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Controversy over the Existence of the World

Volume II

Series:

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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XIII. The Essence of the Existentially Selfsufficient Object

Chapter XIII

Extract

The problem of the essence of the individual object has since time immemorial been one of the most contentious issues in the debates between various philosophical currents. Philosophers of the 20th century are almost without exception inclined not to accept the essence of the object. Only Edmund Husserl has dared to raise this problem anew and speak out in favor of accepting, or rather justifying the acceptance of, something like the essence of an object. He was then followed by phenomenologists, who later also attempted to further develop the doctrine of essence.1

Strangely enough, it is not so much divergent metaphysical positions that played [380] a decisive role in the dispute over “essence” – which is indeed still ambiguous! – but rather differing epistemological standpoints. Roughly speaking, rationalists are generally inclined to accept essence as something specific in the structure of the object, whereas empiricists of varied provenance (empiricists in the narrower ←355 | 356→sense, especially the English, nominalists, positivists, especially the neopositivists, and lately the so-called “Logical Positivism”2 in the USA) resolutely deny that there is anything in the object as its “essence,” which for them goes hand in hand with the tendency to conceive the individual object (and only such objects do they admit) as a “bundle” of elements of like kind and order [gleichartiger und gleichgeordneter] – irrespective of whether this is a “complex idea” in John Locke or a “complex of elements” in Ernst Mach. This linkage of a problem that is at bottom formal-ontological with...

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