The Context of Self: A Phenomenological Inquiry Using Medicine as a Clue

The Context of Self: A Phenomenological Inquiry Using Medicine as a Clue

The Context of Self: A Phenomenological Inquiry Using Medicine as a Clue

The Context of Self: A Phenomenological Inquiry Using Medicine as a Clue

Excerpt

I am fully cognizant of how many works, great and small, have been devoted to the questions pursued in this study. It has also been much on my mind whether yet another bundle of words should be committed to print. In the end, I suppose, some sort of confession is in order--and the beginning of the study seems as good a place as any.

The confession is a simple one and has two parts. One: the persons in philosophy and medicine whose ideas are mainly considered here are, in my judgment, among the most seminal of our times--hence amply deserving of serious critical engagement. For me, as for them, that is the highest respect which can be paid to them. Two: these issues, these ideas, are among the most significant for our times--hence they require as much serious philosophical reflection and discussion as we are capable of giving them.

The central problematic which engaged Wilhelm Dilthey throughout his career is one which, though perchance going under different names, is still with us: an axial antithesis that

. . . arises when historical consciousness is followed to its last consequences. The finitude of every historical phenomenon . . . the relativity of every kind of human apprehension of the totality of things is the last word of the historical Weltanschauung . . . . And over against this both the demand of thought and the striving of philosophy for universal knowledge assert themselves. The historical Weltanschauung liberates the human spirit from the last chains that natural science and philosophy have not yet broken. But where are the means to overcome the anarchy of opinions which threatens to befall us? To the solution of the long series of problems which are connected with this, I have devoted my whole life. (16, V, p. 9)

Dilthey had early recognized that whatever else must be done to solve this antithesis, it required a careful probing of mental or psychical life. To secure the very possibility of historical knowledge, one must be able to understand why and how mental life manifests itself outwardly in objective expressions: ideas, values, works, laws, institutions, documents, culture. Hence he unequivocally called for, and even set out the program for, a "descriptive" psychology--a . . .

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