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Phenomenology 2005

Volume 4, Issue Part 1, 2007

Selected Essays from Northern Europe Part 1

Wolfhart Henckmann
Pages 269-294

Uber die Ündefinierbarkeit des Menschen und die Grenzen der Weltanschauungen

The article deals with three questions: What is to be understood by the undefinability of man? In which sense do worldviews have limits? What is meant by the “and” between undefinability and the limits of worldviews? A distinction is to be drawn between comparative and absolute undefinability. The former means that sciences have not yet come to an acceptable definition of man, the latter means that undefinability is the ground of existence of man, as it is experienced in border experiences (“Grenzerfahrungen”). A worldview can be understood as the apprehension of a meaningful coherence of man and world. A worldview is anthropocentric and is distinct from others in respect to the existential standpoint from where the connection of world and man is apprehended. From an unreflected lived worldview can be distinguished a reflected worldview. It is possible that it discovers a radical break between man and world. In quite different ways this is done by Dilthey’s interpretation of the border experiences of birth and death, by Nietzsche’s concept of the soul of nations (“Volksseelen”), and by Kant’s concept of “unsociable sociability.” The assumption of an absolute undefinability of man can be understood as the ground of a universal solidarity by which the antagonistic contradictions of different worldviews seem to be reconcilable, because it limits the claim on absoluteness of worldviews.

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