkeit des Ichs. Studien über das subjective Sein" (Phenomenon and Reality of I. Studies of the Subjective Being). This work hasn't been published yet, therefore the understanding of Celms philosophy is based mainly on the first part of his philosophical activity, which is connected with his life in Latvia and Germany. The publication of Celm's manuscripts will enable the development and a more thorough assessment of the ideas on his conception.

Celms has worked on the problems of human nature, the relationship between Man's personality and the culture of mankind, Man's volitional life, which touches upon the themes of psychology and sociology. In his works Celms follows the critical realism, neo-Kantian and phenomenological traditions and tries to develop some new aspects of phenomenology and hermeneutics.

In the European history of philosophy Celms is well known as a phenomenologist. But it must be specified - what kind of phenomenological orientations does he reflect? B.Wandenfels mentioned him together with such famous figures as Roman Ingarden, Ortega y Gasset, Jan Patoàka, Marvin Faber, Hajime Tanabe, Shuzo Kuki (Japan). He was mentioned as a Latvian phenomenologist in Herbert Spiegelberg's history of phenomenology. Th. Seebohm in his book "Der Bedingungen der Möglichkeit der transzendental Philosophie" writes that Folwart in analysing Celm's views on phenomenology has noticed that Celms just fails expressing the thought that phenomenology is nothing but eidetic psychology. This thought has been clearly voiced in German philosophical literature by Ryle, Erlich who pointed out that phenomenology was an a prioristic psychology.

The way how Celms criticizes Husserl's phenomenology, regards him as standing close to the Munich -Gottingen school. Celms was closely connected with A.Pfänder, to whom he dedicated his work "Lebensumgebung und Lebensprojektion" (1933). Pfänder published an excellent review on Celm's book "Der phänomenologische Idealismus Husserls". At the same time Celms occupied a peculiar position, which distinguishes him from Husserl and and the Munich-Gottingen school.

His peculiar position has never been reflected in the European history of phenomenology. To my mind, it is worthwhile, therefore, to view his heritage as the starting point of phenomenology of life. From the present point of view, when the standpoints of phenomenology of life have taken shape, Celms contribution is more obvious than it was at the time when phenomenology was taking its first steps.

Celms calls Husserl's phenomenological idealism life philosophy. The history of phenomenology shows that the notion "life", "live", "life world" and others become important in contemporary phenomenology. Husserl's stand in his latest works is still connected with the way, which links phenomenology with its turning to concrete subjectivity and its life.

The pure life is the basis for reduction in Husserls phenomenology, acknowledges Celms. Life is grasped in phenomenological reflection. In describing the model of Husserl,s reflexive consciousness Celms stresses that life does not consist of objects but of experiences (besteht mein Leben nicht aus Objekten, sondern aus Erlebnissen). We perceive experiences as an infinity of an immanent observation process.

The former distinction between idealism and realism gives place to a new kind to distinction between the I-philosophy (Ich Philosophie) and World-philosophy (Weltphilosophie) which has no I at its centre. Husserl, to Celms mind, belongs to the I-philosophy, which completely subjugates being to spiritualization (Durchgeistigung). If different forms of transcendental philosophy view pure consciousness as transindividual consciousness, then Husserl, according to Celms, poses the problem of the transience of experience brimming with individual consciousness (erfüllte Erlebniszeitlichkeit). That Husserl interprets the world pulse as the pulse of I-life proves that his idealism is close to life philosophy.

In his early works Celms follows the neo-Kantianism and phenomenology, German philosophy of life and critical realism. He speaks about culture, consciousness, its structures, pure I, subject and subjectivation. Celms often compares Husserl's approach with Kant reminding of the limitations of the philosophy of transcendentalism. The world in Husserl's teachings is an idea motivated by interconnected experiences which resembles Kant's approach as the world is attributed existence in itself. Husserl regards the stream of experiences as absolute being. In Celm's opinion, Husserl's phenomenology is one-sided rationalism. However, turning to life's actualities, as Celms notes as far back as in 1928, despite absolute a priori regularities (Regelung) leads to the perpetually irrational.

The question of intersubjectivity in Celm's works is raised problematically, it is connected with the phenomenological question of how break through the inner life of consciousness and to adequately grasp the inner life of a strange consciousness, how can one subjectivity understand another subjectivity enclosed in itself.

Celms takes Husserl's teaching about intersubjectivity very critically. He has many objections to raise to the founder of phenomenology, however, on the whole, the objections concentrate around two themes:

1. Possibility of Husserlian phenomenology to break out the victious circle of solipsism and to solve problem of intersubjectivity,

2. Transcendence and the possibility of phenomenology to grasp it as an objective reality independent of consciousness or the subject's immanence.

Celms writes that Husserl's work "Logische Untersuchungen" are limited in two aspects: the work does not examine all the possible objectivities, but only logical idealities and all the possible experiences of consciousness are not examined either, but only logical experiences - by which Celms understands thinking and cognition. This note that Celms in the twenties makes testifies to the fact that in his opinion in clasical phenomenology there is too little turning to life and human culture.

While the ideal logical units (Bedeutungseinheiten) remain the main sphere of investigation of phenomenology, the fundamental philosophical question about intersubjectivity is not so essential. Transtemporal units of meanings are the basis on which concrete and individual conscioussness unite to meet in mutual understanding. Between these concrete subjects and temporal experiences there is no "abyss". Existence of objective spiritual forms unites all the human beeings.

The theme of intersubjectivity becomes urgent in the "psychological" reading of phenomenology when the later turns to the problem of the transcendental I and to a live not a logically defined subject.

It should be noted though that Husserl and Celms see paralells with psychology and note that what a phenomenologist does is similar (paralell) to what a psychologist does turning to inner experience of one's self and his life. However, alongside with the transcendental phenomenological stand I reaches the last (deepest) point of experience and cognition in which I becomes a desinterested observer of his worldly natural I-world and I. This I-worlds is only a part or a layer of the transcendental life.

Husserl maintains that Descartes has not paid adequate attention to the disclosure of the eternal course of the transcendental Ego's self experience (Selbsterfahrung). Decsartes has not disclosed Ego in the concreteness of his transcendental being and life, which is what phenomenology, aims at. Husserl says, we speak of Ego as of a concrete monad. Consequently, in classical phenomenology the notions "life", "live" function in their transcendental meaning and imply pure structures. Husserl suggests performing transcendental reduction, getting rid of the separate cognizing subject and reasoning about general a priori structures of the transcendental subject. Phenomenologist pleads that the life he writes about is not real live life but only phenomenologically purified life, that concrete subjectivity is not actually existing concretedness, but only its phenomenological ideal, etc. Suchlike excuses render phenomenological investigations more complicated and liable to different interpretations. It is evident from the history of phenomenology when now and again publications appear on how Husserl really understood transcendental subjectivity, how concrete and even individual it can be.

And respectively the more I lost its "purity" the more urgent the problem of intersubjectivity became. As soon as I starts losing the logical universality, the originally given identity, as soon as it is filled with acts, stream of experience, life, it gets more and more psychologized and becomes one's own I notwithstanding the strict demand for observing the phenomenological reduction. As to the logically pure I, the existence and the problem of understanding a strange I is not essential as the pure I in its formal way of existence is all-embracing and universal as it envisaged in the philosophy of transcendentalism. But as to each own one's own I, the problem " the strange" is one of the most important and it must be solved to overcome solipsism and the enclosure of philosophy into the personal consciousness of individual Man.

Taking into account Husserl's statements about the personal character of I, style and like thoughts one must admit that psychological moods penetrate phenomenology very strongly. They cannot be warded off even by Husserl's statement to the effect that pure I and the idea of a person are one and the same.

Inevitably, the psychological undertone in phenomenology is sensed by Husserl's critics, including Celms.

Celms reads Husserl rather simply seeing I as individual I. In Celm's writing there appear propositions that intersubjectivity could be understood even biologically. He says, that such an ability to read the strange I soul experience is biologically necessary and therefore instinctive in Man.

Such reading is, of course, very risky for phenomenology for then it loses any possibility of "logical" and universal interpretation of subject. On the basis of this Celms reproaches phenomenology. Celms comes to the conclusion that Husserl's phenomenology cannot cope with the question of intersubjectivity as in the course of its development it only manages to substitute pluralistic solipsism for monistic solipsism. To save the situation one should recognize the pregiven harmony described by Leibnitz. However, in Celm's opinion, it would be creation of a new metaphysics. The acceptance of such metaphysical statement is not in accord with the aspiration of phenomenology for being a strict science. In contradistinction to Kant who uses the notion of harmony to reach a concord between sensuality and intelect, the directly given and in consciousness immanently existing, Husserl employs the notion of harmony to accord the immanence of one I with the immanence of another I absolutely transcendental for the former. Husserl first tears off monads one from the other and then declares their psychological harmony. According to Celms, that is not the right way for philosophy.

Celms states that Husserl's teaching was influenced by Kant's transcendental philosophy and Leibnitz monadology which taken together are turned into spiritualistic metaphysics and intuitivism.

Is Husserl's phenomenology a sheer solipsism, which is unable to solve the question of intersubjectivity?

In principle, one might agree with Celms' evaluation of Husserl's phenomenology as empirical and psychological solipsism. It is true that Husserl gives a certain reason for such reading, hence Celms' reproaches to phenomenology. However, next to it, there is possibility of the "logical" reading. As to the question about intersubjectivity, the principles of apriorism and transcendentalism, the ontology of meanings or ideal meaningful units give the logical counterbalance in phenomenology. Celms does not mention the theme of apriorism in relation to intersubjectivity, but he remarks on the phenomenological transition from psychological intersubjectivity to phenomenologically pure intersubjectivity. This transition is essential for it is this way that Husserl once again overrules the objections to phenomenology, as to empirism, psychologism and solipsism.

The main factor in preventing Celms from accepting phenomenology in his book "Der phaenomenologische Idealismus Husserls" (1928) is his being essentially a realist philosopher for whom the question about the existence of objective reality independent of consciousness or transcendence occupies one of the first places. At any rate this problem is sensed all through as the background of his philosophical meditations. It seems unacceptable to him that reality as being exists only for consciousness - that it is pure intentional reality. If the basic positions of realism are recognized, Celms has no objections to philosophy dealing with the analysis of the inner life of subject. But it just should not be done on the basis of intuitivism as it is in phenomenology, says Celms.

Interpreting Husserl's teaching Celms notes that the natural trend places in the fore-ground "I and the surrounding world" that actually is the psychological I which finds itself in the world. The pure I in the natural trend is not to be found in principle. However, as everything that is to be found in the natural trend is a kind of the experience of pure consciousness then natural life is in the long run also pure life, the purity remaining unconscious. The reduction of the psychological consciousness envisaged by phenomenology means the transition of that same (not only other) life from its psychological form to its pure form. Strictly speaking, psychological life is not at all reduced. What is reduced is life,s psychological form, writes Celms.

After Husserl twentieth-century philosophy has taken different paths in solving the unity of I with the other I's. In case of a contemporary approach based on the existence of language and logical forms, on the ontology of meanings and symbols, the solution of this question is simpler for it is acknowledged that these forms themselves act as mediators between I and the strange I.

Philosophies of the culture and history, in their turn, accentuate neither ideas or objective and logical forms of language but the universally significant cultural objectivities, values, meanings, which join people in the common taken by the philosophy of symbols - E.Cassirer, the hermeneutical philosophy - H.G.Gadamer. In modern reading phenomenology can be grasped as a completely original twentieth century philosophy forming the basis for cultural semantics, hermeneutics and philosophy of symbols.

Philosophies of the sociological trend - e.g. phenomenological sociology whose roots are in classical phenomenology - A.Schütz, Th. Luckmann are in search of typical, common to all the individuals structures of consciousness and behaviour which arise in communication, in mastering social parts in the quotidian social life. Social life, to their mind, is experience of another, strange person, and indirectly as mastering social world.

The phenomenological sociology in its search for intersubjectivity is close to cultural philosophy, the difference lying in placing the main accent not on the interconnection of cultural and spiritual life but on the existence of a common social world. The reason for such an interpretation is also to be found in Husserl's works, as essentially Husserl's phenomenology was not at all so solipsistically and psychologically inclined as seen by Celms.

Celms denied phenomenological idealism wanted the problem raises by to be solved in the classical mould. One of the reasons is that Celms does not step back from the main position of classical philosophy and keeps looking for the border between the subjective and outersubjective being. The aim of phenomenology, in its turn, is to pull down the borderline, to connect Man with the World. Phenomenology has developed as a philosophy of a new non-classical way of thinking, which has applied different ways of solving of the problem of intersubjectivity, life and denying psychological solipsism.

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