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Controversy over the Existence of the World

Volume II


Roman Ingarden

Roman Ingarden (1893–1970), one of Husserl’s closest students and friends, ranks among the most eminent of the first generation of phenomenologists. His magisterial Controversy over the Existence of the World, written during the years of World War II in occupied Poland, consists of a fundamental defense of realism in phenomenology. Volume II, which follows the English translation of Volume I from 2013, provides fundamental analyses in the formal ontology of the world and consciousness as well as final arguments supporting the realist solution. Ingarden’s monumental work proves to be his greatest accomplishment, despite the fact that outside of Poland Ingarden is known rather as a theoretician of literature than an ontologist. The most important achievement of Ingarden’s ontology is an analysis of the modes of being of various types of objects – things, processes, events, purely intentional objects and ideas. The three-volume Controversy is perhaps the last great systematic work in the history of philosophy, and undoubtedly one of the most important works in 20th-century philosophical literature.

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VII. The Problem Pertaining to the Essence of Form and its Foundational Concepts

Chapter VII [1]


˹Our next task is to carry out formal-ontological analyses on the one hand, and material-ontological1 ones on the other, that are connected to our main problem. We begin with the basic conviction that an entity of arbitrary form and material determination cannot exist in an altogether arbitrary manner, but rather that necessary interconnections yet to be discovered obtain between an existent’s mode of being, form, and matter – especially when it comes to the mode of existence of a world; the latter need not necessarily be identical with the mode of being of the individual objects belonging to it, something which until now has been hardly noticed. Our guiding idea here is that differences in form that may eventually be disclosed will lead to differences in mode of being.

Thus far we have been satisfied with a crude separation of formal and material ontology. Husserl’s concept of form has been canonical in phenomenological analyses, but it is not entirely without reproach. If, however, we turn to other authors for a relevant briefing, we encounter an almost unbelievable confusion in concept formation and an incessant commingling of various concepts of form. It is therefore first of all necessary to gain clarity on this point and to strive for an unequivocal characterization of the form-concept, from which an unambiguous determination of the antithesis between form and matter must emerge. This will also eliminate a palpable gap in our previous deliberations. It is not surprising that we do not have an exact...

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