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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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IX. The Form of the Purely Intentional Object

Chapter IX


In our introductory deliberations we have already made use of the concepts of pure consciousness and of the purely intentional object, and we have even laid out the idealism/realism controversy with the aid of these concepts. We could once again take up this controversial issue by asking whether the real world and the entities present in it are purely intentional objects or something fundamentally different from these. In order to decide this, we have to get clear on whether the form of the purely intentional object can be identified with the form of the real object, or whether, to the contrary, it displays features so peculiar as to be incompatible with real objects. Since we do not yet have at our disposal the definitive concept of the real object, we are content for the time being to compare the form of the purely intentional1 object to the already explicated form of the2 existentially autonomous object.

The purely intentional object is the correlate and product of an act of consciousness, or of a manifold of such acts. But there are different modalities [Abwandlungen] of ˹consciousness˺3 and correlatively also different types of intentional [175] entities. We must therefore say a few things in this regard as briefly as possible.

Two radically opposed tendencies stand out in the way4 consciousness5 is handled: on the one hand, the tendency to conceive of it as a mere receptive undergoing [Leiden], as a purely passive absorption [Hinnehmen] of sensation-like contents6, but...

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