Extracts from Husserl, Ideas, First Book, trans F. Kersten, (Dordrecht: Kluwer), 1983 (first published 1913)


Husserl’s account of the Natural Attitude


We begin our considerations as human beings who are living naturally, objectivating, judging, feeling, willing “in the natural attitude”. What that signifies we shall make clear in simple meditations which can best be carried out in the first person singular.

I am conscious of a world endlessly spread out in space, endless becoming and having endlessly become in time: I am conscious of it: that signifies.. that intuitively I find it immediately, that I experience it. By my seeing, touchng, hearing, and so forth, and in the different modes of sensuous perception, corporeal physical things.. are simply there for me, “on hand” .. whether or not I am particularly heedful of them..  Animate beings too – human beings, let us say – are immediately there for me: I look up; I see them; I hear their approach; I grasp their hands; talking with them I understand.. what they objectivate and think, what feelings stir within them, what they wish or will..

§27 (‘The World of the Natural Attitude: I and My Surrounding World’, pp. 51-52)


What is involved in the epoche. (Beliefs, convictions, remain unaltered.)


We do not give up the positing we effected, we do not in any respect alter our conviction which remains in itself as it is as long as we do not introduce new judgement-motives: precisely this is what we do not do. Nevertheless the positing undergoes a modification: while it in itself remains what it is is, we so to speak, “put it out of action”.. we “parenthesize it”..  (§31, p. 59)


With regard to any positing we can quite freely exercise this peculiar epoche, a certain refraining from judgement which is compatible with the unshaken conviction of truth.. The positing is “put out of action,” parenthesized, converted into the modification “Parenthesized positing;”… (§31, pp. 59-60)


The thought-experiment of the ‘annihilation of the world’


The existence of a world is the correlate of certain multiplicities of experience distinguished by certain essential formations. But it cannot be seen that actual experiences can flow only in such concatenated forms.. It is instead quite conceivable that experience, because of conflict, might dissolve into illusion not only in detail, and that it might not be the case, as it is de facto, that every illusion manifests a deeper conflict..  in our experiencing it is conceivable that there might be a host of irreconcilable conflicts not just for us but in themselves, that experience might suddenly show itself to be refractory to the demand that it carry on its positings of physical things harmoniously, that its context might lose its fixed regular organizations of adumbrations, apprehensions, and appearances – in short that there might no longer be any world   […]


Now let us add the results reached at the end of the last chapter; let us recall the possibility of the non-being of everything physically transcendent: it then becomes evident that while the being of consciousness, of any stream of mental processes whatever, would indeed be necessarily modified by an annihilation of the world of physical things its own existence would not be touched. Modified, to be sure. For an annihilation of the world means, correlatively, nothing else but that in each stream of mental processes.. certain ordered concatenations of experience and therefore certain complexes of theorizing reason oriented according to those concatenations of experience, would be excluded. But that does not mean that other mental processes and concatenations of mental processes would be excluded.




Thus we see that consciousness (mental process) and real being are anything but coordinate kinds of being, which dwell peaceably side by side and occasionally become “related to” or “connected with” one another. Only things which are essentially akin.. can become connected in the true sense of the word, can make up a whole. An immanental or absolute being and a transcendent being are, of course, both called, “existent,” an “object,” and have.. their objective determining contents. But.. a veritable abyss yawns between consciousness and reality. Here, an adumbrated being, not capable of ever becoming given absolutely, merely accidental and relative; there, a necessary and absolute being, essentially incapable of becoming given by virtue of adumbration and appearance. (§49, pp. 109-111)


On reflection, and its capacity to affect the reflected-on


But concerning the efficacy of reflection and therefore the possibility of any phenomenology whatever there exist skeptical doubts which we wish to remove completely at the outset.


Each Ego is living its mental processes.. It lives them: that is not to say that it has them and has its “eye on” what they include and is seizing upon them in the manner characteristic of an experiencing of something immanent.. Any mental process which is not an object of regard can.. become “regarded”; a reflection on the part of the Ego is directed to it, it now becomes an object for the Ego…  In turn the reflections are mental processes and, as reflections, can become the substrates of new reflections; and so on ad infinitum as a matter of essentially necessary universality.


When the mental process which.. is actually being lived comes into reflective regard it becomes given.. as existing “now”. But not only that: it becomes given as having just now been and, in so far as it was unregarded, precisely as having been unregarded, as not having been reflected on. In the natural attitude.. we take it for granted that mental processes do not exist only when we advert to them...  etc (§77, pp. 174-5)