Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

The Notion of Social World by Gustav Shpet

Liana Kryshevska

Thursday 2 December 2021

11:30 - 12:10

Zoom 1-1

The notion of the social world is one of the key elements of Gustav Shpet’s philosophy, but it still remains an insufficiently researched topic. The logic of Shpet’s philosophy allows an interpretation of the social world as a resulting and summarizing notion of his thought. This means that ontology of knowledge defined by him as phenomenological ontology gets fully expressed in the notion of the social world.

It is rightly pointed out in the works on Shpet’s phenomenological project, that the social world foreshadows the theme of the lifeworld (Lebenswelt) in Husserl’s later works as well as the turn to the theme of sociality by Max Scheler and Alfred Schutz.

But it would be incorrect to interpret the social world by Shpet as an attention to the everyday life, although some researchers present it as such. It should be noted that Shpet also uses the notion of the sociocultural world alongside with the notion of the social world. For him, these two terms are synonymous. The core of the social world by Shpet is not everyday life, but sense, which is very clearly separated from the notion of meaning. Here, it should be pointed out that the sense in its formal aspect is fundamentally important for the structure of intentional consciousness and the word structure. The structure of consciousness is viewed by Shpet as a structure of apprehension of sense. Also, the internal form of the word is presented by Shpet as an algorithm of the creation of sense.

Husserl’s understanding of the world as a horizon of potential experience turns out to be quite narrow for Shpet’s concept of the social world. The relation of experience and the social world is described by Shpet differently than by his teacher. For him, world, experience, and phenomenon are parts of a unified system, where all elements of Shpet’s ontological concept—consciousness, word, language, subject, social world—are homological, i.e., they have the same formal aspect and existential status.

The key to understanding of Shpet’s social world, as well as his concept as a whole, lies in the analysis and comparison of the structure of consciousness and the internal form of the word. This analytical strategy provides an insight not only into the concept of the social world, but also into other important notions of Shpet’s phenomenological ontology, such as reality, subject, and culture.