The Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology 2014

Normativity & Typification

by Anton Vydra (Volume editor)
©2015 Thesis 178 Pages


The second issue of The Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology focuses on the intertwined topics of normativity and of typification. The area of their application and specification is relatively broad: from biological questions through various lived experiences and political life to aesthetical judgments. The contributors see normative aspects of human existence as a possibility to act according to inherent or personal values rather than according to some fixed and external rules or even laws.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Husserl on Normativity, Love, and Hope
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Normality, Typicality, and Optimality
  • 3. Love and Empathy
  • 4. Change and Hope
  • 5. Others and Hope
  • 6. Hope and the Present
  • 7. Limits of Hope
  • 8. Conclusion
  • References
  • The Twofold Concept of Normativity in Canguilhem
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Standardization and unification of norms
  • 3. To be normal
  • 4. More than normal
  • 5. Conclusions
  • References
  • Le rôle de l’intuition philosophique pour l’intelligibilité de la vie
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Le phénomène de la vie en rapport avec ses propres observables. Les concepts de durée chez Bergson, de chair sensible chez Merleau-Ponty et de mouvement ontologique selon Patočka
  • 3. Les limites de la rationalité scientifique par rapport à l’intelligibilité de la vie. Comprendre le processus de l’individuation biologique à l’aide de l’intuition philosophique : Bergson et Merleau-Ponty
  • 4. Pour une nouvelle compréhension de l’individuation biologique, à partir de l’ontogénèse
  • Bibliographie
  • Political World, Cultural Normality and Multicilturalism
  • 1. Two Faces of Essentialism
  • 2. Hannah Arendt on Identity and the Political
  • 3. The Phenomenological Account of the Political as Transcendence of the Normal
  • 4. The Political World as a Space of Interculturality
  • References
  • How can We Err in Aesthetic Judgements?
  • 1. The meaning of an error after phenomenological reduction
  • 2. Ingarden’s case: “Sentiment is not an aesthetic value”
  • 3. Dufrenne’s case: “Sentiment is always right, but sentiment is not an emotion”
  • 4. How can we err in aesthetic value judgments in particular?
  • References
  • On Verticality and De-Limitation
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Verticality and Breaking off the Limits
  • 3. De-limitation as the Redemptive Movement
  • a) For the Sake of Things Themselves
  • b) De-limitation as Inter-Personal Redemption
  • 4. Short Appendix: De-limitation and the Question of Evidence
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Die Möglichkeit und die Motivation als zwei wesentliche phänomenologische Figuren – im Kontext der Problematik des Lachens
  • 1. Zwischen Prätention und Manko – die Sache der Intensität
  • 2. Lachende Subjektivität
  • 3. Rückkehr zu Husserl
  • 4. Zum Schluss
  • Referenzen

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List of Abbreviations

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Anton Vydra and Michal Lipták


The second issue of The Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology focuses on the intertwined topics of normativity and of typification. The area of their application and specification is relatively broad: from biological questions through various lived experiences and political life to aesthetical judgements. The contributors see normative aspects of human existence as a possibility to act according to inherent or personal values rather than according to some fixed and external rules or even laws.

The notion of normativity commonly refers to an axiological sphere of human thinking. In contrast to descriptive modes of thinking, normative tendencies try to be more connected with how-questions (and less with what-questions). Normative stances enable us to receive more than only ordinary givenness. They constitute the very relation between axiological subjects and various phenomena, including real or possible objects, other subjects, relations between them, etc. Such a relation presupposes the fact that it is a feature of transcendental subjectivity. Thus, to be normative means to proceed primarily from the point of view of transcendental subjectivity.

The next point is that normativity seems to be a specific experience of valorization of phenomena. Phenomena are not indifferent or neutral: they are always more or less valuable for us. What we are seeing, experiencing or what appears depends on how we are seeing or experiencing it. We—as human and integral beings—can see human life not only as a biological or animal process. Human life has more dimensions, more facets. It is more than only biological. In short, our subjectivity lies much more than in the fact that we are receivers of positive facts. Again, the question is not what positively is a fact, but on the one hand how we perceive, imagine, see, experience such a fact, and on the other hand what are the possibilities of being given on the side of the fact itself.

Scientists qua scientists must be oriented only towards the positive givenness of facts in the world, because to be a scientist means to be active in some scientific profession. What scientists see in matter can be occasionally—needless to say—different from that what they see as persons in their everyday lives. Phenomenology tries to integrate the whole experience of humans in order to understand the broader activity of human subjects in what is called, normatively rather than descriptively, “the world.” ← 9 | 10 →

If it is true that norms are not fixed laws (even natural laws), it seems necessary to assign the feature of variability to them. There is no norm concerning what should be understood by the notion of the world. A norm only says how we may be personally sensible to numbers of worlds with their richness of modes. Thus, normativity seems to be openness of experiential horizons. “However,” as Sam Cocks writes in his essay opening this collection of works, “what is normative and better is not necessarily considered better or augmented in the moral sense.” And in relation to Husserl’s own thoughts on normativity Cocks adds that “what is normal and optimal is by no means limited to perceptual experience—it also concerns the ethical” (p. 16). Experience is a broader term than only mere perception. It also includes other dimensions—ethical, for instance—and it develops in the life of subjectivity in various intertwinings which also open the question of configurations of possibility and motivation. Laughter for example points to the field where qualitative (not only quantitative) layering of experiences, its specific configurations (concrescence), affective relief, mood, emotional experiencing, instincts or overall significance for subject come into play, as Jaroslava Vydrová describes in her article. Some of our authors write about normativity in connection with topics such as love or hope (Cocks, Trajtelová), or as the emergence of political in contrast to mere historical facts because—as Michal Zvarík writes—“description of the emergence of the political shows that the political sphere in a certain sense precedes identity with its historically sedimented, uncritically accepted norms. It is through the public space, where a normative background of traditions is brought into focus and scrutinized, and where the contingence of cultural ways of life explicitly appears and decries their alleged absolute and universal character” (Zvarík, p. 89). Openness to new norms is always part of all very normative stances. Anton Vydra also touches on this: in his paper he analyses Canguilhem’s works on the given theme, showing how all unauthentic, and thus unhealthy normativity is restricted to the only norm. Another example of experience of normativity is the sphere of aesthetic experiences. Michal Lipták shows the error of assuming an objective attitude to works of art and distinguishes normal and aesthetic perception as different modes of aesthetic judgement: “the aesthetic value is constituted by aesthetic perception which—unlike normal perception—is not directed towards the objective world, but is carried out within a neutralized, monosubjective world” (p. 112). Similarly, the notion of Umwelt in Elena Pagni’s paper is understood not only as an objective, factual or mere biological world of living beings: rather it is “a privileged milieu of constitution and interpretation of symbols” (p. 68). ← 10 | 11 →

In this introduction we would also like to mention another aspect of normativity and typification which arises in Husserl’s phenomenology and is implicitly present in the author’s articles as well. Two main topics of that issue were left by Husserl in an unfinished state, but that is not the only reason why they are amongst the most intriguing issues for the next generations of phenomenologists. The main reason is that these issues naturally and logically stem from the main issue of Husserl’s phenomenology: how to ensure that we can actually achieve truthful knowledge.

Originally, Husserl imagined that phenomenology would provide ground for the sciences, especially natural sciences. Husserl calls the natural sciences “dogmatic” because they never question their overall attitude towards the world, they never doubt that they are indeed describing and explaining the world as it is. However, Husserl did not criticize them for this dogmatism; rather he sought to explain why they are entirely justified in being dogmatic. But problems ensued.

Firstly, the descriptive task of phenomenology of disclosing the essential structures of consciousness proved itself limited, and at some point it could no longer avoid the problem of how content is generated in the consciousness. This issue was tackled by the notions of type and typification, and this actually concerns a question that has haunted Western philosophy ever since Plato: how to derive apodictic knowledge solely from contingent givens.

When we do not want to recourse to Platonic hypostases, we are left with one possibility only: to look at how we work with the contingent givens and recognise that we can only proceed to knowledge through idealizing abstraction, ordering and organizing the contingent givens. On the “subjective” level this issue is tackled under the rubric of motivation. But because we ultimately want to ground the science as trans-generational, historical activity (and science also only makes sense as such activity), we are led to take a look at the “motivation” of science as such, and this leads to the notion of normativity.

Normativity is then disclosed as a basic feature of human life as such, and the primacy of natural sciences as a way to truthful knowledge is then seen differently from at the beginning: not only are natural scientists those who, due to their undoubted attitude, see, interpret and organize facts, and thereby sources of knowledge, but, what is equally decisive, they are also perceived as those who see, interpret and organize facts, and thereby exist as the ultimate sources of knowledge, by the whole society; they are recognized and supported as such. The crucial aspect of a natural science: that a scientist’s explanation can never be dismissed as “just a subjective opinion” but has to be disproven, results ultimately from this recognition in society, but not from science itself. ← 11 | 12 → This recognition then proves itself to be as equally decisive as the natural scientific attitude.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (January)
Normativität Vorbildung Edmund Husserl Phänomenologie
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 178 pp.

Biographical notes

Anton Vydra (Volume editor)


Title: The Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology 2014