Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

Husserl's Theory of Socialization and the Unrealized Prospects of a Transcendentally Grounded History of Mankind

Ugo Vlaisavljević

Thursday 2 December 2021

15:00 - 15:40

Zoom 1-1

In his Vienna lecture of 1935, Husserl sketched a theory of socialization that provides an account of both the philosophical-scientific community building process as well as the genealogy of the European community of nations. According to this theory, the first Greek community of philosophers initiated an incremental and irresistible process of socio-cultural change that will affect many nations and make them part of the European mankind. In the beginning, there were only a few “isolated personalities, like Thales, et al.,” who were first to take up a theoretical attitude towards the surrounding world, but this new way of thinking brought about “a special type of man” and “a novel form of community living”: a philosophical kind of man and a philosophical kind of community.

Philosophy has its inherent social or communal form, originating from the strictly personal, profoundly transformative, and liberating experience of setting foot on new ground after the theoretical epoché has been performed. The theory of European socialization has its correlative “geological” side: it is depicted as a massive colonization by the European settlers of the land discovered by the first “philosophic man,” which results in a constant enlargement of the “New Continent.”

However, the fact that European history ended up in a deep social or communal crisis reveals that the ground reached through the theoretical attitude (considered as a mere “reorientation” [Umstellung] of the natural attitude) is still not firm enough or entirely reliable. Husserl’s re-grounding of philosophy or science through a more radical theoretical epoché—he sees himself as the first explorer on the true European mainland—implies a re-socialization of all the Europeans. Therefore, the core-community of the European communal life, according to Husserl, is the community of phenomenologists, as in the preceding epoch initiated by Thales it was the community of philosophers. However, the condition, for Husserl, is that these phenomenologists stand firmly on the transcendental ground.