Edmund Husserl on the Lifeworld

Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), was a German philosopher who created a theory of knowledge called ‘phenomenology’. Husserl defines the lifeworld as a place distinct from and different to the more systematic observation and considered reflection that characterises science.

Here, he speaks of two kinds of knowledge: the everyday knowledge of the phenomena of the lifeworld, and a more systematically analysed scientific knowledge of those lifeworld phenomena:

[T]here are two sorts of truth: on the one hand, everyday practical situational truths [of the lifeworld] … on the other side are scientific truths, and their grounding leads back … to the situational truths … [because] it wants to use and must use precisely these truths’…

The lifeworld is a realm of original self-evidences. That which is self-evidently given is, in perception, experienced as ‘the thing itself’, in immediate presence, or, in memory, remembered as the thing itself … [It is] the world of straightforward intersubjective experiences … all the built-up levels of validity acquired by men for the world of their common life. [It is experienced] … primarily though seeing, hearing etc., and … other modes of the ego … Thus we are concretely in the field of perception … and in the field of consciousness … through our living body, but not only in this way, [also] as full ego-subjects … [W]e, each ‘I-the-man’ and all of us together, belong to the world as living with one another in the world, valid for our consciousness as existing precisely through this ‘living together’. We, as living in wakeful world-consciousness, are constantly active on the basis of our passive having of the world; it is from there, by objects pregiven in our consciousness, that we are affected; it is to this or that object that we pay attention, according to our interests; with them we deal actively in different ways; through our acts they are thematic objects … [W]e, in living together, have the world pregiven in this together … Constantly functioning in wakeful life, we also function together, in manifold ways of considering, together, objects pregiven to us in common, thinking together, valuing, planning, acting together. [These become] the world valid as existing for us … our; habitually persisting validities … the intuitive surrounding world of life, pregiven as existing for all in common …

[T]he lifeworld, for us who are wakingly live in it, is always already there, existing in advance for us … always somehow interested subjects … as horizon. To live is always to live-in-certainty-of-the-world … [The lifeworld consists of a] naive experiential self-evidence, the certainty of coming to know, through seeing, touching, feeling, hearing etc., the same thing through its properties, through ‘repetition’ of the experiences.

[W]hen we are thrown into an alien social sphere, that of the [people of] the Congo, Chinese peasants, etc., we discover that their truths, the facts that are for them fixed, generally verified or verifiable, are by no means the same as ours.


Husserl, Edmund. 1954 (1970). The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. pp. 132, 127–128, 133, 109, 121, 142, 343, 139. || Amazon


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