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Phenomenology 2010

Volume 2, 2010

Selected Essays from Latin America

Alexis Gros
Pages 91-112
DOI: 10.7761/9789731997667_5

La antinomia husserliana ontología social-historicidad según Merleau-Ponty: Reflexiones en torno al vínculo entre fenomenología y ciencias sociales
The Husserlian Antinomy between Social Ontology and Historicity according to Merleau-Ponty: Reflections on the Connection between Phenomenology and the Social Sciences

This work is part of a wider research project on the contributions that the analysis of the antinomy between social ontology and historicity in Edmund Husserl’s thought can bring to epistemological reflection in the social sciences. In Les sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie, Merleau-Ponty takes as starting point Husserl’s diagnosis of the critical situation in which both philosophy and the human sciences are submerged since the beginnings of the 20th century. This is the crisis of rationality as basis of every possibility of knowledge, due, among other factors, to the developments of Lebensphilosophie and the dyad historicismsociologism. The urgent situation produced by the breakdown of the basis of reason locks epistemological thought in a difficulty of deciding whether a) to succumb to absolute relativism of historicism, or b) to take refuge in a non-historical rationalism, without paying attention to its critics. In the same way Merleau-Ponty affirms the currency of Husserl’s diagnosis in the France of his time, we reaffirm its actuality for the epistemological reflection on social sciences, in view of the advance of the so-called Post-metaphysical era, which could be seen as a re-edition of a sociologist-historicism. According to Husserl, empirical sciences must be based on eidetical sciences. This is to say, on researches that could discover the essence of the studied object—by means of the Wesensschau—founding regional ontologies. In the case of sociology, empirical research should be supported by a social ontology—which states clearly the essential social categories for all times and places that researchers use without any thoroughness. This ontology should ask itself, for example, about the essence of religion or art. However, how is the Wesensschau possible, if reason is nothing else than a mere historic-contingent product? Social sciences face, still nowadays, the paradox of being forced to base their rigor on the same Lebenswelt that they expect to know. The aim of this article is to present Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of the course of this antinomy in Husserl. Our hypothesis is the following: according to the French phenomenologist, Husserl’s thought on the relation between essences and historicity develops this way. a) The first Husserl, who still thinks as a Cartesian, conceives the sphere of essences as absolutely divorced from the contingency of history. b) The Husserl “of the later years”—as Merleau-Ponty refers to him—, that is, the Husserl from the Cartesian Meditations to the Crisis, faces the hard task of basing the essences on the Lebenswelt, and conceives an intrinsic bond between both spheres.